The documents were fragile, though mostly intact. The remains of what appeared to be a flag also were found, as was a copy of minutes from the 1910 annual convention of the Florida United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The box held editions of three newspapers from the era: the South Florida Sentinel, Orange County Citizen and the Daily Reporter-Star.
All were dated 1911, confirming that the capsule was likely placed inside the statue that year.
“I’m surprised there’s so much that’s intact here,” said Mayor Buddy Dyer, who oversaw the opening of the box. Dyer said he had expected a “box full of dust.”
Dyer said the city likely will eventually donate the relics to the Orange County Regional History Center.
City workers drilled into the capsule’s rusted metal case as reporters and television crews watched inside the communications office at City Hall.
Once the box was opened, Richard Forbes, the city’s historic preservation officer, carefully removed its contents onto a white cloth.
The statue, known as “Johnny Reb,” had stood at Lake Eola Park since 1917. Before that, it was erected on Main Street — now Magnolia Avenue — in 1911, by the local Annie Coleman Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which also placed the metal box inside.
Mayor Buddy Dyer announced his plans to move the statue in May, after former Orlando Sentinel journalist David Porter and others called for its removal from the city’s central park, arguing it and other Confederate relics are monuments to racism and white supremacy.
The city moved the statue to Greenwood Cemetery, where it is being restored to stand in a plot set aside for Confederate soldiers.
The city-owned cemetery has had grave sites for each side of the Civil War since the 1890s. The Union plot already features a monument.
Supporters of the statue argue it honors fallen soldiers, not slavery.
Current members of the UDC’s Annie Coleman Chapter demanded the return of the time capsule after it was discovered. They said it held a picture of Gen. Robert E. Lee, Confederate money, a proclamation and a Confederate flag when it was sealed inside the statue’s base.
The city delayed in opening the box, citing concerns that to do so under the wrong conditions might damage its contents.
A United Daughters of the Confederacy representative, Lunelle Siegel, filed a lawsuit in small claims court June 22, two days after the statue was moved, seeking the time capsule’s return. The suit is currently set for a pre-trial conference in Orange County Sept. 2014.
In an emailed statement, Cassandra Lafser, a spokeswoman for Dyer, said the city was aware of the suit.
“The City Attorney believes there is no merit to the complaint and that the box and its contents belong to the City of Orlando on behalf of the people of Orlando,” Lafser said.
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