On April 22, 2013, the Oklahoma Historical Society in partnership with the First Lutheran Church unearthed a 6-ft x 3-ft x 3-ft (1.83m x 0.91m x 0.91m) chest, buried in the church’s basement exactly 100 years prior.
Dubbed the ‘Century Chest‘, the project was created in 1913 by Virginia Sohlberg of the Ladies Aid Society as a fundraiser to help the church purchase a new pipe organ which is still in use today! Space inside the chest was auctioned off to the public to raise money.
The Century Chest’s artifacts were impeccably preserved in airtight, waterproof containers. The chest itself was buried under a 12-inch (30.5 cm) slab of concrete. Removing the chest took over 11 hours and involved removing two 600-pound chunks of concrete and using an engine hoist to get the chest out of its ‘tomb’.
The contents of the chest were unveiled at a live event and Downtown OKC, Inc., a not-for-profit organization, documented the entire experience and posted the photos to an 81-picture gallery on Facebook.
The complete contents will be preserved and exhibited at the Oklahoma History Center later this year. It will be fascinating to discover the content located inside the countless sealed packages and envelopes, as well as going through the box of recorded messages.
– Oklahoma Historical Society Microsite
– The Oklahoma Gazette: It’s about time
– Downtown OKC, Inc. Facebook Photo Album
– silvergrove on reddit] – NewsOK: Century Chest opening draws crowd in Oklahoma City
1. The Daily Oklahoman, April 22, 1913
2. Oklahoma State Flag
Flag made for the Century Chest by Mr. W. R. Clement, originator and designer of the official Flag of the State of Oklahoma. Also included: certificate of adoption of the flag and message of greeting from Mrs. Clement to the city of 2013. [Source: Downtown OKC, Inc.]
3. Desk telephone, Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Co.
4. Edison Graphophone
5. Pen used by President McKinley
to sign the Free Homes Bill
The Century Chest
The First English Lutheran Church Century Chest was the idea of Virginia Sohlberg. Sohlberg had heard of a similar undertaking in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and proposed the idea to the church’s pastor, Newton H. Royer. He approved. The church’s Ladies Aid Society led the project with Virginia Sohlberg as President. The project was to be a fundraiser, offering the public the chance to include their name in a ledger and quilt, purchase space in the chest, or buy tickets to the Century Chest service. The fundraiser would benefit the church which needed funds to cover the cost of a new organ. The full price of the organ was $3,200, half of which was paid by Andrew Carnegie.
The project was embraced by the community as an opportunity to celebrate 1913 Oklahoma and reach out to future generations. Citizens, businesses, community organizations, and legislators participated. The planning of the chest was covered in local newspapers. The project grew beyond the church, beyond Oklahoma City, to the entire state.[Source: Oklahoma Historical Society]
6. Quilt adorned with signatures of 720 City Builders
7. To the descendants of Nathan Samuel Sherman
8. A Tin of Quality Coffee
9. Dress, Brock Dry Goods Co.
10. Recorded Message entitled, “Bedouin Love Song”
by Mr. Merle Bennett, baritone
This is but one of many found from a sealed box of recorded messages.
Inside the Century Chest
The chest contains a variety of objects honoring Oklahoma’s heritage. Included are American Indian artifacts and documents, historical photographs, paintings, poems and musical compositions, coins, family histories, local histories, clothing, various clippings, a special flag, popular technology of the day such as a telephone, phonograph, and camera. A special “Century Chest Edition” of The Oklahoma News newspaper was printed and copies placed in the chest. The chest also includes special messages from the Oklahomans of 1913 to our present-day community. Click Here to view a list of contents.
11. Constitution, Treaties and Laws of the Chickasaw Nation
12. Oklahoma State Fair Expo plate and a Marble
13. Photo of the pastor of the First Lutheran Church, 1913
14. Shoes, Mellon Dry Goods Co.
15. Native American translation Bible (Choctaw)
The 1913 Ceremony
The burial of the Century Chest was marked with a special service on the evening of April 22, 1913. The service included various musical performances, and addresses from Governor Lee Cruce, Oklahoma City Mayor Whit M. Grant, and Reverend Newton H. Royer, D.D., Pastor of the First Lutheran Church. A recording of the ceremony was made and included inside the chest. [Source: Oklahoma Historical Society]
16. Unopened packages and letters
17. “View from the Dam at the Water Works” by Nellie Shepherd
18. “…to our friends of 2013…”
19. Boys suit, Chas. A. Finnegar
20. Costume Royal Magazine
100 Years of Commitment
Each year since the chest’s burial, the members of the First Lutheran Church have pledged their commitment to the chest and its creators. The pledge was created by the church members of 1913 to ensure the chest would be protected and honored for future generations of Oklahomans. [Source: Oklahoma Historical Society]
21. Message to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art
22. Oklahoma City High School – Course of Study, 1913
23. Evans Hall, University of Oklahoma
24. Newspaper in Cherokee
25. Hat, Kerr Dry Goods Co.
26. More unopened messages
27. “Orchard Scene” by Miss Martha Avey
28. Wax Sealed Letter
29. Messages from the blind of 1913 to the blind of 2013
30. Newspaper – April 22, 2013
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