Archive for Tuesday, January 2, 2001

Detroit officials open time capsule from 1901

January 2, 2001


— Letters sealed in a copper box 100 years ago show that 19th-century Detroiters were amazed at what had already been accomplished, but even more excited about what the future would bring.

"How much faster are you traveling? How much farther have you annihilated time and space and what agencies are you employing to which we are strangers?" then-Mayor William C. Maybury wrote in a letter removed from the box Sunday night.

As Mayor Dennis Archer lifted the lid of the time capsule that had been sealed at Old City Hall shortly after midnight, Jan. 1, 1901, he found Maybury's handwritten note addressed to the mayor in 2000.

The letter spoke of the advances in communications that allowed telephone calls and telegraph messages to reach across the country. It also showed amazement at the great progress made in travel, allowing travelers to reach Chicago by train in less than eight hours and New York City in less than 20 hours.

Finally, Maybury wrote, "May we be permitted to express one supreme hope that whatever failures the coming century may have in the progress of things material, you may be conscious when the century is over that, as a nation, people and city, you have grown in righteousness, for it is this that exalts a nation."

Although 2000 was filled with its fair share of problems in Detroit including a four-day power outage in June and the investigation of alleged civil rights violations by the Police Department Archer said he agreed with Maybury's sentiments.

"I don't think anything's happened in Detroit that hasn't happened to any other city," Archer said as those in attendance at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra New Year's Eve Gala viewed the box and its contents.

The 10-pound copper box Archer opened at 11:20 p.m. had been soldered shut by city official Benjamin Franklin Guiney a century ago. Guiney's grandson of the same name was among the 2,000 guests at the gala.

"I hope the next 100 years is just the same," Guiney said with a smile.

Detroit had only 300,000 residents at the turn of the last century. Chief industries were stove-making, shipbuilding and railroad cars. Ford Motor Co. wouldn't be founded for a couple of years.

The letters and box ultimately will be displayed at the Detroit Historical Museum

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