January 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Paul Revere's Treasures Revealed

Big news for history buffs in Boston today: the newfound time capsule buried 220 years ago by Paul Revere and Samuel Adams was opened last night, revealing colonial coins, a silver plaque likely engraved by Revere himself, and piles of paper ephemera. Conservators from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts carefully unpacked the small box, which was unearthed from a cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House last month and then X-rayed to determine its contents.

Michael Comeau and Pam Hatchfield CROP.jpgSo what's inside? Conservator Pam Hatchfield excavated the treasure with a porcupine quill and a dental tool. The first layer contained five newspapers from the mid-nineteenth century--"in amazingly good condition," according to Hatchfield. In 1855, the original leather pouch interred by Revere and Adams was accidentally discovered and replaced by a sturdier brass box. At the time, contemporary newspapers were added. Underneath sat two dozen coins, including a rare 1652 pine tree shilling. Some of the silver pieces had newsprint stuck to them and some had been corroded by long-term water damage. The capsule also held a paper seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "calling" cards, and a title page from a seventeenth-century Massachusetts Colony Records.

The objects will receive conservation treatment and go on exhibit for a brief time before reburial.  

Great pictures of the contents are online, as is this short video.

Image: Michael Comeau and Pam Hatchfield of Boston's MFA. Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.