Back to Capsule Unsealed
I welcome each of you here today. This is a momentous occasion. Today we will touch items from a time capsule that were last touched 126 years ago. In receiving these items, we are not only reaching back to touch the past of our city, but as we open this capsule, we bring the past up into the present. We are reminded that those who planned this capsule, and who placed the items in it, did so out of faith and because they cared about Rochester. They wanted us to know today that they cared about this city and its future.
To me, every citizen of Rochester is special, but in these next few moments we call attention to the fact that those of us assembled here represent direct ties back to the individuals and officials who were present when this capsule was organized and placed. Included among us are:
(1). The Dietz Family and Mark Kleehammer from John Siddons Company. This company made the copper box, which is the capsule. This company still does business today from offices on Gregory Street.
(2). Gregory Chwiecko is here representing the Williamson Law Book Company. This company, which now operates out of Victor, in 1873 was domiciled in the High Falls area. They placed a map of the city, a photograph of the new City Hall and a Bible in the time capsule.
(3). George Ewing, the publisher of the Messenger Paper, now based in Fishers, NY, represents a family that has owned the Messenger since its founding. An 1814 issue of the Ontario Messenger was placed in the time capsule.
(4). Ed Pettinella represents Charter One Bank, which in 1873 was Rochester Savings Bank. An 1873 Annual Statement of the bank is in the capsule.
(5). Other representatives whose counter parts were
at the original ceremonies include:
A. Our City Council members. B. Members of the County Legislature, which at the time was known as the Board of Supervisors. C. The Fire Chief. D. The Chief of Police.
E. The City School Superintendent. F. Various other city and government officials and employees.
I thank all of you for being here to help us celebrate and honor our past and to affirm our shared commitment for the future of our great City.
The corner stone of the Rochester City Hall, erected by the city, was laid in Masonic form by M. W. Christopher G. Fox, Grand Master of Masons in the state of New York on the 28th day of May A. L. 5873, A.D. 1873.
Ulysses S. Grant, president of the United States
John A Dix, governor of the state of New York
A. Carter Wilder, mayor of the city of Rochester.
Commissioners-Charles J. Hayden, George J. Whitney, Daniel W. Powers, Jacob Howe and George C. Buell.
A. J. Warner architect. William H. Gorsline and George W. Aldridge, contractors.
The opening of this "time capsule" is something that we do not do everyday. In these few moments we will give careful attention to the items that have been preserved by Rochesterians of a former day and passed on to us. Each item has its own meaning, but when considered together the contents of the capsule constitute a message. The past always shapes the future.
The contents of our capsule are not unique. For more than a hundred years, it has been popular to place time capsules with standard items such as Bibles and various official lists. Some were placed to be opened at a specified time. Others were left subject to the desires of a future generation. We have opened our 126 year old capsule on the eve of year 2000. In thirty one days we will begin a new millennium. While the marking of time is an arbitrary matter, we make use of new beginnings to evaluate and reaffirm old values and traditions.
The contents of our capsule remind us that Rochester is a part of a larger region, of a particular country and of an international community. Even back in 1873, when communications were not what they are today, there was a keen awareness of our City in relation to the greater world and to the issues and priorities of that world. The country was in a depression, but our city was vital and ready to capitalize on the manufacturing age that was near at hand. The effects of the Civil War were still evident in the lives of our families and the broader community. We celebrated the end of the War and the end of slavery, but we did did not clarify nor secure the place of African Americans in our society.
The vitality and energy that flourished in early Rochester led to the city being labeled the "Young Lion of the West." Newspapers and literary journals flourished here. The contents in our capsule give a lot of attention to the press. The history of newspaper publishing is chronicled, but there is no copy of the North Star. The University of Rochester, only 23 years old in 1873, had already achieved the status of a leading institution of higher education. Our City is known for many innovations and movements of forward thinking leaders, theologians and educators. Free speech and open debate have been a part of the regular fare from our beginning. This is reflected in the contents of our time capsule.
We can not help but make comparisons and contrasts with what our city was like in 1873 to what it is like today. Perhaps it is not completely fair to measure that time by our ideals, but the basic values of American Society have been in place for a long time. The major changes that we see have come from technological development. In the late 19th Century, we settled wars with rifles and other small armaments. Today we fear hydrogen bombs. Back then, we traveled by carriage and rail or water. Today, we have fast moving cars on super highways, airplanes zipping through the sky, strong ocean liners and even capsules and missiles that circle the globe and explore the far reaches of the universe.
When our capsule was placed, George Eastman was still a clerk working in a bank. Today his company reaches around the world, and we have been through the age of film and video tape and are into the age of things digital. The innovation of the x-ray film has been replaced by the MRI that shows us live pictures from inside our bodies. Since our time capsule was ordered, the telegraph has been displaced by the radio and the telephone. And now we are on the eve of technology that will integrate sound and picture and mobility and written text into one form. I do not need to go on in this fashion. We all know how much our world has advanced when we compare the advantages we have today with those of 1873. In these ways, our time is much improved. We live healthier and longer lives.
Perhaps the previous years for Rochester were a time of establishing civic institutions, of legacies of manufacturing and technology, of an open society with a reputation for free thinking and debate and of a society that has known leadership and high standards in health care and education. In these ways, the "Young Lion of the West" has matured. In building a quality of life, we have taken our place among the leading cities of the world. We are an All America City, and more than that.
All this having been said, we live in a new time. In the picture we have of 1873, there was not much diversity. A side reference to Susan B. Anthony and the inclusion of a German language newspaper hint at the issues of Women's Rights and Rochester as a landing place for immigrants. But for the most part, Rochester, in 1873, was not the diverse place that it is today.
There is a simple question that always stands
before us, and the way in which we answer determines the kind of time
in which we live. The question is: How will we secure freedom, and once
secured, how will we use our freedom? In 1873, a viscous war had secured
a broader freedom in America. Over the years since, we have both regressed
and then expanded that freedom. Today, in Rochester and throughout the
country, we have tremendous freedom. Our future will be shaped by how
it is used. The challenge is as great for one group of our citizens as
it is for another. The philosopher in the book of Ecclesiastes reminds
us that "there is a time for all things."
As we approach year 2000, the time in which we live must be that of giving substance to our freedom. The foundations of communications, the pattern for healthy living and a long life, and the political framework for freedom are all in place. I would that all in our region accept their responsibility of reverence for this freedom by making it real in a healthy community. This is the essence of our time as we enter a new millennium.
Back to Capsule Unsealed