Picken Hall renovation reveals FHSU history

Renovations of Picken Hall at Fort Hays State University were going as planned until workers removed the cornerstone and found something unexpected: a time capsule that had been encased in concrete since the cornerstone's laying on Oct. 1, 1903.

The capsule, ensconced in a tin box that had corroded away in the 106 years since, contained the Sept. 26, 1903, edition of The Hays Free Press and several editions of The Western School Journal.

The origin of the capsule is unknown. No identifying information on the people who placed the capsule in its concrete safe was included with the early publications. It is assumed the capsule was placed during the cornerstone laying ceremony, as the edition of The Hays Free Press was from less than a week prior.

While the Western School Journals crumbled to the touch, The Hays Free Press paper could still be opened and read and offer insights into the city of Hays and FHSU's beginnings as the Western Branch of the Kansas State Normal School in Emporia.

Amid advertisements for Winchester repeating rifles, Tower’s pommel slickers and W.L. Douglas shoes, for a whopping $3.50, sits an article titled “Western Kansas Normal School,” proclaiming the appropriation of $20,000 for the construction of a stone building for the Normal School in Hays, which was the beginning of what we now know as Fort Hays State University.

Included in the yellowed, two-column write-up is a tally of the normal school’s enrollment, which, the paper boasts, is twice as high as Emporia’s normal school (now Emporia State University) in its first year and a note to homeowners on Floyd Jones Street, what is now Seventh Street, thanking them for planting shade trees and constructing wide sidewalks in preparation for the flood of walking students.

Ending the article, The Free Press includes Hays Kansas Normal School's fight song:

Roria! Roria! Rah rah ren!

Roria! Roria! Hays K. N.

Roria! Roria Rah, rah ren!

Unfold! Old Gold! Hays K. N.

Rickety! Zickety! Rah, rah ren!

Normal! Normal, Hays K. N.

FHSU is no stranger to the concept of a time capsule. In 2001 during the centennial ceremony, members of the FHSU faculty opened a time capsule which was buried in 1977 to usher in 2002, FHSU's 100th year.

In 2002, those same faculty members replaced the capsule with one of their own to be un-earthed in 2027, FHSU's 125th year. Inside this capsule was a scroll signed by faculty that challenges the 2027 faculty to rededicate themselves to the academic mission of the university.

Also included was a letter from President Edward H. Hammond to the president in 2027; a copy of the Distinguished Scholar book; a transcript of a speech by U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran congratulating FHSU on its centennial; the centennial edition of The University Leader; a centennial diploma, lapel pin and the centennial Web site on CD; an issue of Time Magazine dedicated to Sept. 11, 2001; a Tiger lapel pin and flag; class schedules; a computer mouse; a recorded class lecture; an Oktoberfest mug and T-shirt; popular CDs from 2002; a cell phone; a student I.D. card from FHSU and a halter top.

Instead of a tin box, this capsule was buried in a PVC tube capped on both ends. The hope is that this capsule will stand the test of time better than its 1902 predecessor and give students in 2027 an idea of what it was like on the FHSU campus during the turn of the millennium.

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Kent Steward, Director   |  ksteward@fhsu.edu  |  Kurt Beyers, Assistant Director   |  kbeyers@fhsu.edu