Missouri time capsule

Christopher Saunders, of St. Louis, constructs the time capsule to be used by the State Historical Society of Missouri and Saint Louis Ambassadors to mark Missouri’s bicentennial. In a nod to Missouri’s long history with trains, the time capsule is being designed to look like an old railway steamer trunk.

If all goes according to plan, the morning of Aug. 10, 2046, will be an exciting one at the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO) in Columbia. On that day, museum staff will unveil a project that, 25 years earlier, in the present day, staff members and partner organizations say they are hard at work on.  

This August, to celebrate the 200th year of Missouri joining the U.S. as the 24th state, SHSMO is compiling archives from city governments, nonprofit organizations, businesses and clubs across the state into a time capsule to be opened in 25 years. The project, started by the Saint Louis Ambassadors, will culminate with a Bicentennial Ball Aug. 27 where the capsule will be sealed. 

Morgan Dennehy, bicentennial projects coordinator for the State Historical Society of Missouri, said her goal is for every corner and crevice of the state to be represented in the capsule.

“We hope to get a nice, wide variety,” Dennehy said. “We want things that are the epitome of Missouri, no matter where they are in their county or in the state.”

The capsule is accepting submissions from any government entities, civic organizations, nonprofits, businesses and other groups through Aug. 10. Instructions to make a submission are online at missouri2021.org/time-capsule.

So far, the time capsule has received a few dozen submissions from around the state — although none have been submitted yet from Franklin County or most neighboring counties. 

The closest submission so far is from the Crossroads Arts Council of Wentzville. The organization submitted a brochure of historic memorials and landmarks in the Wentzville area alongside a short history of the nonprofit, founded in 2015. In its letter to future Missourians, the founders wrote that they hope the state in 2046 is “enjoying a wealth of arts due to our efforts.” 

Among the highlights of the pieces already submitted for Dennehy are labels and a koozie from Crane Brewing in Raytown, Jackson County. Chris Meyers, the co-founder of the brewery, wrote in a letter to future Missourians with the submission that he has always loved his home in Missouri and the Kansas City area, and he was hoping in the future for more opportunities to connect the state and “build our community from the ground up.”

And for a literary composition class at Monett High School in Barry County, in southwest Missouri, each student wrote letters to future Missourians that somberly chronicle their experiences with COVID-19 and the 2020 presidential election, as well as Missouri’s sporadic weather and the current technology and social media trends. They submitted them along with silly photos of their dogs, snapshots of girlfriends or boyfriends, of teammates after a winning soccer game or a basketball game and family photos from their early childhood, as well as more current selfies. 

Their wishes for Missouri’s future include more growth, more opportunity and more compassion for neighbors.

“What the future holds is in the hands of the younger people,” wrote student Jose Hernandez to future Missourians. “We are not sure where we will be by August 10, 2046. What can be said is that there is endless opportunity for everyone who sincerely seeks it. You must take action, that is the only way that your future will continue to get brighter.”

The entries are not all pieces of paper. Dennehy said the town of Chillicothe send a bread-shaped coaster to stake their claim as the home of sliced bread — the Chillicothe Baking Co. was the first to popularize a bread-slicing machine in the late 1920s — and the Boone County chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star submitted a cloth face mask sewn during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

For Dennehy, it’s tough to pick a favorite submission, but she says if she had to, she would pick the piece from the Osage Chapter of the National Daughters of the American Revolution, based in Sedalia, Pettis County.

“They submitted a copy of their charter along with a history, and to represent their present, they sent a photo of all their members, and then to represent their future, they sent a photo of their daughters and granddaughters,” Dennehy said. “I hope we get more things like that.” 

Dennehy said she has no worries about the time capsule surpassing its physical capacity. The capsule is “waist-high” on Dennehy and, in a nod to Missouri’s important history of trains, is being built to look like an old railway steamer trunk. The designer and builder on the project is Christopher Saunders, of St. Louis. 

“It will be a Missouri-made time capsule,” Dennehy said. 

Dennehy said she’s expecting more entries, including from Creve Coeur-based Drury Hotels and hopefully more classrooms, but she also hopes for more. SHSMO has sent letters to every county clerk office in the state, she said. 

One local leader who is eager to submit something is Pacific Mayor Steve Myers. Myers was among those who opened a 50-year time capsule Pacific leaders buried in 1968 near the Veterans Monument in commemoration of the town’s sesquicentennial year. On Nov. 29, 2018, Myers followed instructions from former Pacific Mayor Arthur Viehland and used a hammer and screwdriver to pry open the lid of the capsule. 

“The most interesting was the newspaper articles we could read, which were few, but it was so interesting to see something from that time,” Myers said. “I was 5 years old then. So it was thrilling to know what had happened, and for me to be able to be the mayor at the time was just such a tremendous honor.”

The items chronicled how Pacific and the world had changed in the previous five decades. Myers said that a capsule 25 years from now could show future Missourians how Pacific followed through on its current projects.

“I would absolutely submit our city budget because it’s a snapshot of how good we’re doing, and I would make a list of accomplishments we’ve made over the past several years that shows how motivated we are to make Pacific all it can be,” he said. “We formulated a new comprehensive plan just a couple years ago and approved the master parks plan just last year. Those things would be awesome, so they could see what the vision was and what we’ve accomplished. Then other cities can reflect and make plans that are realistic for what they can do in 25 years.”

Pacific’s time capsule was almost lost when metal detectors couldn’t locate the vessel. According to previous Missourian reporting, the capsule was finally located with help from citizen Michelle Bruns, who was 6 years old in 1968 and remembered where it was buried.

When they unveiled the capsule, which had been buried in a concrete vault designed for an infant casket, some of the items had sustained water damage. Myers said some items were restored, and some are still being restored and will be on display at the Meramec Valley Historical Museum, but some were ruined. 

Dennehy said the statewide time capsule will be housed not in the ground anywhere but instead at the Center for Missouri Studies building in Columbia to avoid damage due to natural elements. 

The capsule will be open at the bicentennial festival in Columbia for individuals to write notecards for the capsule before it’s sealed.

“We want to be able to look back and see where we’ve been and hope that will help us get where we’re going,” Dennehy said. “In 25 years, we’ll look back and think, ‘Oh my gosh, there was a pandemic, what was that like?’ You know, you have people in high school today who’ve never used a rotary phone; they’ve never seen a floppy disk. We want to preserve those things for the future. We want to move forward, but we don’t want to lose where we’ve been.” 

Celebrate Missouri Statehood Day with upcoming events

Bicentennial Quilts display, various. Two quilts created by Missouri State Parks staff and volunteers will be on display throughout the state until statehood day in August. The quilts will be at the Harry S. Truman Birthplace in Lamar July 14-15, Annie and Abel Van Meter State Park July 17-18, Washington State Park July 24-25 and Pomme de Terre State Park July 27-29. 

Family Heirloom Recipes, Sedalia. At the Missouri State Fair in August, Greater Midwest Foodways is sponsoring a contest seeking the best made-from-scratch recipes passed down through a family, with the first-place winner earning $150. The deadline to enter is Tuesday, July 20, and entires can be made at mostatefair.com/how-to-enter-premium-guide. Live judging will occur Saturday, Aug. 14.

Together ’21 Fest, Columbia. The main event of the statewide bicentennial celebration will be held August 5-8 at the Center for Missouri Studies on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus. The festival will feature live music, folk art demonstrations, children’s programming, talks/lectures, documentary film screenings and exhibitions.

Statehood Day at the Capitol, Jefferson City. The bicentennial celebrations will culminate in a large statewide gathering at the Capitol Tuesday, Aug. 10. More details are forthcoming.

Bicentennial Alliance Lecture Series - Missouri’s German Heritage, virtual. This free lecture from the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla will explore the close ties Missouri has to its German heritage. Associate Professor Petra Dewitt will speak on how German-speaking settlers influenced Missouri’s agriculture, art, sciences and beer.  The virtual event will be Tuesday, Oct. 19, from 2 to 3 p.m. Register at calendar.mst.edu/event/missouris_german_heritage.

A complete calendar of statewide events can be found at missouri2021events.org.