Evans’ time capsule contents

Although many more are known to exist, only three time capsules have been opened in IWU’s 169-year history. One was discovered accidentally when the iconic arch that still led into Duration Hall, last remnant of Hedding Hall/Old Main, was torn down. All that remains of the contents of that box are pieces of bank notes it contained and the description of its other contents as reported in the 1966 Wesleyana (p. 23).

The second was a much more purposeful removal from Sheean Library.The contents of this box were in excellent condition and are reported on in previous blog posts. The third was also a planned removal, this time in honor of the 50th anniversary of its placement rather than being due to the building’s destruction. This post describes the discoveries made as a result of this recent unveiling.

As previously reported, when the Evans Observatory’s time capsule was opened in preparation for the official unveiling at Homecoming 2019, much of the content was too deteriorated to salvage. Moisture interacted with a battery and food inside the copper box and the to the other material damage was extensive!

poster of damaged objects

A poster of several of the damaged objects (clockwise from top right): the thermal battery, a microfilm reel with the Bloomington phone directory (rolled and unrolled), close-up of a rolled map (enclosed in a plastic sleeve and closed by a metal snap; unrolled map in center), a long shot of the capsule’s damaged contents. (click any image in this blog post to enlarge)

Everything that was paper-based was congealed into a solid mass but fortunately, most of these were all widely distributed publications from the University and local businesses. We were able to separate two unique paper items:

Several unique objects survived their 50-year odyssey and one even went on the Apollo 8 mission, circling the moon ten times! Astronaut Frank Borman personally added the medallion picture below before placing the capsule in the Mark Evans Observatory.

Other items found in the capsule were donated by the Bloomington branches of several companies. Noteworthy among the survivors are a miniature engine, supplied by Caterpillar Tractor Co.; a vacuum tube and circuit board from the Admiral Corporation; a selection of electric relays from General Electric; and an integrated circuit, the kind which made putting a computer on the Apollo 8 flight possible, supplied by General Telephone.

Other views of the objects contained in this post are available in our Historic IWU photo collection. The objects themselves will be on permanent display in the Mark Evans Observatory.

list of time capsule contents

Contents list that was read by President Eckley on the day of the time capsule’s placement.

IWU alum’s “astronaut food” discovered in time capsule

Guest post by Anthony Romanelli, Class of 2023

Illinois Wesleyan’s Founders’ Day of 1969 was a momentous occasion. Apollo astronaut Frank Borman was being hosted by the University. His entire Apollo 8 crew were presented with honorary doctorates and Borman placed a time capsule in the newest building on campus. Borman, the University, and local Bloomington-Normal businesses all contributed to an extensive list of items to place in a time capsule in the Mark Evans Observatory. Some of the notable items on the list include an audio tape recording of a Christmas message by the astronauts, an integrated circuit identical to the ones on Apollo 8 (provided by the General Electric division in Bloomington), and perhaps most noteworthy, a medallion that had joined the astronauts on the first crewed flight to reach the Moon’s orbit. [A post about the time capsule contents is available here.]

But when the capsule was opened during Homecoming of 2019, many of the perishable objects had been completely destroyed, including much of the papers. Moisture had somehow penetrated the copper box and corroded the material. Upon closer inspection, one of the culprits may have been a packet of “space food” contributed to the capsule by the local candy company Beich Industries. The food itself was gone; all that remained was a label from the company and a product description by its head researcher, one Mr. Alikonis. The man behind the space food had a story of his own, one that eventually led to his product in space.

Justin J. Alikonis was born in Johnston City in southern Illinois on December 7, 1912. When he was 18, he hitchhiked to Bloomington during the Great Depression looking for work to pay for college. He found a job at the Quality Café at 426 Main St in downtown Bloomington. There, he worked as a busboy, a waiter and a short-order cook as needed to pay his tuition. Luckily for him, IWU president Henry McPherson had instated in 1932 a “livestock for tuition” plan, where students could trade in live animals or produce from family farms as tuition payments. The controversial policy was enacted to keep young Central Illinoisans in school in the wake of the Depression, and this video shows Alikonis trading in a pig for his first semester of 1932. (While family relatives of Alikonis confirmed his appearance in the film, it is unknown why he uses the name “Isaac Rosenburg” in it.)

Justin Alikonis with lab equipment

Justin Alikonis ’35 with lab equipment

Alikonis graduated from Illinois Wesleyan in 1935 as a chemistry major, and completed graduate school at the University of Illinois. By the late 1930s, Alikonis had a lab in Bloomington and respected reputation as a preeminent chemist. Alikonis provided Bloomington with a variety of services using his homemade equipment, from manufacturing stain removers for the local laundromat to providing forensics for the McLean County Sheriff’s Department in a suspected poisoning case.

It wasn’t until World War II that Alikonis began working for the Beich Candy Company, his employer for the next 40 years. Paul F. Beich was born in Wehlen, Prussia (now part of the German town of Bernkastel-Kues), a German immigrant to New York. He moved to Bloomington to live with his aunt, and in thirty years went from not knowing a word of English to being one of the most notable businessmen in Blommington. It was Beich who convinced John Hershey to set up a factory in McLean County to be closer to the dairy supply, and Beich himself later bought the factory. Beich Co.’s then-owner, the elder Beich’s great-grandson William, employed Alikonis as a researcher and designer in his candy factory in west Bloomington (since sold to Nestle) and the young chemist began working on high-energy candy bars to feed the G.I.s in the Pacific. During the war, over 95% of sales went straight overseas to the Armed Forces. In 1951, Beich and Alikonis participated in a rations design conference hosted by the United States Army Quartermaster Corps, and Beich helped supply the candy for homesick troops.

Justin J. Alikonis (fourth from left) participates in a candy taste test at Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station with other representatives of the industry on behalf of the Quartermaster General of the United States Army, October 1952.*

Alikonis quickly realized how valuable his caloric little bars were, and as the Cold War dawned, Alikonis began making bars designed for long-term storage in bomb shelters. At the height of the Space Race, Beich rebranded its bars and sold them to NASA for consumption during space missions. During the Mercury-Atlas 8 mission, astronaut Wally Schirra ate Beich bars made with Alikonis’s patented formula, and on Apollo 8, Frank Borman shared them with his crewmates. The Beich bar recipe was also contained in the IWU time capsule, which reveals the new technologies Alikonis was working on. Determined to create an inexpensive, non-perishable candy, Alikonis was one of the first to use sorbitol, a natural sugar substitute, in his candies. Sorbitol, along with aspartame, is one of the most common natural flavorings used in diet soda today.

Alikonis was equally successful in the civilian market. He designed and patented, among other things, a marshmallow-making machine, the “Whizolater”, named after the Beich flagship candy bar, the Whiz. With no moving parts and operating solely on pressurized air, the Whizolater could make 1,400 gallons of marshmallow or nougat per hour. Curtiss Candy Company, the original makers of the Baby Ruth (then called the Kandy Kake), bought several Whizolaters for their Chicago-based plant. In the 1970s, “Beich’s Caramels”, which in reality were fruit-flavored taffy squares, became a hit once jokes (submitted to the company by children) were added to the wrappers. Beich’s Caramels became known as Laffy Taffy, a popular candy to this day.

Alikonis returned to IWU during Founders’ Day ‘69 to advertise his “space food” rations, and place a sample of his famous ration bar in the time capsule. While the bar may have rotted away, IWU will always have the story behind it, of the curious chemist-turned-candymaker who made history, on Earth and beyond.

Survival ration instructions found in the 1969 time capsule.

This informational leaflet concerning the Beich survival bar was found in the 2019 after the 1969 time capsule was opened, but was unfortunately moisture damage deteriorated it beyond preservation. Alikonis’s name can be seen towards the bottom of the decayed paper.

*Group photo credit: Quartermaster General of the Army. Activities Report of the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute for the Armed Forces. Vol. 4, No. 3, pg. 257. Research and Development Associates, Food and Container Institute, Inc., 1952. https://books.google.com/books?id=svDhVf4KeDAC&lpg=RA1-PA98&dq=beich rations&pg=RA2-PA163#v=onepage&q=beich rations&f=false.

Apollo 8 and IWU

Earth rising above the lunar horizon

Earthrise, December 24, 1968. Photo by Apollo 8 Astronaut Bill Anders. (credit: NASA)

December 21st marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission–the first manned orbit of the moon. Just three months after that on March 18, 1969, the three Apollo 8 astronauts–Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders–were awarded honorary PhDs at the 1969 Founders’ Day Convocation (the latter two in absentia). During his time on campus, Borman, who was Apollo 8’s commander, laid the cornerstone for the new Mark Evans Observatory and spoke at a luncheon for the Board of Trustees.
Towards the end of the Founders’ Day recording Borman speaks and has some pointed and interesting comments about education in direct response to the event’s main speaker William Arrowsmith, University of Texas Professor of Classics and University Professor in Arts and Letters. A March 21, 1969 Argus article (p. 15)  describes the event.
Astronaut Frank Borman and a crowd of onlookers at the Evan's Observatory dedication

A sizeable crowd watches as Frank Borman gets ready to place the time capsule in the Mark Evans Observatory. [click to enlarge]


The University made an an audio recording of the cornerstone laying at Mark Evans Observatory and the University Archivist added the sound track over three brief (and silent) home movies that were donated in 2016. One of the films shows Borman placing a time capsule in the observatory’s wall. The photo on the left shows just part of the crowd that this event drew; several other photos are available online.
The time capsule included many items that were not connected directly with the campus such as a package of space food, the Apollo 8 astronaut’s Christmas Eve tape, a road atlas, the Illinois Agricultural Association (IAA) Record and fifty-year history, and the Bloomington-Normal Phone Directory on microfilm.
In President Eckley’s remarks at the dedication, he says he intends to open the time capsule in seven years, but the University’s archival holdings do not contain evidence of that happening. With the 50th anniversary of the observatory’s dedication coming up, Physical Plant personnel are examining the building to see if the time capsule is still there.
After the dedication, Borman gave a presentation to the Board of Trustees in which he shared details of the Apollo 8 mission and displayed a great sense of humor!
The Winter 2011 IWU Magazine story “Star Attraction” offers additional details on the history of the development of this observatory.

Yet another time capsule building identified!

While looking into the history of the Alice Millar Center for the Fine Arts last week, I came across a photo taken in 1973 on the day the date stone was placed in what we now call the Joyce Eichhorn Ames School of Art Building. If anyone reading this has details on what might be in it, contact the archives because all we have is a photo!

With all that have been previously reported, we now can confirm a total of eleven campus buildings with time capsules:
Hedding Hall (1870; time capsule removed in 1966)
Science Building (1910)
Memorial Gymnasium (1921)
Buck Memorial Library (1922)
Memorial Center (1946 and 1947 dedications and 1965 addition)
Shaw Hall (1954)
Dolan Hall (1955)
Sheean Library (1967; time capsule removed in 2011)
Mark Evans Observatory (1969)
Joyce Eichhorn Ames School of Art Building (1973)
State Farm Hall (2013)