## Masonic Mathematics: The 47th Problem of Euclid

##### January 24, 2023
Past Master's Jewel, 1823. Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832). London. 2017.018.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

Do you remember the Pythagorean Theorem? This geometric figure, also known as the 47th Problem of Euclid, represents the idea that the area of the two smaller squares created by using the lines of a right-angle triangle as bases is equal to the area of the largest square created in the same way. It is stated mathematically as c2 = a2 + b2 in which “c” is the hypotenuse (longest side) and “a” and “b” are the other two sides. Like many geometric expressions, it’s difficult to describe with words, but its meaning is fairly comprehensible visually.

Luckily, then, this symbol appears on Masonic aprons, jewels, pitchers, quilts, lantern slides, mark medals, tracing boards, and other decorative and ritual material in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Freemasonry draws symbols from a variety of sources, including geometry, to teach instructive lessons to its members.

This geometric figure has two names associated with some of mathematics’ historic giants: Pythagoras (ca. 570 B.C.E. – ca. 495 B.C.E.) and Euclid (ca. 300 B.C.E.). However, its roots reach back further. Babylonians (ca. 1900 - 1600 B.C.E) used it to solve geometric problems that involved right triangles. In Freemasonry, it is often called the 47th Problem of Euclid. This symbol is introduced in the 3rd or Master Mason degree.

The object shown here, an engraved Past Master’s jewel, bears a particularly compelling visual representation of this noteworthy geometric figure. English silversmith Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832) crafted this jewel, marking it with his initials and British silver hallmarks. The “leopard’s head” mark indicates that the silver was hallmarked in London after 1822. The lowercase “h” indicates Harper made the item in 1823, according to the “date letters” that were used in British silver.

Past Master's Jewel, 1823. Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832). London. 2017.018.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

This form of a Past Master’s jewel featuring a right-angle square with a rectangle engraved with a depiction of the 47th Problem of Euclid, was popular in English lodges in the early decades of the 1800s. This style of jewel inspired Past Master’s jewels in Pennsylvania, which often have a right-angle square bearing a suspended rectangle with the geometric figure engraved on it.

This fascinating Past Master’s jewel is currently on view at the museum in "What's in a Portrait?" and in our online exhibition. You can see other items in the museum’s collection that bear the 47th Problem of Euclid on our searchable online collections database.

## Clepsammia: Thief of Sand

##### December 22, 2022
Hourglass, ca. 1700. Italy. Gift of Mrs. Willis R. Michael, 85.108.20. Photograph by David Bohl.

As the remaining hours of 2022 run down, let’s investigate this unusual hourglass in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Called clepsammia, meaning thief of sand, sand hourglasses are an early method of keeping time. Devices using a fixed amount of sand to measure time were likely first developed in the 1300s, but the need for contained, reliable, and stable timekeeping on ships to aid with navigation helped popularize clepsammia during the Age of Sail (roughly 1650-1850).

Before the invention of the modern clock, hourglasses were used in churches to time sermons, in government offices to time speeches, and in factories to time work shifts. These useful items came in many types, materials, and sizes. A common form of hourglass was intended to measure one hour and was constructed of two glass bulbs, often set in a frame, that were joined with wax and cord.

Another kind of hourglass, used to mark the quarter hour, featured four horizontally-oriented glass bulbs. Each bulb contained either 15-, 30-, 45-, or 60-minutes’ worth of sand. As each ran out, the user could track quarter hours. The vertically-oriented hourglass held by the museum is an unusual form. The sand flows through two glass bulbs - one shaped into four equal chambers and another larger bulb. There seem to be only a few existing examples of this type of hourglass. One is in the collection at the Louvre.

The museum’s clepsammia was crafted in Italy, around 1700. The “sand” is actually powdered stone contained within the glass bulbs, fixed within a wooden frame covered with decorated paper. Compared to beach sand, which has angular edges, powdered stone flows smoothly through the apertures between bulbs. In one direction, the material moves from the largest bulb down, filling first one bulb, then the next in fifteen-minute intervals. When flipped over, the sand empties from each bulb, again in fifteen-minute intervals. This hourglass stands ten inches tall and, at over three hundred years old, is in good condition for its age.

This clepsammia is part of a collection of clocks, watches, tools, and books donated by Ruth Michael of York, Pennsylvania. Her gift of more than 140 items from the collection that she and her husband, Willis R. Michael, assembled over many years forms the core of the museum’s horological holdings. If you’d like to learn more about timepieces in the museum’s collection, you can see more examples in this Flickr album. You can also see this hourglass in action in the video below.

## New to the Collection: Blood Donor Recognition Pin

##### October 25, 2022
Blood Donation Lapel Pin. ca. 1983. Gift of Kamel Oussayef, 2022.049a-b.

New to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection this month is a small gold-colored lapel pin bearing a square and compasses and a “G” in blue enamel. Masonic lapel pins are abundant in both members’ homes and the Museum’s collection. This, however, is the first pin in the collection in the shape of a drop of blood.

Throughout the United States, more than ten state Grand Lodges sponsor a Masonic blood donation program of some kind. The model for many programs involves a coordinator at each local lodge who schedules blood drives on location and encourages brethren to donate. Each unit of blood donated by individual lodge members is counted towards the total for the whole lodge.

Lapel pins are given to individual members who achieve certain blood donation milestones. Some, like this one, are awarded for an initial donation of one unit. Others are given when the Mason reaches a certain volume of blood donated. For example, the Virginia Grand Lodge Blood Program specifies that new donors and donations under two gallons receive the pin type shown here, with a “G” in the center of the Masonic square and compasses. When an individual donates more than two gallons, each subsequent pin bears the number of gallons, increasing by increments of two.

Some Masons donate impressive volumes of blood throughout their lives, such as Scottish Rite Mason Steven Fishman of Georgia, who has donated over thirty-seven gallons since the 1970s. Given that one gallon is equal to eight one-pint donations and that donors can only give once every eight weeks, achieving that volume would take a minimum of forty-five years.

As mentioned above, individual donations by members are counted towards the one lodge’s contribution to the blood program. In Rhode Island, for example, lodges who seek to earn the Grand Master’s Award are advised to participate in local blood drives and ensure at least ten percent of their eligible members give blood.

This new addition to the collection helps us tell the story of how Masons, as the Virginia Blood Program Manual says, “. . . facilitate donations in an organized and craftsman-like fashion . . .”

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## New to the Collection: Pyramid Court Daughters

##### September 15, 2022
Members of Pyramid Court No. 17, 1960s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2022.008.4.

In this photograph, new to the collection in 2022, a group of women wearing white dresses and either white fezzes or a crown poses for a photo with a man in a suit wearing a darker fez. This image features members of a women’s auxiliary group of Prince Hall Shriners, the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South America and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Historically Black fraternal groups in the United States have a fascinating history and objects like this photograph help us better understand it.

Based on organization proceedings and area newspapers, this photo appears to show members of Pyramid Court No. 17, Imperial Court Auxiliary, A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Philadelphia along with one member of Pyramid Temple No. 1, A.E.A.O.N.M.S., also of Philadelphia. The A.E.A.O.N.M.S. was founded in 1893 in Chicago as a charitable, benevolent, fraternal, and social organization, dedicated to the welfare and extension of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Its women’s auxiliary was founded in 1910 in Detroit. The latter group was established at the behest of a committee headed by Hannah Brown, Esther Wilson, and Lucy Blackburn, wives of Prince Hall Shriners from Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. These women and others had already created eight “courts” (similar to Shrine Temples or Masonic lodges) for female relatives of A.E.A.O.N.M.S. members. In 1909, they requested an official “Grand Court” to oversee the activities of the local groups.

This international organization, then known as the Imperial Grand Court of the Daughters of Isis, is now called the Imperial Court. The organization boasts more than nine thousand members that meet in more than two hundred courts throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Korea and Western Europe. Members are known as Daughters.

Their regalia includes ceremonial collars worn with white dresses, shoes, and gloves, along with white fezzes or crowns. Decorated with embroidery and/or rhinestones, these fezzes bear the name of the owner’s court and a profile of the Egyptian goddess Isis. When a Daughter serves as Imperial Commandress, the presiding officer of a court, she wears a crown in place of a fez. In this photograph, since a woman in the center of the group wears a crown, she was likely the Imperial Commandress of Pyramid Court No. 17 when the photo was taken.

In their analysis of African American fraternal groups over a period of around one hundred fifty years, social scientists Theda Skocpol and Jennifer Lynn Oser found that “black women played an unusually strong role in African American fraternal federations.” The Imperial Court is an excellent example of Black women leading fraternal groups. It exists because women who were already organizing local courts applied for official recognition from A.E.A.O.N.M.S. The auxiliary’s schedule of meetings, fundraising events, and annual sessions is very similar to that of the brother organization.

In the past and today, the women’s and men’s groups under the umbrella of the A.E.A.O.N.M.S. gather together at an annual joint session. Daughters of the Imperial Court Auxiliary and Nobles of A.E.A.O.N.M.S. work together at all levels to accomplish the charitable, social, and Masonic goals of Prince Hall Shriners.

If you know of or have any materials related to the A.E.A.O.N.M.S. or its women’s auxiliary, please let us know by writing in the comments section below.

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## 40th Anniversary: Masonic Symbols in Decorative Arts

##### November 15, 2016

Forty years ago, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library published the book Masonic­­ Symbols in American Decorative Arts to accompany an exhibition on the topic. The book, written in 1976 by former museum curator Barbara Franco, highlighted and contextualized 146 American decorative arts objects with Masonic symbols. Decorative arts, often defined as the design and decoration of functional objects, include glassware, furniture, ceramics, textiles, basketry, and clocks. Artist's and craftsmen commonly incorporated Masonic symbols into their designs in the 1700s and 1800s; a period of rapid growth for American Masonic and fraternal organizations.

The Museum has acquired more Masonic decorative arts objects since 1976. Many of the artifacts featured in Franco's publication have been re-photographed and continue to be a part of our exhibitions. Two of these items are highlighted below and have recently been exhibited at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

This pocket watch is featured in our current exhibition “Keeping Time: Clockmakers and Collectors" open through 2017. The watch, designed and manufactured by the Dudley and Hamilton Watch Companies, was made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, around 1925. William Wallace Dudley's (1851–1938) company produced distinctive watches with movement parts shaped like Masonic symbols. This particular watch includes a trowel, square and compasses, level, bible, and shoe.

This Worshipful Master’s Chair made around 1870 and marked by maker John Luker (b. 1838) was featured in the exhibition "‘Every Variety of Paintings for Lodges’: Decorated Furniture, Paintings and Ritual Objects from the Collection." You can find out more about the chair in this 2008 blog post.The chair is also currently included in the online exhibition of the same name, available here.

Find these objects and more in our new decorative arts album on Flickr! Like, share, and comment on objects you find on our Flickr page.

Captions:

Pocket Watch, ca. 1925, Dudley Watch Co. and Hamilton Watch Company, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Gift of Hazel D. Hubley in memory of Bert H. Hubley, 86.32a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Worshipful Master's Chair, ca. 1870, John Luker, Vinton County, Ohio, Gift of the Estate of Charles V. Hagler, 85.20.1.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

Reference:

Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts, Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Inc., 1976.

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## The Impressive Odd Fellow

##### April 19, 2016
Unidentified I.O.O.F. Member, 1883-1908, Osborn Company, Binghamton, NY, Museum Purchase, 2016.010.

Can you ever have too many badges, ribbons, or medals? Not according to this particularly proud and active Odd Fellow. We recently acquired this fantastic cabinet card featuring a sepia-toned portrait of an unidentified I.O.O.F. member wearing more than twenty badges, medals, and ribbons. The card was printed between 1883 and 1908 by the Osborn Company in Binghamton, New York.

Cabinet cards, introduced in the 1860s, were similar to carte-de-visites (for more on CDVs read this post). They served as   a popular alternative to cased photographs like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Cabinet card photos measured approximately four inches by six inches and were mounted onto card stock. The cards usually featured a photographer’s decorative stamp, name, and location. The Osborn Company was a family-run photography business owned by Emerson Osbourne from about 1883 to 1908 in Binghamton.

This particular photo caught our eye because many fraternal portrait cabinet cards feature a member wearing regalia with only one or two medals or ribbons. The ribbons commemorate various Odd Fellows events and field days in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  There is a ribbon that reads “Calumet 62” and another that reads “Canton Scranton No. 4.” There are records of an active Calumet Lodge No. 62 in Binghamton, New York, from the mid-1860s to the late 1940s. There are also local Pennsylvania newspapers from the late 1880s that reference an I.O.O.F. Canton Scranton No. 4 group.

These findings lead us to believe that this proud unidentified Odd Fellow was most likely a member of these two lodges and perhaps others. Can you help us identify this photograph? Do you have information about  I.O.O.F. lodges in New York or Pennsylvania? Let us know with a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

References:

The Scranton Republican, Scranton, Pennsylvania, March 13, 1896.

William Summer Lawyer, Binghamton: it's settlement, growth and development, and the factors in its history, 1800-1900, Binghamton, N.Y. : Century Memorial Publishing Co., 1900.