When I try to wrap my mind around what life will be like in the 70th century, my mind goes to what Hollywood has shown us of the future–a lawless, seedy, post-apocalyptic earth with bonfires, scarce resources and turf wars; intergalactic conflicts with aliens; a world devoid of individuality and freedom of expression; or a planet of advanced, humanoid beings. Even with all the vitamins in the world, I won’t be able to witness what happens that far into the future. And that is disappointing, because I would love to see the breaking news story of the Westinghouse time capsule recovery.
The 1939-40 New York World’s Fair featured the first modern time capsule, developed by Westinghouse, which was buried with the hopes of being excavated 5,000 years later. See this explanatory clip from “The Middleton Family at the New York World’s Fair.” (The 55-minute promotional film from 1939 was produced by Westinghouse.)
Made of Cupaloy, a durable copper alloy, the 90-inch-long, 800-pound time capsule has an inner crypt with a diameter of 6.5 inches. Inside is an assortment of 100+ artifacts, including a Bible, seeds for food crops, and the U.S. Constitution.
On Sept. 23, 1940, the time capsule (which had been placed inside a 50-foot well in Fresh Meadows, N.Y., two years before during the autumnal equinox) was sealed for posterity. How exactly will the time capsule be found when the time comes? A Book of Record was distributed to institutions around the world (libraries, museums, etc.) that includes specific instructions on how to locate the time capsule, and an explanation of its contents. This guide is a great historical read. (A key to speaking English, in case it is a lost language, is also included in the book.) Interesting to note: The 1964-65 New York World’s Fair had a second Westinghouse time capsule, which was buried near its predecessor. Time Capsule II is to be opened the same year as Time Capsule I.)
Fortunately, we won’t have to wait that long to see the 1940 U.S. Census, which is kind of like a time capsule itself. Get involved with the 1940 Census Project; by becoming an indexing volunteer, your help will facilitate research of this rich resource.
Photo credits: top (l to r): See-through of Cupaloy, by Westinghouse, (The story of the Westinghouse Time Capsule) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons; “Scientists Seal ‘Time Capsule,’” Associated Press. (9-24-40), p. 12, The Titusville Herald.
bottom (l to r): Time capsule frontispiece, by [Westinghouse electric corporation]; Frederic W. Goudy Collection (Library of Congress) DLC [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons; 1939 Time Capsule Cupaloy, by Westinghouse (The story of the Westinghouse Time Capsule) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons.
(As part of the 1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card.)