Time Capsule from Robert E. Lee Statue Reportedly Holds Photo of Deceased Abraham Lincoln

Crews taking down the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in Richmond, Virginia, were still searching on Thursday for a time capsule believed to be buried in the pedestal of the statue that records suggest could include a "picture of Lincoln lying in his coffin," the Associated Press reported.

A newspaper clipping from 1887, when the statue was erected, lists items buried in the time capsule, including a U.S. silver dollar and a collection of Confederate buttons.

The article states that the alleged photo of President Abraham Lincoln was donated by a school principal from a well-to-do family, "Miss Pattie Lake." Historian Harold Holzer previously told AP that the picture is probably not a real photo of Lincoln in his coffin because the only known posthumous photo of Lincoln was taken by photographer Jeremiah Gurney in City Hall in New York on April 24, 1865.

The historian added that it could be a popular Currier & Ives lithographic print of Lincoln lying in state in New York or a sketch drawn by an artist who saw Lincoln's body while it was on a two-week tour before his burial in Springfield, Illinois.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Robert E. Lee Memorial
Crews move a section of the base as they attempt to locate a time capsule said to be buried in the base of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee on Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, on September 9, 2021. The statue was removed from the pedestal on Wednesday. Steve Helber/AP Photo

State officials were scheduled to remove the 134-year-old time capsule Thursday morning from a cornerstone where they believed it was located. But after removing a 2,500-pound (1,134-kilogram) capstone and a 500-pound (227-kilogram) lid, crews were unable to pinpoint the precise location of the capsule.

Workers have been using ground-penetrating radar devices to try to find the capsule in a third piece of the cornerstone. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's chief of staff, Clark Mercer, said crews would keep looking for it in the cornerstone and adjoining stones. They have also decided to dig into the lid of the cornerstone to insert a new time capsule.

The new time capsule will contain items reflective of current times, including an expired vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, a Black Lives Matter sticker and a photograph of a Black ballerina with her fist raised near the Lee statue after racial justice protests erupted following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year.

Historical records and imaging tests led state officials to the spot believed to be the original capsule's location in the cornerstone of the 40-foot (12-meter) tall granite pedestal.

The bronze equestrian statue of Lee was one of five enormous Confederate tributes along Richmond's Monument Avenue and the only one that belonged to the state. The four city-owned statues were taken down last summer, but the Lee statue removal was blocked by two lawsuits until a ruling from the Supreme Court of Virginia last week cleared the way for it to be taken down Wednesday.

After the time capsule is removed, it will be brought to a state Department of Historic Resources lab, where historians will immediately open it and begin to preserve the approximately 60 items believed to be inside.

Northam said the original time capsule reflects Virginia in 1890, but the 39 items contained in the new capsule reflect "who we are as a people in 2021."

"The past 18 months have seen historic change, from the pandemic to protests for racial justice that led to the removal of these monuments to a lost cause. It is fitting that we replace the old time capsule with a new one that tells that story," Northam said in a news release.

Lee Statue
The sun rises behind the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia, on January 17, 2021. (Photo by RYAN M. KELLY/AFP via Getty Images)