The Washington Monument in Baltimore, Maryland, is an important piece of American history. Construction on it began in 1815, and it was actually originally opened to the public way back in 1829, well before the other Washington Monument in D.C. was even built. It stands an impressive 178 feet tall.
And though perhaps not as famous or as often thought of as its sister monument, Baltimore’s Washington Monument was, in fact, the first-ever monument built in honor of George Washington.
That’s already quite an impressive weight of history to be carrying, but in 2014, a group of workers tasked with the all-important job of restoring the monument and protecting it from the ravages of time came upon something extraordinary.
Amazing Time Capsules
The central task of the workers was to restore the monument’s cornerstone, the centerpiece of the entire structure. The first challenge they faced was actually locating the cornerstone. Because the monument was about 200 years old, no one knew exactly where it was.
Upon finally locating the cornerstone, however, the workers located a time capsule. Since the monument was expected to stand for a long time, those who originally worked on it put a special time capsule into the cornerstone. This was well known. What was not known was precisely what that time capsule contained.
The first surprise for the workers trying to restore the monument in 2014 was that there was not just one time capsule in the cornerstone but two.
To add even more to the mystery, the latter of these two time capsules was a copper box determined to have been put there in 1915. This copper box was hidden behind a plaque and was itself placed there at the monument’s centennial celebration.
The box’s contents included a series of old newspapers published in Baltimore circa 1915 — including one published in German — a series of maps of Baltimore, the city’s municipal journals, and a photograph of the Declaration of Independence. The mere existence of a photograph taken in 1915 is an extraordinary thing to contemplate!
Perhaps most amazingly, though, there was a portrait of the Francis Scott Key in the box. Key is known as the man who wrote the Star-Spangled Banner, but he was also a soldier in the Revolutionary War and fought at the Battle of Baltimore.
You’d think that all that was surprising enough, but workers found even more.
In 2015, as they commenced work on restoring the monument and digging for the sewage tank, they unearthed yet another time capsule!
That second capsule, found by the monument’s cornerstone, contained a collection of three glass jars with newspapers inside and wrapped around them. The newspapers were dated from July 1 and 3, 1815 — the day when the cornerstone was originally laid! There was also a copy of Baltimore’s Federal Gazette there, which, on the day before the cornerstone was laid, printed a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
All of these wonderful artifacts were quickly taken away and housed at the offices of the Maryland Historical Society, where they remain to this day.
The Society’s headquarters are only two blocks away from the monument, so visitors can stop by and check out the artifacts for themselves.