The National Heritage Museum photograph collection is a treasure trove with images of people, places and events from the 1840s to the present. We often include photographs from the collection in our exhibitions and they can be invaluable when we are researching a particular person or fraternal group.
This photo, which was donated to the Museum recently by Harriet Dinsmoor Parish, depicts the officers of Boston’s St. John’s Lodge. Mrs. Parish had kept this photo because her father, Clyde M. Dinsmoor (b. 1888), appears at far left in the back row. The Masonic regalia that he wears indicates that he was the lodge’s Tyler. In Freemasonry, the Tyler guards the entrance to the lodge room during meetings, allowing members and non-members to enter at the appropriate times. By checking the records of St. John’s Lodge, we were able to narrow down the date of the photo to the late 1930s. The picture was probably taken between 1936 and 1940, shortly after the lodge officers were elected for the coming year.
In addition to documenting the lodge officers, the photograph also helps us understand how the lodge room was decorated in the late 1930s. In addition to three Masonic chairs, there are two flags visible and a stand with two bunches of carved grapes. These grapes are a prized possession owned by St. John’s Lodge. Formed in 1733, just after Henry Price established the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, St. John’s Lodge is the oldest duly constituted lodge in the United States. The grapes have a history of hanging outside Boston’s Bunch of Grapes tavern where St. John’s Lodge first met. The tavern opened in 1712 and played host to Henry Price when he constituted the first Masonic bodies in America. Hanging outside the tavern’s entrance, the grapes identified it at a glance to passersby.
Officers of St. John’s Lodge, 1936-1940, Boston, Massachusetts. National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Harriet Dinsmoor Parish, 2008.001.