100-year-old message in bottle left in wall sparks family search in NJ
MONTCLAIR — Montclair State University is hoping to find descendants of some men who helped build a landmark building on campus, after discovering a more than century-old "message in a bottle" tuckered between layers of brick.
Last February, renovations at College Hall involved tearing down old walls. A member of the demolition crew, Robert Kanaby, heard breaking glass and found a broken bottle and a hand-written letter dated July 3, 1907, according to an article in Montclair Magazine.
A video produced by the school, shown below, features Kanaby walking through the surprise moment of finding the 112-year-old letter.
The old-fashioned cursive writing on parchment paper says: “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 Montclair magazine article pieces together some clues from the 1920 Census, noting a then 33-year-old William J. Hanly, lived on Central Avenue in Newark. The 1930 Census listed a Newark resident named James Lennon, a bricklayer born around 1875.
A spokeswoman for Montclair University says since the article was published in the University's magazine in mid-November, they have heard from people with possible leads on the men who left the historic note, though no one has been confirmed as a definite relative.
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