Worcester Historical Museum opens the 1915 box


WORCESTER, Mass. – Everyone has a story made up of places and people who help them come to life, but not everyone leaves the pieces behind for someone else to put them together.

“(Bernard Leonard) wanted people to know he existed,” said Robert Stacy, site manager at the Worcester Historical Museum.

Bernard Leonard wanted his story to be remembered, so he sent a box of his things to the Worcester Society of Antiquities in 1915 with clear instructions that have not been opened for at least 100 years.

“In this case, we have an obligation to honor his wish which is not open,” Stacy said. “I am glad that generations before us have honored this as well.”

What would you like to know

  • A Wisconsin man left a box of his things to open in Worcester in 2015
  • Bernard Leonard was born in Southbridge, with his family in Sturbridge and Northborough
  • The museum found coins, old calendars, family photos and a comic section from a Sunday newspaper
  • Museum staff are still examining items to learn more about Leonard

Fast forward to today and everything Leonard left behind is finally brought to life by Stacy and Shelley Cathcart at the Worcester Historical Museum.

The two compare the opening of the box to an archaeological dig. They are in the process of uncovering Leonard’s history and his family ties to County Worcester.

“We have a photo of Bernard with his siblings when they were kids,” Stacy said.

The two still have a long way to go, but so far they know he was born in Southbridge and moved to Depere, Wisconsin at a young age. He was married and had four siblings.

“Everything is documented in this box,” Cathcart said. “So every time we open something, like a photo of him as a kid, we find out that all of his siblings are from local towns like Sturbridge and Southbridge.”

They also found coins, old calendars, family photos, and even a comic book section from a Sunday newspaper.

“As curators and historians, we ask ourselves so many questions,” Cathcart said. “So when we can have these questions answered so easily, it’s absolutely thrilling.”

Leonard left enough stuff to make his wish come true, to make sure people know his story over 100 years later.

The box was due to be opened in 2015, but Stacy said they expect to open it this year when they have the staff and resources to give it the attention it deserves.

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Patrick F. Williams