Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Time capsule found at The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh

The snuff tin time capsule and its contents from 1909 Image copyright The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
Image caption The snuff tin time capsule and its contents from 1909

Two newspapers from 19 March 1909, two postcards and a list of names dated 26 March 1909 have been found inside a snuff tin by workmen in Edinburgh.

The 105-year-old time capsule was found at the museum section of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh under the Playfair Building.

The building is closed as it undergoes a Heritage Lottery funded revamp to turn it into a modern, public museum.

It is scheduled to reopen in autumn 2015.

The museum has not been radically altered since 1908.

Good condition

Chris Henry, The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh's Director of Heritage, said: "We were aware from historical records that there was an 'official' time capsule buried in the college's grounds from 1830, but finding this time capsule came as a complete surprise.

"It must have been placed secretly by the construction workers during the 1909 extension work, without the knowledge of the college.

"Considering the tin has been underground for over 100 years, it is in surprisingly good condition, as are the contents."

The snuff tin 'capsule' would have originally contained Kendal Brown Scented Snuff, manufactured in the Lake District town of same name by Samuel Gawith.

Given a regular tin held 10g of powdered tobacco, the time capsule tin would have held a considerable amount of snuff, perhaps shared by the men during their working day.

The snuff brand is still in production today, using much of the original machinery from the inception of the company in 1793.

The first newspaper discovered within the snuff tin, "The Labour Leader: A Weekly Journal of Socialism, Trade Unionism and Politics", was set up by Scottish socialist Keir Hardie MP Hardie is regarded as one of the pioneers of the Independent Labour Party and Labour Party, which grew out of the trade union and socialist movements of the nineteenth century.

Scale drawings

The newspaper carries a number of articles concerning socialist movements throughout Europe, and includes stories on the Paris Strike, "The Liberal Betrayal", "Welsh Notes" on the threatened coal strike and the Russian revolutionary "Azeff Affair".

The second newspaper "The Illustrated Carpenter and Builder", is a weekly journal published by John Dicks and established in 1877.

It includes building-related articles, discussions, floor plans and scale drawings.

This week's cover story concerns the designs for a suburban house "near London", to cost £500. This equates to approximately £52,500 today.

Also included within the capsule were two postcards depicting the Scottish National Exhibition of 1908, which took place to the west of the city in the grounds of the Saughton Hall Estate.

It featured a Senegalese village, a water chute, helter-skelter and a figure eight railway. More than 3.5 million people visited the exhibition over six months, with entrants being charged 6d.

Finally, there was the piece of paper listing all the joiners from Scott Morton & Co. who carried out interior design work during the 1909 construction.

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