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Time Capsule From 1987 Found In Avondale Building: ‘Unfathomable’ How Technology Changed — But Social Progress Lagging

Local leaders made predictions we're not even close to fulfilling. One said by 2037 "we will no longer have bigotry, anti-semitism or discrimination of any kind in our country."

A 1987 time capsule was found at the 90-year-old ComEd headquarters site in Avondale.
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AVONDALE — Thirty-three years ago, local leaders were asked to look 50 years into the future and make predictions about Chicago and society as part of a time capsule project for ComEd’s 100th anniversary.

This summer, a construction worker found the time capsule much earlier than expected — and the predictions aren’t looking too accurate, though we have 17 years to change that.

In one, ad agency founder Harold E. Kuttner predicted by 2037 “we will no longer have bigotry, anti-semitism or discrimination of any kind in our country.”

In another, local pastor John S. Quinn of St. Andrew Catholic Church said by 2037 he expects the Catholic church to allow women and married men to be priests, and to “adapt its doctrines to scientific discoveries.”

The country is battling a growing wave of bigotry, anti-semitism and discrimination, with hate crimes on the rise.

And women and married men are still excluded from priesthood in the Catholic church despite repeated calls for change.


The construction worker found the letters — and all of the other artifacts in the time capsule — at the end of July on the ComEd headquarters site at 3500 N. California Ave.

Crews are demolishing the 90-year-old building because the company built a new headquarters. ComEd’s new, $58 million headquarters — complete with a public STEM education area — opened on the same site in February.

The time capsule was installed in 1987 at ComEd’s centennial party, a grand event with a performance by Lane Tech’s marching band, a helicopter landing and a car show, said John Maxson, a longtime ComEd employee who organized the party.

In the weeks leading up to the party, the time capsule was filled with memorabilia from ComEd employees, everything from 1987 coins to 1987 issues of Life magazine, as well as letters from local leaders.

The goal was to surprise and delight whoever stumbled across the box decades later, Maxson said.

At the party, officials placed the time capsule near an 8-foot-tall art deco eagle sculpture, thinking it’d be found at least 50 years later, in 2037.

Maxson said he was surprised when he got a call in July and learned the time capsule had already been found.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, already?’ I really had not thought about when it would be found. I thought it would be way in the future,” Maxson said.

“I didn’t know what way in the future meant, but at the time we thought of the office there, at California and Addison, as being one of the pyramids or something … we thought this was something that was a permanent asset of the company.”

But Maxson noted the past 33 years “probably saw more change than [ComEd’s] first 100 years.”

“It’s unfathomable how technology and the company has changed in such a short period of time,” he said.

Back in 1987, ComEd relied on natural gas and coal to generate electricity, whereas today natural gas is its main source. Technicians had to bring drawings with them when going out to fix or install power lines because there was no GPS. Meter readings were done manually; today, they’re automated.

Those are only a few examples of the technological advancements made in just a few decades, said Maxson, who worked for ComEd for 32 years.

“I remember [thinking] it would be a different world when it’s found, but I had no idea it would be such a short period of time,” he said.

As for the 2037 predictions: We’ve got 17 more years to eliminate bigotry and make the capsule’s vision for the future a reality.

All photos courtesy of ComEd

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