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Three water-damaged books, a silver coin and a cloth envelope were recovered from an 1887 time capsule found inside the pedestal of Richmond, Virginia's, recently removed Robert E. Lee statue.
The capsule, found last week inside a nearly 2,000-pound block of granite, was about the size of a shoebox. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam got to open the box Wednesday after conservators from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources spent five hours prying it open.
"It's an important day for the history of Richmond and Virginia," Northam said.
The books inside the box were an almanac from 1875, a copy of The Huguenot Lovers: A Tale of the Old Dominion by Collinson Pierrepont Edwards Burgwyn and a pamphlet.
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An 1887 newspaper article said the capsule would contain a picture of former President Abraham Lincoln "lying in his coffin" as well as other Civil War memorabilia. Library of Virginia records said there would be 60 mostly Confederacy-related objects from 37 Richmond contributors.
In reality, the capsule, which was sitting under the statue of Lee for over 130 years, had much fewer objects. However, Northam said the three books are still historically significant by providing a window into what Richmond people were thinking at the time.
Besides there being far fewer objects, the capsules' dimensions were smaller than expected. The capsule, which is about the size of a large shoebox, was also made of lead, not the copper that state officials believed it would be.
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The time capsule had sat under the massive bronze equestrian statue of Lee, which was erected in 1890, for more than 130 years. The monument was long seen as a symbol of racial injustice in the former capital of the Confederacy. It was taken down in September.
The time capsule was found Friday by crews working to remove the pedestal where the Lee statue had stood.
The Lee statue was long soon as a symbol or racial injustice. Its removal in September came more than a year after Northam ordered that it be taken down following protests that erupted after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The day after the statue was removed, work crews spent more than 12 hours searching for the time capsule in the 40-foot-tall (12-meter-tall) pedestal but were unable to locate it.
The Lee statue was one of five Confederate tributes along Richmond's Monument Avenue and the only one that belonged to the state. The four city-owned statues were taken down in 2020, but the Lee statue removal was blocked by two lawsuits until a ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia in September cleared the way for it to be taken down.
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Northam, a Democrat, announced earlier this month that the enormous pedestal would be removed, a reversal from September when the governor said the pedestal would stay in place so its future could be determined by a community-driven effort to reimagine Monument Avenue.
After Floyd's killing in 2020, the Lee statue became a focal point of the racial justice movement in Richmond. Since then, the pedestal has been covered in graffiti, some of it profane and much of it denouncing the police. Some activists wanted to see it remain in place as a work of protest art.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. © Steve Helber/AP Photo Virginia conservators found books and other small items inside a time capsule that was placed in 1887 in the pedestal that once held the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Above, the stone holding the capsule is placed on a pallet on Monument Avenue, Friday Dec. 17, in Richmond, Virginia. Steve Helber/AP Photo
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Pedestal where Lee statue stood in Va. capital fully removed .
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — The enormous pedestal where the Robert E. Lee monument in Virginia’s capital resided for over 130 years until September has been completely removed and hauled away. Every piece of the 40-foot-tall (12-meter-tall) pedestal where the bronze statue stood over Monument Avenue in Richmond was gone from a traffic circle as of Friday afternoon, WRIC-TV reported. The ground was leveled, with straw spread about to encourage grass growth. Gov.