Mystery letters: opening the sealed envelopes from the time capsule

When we opened up the time capsule earlier in October, we found five sealed letters.  Two were not labeled, one was labeled as from C.W. Ernst, Esq. Mayor's Private Secretary, one was in an envelope from the Boston Traveler, and the last one was in a thick envelope with "A Message to Posterity from the Daily Newspapers at City Hall" handwritten on the cover.  These letters caused a good deal of intrigue, but we couldn't slice into them for fear that we would accidentally damage the paper inside. 

I spent some time earlier this week slowly opening the letters using a bit of steam and a micro spatula.  The process was slow, but in the end each of the letters were removed from their envelopes with no damage.  Next came the fun part of finding out what was written and sealed 113 years ago.

S.D. Rogers and Mr. E.G. Priest
These two small sealed envelopes were packaged together along with the Fernald family history electrotype.  When opened, they were found to be beautifully handwritten letters  that provided short biographies of E.G. Priest, the clerk of the S.D. Roger & Company firm, and S.D. Rogers himself.  The S.D. Rogers Company was the firm that handled the restoration of the Old State House in 1901.



C.W. Ernst, Esq. Mayor's Private Secretary, Boston, Mass.

The letter in this sealed envelope was brief, and was written by C.W. Ernst on February 16, 1901.  Ernst was the private secretary to Mayor Thomas Hart, whose cabinet card was included in the time capsule.  The note that Ernst wrote and sealed states, "Nothing endures but wind.  The best contribution of New England to government is the town meeting."






Boston Traveler
Next, I opened an envelope from the Boston Traveler, 307 Washington Street.  Some of the ink from the letter had seeped through into the envelope, so I knew in advance that it was going to be a typewritten letter.  Opening it up, I found a two page legal-sized letter with the title "The Outlook for the Twentieth Century."  It was written by George A. Litchfield, the Business Manager of the Boston Traveler.  In the letter, he outlines his thoughts for the future, touching on technology, communication, and travel.  One of the lines that I found particularly interesting reads, "we shall fly; not merely navigate the air with cumbersome machinery sustained by bags of gas, but we shall step from our houses, an at our convenience or pleasure 'mount up on wings as eagles, run and not be weary, talk and not faint.'"

A Message to Posterity from the Daily Newspapers at City Hall
This letter was by far one of the items in the time capsule that generated the most interest.  It was listed on our inventory as being written by journalists who were detailed to City Hall, and everyone on staff was curious about what journalists felt was important enough to share with posterity.  I slowly worked to open the envelope, looked inside, and found that it was empty!  As it turns out, journalists in 1901 might have been playing a joke on future Bostonians!

Some of these letters will be included in the display of time capsule contents at the Old State House.  Stay tuned for more information about that temporary exhibit!

By Elizabeth Roscio, Library and Archives Manager