Demolition worker finds 112-year-old message in beer bottle in university wall

by Jordyn Pair · Dec 4th, 2019 11:07 am

Last Updated Dec 4th, 2019 at 1:12 pm

A demolition worker in New Jersey is coming forward about a 112-year-old letter he found in a beer bottle while doing construction work at Montclair State University.

Robert Kanaby said he found the letter inside a bottle in February while taking down a wall in the university's College Hall building.

"It's a very old brick wall, about 14 feet with three layers of brick," he told CNN. "So I was going brick by brick with a tool."

He said that he hit an "unusual void in the wall" and then heard the sound of glass breaking.

Once he cleared the debris, Kanaby found a letter reading:

"This is to certify that this wall was built by two bricklayers from Newark, N.J., by the names of William Hanly and James Lennon, members of No. 3 of the B.M.I.U. of America."

The demolition worker then brought the letter to Sharon Mahoney, the university's director of construction management. The university has since been researching the identity of the two men.

The school used a 1920 census to find a William J. Hanly and a 1930 census to find a bricklayer named James Lennon. Hanly was 33 at the time and Lennon was born in 1875. Both lived in Newark. The university has been unable to find living relatives of the pair.

The school is planning to exhibit the letter and bottle, along with other artifacts uncovered during the renovation.

Follow Jordyn Pair on Twitter at @JordynPair.


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