Inside the Jefferson Davis Cornerstone Box

Metal lid to a rectangular box visible in a pile of stone rubble with a measuring tape sitting in front of it.

December 14, 2023

RICHMOND, VA – As part of the Valentine’s efforts to collect, preserve and interpret Richmond’s diverse history, we’re excited to share the contents of the Jefferson Davis cornerstone box which was unearthed in 2022 during the removal of the pedestals of the city-owned Confederate monuments.

After contractors with Team Henry exhumed the box in 2022, conservators froze the box to prevent any additional deterioration. X-rays taken prior to the box’s opening alluded to some round metal items and bound materials. But an old hole in the top of the copper box caused concern that water had intruded the box while it was still underground. On August 10, 2022, conservators with the Department of Historic Resources as well as staff from the Black History Museum & Cultural Center of Virginia, the Valentine Museum and the Virginia Museum of History & Culture assisted with the opening of the box.

A conservator with the Department of Historic Resources cut away the top of the copper box, revealing a copper envelope sitting on top of a pile of soggy papers and books. Though the majority of the paper items inside the original 1896 box were destroyed due to water intrusion, a few relics survived. A chip of marble taken from the steps of Jefferson Davis’s home during the Civil War, today known as the White House of the Confederacy, was tucked inside as was a paperweight made from bronze left over from the casting of Richmond’s 1894 Confederate Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument.

After emptying the 1896 box entirely, staff turned their attention back to the copper envelope. Inside were items added in 1907 by the Jefferson Davis Monument Association (JDMA) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy including designs for the monument, an updated history of the JDMA, programs from fundraising events, and even the first and last ten-cent pieces raised at the 1903 Confederate Bazaar in Richmond.

The Jefferson Davis cornerstone box and its contents are now owned by the Valentine, which continues to explore the painful legacy of Richmond’s Confederate monuments and help foster conversation about the impacts of the Lost Cause mythology and Jim Crow policies on the Richmond region.

Visitors can currently view the paperweight from the cornerstone box in the Valentine’s ongoing exhibition, “This is Richmond, Virginia.”

To learn more about the history and contents of the Jefferson Davis cornerstone box, click here.


The Valentine has been collecting, preserving and interpreting Richmond’s 400-year history for over a century. Located in the heart of historic downtown, the Valentine is a place for residents and tourists to discover the diverse stories that tell the broader history of this important region.

Press Contact
Christina Swanson