Officials called off the search for an 1887 time capsule buried under the Robert E. Lee statue that was said to contain a picture of Abraham Lincoln in his coffin – after just 12 hours of digging.
Crews removed up to 8,000 pounds of granite blocks from the base of the 40-foot-high concrete pedestal Thursday in search of the copper box filled with Civil War relics before an aide for Governor Ralph Northam called it a night and said the search was over.
‘After a long hard day, it’s clear the time capsule won’t be found — and Virginia is done with lost causes,’ chief communications officer for the governor Grant Neely told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an email Thursday night. ‘The search for this moldy Confederate box is over. We’re moving on.’
Crews worked tirelessly on Thursday and ended up removing up to 8,000 pounds of granite blocks from the base of the 40ft concrete pedestal in search for the copper box filled with Civil War relics would be found
Crews dismantled the corner of the pedestal of the Robert E. Lee statue as they attempted to locate the 1887 time capsule
Crews attempted to locate a time capsule said to be buried in the base of the Robert E. Lee statue Thursday after it was removed on Wednesday
Construction crews drilled for hours in an attempt to find the old capsule in the base of the concrete pedestal on Thursday
Crew worker James (pictured) was among the many who worked to retrieve the 1887 capsule at the base of the statue on Thursday
Many were excited to unveil the contents of the ‘moldy Confederate box’ which is believed to be a copper capsule from 1887 that contained a silver dollar and relics from the Civil War including Confederate buttons.
A newspaper article from 1887 says that it also contained a photograph of ‘Lincoln lying in his coffin’ that was donated by Miss Pattie Leake, a school principal from a prominent Richmond family.
Library records indicated 37 local residents and businesses contributed about 60 objected related to the Confederacy to the historic cache.
Historians are dubious about whether it is an actual photograph of Lincoln in his coffin or a sketch or print of him lying in state.
Dale Brumfield, a local author and historian who studied the capsule’s history, was disheartened by the end of the search and suspected it was being hidden, the Times-Dispatch reported.
‘It’s here somewhere,’ Brumfield said. ‘Why the secrecy? Why bury it? It doesn’t make any sense.’
David Givens, director of archaeology for Historic Jamestown, said based on the radar detection he performed it was only a matter of time before the capsule is found
‘Time capsules are meant to be found,’ Givens said. ‘They’re not going to hide it.’
The 2021 time capsule includes a You Are Not Alone flyer found in the street after a George Floyd protest last year, a COVID mask worn by Virginia’s First Lady Pam Northam, photos from a Stop Asian Hate protest, a Virginia is for Lovers sticker, a hand painted gourd rattle that was a gift from the Mattiponi and Pamunkey nations, a hip hop album
The updated time capsule filled with 39 objects was placed at the site on Thursday during a ceremony
After removing the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from its pedestal on Wednesday workers sawed off the torso
Devon Henry (top left) looks on as crews worked to retrieve the 134-year-old time capsule on Thursday hours before the search ended
Now, a new capsule will be placed in the pedestals’ corner stone filled with 2021 artifacts including an expired COVID-vaccine, photos from Stop Asian Hate protests, BLM stickers and a ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ Pride badge.
The new capsule contains 39 items that were proposed by residents of the city and selected by a group that included the state’s First Lady Pamela Northam.
They include a photograph of a black ballerina dancing in front of the vandalized statue, which was covered in graffiti last summer after the killing of George Floyd, a copy of the National Geographic ‘2020 in Pictures’ issue with a photograph of the Lee monument on the cover, and a ‘Kente cloth worn by the Commissioners of the Congressionally chartered 400 Years of African-American History Commission’.
Gov. Northam, who filled the box up on Tuesday, was there to put it in the place of the old capsule on Thursday.
He said the new capsule captures ‘the resilience and struggle of life, within a pandemic’.
The new capsule was placed a day after the statue of Lee was brought down and sawed in half in front of a cheering crowd of BLM protesters.
The 21-foot bronze statute of Lee atop a horse will now be sent to the Goochland Women’s Correctional Center in Virginia until officials know what to do with it permanently. It is the latest Confederate statue to have been toppled by the BLM movement amid protest from white residents who thought it should be preserved in history.
Northam called the Wednesday removal of the statue and attempted retrieval of the copper time capsule a sign of the times but some residents opposed it, claiming it went against 1890 deeds which protected the statue.
‘This monument and its time capsule reflected Virginia in 1890—and it’s time to remove both, so that our public spaces better reflect who we are as a people in 2021,’ he said in a news release.
‘The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story.’
Crews began hoisting the 21-foot-tall bronze likeliness of Lee on horseback about 8 a.m. EST and an hour later, it was on the ground, protected by a fence which kept crowds of spectators back.
After being brought to the ground, workers began severing the top of the statue from the bottom using electric saws.
Workers who were removing the statue gave the crowd a three-second countdown before they lifted the statue from its pedestal.
The crowds of spectators cheered, whooped then broke into song, chanting ‘Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye’ as it was lowered to the ground. They also chanted ‘Black Lives Matter’.
The 40ft concrete pedestal that it sat atop will remain in place for now, until officials decide what to do with it.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made the decision to remove the statue last year ten days after George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
The statue was erected in 1890, 25 years after the end of the Civil War, and 20 years after Lee’s death. It was funded by the Lee Monument Commission, founded in 1886, which was led by Lee’s nephew, former Virginia Governor Fitzhugh Lee.
The Lee statue was created by the internationally renowned French sculptor Marius-Jean-Antonin Mercie and is considered a masterpiece, according to its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, where it has been listed since 2007.
When the monument arrived in 1890 from France, an estimated 10,000 Virginians used wagons and rope to haul its pieces more than a mile to where it now stands. The statue was the first of five Confederate monuments to be erected on Richmond´s Monument Avenue, at a time when the Civil War and Reconstruction were over, but Jim Crow racial segregation laws were on the rise.
In a statement after it was removed, Gov. Ralph Northam said: ‘This was a long time coming, part of the healing process so Virginia can move forward and be a welcoming state with inclusiveness and diversity’.
He added that it represented ‘400 years of history that we should not be proud of’.
THE 39 ARTIFACTS INSIDE RICHMOND’S 2021 TIME CAPSULE TO GO IN BASE OF ROBERT E. LEE STATUE
1. ‘Ballerina at the Lee Statue’ photo taken on June 5th, 2020
2. Expired Vial of COVID-19 Pfizer Vaccine and CDC Vaccination Record Card
3. National Geographic Special Issue ‘2020 in Pictures’ with cover image of Lee Monument in Richmond
4. Black Lives Matter sticker
5. Collection of Michael Paul Williams’ Pulitzer prize-winning columns on Monument Avenue
6. ‘Writing a new history’ Kente cloth worn by the Commissioners of the Congressionally chartered 400 Years of African-American History Commission and Ghanian emissaries that participated in the 400th commemoration of 1619 at Point Comfort in Hampton
7. New Virginians’ booklet with portraits of 24 immigrants
8. General Assembly Acts of Assembly from the 2020 Special Session
9. ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ pride pin and stickers
10. The Protagonist poem in uncontracted Unified English Braille
11. Better Together LED Board coded by local schoolgirls
12. VA Ratify ERA sash and ERA 2020 pins
13. YOU ARE NOT ALONE pink heart print found on Richmond street after George Floyd protests in May 2020
14. Election Officer Badge for 2020 General Election
15. Monument Avenue Hip Hop Album by Noah-O and Taylor Whitelow
16. Prayer beads left by a family member who passed away from COVID-19
17. Danville Public Schools ‘First Lady’ face mask, donated by Pam Northam
18. Photos of the June 4, 2020 press conference announcing the removal of the Lee Statue
19. Steel railroad spike talking piece found near African Ancestral Burial Ground
20. Photos and fliers from Stop Asian Hate protests in May 2021
21. Program and video from the dedication of Arthur Ashe Boulevard featuring a keynote from former Congressman John Lewis
22. Letter describing Virginia University Union’s history and commitment to the Richmond community
23. Photo of the Virginia State Police at 14th and F Street NW in Washington helping DC Metro Police Department patrol the city for unrest after the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021
24. Essays and poems from Arcadia Middle School students reflecting on the experience of being a student during a pandemic
25. Senate Resolution Commending the League of Women’s Voters
26. ‘Charlottesville’s Robert E. Lee Monument is Coming Down, Thanks to Me and Black Women Like Me’ July 10, 2021 Teen Vogue article written and submitted by Zyahna Bryant
27. Hard copy of the Virginia Poet Laureate Luisa Igloria’s work Dear America
28. Gifts from the dedication ceremony from the Mattiponi and Pamunkey nations, hand painted gourd rattle and hand crafted earrings with sturgeon scale and beading
29. Booklet which outlines Virginia’s first One Virginia Plan for Inclusive Excellence
30. Rumors of War Wasn’t a Rumor photo lithographic plate with oil-based ink & sealant
31. Copy of the LGBTQ Richmond Walking Tour created by Blake McDonald
32. First Presbyterian Church Session 2020 minutes approving the formation of a Dismantling Racism
33. Video of the One Commonwealth Many Virginians: Uniting in Interfaith Prayer for Healing and Unity event
34. Piece of tarp from the unveiling of Kehinde Wiley’s Rumors of War Statue and photos from the unveiling event
35. Document describing selected student submissions from the Governor’s Inaugural Black History Month Historical Marker Contest
36. Post-Colonial Love Poem by 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry Winner Natalie Diaz
37. New Legacy Postcard
38. List of artifacts in the previous capsule as described in a Richmond Dispatch article
39. Photo collage of individuals who contributed artifacts to the new time capsule and thank you note