UnCommon Ground - From the Archives

issue 02 | summer 2014
UnCommon Ground - From the Archives - Summer 2014

The Denison Band played an al fresco overture, a prayer was offered, the Glee Club sang, and according to the May 1936 program, Reverend Millard Brelsford “placed the box.” After this, Ambrose Swasey, who had dedicated his share of Denison cornerstones in the previous two decades (Swasey Observatory in 1909, Swasey Chapel in 1924), ceremoniously installed yet another. The tightly sealed handmade copper box fit neatly into a cavity behind the stone proclaiming the founding year of the new (yet to be built) William Howard Doane Library.

Those present at the library dedication might have imagined centuries before their time capsule would be discovered, but they didn’t anticipate the 1998 restoration of the library steps, or ADA regulations requiring a handicap-access ramp. The new ramp obscured the old cornerstone, so after 62 years it was chiseled out and raised about six feet above its original position. A mason found and brought the dark copper box to the attention of librarian Mary Prophet, who mused about what interesting things might have been included in a 1936 time capsule. It wasn’t a request, but the mason took it as permission, and he pried the box open like a large can of sardines.

Seven local newspapers filled much of the space, the Denisonian and a bright pink edition of the Columbus Citizen among them. Every print publication about the college and town that could be found was carefully stacked together, including “A Declaration of Principles and Character” and a statement on faculty tenure policy. There was a neatly typed budget from the Finance Committee and an outline of the “Denison Destiny” five-year, $5 million capital campaign. There were five loose American coins minted in 1935, and photographic portraits of the librarian, Annie Louise Craigie, and President Avery Shaw. Nothing earth-shattering, but an earnest offering-up of who we were and what we were trying to achieve in that moment, as a gesture to the unknown future.

Published July 2014