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Henry D. Cogswell Time Capsule Collection, 1847-1879, 1979 (bulk 1855-1879)
MS 559  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Biography of Henry Daniel Cogswell
  • Scope and Contents
  • Related Archival Collections
  • Separated Materials
  • Processing Information
  • Indexing Terms

  • Title: Henry D. Cogswell time capsule collection
    Collection Number: MS 559
    Dates: 1847-1879, 1979 (bulk 1855-1879)
    Creator: Cogswell, Henry D. (Henry Daniel), 1820-1900
    Extent: 4 boxes, 2 cartons, 1 oversize box (5.0 linear feet)
    Repository: California Historical Society
    678 Mission Street
    San Francisco, CA, 94105
    URL: http://www.californiahistoricalsociety.org/
    Physical Location: Collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: The bulk of the material is in English. Also includes newspapers in German, French, Norwegian, Italian, and Chinese.
    Abstract: Consists of material removed from the time capsule placed under the Benjamin Franklin statue in Washington Square, San Francisco, California, in 1879, to be opened in 1979. Contains personal business papers of Henry Daniel Cogswell, including indentures and other papers concerning the proposed Cogswell Dental College, inventory of his property, copies of his will, papers concerning his proposition to erect a drinking fountain and establish the Women's Pioneer Hotel, and other miscellaneous material; also includes printed publications, consisting primarily of San Francisco Bay Area (with some New York) newspapers and periodicals, along with almanacs, merchandise catalogs, business cards, advertisements, directories, pamphlets, Christian publications, railroad timetables, business reports, ephemera, and books. Contributors include Sarah B. Cooper, John S. Hittell, Thomas Harmonson Holt, and Charles Otto.


    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has not been assigned to the California Historical Society. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Director of Research Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Historical Society as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Cogswell Time Capsule Collection, MS 559, California Historical Society.

    Biography of Henry Daniel Cogswell

    Dr. Henry Daniel Cogswell, dentist and temperance advocate, was born in Tolland, Connecticut, on March 3, 1820. While working in a series of New England cotton mills in his youth, he pursued his studies at night, and eventually became a teacher; after one year, Cogswell began studying dentistry. He completed his dental training in the early 1840s and, after earlier attempts in Providence and South Coventry, he eventually set up a practice in Pawtucket in 1847. In 1846, Cogswell married Caroline E. Richards, daughter of Ruel Richards, a manufacturer in Providence.
    In response to the news of the discovery of gold in California, Cogswell joined the gold rush and sailed from Philadelphia to San Francisco aboard the Susan G. Owens, arriving on October 12, 1849. After early success selling supplies and practicing dentistry in the gold fields in a tent in Stockton, California, Cogswell returned to San Francisco, where he opened offices at 209 Washington Street. His accomplishments in the dental profession include credit for both the design of the vacuum method of securing dental plates, and performing the first dental operation using chloroform in California in 1853.
    During this period, Cogswell also pursued business opportunities; his success in his profession and his investments in real estate and mining stocks soon made him a fortune estimated at over 2 million dollars. His wealth led him to endow a number of philanthropic projects. In the 1870s, Cogswell donated both land and a building for the founding of a Cogswell Dental College, and conveyed it in trust to the Regents of the University of California. However, the college was never realized, possibly due to the demands Cogswell made. (See Box 1 for legal documents and other papers relating to the establishment of the dental college.) In March 19, 1887, Dr. and Mrs. Cogswell executed a trust deed setting apart real property (valued at approximately 1 million dollars) to establish and endow Cogswell Polytechnical College. The school was opened in August 1888 as a high school with departments of technical education for boys and business education for girls.
    Cogswell was an avid supporter of temperance and the temperance movement, and devoted much of his wealth to promote the cause by donating approximately fifty monuments to cities across the United States, most with drinking fountains, from the 1870s through the 1890s. Cogswell's hope was to construct one drinking fountain for every 100 saloons. The monuments, built at Cogswell's expense and often designed by him as well, were donated to the cities of Washington, D.C., New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Boston, and San Francisco, among others. Many cities, however, were not pleased with the monuments Cogswell wished to donate; often topped by a figure that greatly resembled Cogswell himself, the sculptures were rejected by some cities on the grounds that they were self-promoting. Others were accepted, but later destroyed or dismantled. San Francisco's own statue of Cogswell , which originally stood on the corner of California, Market, and Drumm Streets, was toppled by a group of writers and artists in 1894. Surviving examples of the fountains can still be found in Washington, D.C., New York, and other cities.
    Included among the monuments donated by Cogswell to the city of San Francisco is the statue of Benjamin Franklin, which originally stood at the corner of Montgomery and Kearny Streets, and now stands in Washington Square. The time capsule Cogswell created was entombed in the base of the statue, and dedicated "For our boys and girls who will soon take our place and pass on," with the added inscription, "P O Box with Mementos for the Historical Society in 1979 from H.D.C."
    Cogswell's original intent with the creation of the time capsule is expressed in one of his many letters to the Board of Supervisors, included within the contents of the capsule along with designs for the fountain:
    "To erect a plain polished Granit (sic) or Marble Fountain, to be of a historical Character, dedicated 'To our Boys' who will soon succeed us, go on and give place to others. (see plan and specification) herewith submitted. On the top to be cut a recess for a copper box to receive the names of the present Officers of City, County & State Government; also of the constitutional Convention now in session, Copies of all daily and weekly City-papers, City Directory etc. Names of School Directors, teachers and Officers of the Fire Department, Societies of California Pioneers, all its members, Police Department also Reports of Mechanics Institute. The various benevolent Societies also an autograph letter with the photograph of the writer to be read before an antiquarian Society also the List of all churches and their officers including any other interesting matter until the box is full, of such as may be intended for persons to read 100 years from date, to be the property of any Historical or antiquarian Society Existing at that time and to form an indisputable connecting Link between the people of San Francisco of the day 1878 and 1978 that they may see that there was a live people existing here at this date and tolerably well civilized."
    Cogswell died on July 8, 1900, and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery, in Oakland, California.
    Sources consulted for this biography include:
    "The Intemperate Patronage of Henry D. Cogswell," by Frederick C. Moffatt. Winterthur Portfolio, vol. 27, no. 2/3 (Summer-Autumn, 1992), pp. 123-143;
    Henry D. Cogswell Biographical Research Notes, MS 690, California Historical Society.

    Scope and Contents

    The Cogswell Time Capsule Collection contains personal papers of Henry Daniel Cogswell, as well as general materials collected by Cogswell and others for inclusion in the time capsule he assembled in 1879, housed in a 12-by-18-inch lead box, and deposited in the pedestal of a statue of Ben Franklin originally standing at the junction of Montgomery and Kearney Streets in San Francisco. The statue and the time capsule were later moved to North Beach's Washington Square, where the capsule was eventually unearthed and opened 100 years later, on April 22, 1979. In acccordance with the wishes of Henry Daniel Cogswell, the contents were then given to the California Historical Society.
    Cogswell's personal papers include indentures and other papers concerning the proposed Cogswell Dental College; inventories of his property; copies of his will; papers concerning his proposition to erect a drinking fountain and establish the Women's Pioneer Hotel; and other miscellaneous material.
    General materials include local, regional, and national newspapers and periodicals in a variety of languages; almanacs; business cards; advertisements; directories; pamphlets; religious tracts; railroad timetables; business reports; ephemera; by-laws; annual reports; merchandise catalogs; and a small number of books. The collection also contains materials related to the practice of dentistry in the United States in the 1870s. Contributors include Sarah B. Cooper, John S. Hittell, Thomas Harmonson Holt, and Charles Otto.
    The contents of the time capsule provide a glimpse into the economic, political, and cultural life of San Francisco in the 1860s and 1870s. Often annotated in Cogswell's hand, the contents of the time capsule document, in particular, the causes and civic organizations in which Cogswell and his wife were themselves involved. Also included are items that reflect some of the social controversies of the day in San Francisco, including the women's and temperance movements. Items such as Laura De Force Gordon's 1879 annotation in her book, The Great Geysers of California -- "If this little book should see the light after its hundred years of entombment, I would like its readers to know that the author was a lover of her own sex and devoted the best years of her life in striving for the Political, equal, and social and moral education of woman" -- show a growing political movement and its efforts to secure equality for women. The materials also provide some insight into daily life in the 1870s; literature and popular culture are well represented in the many magazines and newspapers, as are the various political and charitable causes that Cogswell aligned himself with, such as the Cogswell Contingent Fund and his Dental College.

    Related Archival Collections

    Henry D. Cogswell Biographical Research Notes, [1959?], MS 690, California Historical Society
    Henry D. Cogswell Papers, BANC MSS 84/61 c,   The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

    Separated Materials

    Photographs have been removed and shelved under MSP 559.
    Artifacts have been removed and transferred to the fine arts collection. See box 3 for an inventory of these objects.
    Langley's Oakland-Alameda directory, 1878-1879, and Langley's San Francisco directory, 1878-1879, have been removed and shelved with directories.
    Alta California almanac, 1879, has been removed and shelved with pamphlets (PAM 3249).
    Two identical cabinet cards, 4 x 6 inches, of Henry D. Cogswell and his wife, Caroline Elizabeth Cogswell, by I.W. Taber & Company, San Francisco, have been removed and shelved in GS Box 057 under General Subjects--Photographers--San Francisco--I.W. Taber & Co.
    Carte-de-Viste of Pauline Gerkhardt by V. Wolfenstein, Los Angeles, has been removed and shelved in GS Box 046 under General Subjects--Photographers--Los Angeles--Wolfenstein, Valentin.

    Processing Information

    The following items have not been located:
    Central Pacific Railroad. Timetable, 1876.
    Great Western Railroad. Menu, 1876.
    United Carriage Company. Rates, 1877.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Cooper, Sarah B.
    Hittell, John S. , (John Shertzer), 1825-1901
    Holt, Thomas Harmonson
    Otto, Charles
    Dental schools--California--San Francisco.
    Dentistry--United States--History--19th century.
    Dentists--California--San Francisco.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Social life and customs--19th century.
    Alternative publications.
    Sales catalogs.
    Time capsules.