Century-Old Time Capsule Opened, Includes 10-Cent Bill

The 10-cent bill that was included in a recently opened time capsule from 1916 (Screenshot from WNYT)
The 10-cent bill that was included in a recently opened time capsule from 1916 (Screenshot from WNYT)

A time capsule sealed by a bank in 1916 was opened in Saratoga Springs, New York this week. And it has many of the things you’d expect—like some photos of the town, a letter from the president of the bank in 1916, and some old coins. But one artifact stuck out as peculiar to the onlookers of 2016: A 10-cent bill.


Paper bills with values of less than a dollar weren’t common in the United States in 1916. In fact, they only really proliferated during and directly following the Civil War in the 1860s. So when the capsule-makers of 1916 included this 10-cent note, they were including something that was already an antique to them.

It’s not immediately clear, but the note included in the capsule looks to be from the 1870s. The man featured on it is William M. Meredith (1799-1873), the Secretary of the Treasury during the Taylor administration from 1849 until 1850.

The bank president of 1916 hoped that the community would continue with, “Respect for the law, respect for the community, and respect for the people who work for the bank.” He also predicted that the world would see “wonderful advancements” by the time the capsule was opened.

The bank plans to replace the cornerstone capsule with a new time capsule sometime this year. The current president of the bank will include his own letter to the future, though he doesn’t believe we’ll be using paper money by the time the capsule is opened. And frankly, a lot of people don’t use much cash today. I wonder how he can include a Venmo transaction instead.



Matt Novak is the editor of Gizmodo's Paleofuture blog


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Time capsules are funny things. They seem like they should be cool, but almost always they are meh, which actually isn’t that surprising, because I am not sure what we should actually expect. Most time capsules are not that old that we don’t already have a good idea what life was like back then and artifacts to go with that.