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Communications Department faculty open 50-year-old time capsule and find bawdy items at University of Washington in Seattle on April 26, 2007.

HistoryLink.org Essay 8147 : Printer-Friendly Format

On April 26, 2007, faculty members of the University of Washington Department of Communications open a time capsule that was sealed within the walls of the Communication Building in 1957. Attendees at the opening are surprised to find that in the early 1980s, pranksters had added some off-color items to the original contents.

Past Imperfect 

The time capsule was implanted in the wall of the Communications Building soon after the building opened in 1957. Containing such objects as newspapers, textbooks, photographs of staff members, and reel-to-reel recordings of professors and former students, the capsule bore an inscription stating that it should be opened in 2007, during the one hundredth anniversary of the first journalism classes, which were held at the university in 1907.

The box was sealed tight with 36 bolts and placed within the wall of a well-traveled hallway. Nevertheless, some pranksters managed to open it under the cover of secrecy in the early 1980s. Without disturbing the original contents, they placed copies of Playboy and Hustler magazines, two pairs of soiled men’s underwear, and a condom into the mix. Also included were some Twinkie snack foods (which eventually petrified), clip-on ties, the self-help book I’m Ok, You’re Ok, an unopened letter to singer Linda Ronstadt, and a 1980 copy of The Rocket – a monthly tabloid which had recently started publication in Seattle.

Future Tense 

When the capsule was opened in 2007, department members were surprised by the newer additions, but laughed it off. Department chair Gerald Baldasty called it a “great college prank” and placed the added items on display with the historic items for all to see.  

It was a hard act to follow, but a new capsule was interred for future generations containing samples of graffiti, bumper stickers, and images of “urban discourse” in Seattle. Also included were newspapers, a video documentary on how young adults communicate, and magazines -- but not those of the titillating kind.

Brain Alexander, “Timeless prank: UW Time Capsule from '50s Reveals Porn from '70s,” The Seattle Times, April 26, 2007; Levi Pulkkinen, “Alumni Get Nasty Surprise as UW Opens Time Capsule,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 27, 2007.

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Communications Building (1957), University of Washington, Seattle, n.d.
Courtesy UW Special Collections

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