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Brashear capsule donation sought by history center

| Thursday, March 26, 2015, 11:32 p.m.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
This is a picture of the employees of John A. Brashear's mechanical department dated August 1894. On Tuesday, Al Paslow was inspecting the remains of the Brashear Factory when a member of the demolition crew said he found a time capsule in the cornerstone of the building a few days ago.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
On Tuesday, Al Paslow was inspecting the remains of the Brashear Factory when a member of the demolition crew announced to him that he found a time capsule in the cornerstone of the building a few days ago. The decision was made to open the time capsule after several days of calls to various societies and organizations without results.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
Resting atop an August 1894 Sunday paper is a piece of glass with an inscription that reads 'One of the first pieces of optical glass Made in America.' A metal box of items was found in the corner stone of the John Brashear factory while it was being demolished.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
A letter dated July 31, 1894, from Warner & Swasey congratulating Brashear on his new factory.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
This notice dated Aug. 14, 1894, on the personal letterhead of John A. Brashear, Astronomical & Physical Instrument Works, Allegheny, PA., USA, was found in the papers of the time capsule.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
An image of John Brashear's father, Basil Brown Brashear, found inside the time capsule.
Image courtesy of Al Paslow
The building cornerstone from which the time capsule was removed.

The head of the Heinz History Center said Thursday he hopes the contractor who discovered a time capsule more than 120 years old in the cornerstone of the historic John A. Brashear factory on the North Side “does the right thing” and donates the contents to the museum.

“I did talk to the demolition crew and so did our curator. This is all of great historical significance to us,” said Andy Masich, president and CEO of the Heinz History Center. “Brashear is a local legend and of national importance in telescopic lenses, optics and astronomy.”

Workers of Jadell Minniefield Construction Inc. discovered the capsule this week during their demolition of the long-vacant factory. The city, which owns the building, issued an emergency demolition order because a wall collapsed last week onto an occupied apartment building next door on Perrysville Avenue.

Jadell Minniefield and others opened the time capsule Tuesday at the site and found Brashear family photos, what is said to be one of the first pieces of optical glass made in America, newspapers from 1894, a lock of hair from Brashear's wife, and hand-written letters, said Al Paslow, an amatuer astronomer who photographed the capsule's opening. Calls to the construction company were not returned.

Masich said he's talked to members of the Minniefield family.

The city, which paid the company $235,000 for the demolition, is negotiating to obtain the time capsule to turn it over to a museum, Mayor Bill Peduto's spokesman Tim McNulty said.

“Lines of communication are open with the contractor, and we're hopeful we can reach a positive conclusion,” McNulty said.

Brashear was a world-renowned scientist and philanthropist who made mirrors and lenses for telescopes. He died in 1920.

Paslow, 59, of Bethel Park said he went to watch the demolition when Minniefield approached him with the sealed brass box.

“I told him I could be a witness and document it with photos. Mr. Minniefield was very professional. It was very important to him,” Paslow said.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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