Haymarket time capsule uncovered, still unopened
By John Rice
History is being uncovered near the Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Forest Home Cemetery. A large team of volunteers worked to recover a time capsule that was buried near the monument over a hundred years ago. Despite adverse weather conditions over the weekend, they made remarkable progress, finding a cube, believed to contain the ashes of Haymarket martyr, Oscar Neebe. Beneath this, they discovered a cylinder that appears to be the time capsule. It was removed late Monday afternoon.
This discovery caps over two years of effort on the part of local residents and archeological experts. Researchers Mark Rogovin, a labor historian, and Bleue Benton, an Oak Park Public Library research librarian, first found mention of the capsule in a Chicago Tribune article from Nov. 7, 1892. It describes a capsule being ceremonially buried under the cornerstone of the monument.
A speaker at the ceremony stated, “When generations to come dig up these records and read them, they will wonder that such barbarity could have been tolerated in the 19th century.”
“Barbarity” would describe the treatment of the eight working class leaders, who were arbitrarily blamed for a bomb that exploded on May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square. The bomb directly killed one Chicago Police officer. Other officers and protesters were killed in the chaotic shooting that followed the explosion. The identity of the bomber remains a mystery to this day.
Nevertheless, following their trial, four of the defendants were hanged. In 1893, the Pioneer Aid and Support Association erected the monument to honor them. Prior to the monument’s construction, the capsule was buried on Nov. 6, 1892.
The Pioneer Aid and Support Association listed the contents of the capsule. It includes articles from Chicago newspapers from the Haymarket era. There was also a long list of documents from a variety of labor unions, including Beer Brewers Union No. 18, the Progressive Cigar Makers Union 160, and the Ladies Tailor Union. Reportedly, there are also documents from the Socialist Men’s Choir, the German Ladies Society and other labor organizations.
Finally, more personal items: Letters penned by the martyrs and family photographs. The list of contents is long and there is a large collection of court documents from the “Great Trial of the Anarchists in 1886.” These documents were interred with the intention of having them read by future generations.
When Rogovin learned of the capsule’s existence, he contacted archeologists in the area and organized an effort to discover its location. Dr. Rebecca Graff, a professor and fellow at Lake Forest College, led the effort.
“I was contacted by the Illinois Labor History Society,” Graf recalled. “I was actually asked to find something. It’s been a real pleasure; the degree of collaboration is delightful.”
This summer, Graff brought ground-penetrating radar to the cemetery and surveyed south of the monument. (Time capsules are traditionally buried near the southwest corner of a monument). An object matching the size of the capsule…
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