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Posted on: November 28, 2023

Mayor Sheehan Joins the AIHA to Announce the Launch of of Its Newest Exhibit: The Time Capsule

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ALBANY, NY – The contents of a time capsule unearthed from the base of the Philip Schuyler monument when it was removed from its location in front of Albany’s City Hall earlier this year will be on display in a new exhibition at the Albany Institute of History & Art.

The Institute’s “The Time Capsule: What We Found Under Philip Schuyler” exhibition will include all the objects found in the box as well as a sample of the documents, photographs, and publications that were enclosed. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held at the Albany Institute of History and Art on Monday evening, December 4, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets for the reception are $25 and will include light refreshments. RSVPs can be made online by visiting https://www.albanyinstitute.org/event/reception-the-time-capsule The exhibit will be open to the public as part of the Institute’s general admission beginning Wednesday, December 6. More information can be found by visiting https://www.albanyinstitute.org/visit

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, “The box placed under the Schuyler Statue was a gift to ‘future Albany’ and its contents offer a glimpse into our rich past. The day our tireless Department of General Services crew unearthed the time capsule was very exciting, and now the entire City of Albany has an opportunity to see all the objects and a significant portion of the documents, photographs, and publications that were enclosed within this nearly 100-year-old time capsule. I am so thankful to the Albany Institute of History and Art, including Doug, Tammis, Christine, Diane, and the entire team for their commitment to preserving our City’s historical artifacts and quickly agreeing to take on this significant project. Our entire City owes the Albany Institute of History and Art a debt of gratitude for their service.

W. Douglas McCombs, PhD, Interim Director and Chief Curator of the Albany Institute of History and Art said, “It’s an honor that Mayor Sheehan has selected the Albany Institute to serve as custodian for the Schuyler monument time capsule. What we see among its contents are the accomplishments of past generations and their dreams and aspirations for the future. There are lessons to be learned by all of us. We are pleased that the Albany Institute can be a facilitator of those lessons and a resource for future generations.”

On May 7, 1925, a copper box was laid into the foundation of the statue of Major General Philip Schuyler in front of Albany’s City Hall. The statue was a gift to the City of Albany from philanthropist George C. Hawley in memory of his wife, Theodora Amsdell Hawley. Hawley was a civic-minded businessman who amassed a fortune from real estate investments and the beer industry. 

It was said at the time that: “Mr. Hawley has filled the metal box [time capsule] with numerous things which he feels may be of interest to inhabitants of the City of Albany in the future when it shall be finally opened, and its contents examined.” The existence and location of the box was known from a copy of a program from the statue's unveiling in 1925, which lists several items within a "bronze chest/incased in monument," including a map and atlas of Albany, newspapers from the time, currency, and photographs. A June 1952 Times Union article also mentions a bronze chest within the statue's pedestal containing such items.

Now, nearly a century after the box was first sealed in the base of the statue, its contents will be revealed to the public for the first time.

The contents of the box provide a snapshot of a growing and bustling Albany in 1925 and sends greetings “to the Albany of the Future.” Essays and letters written by leading Albany residents, business owners, religious leaders, friends, colleagues, and former employees praise Hawley’s city-wide philanthropy and document the status of their respective institutions and businesses.

Materials pertaining to the beer business were placed in the box (Hawley and his father-in-law Theodore Amsdell were co-owners of Dobler Brewing Company) as were Amsdell and Hawley family photographs, papers, and a few heirlooms. Photographs of the seven-acre Hawley property, home, and gardens at 994 Madison Avenue and horse drawn vehicles and automobiles were also included.

Perhaps the most touching of the box’s contents were the personal items reflecting a great love story between Hawley and his wife Theodora. In an eight-page typed essay called “Memories of My Past” found in the box, Hawley wrote: “we lived for each other to see what happiness we could bring to each other.” The couple had no children and their siblings had all passed before Theodora died in 1922. With no immediate family, George Hawley assembled a very personal group of objects, identified each with an inscription or tag, put them in a chamois pouch, put the pouch in the copper box, and buried them forever.

Most of the objects in the box were labeled, but several items – a tiny carved ivory Buddha and elephant, a Swamp Angel pistol, and a penknife – were not explained and remain puzzles for future researchers to solve.


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