USD 258 leaders open time capsule

A 1922 time capsule found during construction at Humboldt High School turned out to contain a mostly disintegrated baseball believed to have been donated by the legendary Walter Johnson and other items, also in poor condition.



February 13, 2024 - 3:40 PM

Humboldt USD 258 board president Josh Wrestler, left, peels back the lid of a time capsule from 1922. Terry Piper is holdling the box while Superintendent Amber Wheeler watches. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

HUMBOLDT — Though Humboldt school district leaders tried to temper expectations, the opening of a 102-year-old time capsule Monday evening revealed the ravages of time more than treasure.

Newspaper archives from 1922 indicated the contents of the time capsule, placed into the cornerstone of what was then a new high school. It was expected to contain a 1922 Liberty coin, a 1922 50-cent piece, a stamp, newspapers from the era and a baseball from the baseball legend Walter Johnson.

The prized baseball had disintegrated into a ball of string. The surface of the Liberty coin had corroded with the image barely visible. The writing on the fabric stamp had faded. The newspapers were folded into a pile of mostly moldy and crumbling mush. The 50-cent coin wasn’t found; perhaps it will later be located in the middle of the papers, as the group decided not to unfold the delicate material. Someone did manage, however, to extricate a document that included a detailed snapshot of Humboldt in 1922. 

The opening line read: “Memoranda concerning the City of Humboldt, Kansas, to be placed in the corner stone of the high school building to be laid July 11th, 1922, at 4:30 p.m.”

It went on to list all the city officers and businesses, along with some very brief history of the city. The population was estimated at 2,600, compared to today’s 1,836.

CONSTRUCTION crews had been looking for the cornerstone and time capsule after they began renovating the school last fall.

Though the cornerstone was discovered on the second floor on the northeast side of the high school building a few months ago it wasn’t until last week that the time capsule was discovered underneath it.

A crowd of about 50, including board members, students, news media and curious onlookers, gathered to see what the box might contain.

Board president Josh Wrestler brought tools to cut through the metal box. Terry Piper, the district’s director of operations, assisted as Superintendent Amber Wheeler watched. The three then extracted the objects and showed them to the crowd. 

“It’s what I expected,” Wrestler said after the capsule was opened. “It’s over 100 years old. Asking any object to last that long is a lot.”

The district plans to install a new time capsule in the northeast corner of the new addition once it is completed. They’ll review the material found in the 1922 version and plan to include at least some of those objects, although using more modern methods to project them. 

“We don’t know yet what we’ll put in there, but when they open it 100 years from now they’ll have items from both 100 and 200 years ago,” Wrestler said.