It’s a modern day mystery that has been tucked secretly inside the head of the gold-plated lion perched atop the centuries-old brick façade of Boston’s Old State House: A time capsule with contents reportedly dating back to 1901 was sealed inside a copper box and hidden out of sight.
"Oh I think that’s fascinating, I think that would be just so much fun to see what they thought was important at that time," Nancy Reider, visiting from California, said.
"It sounds to me like a DaVinci Code plot, there’s probably something in there that nobody wants to know about," David Reider, her husband, added.
The time capsule was discovered after the lion, and its counterpart the unicorn, were taken down to be cleaned and repaired Sunday as part of an ongoing restoration process by tThe Bostonian Society.
"We got a letter from the heir of one of the original contractors who had worked on the building and she told us to look through our archives and see if we can find any records of this," Brian Lemay, president and executive director of The Bostonian Society, said.
The Bostonian Society found a 1901 article describing the contents of the time capsule as newspaper clippings, photos, autographs and sealed letters from politicians.
History buffs such as Freedom Trail Foundation tour guide Tim Hoover – or "Josiah Quincy, II" – are hopeful that’s not all that will be found when the time capsule is opened up.
"Things have – especially with time capsules – things have some type of way of sneaking their way in, so I’m hoping we’ll get some surprises as well as things that we already know about," Hoover, dressed as Quincy, said.
After the Bostonian Society carefully removes the time capsule, catalogues and preserves the contents, they plan to put a new time capsule in the lion’s head for a future generation to find – and they’re soliciting ideas from the public.
"The Red Sox World Series rings, that’s what they should put, from the last world series they won," Steve Boatti, visiting from New York, said.
"I guarantee that somebody’s going to put a selfie in there and write ‘selfie’ and that’s going to be part of it," lifelong Boston resident Kevin Guevara said.
"Most of the stuff we historians do is not that exciting, it’s kind of refreshing to have something as whimsical as this take place," Lemay said.
The Bostonian Society was able to use a tiny fiber optic camera to see inside the lion's head to confirm the time capsule. They plan to open up the lion's head and carefully remove the time capsule sometime next week. They will be soliciting ideas of what to put in the time capsule over the next few weeks, then they plan to hold a ceremony in about six weeks once the lion and unicorn are restored, both unveiling them and disclosing the contents of the time capsule. They plan to display the time capsule's contents later this fall in the Old State House museum.