The Time Capsule: What We Found Under Philip Schuyler
The Time Capsule: What We Found Under Philip Schuyler
In June 1925, a statue of Revolutionary War hero Major General Philip Schuyler was installed in front of Albany’s City Hall. The donor was philanthropist George Hawley, who dedicated the statue to the memory of his wife, Theodora Amsdell Hawley. Buried in the foundation was a copper box filled with items that Hawley felt might be of interest to “inhabitants of the City of Albany in the future when it shall be finally opened and its contents examined.”
In 2023, almost a century later, the Department of General Services crew discovered the box when the statue was removed and the contents were transferred to the Albany Institute.
This exhibition reveals what was inside that time capsule, including items known to have been there as well as many surprises.
About Phillip Schuyler
Philip Schuyler holds a pivotal place in the history of Albany, New York, and his multifaceted contributions have left an enduring impact on the city. As a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, Schuyler played a crucial role in the defense of the Northern Department, strategically vital for controlling transportation along the Hudson River. Albany, situated on this key waterway, benefited from Schuyler's military leadership, which helped delay British advances and contributed to broader American successes in the war. Beyond his military endeavors, Schuyler's political influence was felt at both the state and national levels, serving as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a U.S. Senator from New York. As a prominent landowner, Schuyler's investments and business ventures in the Albany area contributed to the city's economic development. The architectural legacy of his residence, Schuyler Mansion, stands as a testament to the wealth and prominence of the Schuyler family and provides a glimpse into the colonial elite's lifestyle. In essence, Philip Schuyler's military, political, economic, and familial contributions collectively shaped Albany's history and development.
Decision to remove
In the ever-evolving landscape of public discourse, decisions are made that challenge existing narratives. The removal of General Schuyler's statue is one such decision, prompting a reexamination of history, values, and the collective memory of a community.
The Phillip Schuyler statue was removed in response to concerns about his historical connection to slavery. Based on various historical research, it is well-settled that Gen. Philip Schuyler, a Revolutionary War Hero and father-in-law of Alexander Hamilton, enslaved 14 people at his home in Albany and another four at his Saratoga County farm. Immediately after the murder of George Floyd, scores of community members reached out the Mayor’s Office requesting the removal of the statue of Gen. Schuyler. Individuals also expressed their discomfort with a slave owner being prominently displayed outside a place vital to accessing city services, and employees have shared their discomfort having to walk by the statue when going to and from their place of employment. Mayor Kathy Sheehan signed an Executive Order directing the removal of the statue honoring Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler, who was reportedly the largest owner of enslaved people in Albany during his time.
Removal of the Statue
The historic moment of removing the statue of Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler unfolded on Saturday morning, commencing at approximately 5:30 am. A meticulous and thoughtful process led by John M. Mullins Rigging & Hauling of Green Island, NY, a third-generation Capital Region rigging company, was set in motion. Notably, the selection of this company was the result of a competitive bidding process initiated on April 10, 2023.
With precision and care, the team orchestrated the removal, and by approximately 8:00 am, the statue was no longer a fixture in the vicinity of City Hall. This pivotal event marks a symbolic shift, prompting contemplation on the historical narrative that monuments convey.
The statue now resides in a secure facility within Albany County, awaiting a final decision on its permanent placement.
A fascinating twist to the removal of Maj. Gen. Philip Schuyler's statue unfolded as a long-held secret from the 1920s was brought to light. Local media from that era had hinted at the placement of a time capsule at the base of the statue when it was first erected.
The painstaking removal process, undertaken by the City of Albany’s Department of General Services (DGS), revealed more than just the statue's concrete foundation. After over six hours of meticulous work, the team uncovered a remarkable find – a bronze box securely encased in a steel box.
With precision and care, the DGS team successfully removed the top of the steel box, revealing the contents of the long-awaited time capsule. A tangible connection to Albany's past, the contents offered a glimpse into the thoughts and aspirations of the community during the era when the statue was originally installed.
Mayor Kathy Sheehan, recognizing the historical significance of the discovery, initiated collaboration with Albany’s City Historian, Tony Opalka, and representatives from the Albany Institute of History and Art. Together, they meticulously cataloged the time capsule’s contents, ensuring that this unexpected treasure trove became a valuable resource for future generations.
"This box and its contents are hereby given to the Mayor or Chief Executive Officer of the City of Albany, New York, to be placed by him in the custody of a historical society of the City of Albany, which in his judgment shall be best fitted to use and preserve the same.
WITNESS my hand and seal this 7th day of May, 1925
/s/ GEORGE HAWLEY"
Honoring Mr. Hawley's directive, Mayor Sheehan announced that the City of Albany had entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Albany Institute of History and Art. This agreement designated the Institute to take temporary possession of the artifacts, catalogue them, and determine the best methods of preservation. Additionally, the City and the Institute committed to arranging a public display of the items at the earliest convenience.