Imposing Upon Masons, the Grand Army of the Republic, and Odd Fellows in 1898

A2022_202_001DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's blog started sixteen years ago this month, with a post about Masonic impostors. Nearly every May since then, we have returned to the topic of Masonic impostors. This year, we are doing it once again.

Although we often write about Masonic impostors, Masons were not the only fraternal group that found themselves imposed upon by people pretending to be members in order to elicit charity. Because fraternal organizations supported their members who were in need, they also became targets of either con men or those in desperate situations, who would pretend to be members and impose upon a fraternity’s inclination to be charitable.

The circular pictured here was issued in 1898 by John W. Laflin, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. The notice was likely sent to local Masonic lodges throughout the state and warns of a potential impostor – E.L. Martin, a.k.a. David C. Morgan – who claimed to be a Mason from Missouri, and may have made his way from South Dakota to Wisconsin. Laflin also notes that, in addition to pretending to be a Mason, Martin was also pretending to be a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Odd Fellows. In all three cases, Martin apparently presented himself to these three fraternal organizations for charity under false pretenses.

Notices like these were intended to warn others to be aware that they might encounter someone claiming to be a member and imposing upon a lodge’s charity. Because of this, names, lodge affiliations, and a physical description were often key to providing useful, identifiable information. While no photograph accompanies the notice, Laflin paints a vivid portrait of the Martin:

About sixty years of age, about six feet in height, slightly stooped, iron-gray beard, wart on inside corner left eye, eyes blood-shot and bulge slightly, smooth talker. Some teeth are gone causing lips to be slightly sunken.

If you want to learn more about Masonic impostors, including an answer to the question why would someone impersonate a Freemason?, be sure to check out our previous posts on Masonic imposters.

Caption:

Imposter announcement from Grand Secretary John W. Laflin, 1898 June 3. Museum purchase, A2022/202/001.


Printed Souvenirs of Lafayette's Tour of the United States

Two hundred years ago a hero of the American Revolution, the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), also known in America as General Lafayette, accepted Congress and President James

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Souvenir Glove, ca. 1824. Gift of George A. Newbury, 75.15.2.


Monroe's invitation to come from his home in France for an extended visit to the United States. When he landed at Castle Garden in New York City on August 16, 1824, throngs of well-wishers greeted Lafayette. As he made his way to City Hall accompanied by a military escort and local dignitaries, cheering admirers—estimated to number 50,000—lined the streets. The party-like atmosphere continued for the next thirteen months as Lafayette visited cities and towns in each of the twenty-four United States. During his tour Lafayette traveled to battlefields, addressed Congress, paid his respects at George Washington’s grave, participated in Masonic ceremonies, and met with friends, among them former comrades in arms and all the living U. S. Presidents. Crowds, church bells, and militias welcomed him at every turn; he was honored by a dazzling number of processions, receptions, and balls.

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Commemorative Ribbon, ca. 1824. United States. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.1403.


Many of the Americans who flocked to see Lafayette and celebrate him as a living connection to the nation's origins sought to display their affection for the hero. Some citizens wore ribbons and badges bearing Lafayette's portrait as they participated in parades and civic events.  An enterprising Boston stationer advertised ribbons adorned with Lafayette’s portrait in 1824. He described his stock as “intended to be worn as a compliment to the General.” The same year the New York City engraving firm of Durand & Wright created “an elegant likeness of the General printed on white satin ribbon, as a badge” that they retailed for 25 cents. The New-York Gazette suggested citizens wear this ribbon “as a token of respect and gratitude to the friend of Washington and our country.”

Countless ribbons (similar to the one below) were printed and worn. On September 1, 1824, Lafayette traveled to Salem, where "two hundred sailors in a neat uniform with Lafayette ribbons upon their hats, greeted the...illustrious benefactor of our country with hearty cheers...." Soon after, in Brooklyn, Lafayette witnessed a demonstration of firefighting at which "Each fireman wore the likeness of Lafayette, with the figures of an engine, on [a] satin ribbon, and the words "Welcome La Fayette, the Nation's Guest." In Boston a group of 2,500 public school students turned out to greet the hero, each with a printed ribbon "bearing a Portrait of Fayette" pinned to their dress or coat.

In addition to ribbons, consumers could purchase other festive items bearing Lafayette's image. Merchants in New Orleans, Nashville, Newport, and Raleigh advertised “Lafayette Gloves,” long for women and short for men, that came from New York—the epicenter of Lafayette-inspired souvenirs and fashions. Dry goods sellers offered sashes, handkerchiefs, cravats, and printed yard goods, all bearing Lafayette’s likeness, to the public. This man's glove (above), an example of one of several styles available to Lafayette fans, bears the legend “Lafayette the Companion of Washington” and "Republican."

Lafayette’s journey through the United States prompted an outpouring of affection for the hero and sparked patriotism throughout the nation. Come learn more about the hero's tour and see these and other souvenirs at an exhibition in the reading room of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. "Lafayette: The Nation's Guest" is on view now through September 13, 2024. 

 

References:

"From the New-York Gazette," Hancock Gazette (Belfast, ME), August 25, 1824, 3.

"Reception in Salem," Knoxville Register (Knoxville, TN), September 24, 1824, 2.

"Friend of Washington," American Statesman and City Register (Boston, MA), September 14, 1824, 2.

 

Auguste Levasseur, Alan R. Hoffman, translator, Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825 (Manchester, NH: Lafayette Press Inc., 2006)

 

 

 

 


The Lexington Alarm letter - on view and online in 2024!



Lexington alarm letterEach year during the celebration of Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts state holiday, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library proudly displays an original copy of the Lexington Alarm letter—one of several letters created by the colonists to inform other colonies about the Battle of Lexington and the outbreak of war with England. It gives contemporary viewers a close-up look at the beginning of the American Revolution.

The original alarm letter was written by Joseph Palmer just hours after the Battle of Lexington, which took place around daybreak on April 19, 1775. Palmer, a member of the Committee of Safety in Watertown, Massachusetts, near Lexington, had his letter copied by recipients along the Committee of Safety's network. Using this system, the message was distributed far and wide. While the original alarm letter written by Palmer is thought to be lost, the Museum & Library has in its collection this version of his famous description of what happened, which was copied the day after the Battle of Lexington by Daniel Tyler, Jr., of Connecticut.

The letter will be on view at the Museum from April 9 - 27, 2024. (Check the museum's website for specific days and times that we're open.)

In addition to seeing the letter in person, you can also view our online exhibition, “'To all the Friends of American Liberty': The 1775 Lexington Alarm Letter,” which is available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. This exhibition takes a close look at the Lexington Alarm letter that is in the Museum & Library's collection.

Caption:
Lexington Alarm Letter, [April 20, 1775], Daniel Tyler, Jr. (about 1750–1832), copyist, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Museum purchase, A1995/011/1. 


Dr. John Warren's Medical Trunk

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Trunk, 1770-1815. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2055. Photograph by David Bohl.

This leather and wood trunk decorated with brass studs is thought to have belonged to Dr. John Warren (1753-1815) of Massachusetts. Its side handles and manageable size (11-7/8” x 13-1/2” x 24-1/2") made it both portable and practical. Through the service of its dynamic owner, this trunk may have seen military action during the American Revolutionary War.

Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, Dr. John Warren was the younger brother of Dr. Joseph Warren, whose death at the Battle of Bunker Hill made him a martyr to the Patriot cause. John Warren studied medicine at Harvard, graduating in 1771. He became a surgeon with a militia regiment commanded by Colonel Timothy Pickering in 1772 and in that capacity, responded to the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775.

In 1775, Warren was practicing medicine in Salem, Massachusetts. He traveled with his regiment to the various battles in which he was involved. Like many Massachusetts militia members who were called out for the Lexington Alarm, Warren remained in the Boston area into the month of May. Warren likely brought his own medical supplies with him when he traveled. He owned two amputation kits. Based on the dimensions of these amputation kits, both items could have been carried inside this trunk.

By June 1775, Warren had returned home to Salem and received news of the start of the Battle of Bunker Hill. He hurried down to Cambridge in the early hours of the following morning to treat wounded soldiers. At the same time, Warren fretted about his brother Joseph who had fought during the battle. At one point, Warren left the medical area in Cambridge and went to Bunker Hill to find his brother, asking any and all soldiers he encountered about Joseph’s whereabouts. One of these was a British sentry, and Warren received a bayonet wound to his side in response to his inquiry. Unfortunately, Joseph “fell on the field,” as John later wrote in his diary.

His fervor for the Patriot cause and his brother’s death motivated Warren. According to Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, “He enjoyed helping repulse the raid at Lechmere Point, and, case in hand [emphasis mine], took his post on Cobble Hill at night hoping for another Bunker Hill.” The “case” mentioned in this quote was likely a medical case, possibly this trunk. Cobble Hill was a colonist-fortified hill in Charlestown with an excellent view of Boston Harbor. Warren may have carried his medical supplies in this trunk during the early days of the Revolutionary War when the action was focused in Massachusetts.

It's also possible that Warren brought this trunk with him when the action moved away from Massachusetts. The nascent Continental Army struggled to provide uniforms, firearms, and other supplies to its soldiers. Warren’s medical tools and supplies would have been highly valued and were likely brought with him when he left for New York in May 1776, after the British evacuated from Boston.

Warren later served as Surgeon General of the army hospitals in Long Island, New York and Bethlehem, New Jersey in 1776. In the latter location, he – and possibly this trunk – saw action at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton. Warren also participated in the Rhode Island campaign in 1778, perhaps due to his 1777 marriage to Abigail Collins, the daughter of Rhode Island Governor John Collins.

Dr. John Warren was a knowledgeable and dedicated surgeon, who put his medical skills to use in service of the American cause. This trunk, both substantial enough to hold needed medical supplies and portable enough to carry into battle, is an apt symbol of his service.


50th Anniversary of Cornerstone Laying of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

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This March marks the fiftieth anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts. The ceremony took place just a little more than a year before the museum opened to the public. Much to our delight, a 15-minute film of the March 10, 1974 event was made and still exists today in our Library & Archives collection.

The Museum & Library recently had this 16mm film of the event digitized and you can now watch the entire 15-minute film here.

The 1974 Proceedings of the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, included a description of the ceremony:

A little more than a year after the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Museum and Library complex occurred, the gray granite cornerstone, gift of the Scottish Rite Masons of New Hampshire, was placed officially with ancient ceremonies conducted by the officers of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, with Grand Master Donald W. Vose presiding.

Some 400 participants and spectators were on hand on a clear but blustery Sunday afternoon for these traditional cornerstone exercises. Active and Emeriti Members of the Supreme Council, who had been in Boston on the preceding days for the Mid-winter Executive Session, served as hosts for the occasion…


Photo 39 for webIn addition to Masonic dignitaries, the ceremony also included representatives of the Town of Lexington, as well as Hugh Shepley from the architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott, and Walter Creelman from Turner Construction Company.

Preceding the outside cornerstone laying event, Donald Vose, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, gave remarks in the museum's unfinished lobby. Forty-six “distinguished Masonic guests,” as well as many representatives of the Supreme Council all placed “selected items to be preserved for posterity in the cornerstone box. A wide selection of historical documents and Masonic memorabilia and artifacts were sealed inside the cornerstone…” A list of the contents of the box was printed in the 1974 Proceedings of the Supreme Council.

Following the outdoor cornerstone laying ceremony, the guests reassembled in the lobby, where Sovereign Grand Commander George A. Newbury, 33° delivered remarks. Newbury was the visionary and driving force behind the founding of the museum. In a speech he delivered at the 1972 Annual Session of the Supreme Council, Newbury spoke of his vision:

Our objective is to set up at Lexington a museum and a library devoted primarily to the visual and auditory presentation of facets of American History which will stimulate a lively interest in it and an appreciation of the tremendous achievements of those who founded our Country, established her form of government, developed her institutions and economy, and performed the miracle of bringing her from a scattered group of weak and struggling colonies to a place of World leadership in the phenomenally short period of two hundred years.

...We plan to tell a thrilling story--the story of America.

Were you at the cornerstone laying event or otherwise involved with the founding of the Scottish Rite Museum & Library? We’d love to hear from you!

Captions:

Photo 29, Museum and Library cornerstone laying photograph album, 1974, Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., A1992-175-001

Photo 39, Museum and Library cornerstone laying photograph album, 1974, Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., A1992-175-001


In a Portrait Studio, Worn with Pride: Prince Hall Freemasonry, Order of Eastern Star, and Real Photo Postcards in the Early Twentieth Century

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In celebration of Black History Month and the long history of Prince Hall Freemasonry, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library wanted to highlight a striking new acquisition of a real photo postcard of a Black man standing between two women, with all three wearing Masonic regalia. The man wears a dark suit with a jewel of office pinned on his chest and a Past Master’s apron—identifiable by the common motif of a square and compass with the legs of the compass connected by an arc. The two women are in white dresses, white high heeled shoes, and white stockings. The younger woman, to the right of the man, wears two sashes, one on either shoulder. The one on the left shoulder is more visible, with a band of color running through it, a cockade on the top. The other sash is less visible, although the darker colored folds are clear to see by her waist near the hem of her dress. Any identifying features of the regalia are difficult to discern. Do these sashes mark her as a member of the Order of Eastern Star? The older woman, to the left of the man, was clearly a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, as evidenced by her five-color star apron. Though the picture is black and white, the red, blue, yellow, green, and white in the star are easy to visualize. With her proudly displayed apron, she also wears a necklace, earrings, and a white pin in her hair.

The postcard has no date, no location, nor any hint to the identities of the three people in the photograph. Was this a man and his wife and mother or daughter? Was this a family demonstrating their Masonic pride? The postcard was never sent and was likely kept as a keepsake or handed physically to its intended audience. Postcards were widely popular at the end of the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century in America. In 1913, almost one billion postcards were in sent in the United States, almost ten times the population at that time. Real photo postcards, like the one seen here, were produced on photographic paper with postcard backs. This postcard is undoubtedly a studio portrait—the upper right-hand corner gives a glimpse of the hanging backdrop—that was then printed on photographic postcard stock.

Using the Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography, by Robert Bogdan and Todd Weseloh, we were able to estimate the age of the postcard using the distinct design on the back. Bogdan and Weseloh studied thousands of postcard backs to determine the earliest known date and years that the design of the back was in use by manufacturers. This postcard was manufactured by Eastman Kodak Company, which you can tell by the letters AZO surrounding the area for the stamp. The back of the postcard is divided between correspondence and address, which the United States Postal Service allowed after 1907, and the small black squares on the corner of the stamp box are all signifiers that this style of postcard was produced mainly in the 1930s by Eastman Kodak Company.

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Though not much is known about the three people in the postcard, the family’s clear pride in their Masonic brotherhood and sisterhood shines through the small photograph and gives a glimpse into Prince Hall Freemasonry and Order of Eastern Star in the early twentieth century. Can you help us identify anyone in this real photo postcard? Do you know what the women’s sashes on the right represent? Please comment below if you have any insight!

Photo Caption

Postcard portraying African American Freemason and two women with regalia, 1930-1939, Museum purchase, A2023/168/001.

References

Bogdan, Robert and Todd Weseloh. Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2006.


A Photograph of Royal Arch Mason Marcus L. Young Taken by George N. Burley

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Marcus L. Young, ca. 1871. George Newton Burley (1847-1919), Taylorville, Illinois. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.62.

Around 1870 a young photographer, George Newton Burley, took this portrait of a fellow resident of Taylorville, Illinois. An inscription inked on the bottom edge of the image names the subject of the portrait, M. L. Young. The richly decorated sash and apron, and the badge suspended from the collar of his coat, document Young’s involvement in Royal Arch Freemasonry.

Born in Kentucky, Young (ca. 1824-1890) likely moved to Illinois as a teenager. In 1865 a state census taker noted that Young engaged in the trade of harness and saddle making and lived in Taylorville with his family. Where and when Young first became a Freemason is not known. It is possible that he belonged to the Masonic lodge in Taylorville, Mound Lodge No. 122. His brother, Asbury A. Young (ca. 1829-1894), received his degrees at Mound Lodge No. 122 in 1852, the same year that the lodge received its charter.  In late 1866 or early 1867, M. L. Young took the Royal Arch degree at Taylorville Chapter No. 102. There, as noted in the Grand Chapter’s Proceedings, he joined 25 members of the new chapter. Royal Arch Masons in the area had established the chapter the previous year. Starting in 1867, Young filled the office of Tyler at the chapter.  In this role, he would have been charged with guarding the door during meetings. He may have received payment for undertaking this duty. The Grand Chapter’s Proceedings note that Young held this position in 1868, 1869, and 1870. It is possible that he served in this position after 1870. Starting in 1871 the Grand Chapter stopped publishing the names of all chapter officers in its Proceedings, so information about Young's roles at the chapter after that time is harder to come by.

In this portrait taken by George Burley, Young appears to wear the jewel of a High Priest—the presiding officer of a Royal Arch Chapter. The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Illinois did not record Young as holding this office in its Proceedings from 1867 through 1890.  However, in 1871, the High Priest and Secretary of Taylorville Chapter were, unusually, not recorded in the Grand Chapter’s Proceedings. It is possible that Young served as presiding officer of his chapter during that year.

If Young had filled that role, he may have wanted to commemorate this achievement with a portrait. George N. Burley (also spelled Burleigh, 1847-1919), born in Rosedale, Illinois, established himself as a photographer in Taylorville around 1870. When seeking to have his portrait taken Young selected Burley for the job. The image that Burley took has endured to the present day, capturing Young in his Royal Arch regalia.        

 

References:

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois…1852 (Peoria, Illinois: T. J. Pickett, 1852), 1852.

Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois, 1867-1871 (Springfield, Illinois: Harman G. Reynolds and Chicago, Illinois: Horton & Leonard), 1867-1871.   

Richard E. Hart, Springfield, Illinois' Nineteenth Century Photographers (1845-1900) (Spring Creek Series, 2014 Edition), 69-86.

 

Many thanks to Jodi Lloyd of the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Stephanie Martin  of Lincoln Library, Springfield, Illinois.


John P. French's Masonic Powder Horn

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Masonic Powder Horn, 1750-1830. John P. French. Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.10

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library holds nearly two dozen powder horns in its collection. Some are from the era of the American Revolutionary War and bear carvings that reflect that use; some feature carvings of Masonic symbols. This unusual double powder horn is particularly intriguing because it exhibits both types of carvings.

Powder horns, made from animal horn (often cow or oxen), were used by soldiers in the field to keep gunpowder dry and secure. The holes at the tips of the horns were used to pour powder into a paper cartridge or directly into the barrel of a musket. Many were carved with designs that were meaningful specifically to the owner. The words “John P. French His Horn” are carved into the surface, identifying this horn’s owner. On this fascinating object, French showcased his Masonic affiliation, his interest in slogans, and possibly his personal hobbies.

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Masonic Powder Horn, 1750-1830. John P. French. Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.10

One of the slogans that appears on the horn is “Don’t Tread On Me” above a snake. This phrase was first used in South Carolina in 1775 by Christopher Gadsden, then-Lieutenant Governor of the state. It was inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s 1754 “Join or Die” political cartoon showing the colonies as pieces of a snake, indicating that union between the British colonies was necessary for survival. The slogan became well-known after it was used on naval flags during the Revolutionary War. Another phrase that adorns French’s horn is “Freedom and Victory.” While there is no one known usage of this slogan, the ideals align with the goals of the American Revolutionary War.

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Masonic Powder Horn, 1750-1830. John P. French. Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.10

The majority of the carvings on this double powder horn are connected to Freemasonry, perhaps a sign that the fraternity and its teachings held special meaning to French. The slogan “Cemented with Love” appears, which refers to the tight bonds that Masons encourage and enjoy with their brethren. In this apron in the museum’s collection, another Mason has chosen the same phrase to decorate his regalia.

Along with this Masonic slogan, French applied around two dozen symbols from the teachings of Freemasonry to his horn. Some symbols are common to all forms of Freemasonry, such as a trowel, a gavel, a coffin, a beehive, and two pillars called Boaz and Jachin. One is a stone archway often represented in Royal Arch Freemasonry, the first four degrees of the York Rite. This arch is topped by a figure identified as “Hiram.” Hiram Abiff is a significant character in Freemasonry’s third degree.

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Masonic Powder Horn, 1750-1830. John P. French. Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.10

In addition to symbols representing his political and Masonic interests, French also carved what appears to be a hunting scene, featuring a dog, a bird, a deer, a mountain lion, and a man holding a rifle. Perhaps these symbols reflect a pre-war activity.

Unfortunately, even with the helpful addition of a middle initial, the name “John French” was so common at the time of the Revolutionary War that we cannot establish the owner’s identity from military records. French appears to have been a member of the fraternity, but we cannot ascertain to which Masonic lodge he belonged. While we do not know where John P. French lived or very much about him, the symbols he chose to carve on his powder horn give us a sense of what he valued.


Portraits of Two Members of Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343, Independent Order of Odd Fellows

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Portrait, 1851-1857. Thomas H. Newcomer (ca. 1827-1896), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 96.027.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

Sometime between 1851 and 1857, two members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343 had their portraits taken by daguerreotypist Thomas H. Newcomer (ca. 1827-1896) of Philadelphia. Though the subjects of these portraits in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library are unidentified, the images offer clues about the circumstances under which their portraits were taken.

An impression in the velvet-covered inner covers of the cases of these photographs reads “T. H. Newcomer 316 N. Second St. Philada.” This mark helped identify the artist who took these photographs. According to directory listings, Newcomer pursued his business at 316 N. Second St. from about 1851 to about 1857. In 1852 a newspaper advertisement extolled Newcomer’s virtues to readers, encouraging them to: “Remember the merits of Newcomer’s pictures…Newcomer, who takes such fine portraits. Newcomer, who has a fine reputation as an artist. Newcomer, whose prices are cheap. Newcomer, who is very celebrated.”

The subjects of the photographs are posed in the same manner at the same studio. Each is seated on a chair facing the camera in front of a plain background, resting one elbow on a small table covered with a light-colored textile woven with a dark floral pattern. Both wear similar regalia, a dark collar trimmed with bullion and decorated with light-colored stylized leaves, flowers, and vines, along with a light-colored apron trimmed with ribbon and bullion. At the center of each apron is painted a five-pointed star, a banner bearing the lodge’s name, and a lodge number, “No. 343,” in reverse. Through the combination of the lodge number and the legible letters of the name visible in the portraits, the lodge associated with these aprons appears to be Independent Order of Odd Fellows Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343. Warranted in 1849, this lodge met in Philadelphia.

Regulations outlined in I. O. O. F.: Digest of the Laws of the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows, published in Philadelphia in 1848 (reproduced in “A Secret Society Exposed: Daguerreotypes of American Odd Fellows,” cited below), detailed how, with their regalia, Odd Fellows conveyed to one another information about the degrees they had achieved and the offices they held in the organization. For example, a Noble Grand (the presiding officer of an Odd Fellows’ lodge) was identified by a “Scarlet collar, trim’d with white or silver.” The same

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Portrait, 1851-1857. Thomas H. Newcomer (ca. 1827-1896), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 96.027.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

regulations noted that a Past Grand (a past presiding officer) could wear a “Scarlet collar…and aprons, either White trimmed with Scarlet or Scarlet trimmed with White.” These regulations also noted the symbols associated with the identifying badges, called jewels, worn by each officer. The jewel of a Past Grand took the shape of a star with five points.  

Although the subjects of Newcomer’s two portraits are not identified and do not wear jewels of office, it is very likely that they were past presiding officers of their lodge. In the portraits, they wear collars in the colors recommended for the office. The aprons in which they chose to be portrayed are also in the colors outlined for Past Grands and the star featured at the center of each of these aprons was a symbol associated with the office. It is very possible these photographs were taken to memorialize the status of these members of Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343 as former leaders of the group. The direct gazes of both men and their carefully held poses hint at the pride that they may have felt as leaders among their brethren.

 

 

References:

“Markets,” Sunday Dispatch (Philadelphia, PA), 1/25/1852, page 2.

Michael P. Musick, “A Secret Society Exposed: Daguerreotypes of American Odd Fellows,” The Daguerreian Annual 2009/2010, 2011, 173-210.

 

Thank you to:

Robert Brown, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library research volunteer

Justin Bailey, Grand Secretary, Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows


The Independent Order of St. Luke: Black Fraternal History

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired a collection of forty-one receipts cards from the Independent Order of St. Luke, a Black fraternal organization. This collection, titled “Lucy Garnett Independent Order of St Luke receipt card collection, 1941-1953,” demonstrates the vibrancy of the Independent Order of St. Luke—best remembered for the longest running independently Black-owned bank in the United States. Maggie L. Walker, the famous revitalizer of the Independent Order of St. Luke, was the first Black woman bank founder in the United States, and for several decades was the only Black women bank president. She was also the only woman leading a major Black fraternal organization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A2023_155_001DS9

The Independent Order of St. Luke, originally named the Grand United Order of St. Luke, was founded by Mary Prout in 1867 in Baltimore, Marland. When the Grand United Order of St. Luke spread to Virginia in 1869, a faction split off from Prout’s original order to form the Independent Order of the Sons and Daughters of St. Luke. The schism was brought on by objection to the requirement of turning over fifty cents of each initiation fee to Mary Prout. In 1877, William M. T. Forrester, who was also the Grand Master of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, created a new ritual for the Independent Order of the Sons and Daughters of St. Luke. Under Forrester’s leadership, the order would first flourish and then nearly collapse due to financial mismanagement. On the brink of bankruptcy in 1899, Maggie Walker took over, and within a year doubled the size of the order and set it on its path to great success.

Maggie Walker joined the organization in Richmond in 1881 and by the time she graduated high school, Walker was already the secretary of her council and had been elected a delegate to the 1883 convention. In the late 1880s, she started the highly successful Juvenile Department of the Independent Order of St. Luke. Under her leadership, the order started their fraternal newspaper, opened a local department store to provide employment for Black women, and founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Walker served as the leader of the Independent Order of St. Luke until her death in 1934. Two years later, her daughter-in-law, Hattie N. F. Walker took over the position and led the order until 1957. Although the Independent Order of St. Luke was never a national order, at its peak the order had over 100,000 members in twenty-six states. 

The recently acquired “Lucy Garnett Independent Order of St Luke receipt card collection, 1941-1953” demonstrates this rich history of the order. The receipt cards were all sent to Lucy Garnett in Steelton, Pennsylvania, who remained a part of the Bowling Green Council, No. 1103, located in Bowling Green, Virginia. The receipts reflect payments for postage, assessments, tax, etc. and include the signature of Hattie N. F. Walker, who was serving as Right Worthy Grand Secretary of the Right Worthy Grand Council of the Independent Order of St. Luke. While most of the 41 receipt cards bear Walker’s stamped signature, two have Walker’s actual signature.

Lucy Garnett lived in Bowling Green, Virginia until sometime before 1940 when she moved to Steelton, Pennsylvania—potentially when her husband died, and she moved into her child’s home. Despite moving to Pennsylvania, Garnett continued to be heavily involved in the Bowling Green Council, No. 1103, in Virginia until 1953.


Selections from W. J. Slys_Independent order of st lukeThis collection aligns with a similar 2023 library acquisition of a book titled Selections from W. J. Sly’s World Stories Retold for Library of Juvenile Department I. O. of St. Luke, published by the St. Luke’s Press at the St. Luke headquarters in Richmond, Virginia in August 1926. This book contains several fables, folk tables, and American historical stories which were selected by Maggie Walker, who at that time was the Right Worthy Grand Matron of the St. Luke Juvenile Department, from W. J. Sly’s World Stories Retold. This book and the archival collection serve to represent the diversity and breadth of Black fraternal organizations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and showcase the lasting impact of the Independent Order of St. Luke.

Caption:
Receipt card, 1949, Lucy Garnett Independent Order of St Luke receipt card collection, 1941-1953, Museum purchase, A2023-155-001.
Selections from W. J. Sly’s World Stories Retold for Libraries of Juvenile Department I. O. of St. Luke, Museum purchase.

Resources:
Marlowe, Gertrude Woodruff. A Right Worthy Grand Mission : Maggie Lena Walker and the Quest for Black Economic Empowerment. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 2003.