Seventy five years ago today, the World’s Fair came to New York, and with it came one of the world’s first official time capsules.
Called “Dawn of a New Day,” the 1939 Fair adopted a future-focused theme, which would become standard in subsequent World’s Fairs.
Electric giant Westinghouse took the theme to heart. The company created one of the most ambitious time capsules ever, a seven-and-a-half foot tube filled with items from the current era, for a part of its display. The capsule will remain sealed until 6939 — 5,000 years after its creation — along with its sister, made in 1964.
Although not the first to make a time capsule, Westinghouse was one of the first to approach it scientifically, locking items in a non-corrosive and considerably hard metallic alloy, called Cupoloy, created especially for the exhibit. The compound was 99.4% copper, 0.5% chromium, and 0.1% silver.
The Westinghouse model might have also drawn inspiration from the Crypt of Civilisation — a swimming-pool-sized time capsule sealed until 8113. Thornwell Jacobs, the creator, started building it in 1936, three years before Westinghouse’s model. But he didn’t close the room off until 1940.
The contents of the Westinghouse capsule include small, common items, like men’s and women’s grooming tools and children’s toys; various textiles and materials used in manufacturing and technology; miscellaneous items, such as money and seeds; a microfilm essay; and a newsreel. Read the full list here »
The capsule also included a “Book of Record,” which outlines its contents and purpose. The book describes the “key to English” to preserve our modern language and also asks that future generations translate it into whatever new tongues the future holds.
Westinghouse chose to bury the capsule in New York City not only because of the fairgrounds but also because the metropolis will likely become a place of interest for future generations, much like Athens, Rome or Troy now. Lowered 50 feet into the ground using a steel tube, the capsule now rests under Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.
And there it will stay for another 4,925 years — though the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. displays replicas of both the 1939 and 1965 capsules.
Read the full story in this eBook from the Internet Archive.
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