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CAPSULES HIDDEN FOR POSTERITY ELUDE WOULD-BE FINDERS

Whatever happened to the thousands of time capsules stashed with Kewpie dolls and newsreels? The International Time Capsule Society says most such treasures buried in the past 50 years are lost, stolen or inaccessible.

Hoping to help jog memories, the society released a "10 Most Wanted Time Capsules List" to help Americans find what they saved for posterity - or at least intended to."It's sort of a list of human foibles," said Knute Berger, a member of the society based at Oglethorpe University. "Memory is a lot shorter than we think. Sometimes time capsules are buried in secret. Everyone who knew where it was died. Sometimes people just forget.

"Sometimes they go to elaborate trouble collecting everything, but never bury it. The time capsule ends up in somebody's garage, and it gets tossed out," Berger said.

Topping the society's list is the Bicentennial Wagon Train time capsule, which held the signatures of 22 million Americans. When then-President Ford showed up for the sealing ceremony at Valley Forge, Pa., on July 4, 1976, officials found the capsule had been stolen from an unattended van on the bicentennial wagon train.

Second on the list is the MIT Cyclotron time capsule. Engineers buried it in 1939 beneath an 18-ton magnet on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass. But when they tried to open it a few years ago, they couldn't figure how to get the time capsule out from under a 36,000-pound lid.

The city of Corona, Calif., apparently misplaced 17 time capsules dating back to the 1930s. Officials were unsuccessful when they tried to locate them in 1986.

The first project called a time capsule was displayed in 1939 at the New York World's Fair. "It was a torpedo-shaped object made by Westinghouse as a way to show off their new copper alloy called cupaloy," Berger said.

Since that inaugural container of cultural treasures, people have used all kinds of receptacles to stash memorabilia, including a child's coffin, Berger said.

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(Additional information)

10 time capsules named `most wanted'

1. Bicentennial Wagon Train time capsule: The signatures of 22 million Americans were stolen from an unattended van on the bicentennial wagon train before the capsule could be sealed at Valley Forge, Pa., on July 4, 1976.

2. MIT Cyclotron time capsule: Buried in 1939 beneath an 18-ton magnet on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass. An effort to open the capsule a few years ago was stymied because no one could figure out how to get the time capsule out from under a 36,000-pound lid.

3. Corona, Calif., time capsules: Officials were unsuccessful in 1986 trying to locate 17 time capsules dating back to the 1930s.

4. "M*A*S*H" time capsule: Members of the hit television show buried props and costumes in the 20th Century Fox parking lot in Hollywood in a secret ceremony in January 1983. Buildings have since been built on the lot.

5. George Washington's cornerstone: Laid by George Washington in 1793. Lost during extensive expansion and remodeling of the Capitol. It is unknown whether there was anything inside the cornerstone.

6. Gramophone Co. time capsule: Disc sound recordings of opera singer Nellie Melba were buried in 1907 behind the foundation stone of the new Gramophone Co. factory in Hayes, England. The container was removed during reconstruction in the 1960s and stolen before it could be reburied.

7. Kingsley Dam time capsule: Buried July 22, 1941, during the dedication of the Lake McConaughy dam in Nebraska. Officials wanted to commemorate its 50th anniversary recently, but no one remembered exactly where the capsule had been placed.

8. Washington Territorial Centennial time capsule: A 2-ton time capsule buried in 1953 at the state Capitol at Olympia, Wash. The site was never marked, and the capsule was lost until 1959. A supplementary time capsule was prepared in 1953 for burial alongside the main capsule, but its location and contents are unknown. Its last reported location was in a Capitol closet.

9. Blackpool Tower time capsule: Buried in the late 19th century in Blackpool, England. Neither remote sensory equipment nor a clairvoyant has located it.

10. The Lyndon, Vt., time capsule: First mentioned in an 1891 Vermont newspaper, the capsule is an iron box containing information on the town's centennial celebration. It was scheduled to be opened this July 4. Citizens have searched the town vault, the bank and the library but cannot find it.