Caflisch Hall Time Capsule Discovery Reveals 1928 Treasure Trove

When crews began demolishing Caflisch Hall, they expected a lot of noise, dust and rubble. What they did not count on was finding a metal time capsule box neatly placed inside one of the building’s cornerstones. 

Jeffrey Jones, facilities plant maintenance supervisor marveled at the discovery. “My first thought when I heard they found it was this is pretty neat and I would be a witness to see it being opened. I assumed that there would probably be papers, newspapers (and things) but was hoping for something like coins or money. I was amazed at how well preserved the newspapers were…the box was well sealed and (they) did an awesome job of keeping things in good shape.”

It’s human instinct to want time capsules to be caches of exciting artifacts. The superstitious among us might think of Indiana Jones and the dangers of unleashing what might be dormant therein. Or worse, inanities, as Geraldo Rivera famously revealed in a much-hyped live television show that found empty bottles and dirt in gangster Al Capone’s vault. 

Good fortune was on the side of the Allegheny community. The contents were perfectly intact. Intact since 1928 to be precise. Ruth Andel, Allegheny College’s archivist, said “I was not surprised to learn that a time capsule was tucked away in a cornerstone of Caflisch Hall as buildings on campus and elsewhere from the last century and earlier often have them.” 

The Tribune-Republican
The Tribune-Republican

What was important to the outside world is reflected in the inclusion of the local newspaper as an engaging snapshot of history. A copy of The Tribune-Republican (1911-1955) dated October 27, 1928 gives context to what was happening all around the world as students attended classes and did their thing. In fact, some students made headlines.

“College Students Put on Big Demonstration.” It seems 500 rowdy students gathered at Cochran Hall, the current site of the Tippie Alumni Center, then danced and marched their way downtown, “capturing the business section” and proceeded to tie up traffic with their disruption and cheering. The demonstration marked the first appearance of the Blue and Gold Key Club, a new organization to foster school spirit. 

The Campus
The Campus

Advertisements boast some pretty great deals. For $15, Holland Furnace Company would install your furnace, with only 20 more payments due. A “very fine blanket” could be had from The Crawford Store for $3.98. And Meadville Dry Goods Co. Inc. was having an October coat sale with “luxuriant fur trimmings” from $25-$165. Randolph Motor Company promised you would “marvel at all that $765 would buy” when you came in to look at the new Pontiac Six automobile. Plenty of homes were for sale, including a six room dwelling for $8,500. 

Four issues of The Campus were also inside the metal box. Editions from June 12, October 10, and two from October 24, 1928 deliver insight to what was buzzy then. Construction began on the now-defunct Viscose Company, the world’s largest manufacturer of rayon. Allegheny Playshop Theatre presented their annual College play, presenting “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the Meadville High School Auditorium. 

The October 10 issue shared one of the more amusing observations. One Dr. Stanley S. Swartley published an article in “School and Society” lamenting the lack of interest in reading among college students. “More than ever before, the American student body is recruited from homes with commonplace and materialistic interests. Go into the average college student’s room and what do you see? A talking machine, a radio, still-assorted pictures and a pitiably small row of dull and drab textbooks.” He goes on to advocate creation of a bookstore to inspire students to read. 

Caflisch blueprints
Caflisch blueprints

In a neat circle of life, an article reports on the construction of two new buildings, including Caflisch Hall (and Arter). Despite a delay due to a shortage of steel and brick, the generosity of Margaret E. Caflisch of Union City would enable the Jacob C. Caflisch Memorial Hall to get underway. Blueprints were also inside. 

Thirty-seven new books were added to the Quill Club as reported in the October 24 issue. They include: “West Running Brook” by Frost, “Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing” by Hoffenstein, and “Good Morning America” by Sandburg.

The school course catalog lists just eight clubs. Financial prizes in recognition of academic excellence ranged from $15 for the second best thesis on a scientific subject to $50 for a student in Erie County first in scholarship. Tuition is listed at $250 per year. 

According to Andel, she was not aware of any other time capsules being opened at the College. Andel concluded, “In the past, time capsules were often located in cornerstones, which means they are not opened until the building is taken down or substantially renovated. This doesn’t happen often. We now have some time capsules on campus, including the Bicentennial one inside Bentley that represents a celebration of an era, rather than a specific building.” The Caflisch capsule’s contents will reside with the archivist until further plans evolve for their display.