Construction on Old East, the first building erected at the University of North Carolina, America's first state university, was begun in 1793. Among the objects sealed inside its cornerstone at the time was a bronze plaque commemorating the laying of the cornerstone on the 12th day of October in the 18th year of American Independence. The plaque was stolen by vandals during the Civil War and, as years turned to decades, campus officials abandoned hope of its recovery. In 1916, Thomas Bledsoe Foust, owner and proprietor of the Clarksville Foundry and Machine Works in Clarksville, TN was given the plaque by his foreman, who had been using it as a molding tool. Foust, a 1903 UNC graduate, recognized the names on the plate and, through a series of communications with other UNC alums, determined it to be the missing cornerstone plaque from Old East. On October 12, 1916, the 123rd anniversary of the laying of Old East's cornerstone, a ceremony was held and the long lost plaque was presented to the university.