May 20, 2020

Westinghouse buried a time capsule on September 23, 1938 for display at the 1939 fair. It’s meant to remain unopened for 5,000 years. The site where it was lowered into an “Immortal Well” was such a popular attraction at the fair, workers had to “construct a passageway so visitors could view it in single file.” (

More than 100 items meant to represent life at the time were inside, including: Bausch & Lomb eyeglasses, slide rule, plastic Mickey Mouse child’s cup, Elizabeth Arden makeup, Camel cigarettes, asbestos cloth, dollar bill, wheat seeds, a leather-bound rag-paper copy of the Holy Bible, and messages from noted men including Albert Einstein. The capsule also included a fifteen-minute newsreel containing speeches by FDR, Howard Hughes, and Jesse Owens; clips of sporting events; a fashion show in Miami; and a demonstration of the United States’s military prowess. Westinghouse also created a time capsule for the 1964 NY World’s Fair that was buried on October 16, 1965. A monument at the site of the time capsules still stands at its original site at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, NY.

My characters visit the time capsule in We Came Here to Shine. There is so much more about this time capsule, its creation, contents, the Book of Record, etc. Here’s a link to the Book of Record in the New York Public Library World’s Fair archives if you’d like to read more about it. It’s fascinating. And the video “The Middleton Family at the NY World’s Fair” has actual footage of the exhibit (time stamp 10:20).
Above photo: Fair Corporation president Grover Whalen and Westinghouse chairman A. W. Robertson lowering the time capsule into the ground on 9/23/38.
Whalen putting objects into the time capsule.
Grover and Whalen watch as the capsule is sealed.
A portion of the list of contents.
A screen grab from The Middleton Family video showing the attraction fair visitors saw. The round item at hip level allowed visitors to view into it to see where the capsule was buried. And the rocket shaped item behind them is a replica of the time capsule with a clear body allowing a viewing of the replica contents inside. The video also features a display case showing items in the capsule.
The marker of the site of the two time capsules in a current photo I took while visiting the fairgrounds last year.
More history for those who’ve made it this far ;)…
The creators of the time capsule faced three main problems (from The Story of the Time Capsule):
  1. How to build a vessel capable of lasting 5,000 years and how to preserve it for prosperity. Solution (very condensed version: They used Cupaloy, a metallic alloy of high corrosion resistance and considerable hardness, with no iron, and formed mostly of copper.
  2. How to leave word of its whereabouts for historians of the future. Solution: They prepared a Book of Record of The Time Capsule printed on permanent paper with special inks. 3,650 copies were distributed to libraries, museums, and other safe repositories throughout the world. The book contains instructions for preservation, the coordinates of the capsule, its contents, how to retrieve it, etc.
  3. The selection and preservation of its contents. Solution: The Time Capsule Committee consulted archaeologists, historians, and experts. The result is 35 articles of common use, 75 samples of common materials, three reels of microfilm containing 22,000 pages of text and 1,000 photos describing the times containing books, articles, essays on all modern subjects, a record of civilization, and so much more. Preservation efforts were extensive.


More World’s Fair Wednesday posts…