The Story Begins

The real story of the Westinghouse Time Capsules is not found at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair, for the Capsule buried then was simply an update to history. The real story begins in early 1938 as Westinghouse prepared for their participation in the New York World's Fair of 1939. The theme of that Fair would be "The World of Tomorrow" and engineers and designers at the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company were busy preparing a remarkable legacy for the future as their company's exhibit at the Fair: a record of today for the world of tomorrow -- 6939 AD -- five thousand years hence. A Time Capsule into which would be placed a record of 20th Century civilization in word, film and artifacts.

The Time Capsule under the 1939/1940 Westinghouse World's Fair Building. Latitude 40° 44' 34" .089 north of the Equator; Longitude 73° 50' 43" .842 west of Greenwich
Westinghouse Pavilion 1939

The span of time that the Capsule should lie undisturbed boggles the mind. Five thousand year old artifacts in modern museums pre-date the pyramids of ancient Egypt! In the span of 5,000 years, whole civilizations have come and gone. Whole languages have appeared and disappeared. Great cities died and were buried under the dust of time only to be discovered by accident after lost millenniums. Mindful of that, what would the people of the 70th Century want to know of us should all trace of our civilization vanish between now and then? How could the science of the 1930s preserve relics of our time for the scientists of the 6930s? How could the fact that the Capsule exists be passed from generation to generation for so many thousands of years so that someone, someday, would find it?

The answers to those questions make up the real story of the Westinghouse Time Capsules -- a story that starts with the prosaic preface to The Book of Record of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy, a book which Westinghouse hopes will carry the message from generation to generation to a "glorious future" that a record of our civilization, a message from one age to another, lies buried in a spot that was once called Flushing Meadows.

The Time Capsule of Cupaloy



WHEN WE SURVEY THE PAST and note how perishable are all human things, we are moved to attempt the preservation of some of the world's present material & intellectual symbols, that knowledge of them may not disappear from the earth.

For there is no way to read the future of the world: peoples, nations, and cultures move onward into inscrutable time. In our day it is difficult to conceive of a future less happy, less civilized than our own. Yet history teaches us that every culture passes through definite cycles of development, climax and decay. And so, we must recognize, ultimately may ours.

By the same reasoning, there will rise again a civilization of even vaster promise standing upon our shoulders, as we have stood upon the shoulders of ancient Sumer, Egypt, Greece and Rome. The learned among that culture of the future may study with pleasure and profit things now in existence which are unique to our time, growing out of our circumstances, needs, and desires.

Five thousand years ago, during a period of invention, development, and science rivaling that of our day, recorded history began. It would be pleasant to believe that we might leave records of our own day for five thousand years hence; to a day when the peoples of the world will think of us standing at history's midpoint.

Whether we shall be able to transmit such a segment of our time into the future depends not only on our ingenuity at selection and preservation, on the excellence of engineering, metallurgy, chemistry and other intellectual disciplines, but also in large measure on those who come after us, and their willingness to cooperate in such an archaeological venture across the reaches of time.

We pray you therefore, whoever reads this book, to cherish and preserve it through the ages, and translate it from time to time into new languages that may arise after us, in order that knowledge of the Time Capsule of Cupaloy may be handed down to those for whom it is intended. We likewise ask: let the Time Capsule rest in the earth until its time shall come; let none dig it up for curiosity or for any other reason. It is a message from one age to another, and none should touch it in the years that lie between.

* * *

Each age considers itself the pinnacle & final triumph above all eras that have gone before it. In our time many believe that the human race has reached the ultimate in material and social development; others that humanity shall march onward to achievements splendid beyond the imagination of this day, to new worlds of human wealth, power, life and happiness. We choose, with the latter, to believe that men will solve the problems of the world, that the human race will triumph over its limitations and its adversities, that the future will be glorious.


SOURCE: The Book of Record of THE TIME CAPSULE of Cupaloy, © Copyright 1938
SOURCE: Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company New York

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