Brashear's Time Capsule Opened At Heinz History Center

Jun 26, 2015

Some of the items from John Brashear's time capsule.
Credit Erika Beras

The contents of a time capsule discovered at the John A. Brashear factory were shown to media at the Senator John Heinz History Center on Friday.

The capsule was made in 1884 and contained about 60 items, including newspapers, letters, photographs, glass and envelope with a lock of his daughter’s hair.

“Though it may not be worth a lot of money, it's worth a lot to us in terms of its historical value," said Andrew Masich, president of the Heinz History Center. "There are images of John Brashear and his family we hadn’t seen before.”

Conservators also shared other new materials they had received from relatives of Brashear, which was also be added to the museum’s collection.

Brashear was a world-renowned scientist who made mirrors and lenses for telescopes at the factory, which was located in the North Side. He directed and founded the Allegheny Observatory.

“The letters of tribute from people like Langley and Dupont and Carnegie and others of his time, they really speak to the importance of Brashear and his work, his scientific work, right here in Pittsburgh when astronomy was in its infancy,” said Masich.

The capsule has been at the middle of a controversy since it was found March. The contractor who found it and the City of Pittsburgh have been fighting over who owns it.

An Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge ordered the capsule be turned over to the Heinz History Center.

Mayor Bill Peduto said this is important because of its significance to the world of science. Brashear’s work laid the foundation for the field of astrophysics.

“It's where time zones where created, it's where the equipment that proved Einstein’s theory of relativity was developed, it's where science took the next great leap and it was done by people like John Brashear,” Peduto said.