113-Year-Old Time Capsule Found Inside Old State House Statue

The work will include applying new coats of silver and gold to the much-photographed statues’ exteriors, and opening a time capsule that was reportedly sealed within the lion’s head 113 years ago..
The work will include applying new coats of silver and gold to the much-photographed statues’ exteriors, and opening a time capsule that was reportedly sealed within the lion’s head 113 years ago.. –DINA RUDICK/BOSTON GLOBE

A longstanding rumor is true: There really was a 113-year-old time capsule hidden inside the lion statue on top of the Old State House.

Both the landmark’s lion and unicorn statues were removed Sunday and sent to Woburn’s Skylight Studios on Monday for inspection by conservator Robert Shure, who detected a copper box about the size of a shoebox inside the lion’s head.

The Boston community has been abuzz over the possibility of the time capsule since it was reported that the sculptures would be taken down for basic maintenance.

“We didn’t anticipate there would be such reaction to this project,’’ Brian LeMay, Executive Director and President of the Bostonian Society, told Boston.com. “But it is kind of a hoot that something like this has been hiding in plain sight for a hundred and some odd years.’’

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Because the copper capsule had been soldered shut, special care will need to be taken not damage the box while peeling it open, according to LeMay. Shure said he still needed a week or so to determine the best way to remove the capsule from inside the lion.

Until then: A 1901 article in The Boston Globe indicates that the capsule would contain “contributions from state and city officials, the Boston daily newspapers, the name of the maker of the lion and unicorn, and others.’’ Whatever they are, the capsule contents — some of which may be weather-damaged — will be added to the Bostonian Society’s collection.

The society is currently seeking ideas for what items from the current decade should be placed inside a new capsule once the lion is restored and replaced atop the Old State House, likely sometime in October. Suggestions can be sent via email to heather@bostonhistory.org or via Twitter using the hashtag #LionandUnicorn.

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