Two Ford workers named Lukas Nielsen and Leo Kimble have discovered the beer bottle while working at the Michigan Central Station on the 4th of May. Inside the antique beer bottle was a mysterious message which dates back to 1913. The letter is believed to have been written by two men named Smith and Hogan, who were construction workers involved in the original construction of the station back in 1913.
An Unexpected Discovery
Renovations were being performed at old Michigan Central Station, abandoned since 1988, to convert it into an all-new modern innovation hub. While the construction works of the station were underway, workers made the discovery of the bottle on an otherwise ordinary day at work for Lukas Nielson in Detroit. When he was tearing down the old fittings in the tearoom, his eyes fell on the glass Stroh’s Bohemian Beer bottle hidden behind the plaster.
Finding cigarette tins and discarded beer bottles was nothing new for the construction workers. On a daily basis, the crew members used to find all such items stuck in the wall. However, this case was something different from the others.
What fascinated the construction workers is the fact that the beer bottle contained a handwritten note. The date mentioned on the beer bottle was 19th July 1913, which coincides with the time when the central station building in Michigan was originally constructed.
While the construction workers were trying to reach a higher section of the cornice with the help of a lift, they discovered this beer bottle. The glass beer bottle was stuffed upside-down behind the crown molding of the wall. The bottle did not have a cap, and a rolled-up letter had been placed inside it.
The Contents of the Letter
According to a demolition laborer called Nelson, it was quite exciting to discover something like the antique beer bottle inside, which was a 108-year-old message. Here a question might come to your mind as to how the paper lasted for years? Well, it is because when paper is not exposed to rain, extreme heat, or mold, it can last for hundreds of years. In this case, the paper was well-insulated in the glass beer bottle, so it was preserved.
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On finding the letter, it was extremely tempting for Nielsen and Kimble to open up the beer bottle and read the message hidden in the rolled paper. “It was extremely tempting, it really was,” says Nielsen. However, the two construction workers were prevented from doing so by the archivists from Ford. Nielsen also added that “if we did anything to remove it, we would have destroyed it.” So, they handed over the beer bottle to the project head.
Later on, the letter was carefully unfolded by the experts. While the message hidden in the letter was quite unclear, the experts could only make out that on it was written the names of two men. Along with the name, the date “July 1913” was also mentioned. The surnames of the two people were identifiable as “Smith” and “Hogan”. However, the complete message in the mysterious letter has yet to be read.
A Message from the Past
According to David Kampo, the project superintendent working for Christman-Brinker, the beer bottle was placed there intentionally with a hope that it would be found by someone in the future.
Now, the paper containing the mysterious message is to be preserved. The archivists of the Ford will keep the paper safe in a temperature-controlled and special space, in order to ensure that it does not get damaged. The paper will first be re-humidified and then stored in a special protective storage box.
According to Ted Ryan, the Ford’s Heritage and Brand Manager, “The main thing you have to do is slow down the deterioration of the paper.” He also added that “With the bottle, that’s easy because it’s glass, but we’ll also have to make sure the rest of the label doesn’t deteriorate. It’s just like the pieces of a classic car.”
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Mr. Nielsen, from Garden City, started working as a construction worker in Michigan Central Station in the month of February. He hopes and believes that the message in the antique beer bottle holds something important relating to the history of the old grand building.
Mr. Nielsen said, “I would drive past it and wonder what’s going to happen to the train station. Now, we are going to be part of the history of the building”. He also added that “It’s good to see it being revitalized after sitting derelict for so long.”
The antique beer bottle with the message was not the first thing to be discovered by the construction crew. While this was a special case that drew a lot of attention, a number of other things have been discovered before at the old central station building while under redevelopment by Ford. In fact, a total of about 200 historical artifacts have been discovered by the construction workers.
While demolishing the walls, the workers found a number of things that were left by the crew members who built them a century ago. Some of the items found at the station included a Coloso’s brand child’s shoe, a Burroughs Series P adding machine, and railroad lantern made by Adams and Westlake Co. Further items found at sight included buttons from Finck’s “Detroit Special” denim overalls, old tickets, saucers, women’s and children’s shoes, and payment ledgers.
All the artifacts discovered during the construction period, along with the antique beer bottle and the message, will be relocated to the archives space at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. These archives spaces have been specifically built to ensure all these historical items are preserved with care.
Top Image: Michigan’s Old Central Station Building, Detroit. Source: Urbanarcheology / CC BY 3.0. Inset: Ted Ryan, an archives and heritage manager for the Ford Motor Company shows off the Stroh’s beer bottle with the date of 7/19/13 inside the Michigan Central Station on Thursday, May 27, 2021. Photo: Eric Seals, Detroit Free Press.
By Bipin Dimri
Demolition crew discovers message in a bottle from 1913 at Michigan Central Station. Available at: https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2021/05/27/message-bottle-1913-michigan-central-station/7470305002/
Construction crews find 108-year-old message in a bottle. Available at: https://www.abc15.com/news/national/construction-crews-find-108-year-old-message-in-a-bottle
Ford workers at Michigan Central Station discover a pre-Prohibition-era beer bottle with a mysterious message stuffed inside believed to have been written by two men who worked on the station’s original construction in 1913. Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-9651667/History-Ford-workers-Michigan-Central-Station-discover-message-bottle-dating-1913.html