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What Coins Were in the West Point Time Capsule? 

On August 15, 2023, a time capsule was discovered in the base of a monument at West Point Military Academy. The capsule was opened less than two weeks later on August 28. When it was opened, it was full of silt. As researchers sifted through the sediment, they found six silver coins and a medal. 

A dollar, half dollar, quarter, dime, half dime, and cent were in the West Point time capsule, as well as a rare Erie Canal Completion Medal. The time capsule held an issue of each coin denomination that was issued at the time, although no two coins had the same date. They were issued between the late 1700s and 1800s, which would have been the present day for those selecting the coins. 

Coins Found Inside the West Point Time Capsule 

The coins and medal were dated from 1794 to 1828, ranging from a Flowing Hair half dime to a Capped Bust half dollar.

Coins Inside the West Point Time Capsule 

Type Year 
Flowing Hair Half Dime 1794 
Draped Bust Dollar (Heraldic Eagle Reverse) 1800 
Capped Bust Quarter Dollar 1818 
Erie Canal Completion Medal 1826 
Matron Head Large Cent 1827 
Capped Bust Dime 1827 
Capped Bust Half Dollar 1828 

Nothing else inside the box was identified. While more items may have been added to the time capsule, the lead box exhibited signs of decay around the bottom, which allowed water to inundate the box’s contents. Water, being the universal solvent, potentially had 190 years to ravage the remaining contents of the box, leaving a pile of silt.  

The West Point Time Capsule 

The time capsule is believed to have been placed inside the brick base of a monument in 1828 or 1829 and was discovered after an inspection identified damage to the statue. Cracks were found in the column and base of the statue in 2021 that required intensive repairs. After the base was removed, a one square foot time capsule was found hiding amid the bricks that supported the statue.  

Excitement around opening the capsule was palpable on the West Point campus. Since the box was made of lead, x-ray imaging was only able to discern that things were in the box, but no one was able to make a guess what would be found. There were no records of the time capsule being left in the statue’s base. 

How Long had the Time Capsule Been in the Monument? 

The time capsule was found in the base of a monument honoring Thaddeus Kosciuszko. Kosciuszko was an engineer and statesperson who gained notoriety for leading a Polish uprising before emigrating to the United States. In the United States, he served as an engineer in the Continental Army. 

The brick base and column that supported his statue were designed by John H.B. Latrobe from the West Point class of 1822. They were paid for by cadets and the statue was mounted on the column in 1913 after it was donated by the Polish Clergy and Laity of the United States. 

The Oldest Known U.S. Time Capsule 

The oldest known time capsule in the United Stated is the Samuel Adams and Paul Reverse Time Capsule, also known as the Massachusetts State House Time Capsule. It is believed to have been buried in the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House in 1794 by the two men during Adams term as Governor of the state.  

Among other items, it held an even older coin, a pine tree shilling, which was issued before the American Revolution. In 2015, a Mint Proof Set, along with several Presidential dollar coins were added to the Samuel Adams and Paul Reverse Time Capsule before it was resealed into the cornerstone of the Massachusetts State House for the next generation to discover. 

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