Book of Record of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy

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SEPTEMBER 23 • 1938



Time capsule internment plan.png


A Segment of Our Time Preserved for Future Generations

HEN WE SURVEY THE PAST and note how perishable are all human things, we are moved to attempt the preservation of some of the world's present material & intellectual symbols, that knowledge of them may not disappear from the earth.

For there is no way to read the future of the world: peoples, nations, and cultures move onward into inscrutable time. In our day it is difficult to conceive of a future less happy, less civilized than our own. Yet history teaches us that every culture passes through definite cycles of development, climax, and decay. And so, we must recognize, ultimately may ours.

By the same reasoning, there will rise again a civilization of even vaster promise standing upon our shoulders, as we have stood upon the shoulders of ancient Sumer, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. The learned among that culture of the future may study with pleasure and profit things now in existence which are unique to our time, growing out of our circumstances, needs, and desires.

Five thousand years ago, during a period of invention, development, and science rivaling that of our day, recorded history began. It would be pleasant to believe that we might leave records of our own day for five thousand years hence; to a day when the peoples of the world will think of us standing at history's midpoint.

Whether we shall be able to transmit such a segment of our time into the future depends not only on our ingenuity at selection and preservation, on the excellence of engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, and other intellectual disciplines, but also in large measure on those who come after us, and their willingness to cooperate in such an archaeological venture across the reaches of time.

We pray you therefore, whoever reads this book, to cherish and preserve it through the ages, and translate it from time to time into new languages that may arise after us, in order that knowledge of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy may be handed down to those for whom it is intended. We likewise ask: let the Time Capsule rest in the earth until its time shall come; let none dig it up for curiosity or for any other reason. It is a message from one age to another, and none should touch it in the years that lie between.

Preparation of the Capsule

HOW long the Time Capsule will remain in the earth, or what experiences await it, we have no way of knowing. But if, as is our hope, it rests untroubled until the year A.D. 6939, there may be people capable of discovering and raising it, of reading and studying the contents.

We imagine they will be able to reconstruct, through archaeological techniques like those developed in our own time, the hard structures of our culture: our architecture, our dams and roads, our houses, and our general physical appearance, as indicated by our skeletons. But certainly many of the perishable things of our culture will have been lost in the course of time, unless special efforts are made to preserve them.

In these matters we have taken counsel of archaeologists, historians, metallurgists, engineers, chemists, geophysicists, and other technical men of our time. We have given much study not only to the selection of the items to be preserved, but also to methods of preserving them for so long a time & of leaving this message about them.

Our first concern was the construction of the Time Capsule itself, a problem of great complexity. Our experience with artificial materials is too short to give us certain knowledge of their ability to withstand the corrosive effects of thousands of years, yet the older mineral materials, including stone and glass, are too brittle and too difficult to work, are liable to breakage from pressure or earthquake, and are too difficult to detect when buried in the earth.

We have decided that the best possible material is a metallic alloy of high corrosion resistance & considerable hardness, of nonferrous nature, and preferably containing a high percentage of copper. Of all the tools used by ancient peoples, those of stone and copper have come down to us from farthest in the past.

It happens that a copper alloy fulfilling these specifications has recently been developed. Known as Cupaloy, it is 99.4 per cent copper, .5 per cent chromium, and .1 per cent silver. This material may be tempered to a hardness similar to that of mild steel, yet has a resistance to corrosion equal to pure copper. In electrolytic reactions with ferrous metals in the soil, it becomes the anode and therefore will receive deposits, rather than suffer corrosion, should such action take place. It is our belief that a properly constructed capsule of Cupaloy will withstand the naturally destructive forces of five thousand years, and by its strength protect the contents from the accidents of time.

The Time Capsule is seven feet, six inches in length, and eight and three-eighths inches in diameter. Its Cupaloy shell consists of seven cast segments, all segments except the last solidly screwed together, sealed with molten asphalt, and burnished. The last section, closed after the placing of the contents in the Capsule, is shrunk-fitted on tapering threads.

The inner crypt of the Capsule is a space six & a half inches in diameter & approximately six feet, nine inches in length. Within it is a Pyrex glass envelope embedded in a petroleum base wax. The objects to be preserved are enclosed in the glass, from which all air has been exhausted. The spaces left between the objects in the crypt have been filled with an inert gas, nitrogen, the inactive element which makes up four-fifths of our atmosphere.

The materials inside the crypt have been selected for permanence and have been treated, so far as possible, to give them resistance to time. Material which would ordinarily be published in books has been photographed on acetate microfilm; a method that not only promises permanence but also makes possible the concentration of much information in small space. Where paper was necessarily enclosed, we have used only the finest 100 per cent rag, fulfilling the specifications of the United States Bureau of Standards for permanence. Metal parts which might be subject to attack by moisture have been coated with a thin layer of wax. No acids or corrosive substances are included in the crypt's contents or in the materials with which the Time Capsule is sealed, nor are any materials included which are known to decay or dissociate into corrosive liquids or vapors.

The Time Capsule is die-stamped with this message:


The Time Capsule was deposited fifty feet deep in the earth on the site of the building of the Westinghouse Company, on the grounds of the New York World's Fair 1939, by A. W. Robertson, chairman of the Board of Directors of the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, at 12 o'clock noon, September 23, 1938, the exact moment of the autumnal equinox of that year.

Recovery Of The Capsule

WHEN the time has come to dig for the Time Capsule, look for it in the area known as the Flushing Meadows, Borough of Queens, New York City, on the site of the New York World's Fair 1939.

The appointed year will be, according to our common way of reckoning time, the 6,939th year since the birth of Christ. According to the Jewish calendar it will be the year 10699; according to the Chinese, the 36th year of the 160th cycle; according to the Mohammedan, the 6,469th year since the birth of the Prophet; according to the Buddist, the 7,502d year since the birth of Buddha; according to the Shinto [Japanese], the 7,599th year since the birth of the first emperor, Jimmu Tenno.

If none of these ways of reckoning the years has survived, it still may be recognized by calculation from astronomical data. In the year 1939 there will be two eclipses of the moon, falling respectively on May 3d and October 28th. There will be two eclipses of the sun—an annular eclipse on April 19th, the path of annular eclipse grazing the North Pole of the earth, and a total eclipse on October 12th, the total path crossing near the South Pole.

The heliocentric longitudes of the planets on January 1st at zero-hours Greenwich [midnight] were

Mercury 175° 55′ 42″
Venus 124° 43′ 32″
Earth 99° 40′ 29″
Mars 192° 4′ 2″
Jupiter 339° 12′ 22″
Saturn 17° 30′ 45″
Uranus 46° 23′ 31″
Neptune 171° 32′ 3″
Pluto 120° 17′

The mean position of the North Star [Polaris or Alpha Ursæ Minoris] on January 1st will be Right Ascension, 1 hr. 41 min. 59 sec.; North Polar distance, 1° 1′ 33″.8.

In the opinion of our astronomers, such a combination of astronomical events is unlikely to recur for many thousands of years. By computing backward from their time, people of the future will therefore be able to determine the number of years that have elapsed since our time.

The Capsule lies buried at exactly the point where the centerline of the Westinghouse plot intersects the centerline of the great halls of the Westinghouse World's Fair building. By A.D. 6939, it is probable, all present-day landmarks, city surveys, and other such aids for locating such an object will have disappeared. The spot may still be discovered, however, by determination of the latitude and longitude. The exact geodetic coordinates [North American Datum of 1927] are:

Latitude 40° 44′ 34″.089 north of the Equator
Longitude 73° 50′ 43″.842 west of Greenwich

These coordinates, surveyed by the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey and given to the thousandth part of a second of arc, are accurate enough to locate an object one-tenth of a foot or less in diameter at a particular position on the surface of the earth.[1]

It may be that due to shifts of the earth's poles, differences in method, or other causes, this calculation will still not give the exact spot. It may also happen that the Time Capsule will sink or migrate from the point of deposit during the ages. Seekers may nevertheless still find it by the methods of electrical prospecting such as are used in our day for the location of minerals, water, buried metallic objects, and deposits of salt and oil.

If electrical instruments similar to those of our time are used to locate the Capsule, it should be indicated by the distortion of a magnetic field, the increased conductivity of the soil, or other such indications. Certain steps have been taken to increase the Time Capsule's responsiveness in this respect. The soil in which the Time Capsule is buried is fairly homogeneous, and though there are scraps of metals, mostly ferrous, buried in it, these should all have disappeared by corrosion before many centuries have passed. On account of the softness of the soil, however, the Capsule may have settled to a greater depth. This possibility should be taken into account.[2]

When the Capsule at length has been located, a problem will still remain, for if the land is swampy & wet, as in our day, adequate methods must be devised to recover it. The Capsule may be raised by sinking a caisson of such a type as to hold back the mud and water during excavation. Should this prove inexpedient, it may be possible to freeze the soil by cold brine circulating in pipes driven into the earth around the site. When the soil is frozen it may then be dug in the same manner as hard earth.

The Capsule is provided with an eye to which lifting apparatus may be attached. It is likely, however, that this ring may have disappeared through erosion. In this case, the Capsule should be raised gently with a sling.

When it has been brought up out of the ground, let the finders beware, lest in their eagerness they spoil the contents by ill-considered moves. Let the Capsule be transported with the utmost care, at once, to a warm, dry place. Cleanse the outside of mud, slime, or corrosion. Then cut off the top carefully at the deeply scored groove which has been left to guide the saw.

Should gas rush out when the inner glass is punctured, or when the saw penetrates the crypt, let there be no alarm, for this is a harmless gas enclosed as a preservative.

The Contents Of The Capsule

WITHIN the limitations imposed by space, the problems of preservation, and the difficulty of choosing the truly significant to represent all the enormous variety and vigor of our life, we have sought to deposit in the Time Capsule materials and information touching upon all the principal categories of our thought, activity, and accomplishment; sparing nothing, neither our wisdom nor our foolishness, our supreme achievements nor our recognized weaknesses.

We have included books and pictures that show where and how we live: some in apartments like dwellers in cliffs, but comfortably; others in detached houses; still others moving about the country in homes mounted on wheels.

We have set forth the story of our architecture, by which we have reared soaring pinnacles into the sky.

We have described the offices and the factories where we work, the machines that write, compute, tabulate, reproduce manuscript a thousandfold, sort out, and file; the machines that stamp and fashion metals; the machines and methods with which metals are knit together by electricity and cut apart by gas; the complex techniques of mass production, with which articles that consist of scores of different materials, requiring hundreds of operations to assemble, can nevertheless be sold among us for a few cents.

We have described in text and picture the arts and entertainment of our day; the games we play; the history & development & present attainments of painting, sculpture, music, the theater, motion pictures, and radio.

We have included copies of representative newspapers & magazines of this day, containing news, articles, fiction, and advertisements broadly characteristic of our period. We have also included a novel, the most widely read of our time. For good measure we have added specimens of our cartoons and "comics," such as daily and weekly delight millions in our newspapers and in our moving picture theaters.

Ours is a day of many faiths. We have provided descriptions of the world's religions, numbered their followers, and enclosed the Holy Bible, a book which is the basis of the Christian faith. We have provided outlines of the world's principal philosophies. We have discussed the all-pervading and effective educational systems of our time, and told in text and pictures the story of the training of our young.

We have included a copy of our Constitution, and something about our government, under which we live as free men, ruled by our own elected representatives chosen at regular intervals by the votes of all, both men and women. We have included, also, a history of our country and a chronological history of the world.

Our scientists have measured the speed of light and compared the distances of the planets, stars, and nebulæ; they have charted the slow evolution of primal protoplasm into man, fathomed the ultimate composition of matter and its relation to energy, transmuted the elements, measured the earth and explored it, harnessed earthquake, electricity, and magnetism to probe what lies be neath our feet; they have shifted the atoms in their lattices and created dyes, materials, stuffs that Nature herself forgot to make. The stories of these achievements have been set forth in the Time Capsule.

Our engineers & inventors have harnessed the forces of the earth and skies and the mysteries of nature to make our lives pleasant, swift, safe, and fascinating beyond any previous age. We fly faster, higher, and farther than the birds. On steel rails we rush safely, behind giant horses of metal and fire. Ships large as palaces thrum across our seas. Our roads are alive with self-propelling conveyances so complex the most powerful prince could not have owned one a generation ago; yet in our day there is hardly a man so poor he cannot afford this form of personal mobility.

Over wires pour cataracts of invisible electric power, tamed and harnessed to light our homes, cook our food, cool and clean our air, operate the machines of our homes & factories, lighten the burdens of our daily labor, reach out and capture the voices and music of the air, & work a major part of all the complex magic of our day.

We have made metals our slaves, and learned to change their characteristics to our needs. We speak to one another along a network of wires and radiations that enmesh the globe, and hear one another thousands of miles away as clearly as though the distance were only a few feet. We have learned to arrest the processes of decay; our foods are preserved in metal or frost and by these means we may have vegetables and fruits in any season, delicacies from foreign lands, and adequate diet anywhere.

All these things, and the secrets of them, and something about the men of genius of our time and earlier days who helped bring them about, will be found in the Time Capsule.

How our physicians have healed the sick, controlled pain, and conquered many diseases, has been recounted there; how we have suppressed epidemics through the enormous undertakings of our system of public health; how our drugs and biologicals are compounded, and the enormous and varied list of them.

There are included samples and specimens of the new materials of our time, created in the laboratories of our engineers and chemists, on the looms of our mills, and in the forges, furnaces, and vats of our factories.

There are also samples of the products of our farms, where machinery has turned scarcity into abundance; where research has produced plants never seen in nature; where science now is able to produce plants even without soil.

There are also many small articles that we wear or use; that contribute to the pleasure, comfort, safety, convenience, or healthfulness of our lives; articles with which we write, play, groom ourselves, correct our vision, remove our beards, illuminate our homes and work-places, tell time, make pictures, calculate sums, exchange values, protect property, train our children, prepare our food.

Believing, as have the people of each age, that our women are the most beautiful, most intelligent, and best groomed of all the ages, we have enclosed in the Time Capsule specimens of modern cosmetics, and one of the singular clothing creations of our time, a woman's hat.

That the pronunciation of our English tongue may not be lost, a "Key to English" has been prepared and printed in this book. That our vocabulary may not be forgotten, we have included in the Capsule a dictionary, defining more than 140,000 common words and phrases. That our idiom may be preserved, we have provided also a dictionary of slang and colloquial expressions. Finally, that our method of writing may be recovered, should all other record of it disappear, we have included a book in which the Lord's Prayer is translated into three hundred different tongues; also the fable "The Story of the North Wind & the Sun" translated into twenty-five languages. These may serve, as did the trilingual Rosetta stone, to help in the translation of our words.

In the Capsule there are only two actual books of our time, in the size and form to which we are accustomed. These are this book and the Holy Bible. All the rest have been photographed page by page on microfilm, which by the small space it requires has permitted us to include on four small reels the contents or equivalent of more than seventy ordinary books—enough in their usual form to fill the Capsule's crypt several times over. A magnifying instrument is included, with which the microfilm may be read.

Should those who recover the Capsule wish to know our appearance, and how we dress, act, and talk, there have been provided two reels of significant and typical scenes of our time, in pictures that move and speak, imprisoned on ribbons of cellulose coated with silver. If knowledge of machines for projecting these pictures and voices has disappeared, the machines may nevertheless be recreated, after recovery of the Capsule, from photographs and descriptions.

Each age considers itself the pinnacle & final triumph above all eras that have gone before. In our time many believe that the human race has reached the ultimate in material and social development; others, that humanity shall march onward to achievements splendid beyond the imagination of this day, to new worlds of human wealth, power, life, and happiness. We choose, with the latter, to believe that men will solve the problems of the world, that the human race will triumph over its limitations and its adversities, that the future will be glorious.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.

For Class A renewals records (books only) published between 1923 and 1963, check the Stanford University Copyright Renewal Database.
For other renewal records of publications between 1922–1950 see the University of Pennsylvania copyright records scans.
For all records since 1978, search the U.S. Copyright Office records.

Works published in 1938 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1965 or 1966, i.e. at least 27 years after it was first published / registered but not later than in the 28th year. As it was not renewed, it entered the public domain on .

  1. See page 43.
  2. See page 39.