Time Capsules Reveal Rush, City History

Friday, October 21, 2016

Capsules dating as far back as 1875 unveiled at Rush event

By Kevin McKeough
Videos by the Rush Photo Group

Rush University Medical Center began as Rush Medical College, which received its charter on March 2, 1837 — two days before the City of Chicago itself was incorporated. For decades, the charter was lost, and the only record of this historic document was “a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of a picture,” according to Nathalie Wheaton, Rush archivist. “I always wondered, where’s the actual charter?”

The mystery was solved this summer. The medical college’s charter was among the artifacts enclosed in time capsules that Rush salvaged from the demolition of the oldest buildings on the Rush University Medical Center campus: the Jones (completed 1888), Senn (1902), Murdock (1912) and Rawson (1924) buildings. (The Murdoch Building didn’t include a time capsule.)

Rawson yielded a big surprise: Within its time capsule was another time capsule, salvaged from the first building on Rush’s West Side campus, which Rawson replaced. Buried in 1875 and opened in 1924, that capsule included the medical college charter.

See capsules being opened

This summer, specialized work crews helped remove the time capsules from the cornerstones of the buildings undergoing demolition, as well as ensuring that all architecturally significant elements of the buildings were preserved. Conservators then carefully opened the capsules, yielding long bygone newspapers, photographs, rulebooks, building plans and more.

Time travel through medical history

The time capsules are a reminder of Rush’s long history, which is intertwined with the histories of the City of Chicago and of medicine itself. This video recounts that history, from the Great Chicago Fire; to the discovery that germs spread disease, the founding of Rush’s hospital and nursing college, and the advent of the X-ray; and up to today.

Watch the time capsules’ unveiling

Rush celebrated the opening of the time capsules at an Oct. 20 celebration that was streamed live on Facebook. The program included performances of songs from the buildings’ era and reminiscences about the buildings by Thomas Deutsch, MD, provost of Rush University and a third-generation Rush ophthalmologist. Wheaton then unveiled the time capsules and presented some of the artifacts found in them.


Want to learn more about Rush’s history? Visit the history page of our website.