81-year-old time capsule found at the College at Florham


By W. Scott Giglio

When it comes to the College at Florham’s Science Building, one might presume that any discoveries made within would be in the realm of chemistry or biology. But this discovery better fits into the discipline of history. During a recent renovation project, workers discovered a Prince Albert tobacco can in the wall, which turned out to be a small, informal time capsule from 1932. The can contained a handwritten note which appears to read:
 
These Bathrooms was Remodled [sic] in 1932 E.J. Parsons of Morristown N.J. did the Plumbing work and Edw F Daniher of 70 Britten St Madison did the Tile work other men worked on the Job are
J. T. Steating Madison
Peter Moore     "
Joe Gero          "
Tom Skelly Morristown
Chas. Clements  "
It was during Probition [sic] and it was a very dry Job.
The finder of this note if the 18 Amendment has bin [sic] changed have a good Drink on us.

E. Daniher

Gary Darden, associate professor of history and Chair of the Department of Social Sciences & History, put the historical find in perspective. “If only those workers had known in 1932 when they placed that time capsule in the wall that FDR's ‘wet’ victory that November had swept away the 'dry' consensus that dominated the 1920s,” said Darden. “Indeed, Prohibition ended by ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 12, 1933.

According to Darden, Prohibition had little effect on the Twombly estate, where FDU’s College at Florham is now housed. 
 
“Ruth Vanderbilt Twombly had ordered enough alcohol delivered to Florham before Prohibition ‘officially’ began in 1920 to last the full 13 years of the law's existence. She used to have ‘Great Gatsby’ style parties for up to 600 people up by the old Play House building.”

Early investigation has already turned up some of the names in the notes. Brigid Burke, digital projects librarian at the College at Florham, located entries in the Twombly Employee Record Cards that matched some of the workmen's names. Those 3 x 5 index cards were donated to the Florham archives by Wendy Burden, a relative of Florence Twombly; (Peter Moore's, for example, can be found here).

Also found was a link to a 1918 Plumber Trade Journal which mentions the plumber from the note, E.J. Parsons, as being voted President of the Master Plumbers Association of Morristown. 

Feature Story from the FDU Newsroom

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