The statue of Davis as it stood in the Kentucky Capitol rotunda, removed in June 2020
The statue of Davis as it stood in the Kentucky Capitol rotunda, removed in June 2020
Photo: Bill Pugliano (Getty Images)

Statues of Confederate leaders are being torn down all over the country, and construction workers in Kentucky had even more to celebrate last week when, during the removal of a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis, they found a bottle of whiskey (regrettably empty) and a newspaper tucked inside the statue’s base.

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According to WDRB, a local news source in Louisville, the newspaper is dated October 20, 1936 and has a handwritten note on the top reading “date of placement.” The whiskey bottle, which contains a not-yet-examined piece of paper (i.e., a message in a bottle!) is labeled Glenmore Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and comes from a still operating distillery now owned by Sazerac.

There are a few things about this find that are curious. The first is that the note written on top of the newspaper definitely suggests that this is an honest-to-god time capsule and not just an attempt to cover up on-the-job drinking. Whomever placed the bottle did so with the assumption that at some point in time the statue would be removed and the bottle and note found. Considering that, it seems like kind of an asshole move to leave an empty bottle. A full bottle would have been a much more valuable artifact for future generations to uncover, and certainly a more conscientious one.

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Also, the era in which the bottle and note were left is dismaying. Jefferson Davis was defeated in 1865 and died in 1889, and this particular statue was built in 1936. That is an awfully recent commission of a monument to human oppression, and the fact that it’s only just now being removed from the Capitol is an embarrassment. (A plaque on the statue describing Davis as a “hero” was only removed in 2018.) As for why symbols like this continue to exist, you might want to ask folks like commissioner Brandon T. Wilson, who was the only member of the Kentucky Historic Properties Advisory Commission who voted against the statue’s removal.

Jacob Dean is a food and travel writer and psychologist based in New York. He likes beer, less traveled airports, and is allergic to grasshoppers (the insect, not the mixed drink.)

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