Westinghouse Time Capsules

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Westinghouse's 1964–65
World's Fair time capsule exhibit
1939 Time Capsule sketch

The Westinghouse Time Capsules are two time capsules prepared by the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company: "Time Capsule I", created for the 1939 New York World's Fair; and "Time Capsule II", created for the 1964 New York World's Fair. Both are buried 50 feet below Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, the site of both world's fairs, the 1965 capsule 10 feet north of the 1939 one. Both are to be opened at the same time in the year 6939, five thousand years after the first capsule was sealed.[1]


The two time capsules are bullet-shaped, measure 90 inches (2.29 m) in length, and have an exterior casing of about eight and three-eighths inches (21.1 cm) in diameter.[2] Time Capsule I weighs about 800 pounds (363 kg), while Time Capsule II weighs about half that.[3]

Time Capsule I was made of a non-ferrous alloy called Cupaloy, created especially for this project. Designed to resist corrosion for 5,000 years, the alloy was made of 99.4% copper, 0.5% chromium, and 0.1% silver.[4] Westinghouse claims it has the same strength as steel, yet will resist most corrosion over thousands of years like copper, because it becomes an anode in electrolytic reactions, receiving deposits instead of wasting away like most iron-bearing metals.[5] Time Capsule II was made of a stainless steel metal called "Kromarc", supplied by U.S. Steel.[6] Westinghouse Research Laboratories determined with extensive chemical testing that this new super stainless steel alloy would resist corrosion much like the alloy that was used for Time Capsule I.[7] Invented by Frederick Charles Hull,[8] Kromarc 55 Stainless Steel is composed of 52.60% iron, 21.24% nickel, 15.43% chromium, 8.20% manganese, 2.15% molybdenum, 0.22% silicon, 0.05% carbon, 0.013% phosphorus, and 0.012% sulfur.

The contents for the time capsules were sealed inside an insulated airtight glass envelope with an interior diameter of six and a half inches (16.5 cm) and a length of about 81 inches (2 m).[2] The interior of the glass envelope of Capsule I was filled with nitrogen.[2] The interior of the glass envelope of Capsule II was filled with the inert gas argon. The term "time capsule" was coined by George Edward Pendray for the New York 1939 World's Fair Westinghouse exhibit.

Capsule Contents[edit]

1939 "Time Capsule I"[edit]

Among the 35 small, everyday, physical items placed inside Time Capsule I were a fountain pen and an alphabet block set. Time Capsule I also contained 75 types of fabrics, metals, plastics, and seeds. Modern literature, contemporary art, and news events of the twentieth century were recorded on a microfilm "Micro-File" for placement in Time Capsule I; the "Micro-File" has over ten million words and a thousand pictures and came with a small microscope for viewing. There are also instructions included on how to make both a large microfilm viewer and a motion picture projector for the newsreels.

Also included were copies of Life magazine, a kewpie doll, one dollar in change, a pack of Camel cigarettes, a 15-minute RKO Pathe Pictures newsreel, a Lilly Dache hat and millions of words of text put on microfilm rolls which included a Sears Roebuck catalog, a dictionary, and an almanac. Seeds placed in the time capsule included wheat, corn, oats, tobacco, cotton, flax, rice, soy beans, alfalfa, sugar beets, carrots, and barley, all sealed in glass tubes.

The items that were selected to be put inside were based upon how well they chronicled 20th-century life in the United States.[9] During packaging of the contents under the direction of representatives of the United States National Bureau of Standards, each object was examined to determine whether it could be expected to last 5,000 years.[10] The interior capsule items were selected so they were not interactive and would not decompose into harmful gases or acids. Organic items (e.g. seeds) were carefully placed in sealed glass vials.[11]

There were five main categories of objects to be put inside:

  • Small articles of common use
  • Textiles and materials
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Essay in microfilm
  • RKO newsreel
1965 Time Capsule II interior

1965 "Time Capsule II"[edit]

Again, there were five main categories of objects to be put inside:

  • Articles in common use
  • Atomic energy
  • Scientific developments
  • Space
  • Other

The "other" category included images of a guest book signed by visitors to the Westinghouse pavilion exhibit at the 1964 fair. Signers received tin pins, about 30mm (1.2 inches) across (roughly the size of an American fifty-cent piece), that said, My name is in the Westinghouse Time Capsule for the next 5,000 years. The book's pages were photographed onto acetate microfilm and the message in a bottle placed in the Pyrex glass interior shell of the time capsule. The original 1965 capsule was then buried for posterity with an exact duplicate of articles in a "window" replica now residing at the Heinz History Center beside its sister replica capsule of cupaloy.

Book of Record[edit]

Cover of
blue buckram
paper cover

The contents of Time Capsule I were recorded in a Book of Record of the Time Capsule of cupaloy deemed capable of resisting the effects of time for five thousand years, preserving an account of universal achievements, embedded in the grounds of the New York World's Fair 1939.

The purpose of the Book of Record is to preserve knowledge of the existence of the time capsule for 5,000 years, and to provide assistance to the people of the year 6939 in locating and recovering it. Someone perhaps might find one of the more than 3,000 copies of the Book of Record distributed to museums, monasteries, and libraries worldwide.[12] In order to avoid confusion about the 1965 time capsule, a supplement announcing Time Capsule II was sent to the original 3,000 depositories of the 1938 Book of Record.[13]

Should all present day methods of determining time be lost, then the time for what is now called 1939 Common Era can be recognized by calculation from astronomical data. In the year 1939, there were two eclipses of the moon, falling on the third of May and the twenty-eighth of October. Also there were two eclipses of the sun, an annular eclipse on the nineteenth of April, the path of annular eclipse grazing the North Pole of the earth, and a total eclipse on the twelfth of October, the total path crossing near the South Pole. The heliocentric longitudes of the planets on the first of January at zero-hours Greenwich time were as follows:[4]

The mean position of the North Star Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris) on the first of January was Right Ascension, 1 hour, 41 minutes, 59 seconds; North Polar distance, 1 hour, 1 minute, and 33.8 seconds. Astronomers of the early twentieth century determined that such a combination of astronomical events is unlikely to recur for many thousands of years. The people of the future will therefore be able to determine the number of years that have elapsed since the capsule was buried by computing backward from their time.[14]

Location of the two time capsules[edit]

1939 Westinghouse exhibit

The 1938 time capsule of cupaloy was lowered at high noon on September 23, 1938, the precise moment of the Autumnal Equinox. Its latitude and longitude coordinates of the burying place as determined by the U.S. National Geodetic Survey was recorded in the Book of Record of the Time Capsule of cupaloy to Coordinates: 40°44′34.09″N 73°50′43.84″W / 40.7428028°N 73.8455111°W / 40.7428028; -73.8455111within an inch (2.5 cm).[14] The time capsule will likely move vertically or horizontally for geological reasons,[14] so an alternate electromagnetic field method is provided for locating. It involves constructing a loop of wire 10 feet in diameter and putting an alternating current of between 1,000 and 5,000 hertz through it with a power of at least 200 watts. Then the detection of a "distortion field" with the use of a secondary loop of wire about a foot in diameter will indicate the exact location of the two metal alloy time capsules, assuming no other large metal objects are in the vicinity.[15]

At the close of the 1965 World's Fair, a seven-ton "permanent sentinel" granite monument made by the Rock of Ages Corporation was installed using pitch, concrete and earth to fill the 50-foot steel shaft, marking the position where the two time capsules are buried.[3][16]


The Book of Record of the Time Capsule, of which a copy was microfilmed and put inside Time Capsule I, contains written messages from three important men of the time:

Albert Einstein's message,

Albert Einstein signature.jpg

Our time is rich in inventive minds, the inventions of which could facilitate our lives considerably. We are crossing the seas by power and utilise power also in order to relieve humanity from all tiring muscular work. We have learned to fly and we are able to send messages and news without any difficulty over the entire world through electric waves. However, the production and distribution of commodities is entirely unorganised so that everybody must live in fear of being eliminated from the economic cycle, in this way suffering for the want of everything. Further more, people living in different countries kill each other at irregular time intervals, so that also for this reason any one who thinks about the future must live in fear and terror. This is due to the fact that the intelligence and character of the masses are incomparably lower than the intelligence and character of the few who produce some thing valuable for the community. I trust that posterity will read these statements with a feeling of proud and justified superiority.

Robert Andrews Millikan's message,

Robert A Millikan signature.jpg

At this moment, August 22, 1938, the principles of representative ballot government, such as are represented by the governments of the Anglo-Saxon, French, and Scandinavian countries, are in deadly conflict with the principles of despotism, which up to two centuries ago had controlled the destiny of man throughout practically the whole of recorded history. If the rational, scientific, progressive principles win out in this struggle there is a possibility of a warless, golden age ahead for mankind. If the reactionary principles of despotism triumph now and in the future, the future history of mankind will repeat the sad story of war and oppression as in the past.

Thomas Mann's message,

Thomas Mann signature.jpg

We know now that the idea of the future as a "better world" was a fallacy of the doctrine of progress. The hopes we center on you, citizens of the future, are in no way exaggerated. In broad outline, you will actually resemble us very much as we resemble those who lived a thousand, or five thousand, years ago. Among you too the spirit will fare badly. It should never fare too well on this earth, otherwise men would need it no longer. That optimistic conception of the future is a projection into time of an endeavor which does not belong to the temporal world, the endeavor on the part of man to approximate to his idea of himself, the humanization of man. What we, in this year of Our Lord 1938, understand by the term "culture" a notion held in small esteem today by certain nations of the western world is simply this endeavor. What we call the spirit is identical with it, too. Brothers of the future, united with us in the spirit and in this endeavor, we send our greetings.

Inscription on Time Capsules[edit]

The exterior of the 1938 time capsule is die-stamped with this message to anyone that might stumble upon it prior to the scheduled opening year of 6939 to preserve its integrity.[17]

Westinghouse timecapsule replica4.jpg


The 1965 time capsule exterior has no message.

Future languages[edit]

The Book of Record requests that its contents be translated into new languages as they develop.[18] It contains a key with illustrations devised by Dr. John P. Harrington of the Smithsonian Institution to help future archaeologists with the English language,[19] since it was felt that all existing languages will be lost.[20] It also includes an illustration showing exactly where each of the 33 sounds of 1938 English are formed in the oral cavity in what Dr. Harrington refers to as a "mouth map."[21]

1938 stickmen.jpg
Mouth Map
1938 Comparison.jpg
1938 Tenses.jpg
1938 Opposites.jpg


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Westinghouse (1938), p. 6
  2. ^ a b c Westinghouse (1938), p. 8
  3. ^ a b Press Release October 16, 1965
  4. ^ a b Westinghouse (1938), p. 10
  5. ^ Westinghouse (1939), p. 10
  6. ^ Press release Saturday, October 16, 1965
  7. ^ Westinghouse - Commemorative Brochure
  8. ^ Metallography - Dr. Frederick Charles Hull
  9. ^ Complete Contents List of 1939 Time Capsule
  10. ^ Westinghouse (1939), p. 16
  11. ^ Time Capsule 1939
  12. ^ Westinghouse (1939), pp 11-13
  13. ^ Westinghouse Time Capsule 1964
  14. ^ a b c Westinghouse (1938), p. 11
  15. ^ Westinghouse (1938), pp. 39-41
  16. ^ Permanent Sentinel
  17. ^ Westinghouse (1938), p. 9
  18. ^ Westinghouse (1939), p. 13
  19. ^ Westinghouse (1938), pp. 20-37
  20. ^ Westinghouse (1938), p. 19
  21. ^ Westinghouse (1938), p. 22

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]