Pollie and James Henry Thomas and the Household of Ruth

Pollie Thomas postcard
Pollie Thomas, 1908-1914, Benjamin Ami Blakemore (1846-1932), Staunton, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, A2018/053/005.

Pencil inscriptions on the back of these two photographs in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives identify that they portray Pollie Thomas (1888-1976) (at left) and her husband, James Henry Thomas (1869-1929) (at left, below). The Thomases lived in Staunton, Virginia. A copy of the "By-laws and Rules of Order Rose of Sharon Household of Ruth," published in 1915, signed "Sister Pollie Thomas," shows that Pollie Thomas belonged to this organization. A further inscription on the back of her portrait notes that she held the office of “Worthy Recorder,” or secretary, of the group.

Membership in the Household of Ruth was open to wives, daughters, and other relations of men who belonged to the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. Based in England, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows granted a charter to a group of Black men who wished to form a lodge in New York in 1843. In the United States, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was an African American organization.

Established in the United States in 1858, the Household of Ruth was a women’s auxiliary associated with the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. The organization granted degrees to both men and women. The group that Pollie Thomas belonged to, Rose of Sharon, No. 79, received its warrant in 1876. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Staunton, King Hiram No. 1463, where Pollie’s husband was likely a member, received its charter a few years before, in 1871. When he died in 1929, James Henry Thomas’s obituary noted that the Odd Fellows, the Household of Ruth, and the Lilly of the Valley Lodge of Elks, No. 171 conducted portions of his funeral service.

More examples of archival material related to African American fraternal groups in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives can be viewed here, on our digital collections site.

References:

"Thomas Funeral," The News Leader (Staunton, VA), 7/13/1929, 2.

Charles H. Brooks, The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America (Philadelphia, PA: Odd Fellows Print Journal, 1902), 115, 141.

 

Henry Thomas postcard
James Henry Thomas, 1907-1929, J.A. Haack, Washington, D.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, A2018/053/007.

 


Masonic Souvenirs from Jerusalem

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Box with Masonic Wheat, Wine and Oil, ca. 1887. Jerusalem. Gift of Alvin Frank Appel, 85.90.

In Freemasonry, corn or grain, wine, and oil symbolize prosperity, health, and peace. They are considered a Freemason’s “wages” or “wages of nourishment” and are featured in Masonic degrees. Masons often use corn, wine, and oil in building consecration ceremonies. The grain, wine, and oil pictured here are housed in a wooden box.  The box was made in Jerusalem.  It is accompanied by a card of authentication from the U.S. Consulate. The printed card, dated January 19, 1887, is signed by U.S. Consul Henry Gillman (1833-1915) and reads “I certify that the wine and oil forwarded to John Worthington Esq. U.S. Consul at Malta were made in Jerusalem, that the wheat was raised here, and that the leather bottles are such as used here and were made in this country. The wine is known as Jerusalem wine and is seven years old.”

In the late 1800s, souvenirs from the Holy Land--an area important to many faiths that encompasses the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea--enjoyed great popularity. Affluent Americans, taking advantage of steamship travel and few restrictions on foreign travel, embarked on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. These tourists went in search of adventure and to claim both spiritual and physical pieces of the Holy Land for themselves.

The construction of Solomon’s Temple is central to Masonic ritual.  Some Freemasons who traveled to the Holy Land collected stones or

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Box, 1860. Boston and Jerusalem. Gift of Hammatt Lodge, Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4583a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

other objects from sacred sites and boxed them up for their own personal collections or as gifts for their home lodges. One such Mason, Jerome Van Crowninshield Smith (1800-1879) of Boston, broke off a piece of white limestone from Mount Moriah on an 1851 trip to Jerusalem and later presented it to Hammatt Lodge in Boston, of which he was a founding member. According to an inscription engraved on the box’s lid, Smith believed the stone to be part of the “foundation stones on which stood the renowned Temple of Solomon.”

Do you have similar souvenirs from Jerusalem? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 


Masonic Marks: Lost and Found

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Royal Arch Mason, 1886-1897. John B. Scholl (1857-1924), Chicago, Illinois. Museum Purchase, 97.031.4.

From the middle of the 1800s and through the early 1900s, many well-dressed Freemasons wore fobs that bore the mark that they had selected as part of receiving the Mark Degree. Others sported fobs engraved with not only their mark, but also the names of the different Masonic bodies they belonged to, along with the dates they had joined. The Royal Arch Mason here (at left), wears a keystone-shaped mark as a fob attached to his watch chain, along with a rich red velvet collar and apron, embroidered in gold.

Small, valuable, and connected to a watch chain with only a ring or hook, the fob style of Masonic marks worn by the subject of this portrait, and similar fobs, did get lost or were stolen. Countless advertisements and snippets from newspapers, hint at how frequently these items went astray--and at how much their owners wished for their return.

In 1856, Jason R. Hanna, staying at the Lima House in Lima, Ohio, advertised that his "MASONIC MARK made of gold in the shape of a Key Stone, with a locket enclosure, was lost or STOLEN." For its return he offered a $5 reward "and NO QUESTIONS ASKED." A few years later, newspapers reported on the return of a Masonic mark, "in the shape of a Maltese cross, of solid gold," that had belonged to Col. T. S. Martin, a Union solider that had died at Manassas, to his widow in Philadelphia. Thaddeus Miller, a Mississippi soldier, had retrieved the mark and, after many months, it was delivered to Mrs. Martin.

The same year, in 1868, an advertisement in The Evening Telegraph of Philadelphia sought the owner of "a silver watch and a gold Masonic mark, bearing the inscription, 'Girard Mark Lodge, No. 214'" that had been stolen by an escaped convict called George Black.  Another Philadelphia paper told the story of an unlucky man named John Matsinger who, in 1894, lost his watch, chain, and gold Masonic mark after being drugged at Arthur Chamber's saloon. A policeman intercepted the thief while he was trying to pawn Matsinger's property, and it was restored to its owner.

Another observant police officer received a reward of "a bank note of substantial value and an imported cigar" when he returned a lost Masonic mark decorated with diamonds to its owner, W. L. Marsh of Pittsburgh. Marsh, upon having his mark restored to him explained that "he valued it highly" as the fob had been given to him by his employees.  He rated it "without price...for its associations."

An even more remarkable story of a mark returned to its owner was that of the mark that belonged to Rev. Dr. H. Franklin Schlegel. Around 1911, Rev. Schlegel visited his family's farm at Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, and "inspected the big flock of Plymouth Rocks" in the chicken coops. During this visit he wore, "Suspended from his watch chain...his Masonic mark, representing the Blue Lodge, the Chapter, Commandery, Consistory or 32nd degree...." As he examined the chickens "the charm, fell to the ground" only to be eaten by one of the hens, though the bird that ate it could not be identified. Three years later, Dr. Schlegel's gold and diamond mark was discovered during excavation at the farm "in the old hen yard." After a small repair to the damaged enamel, the delighted Dr. Schlegel resumed wearing his fob.

If you have an interesting story about a lost or found Masonic mark or jewel, tell us about it in the comments below.

 

References:

"Lost or Stolen!," The Times-Democrat (Lima, OH), 5/3/1856, 3.

"A Masonic mark...," The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX), 12/9/1868, 1.

"An Owner Wanted," The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, PA), 7/18/1868, 8.

"Knocked Out," The Times (Philadelphia, PA), 8/4/1894, 6.

"Policeman Found Fine Masonic Mark," The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), 5/8/1906, 8.

"Dr. Schlegel Recovers Long-Lost Masonic Mark," Mount Carmel Item (Mount Carmel, PA), 7/25/1914, 1.


Square and Compasses in Wax

74_1_53DP1DB A square and compasses with a G at the center is one of the most identifiable symbols in Freemasonry. The square and compasses represent reason and faith. The letter G in the center stands for God, geometry, or both. This symbol was and is still used on all types of objects, from furniture and ceramics to textiles and jewelry. Artisans and craftsmen portrayed the symbol from a number of different materials,  including the modeled wax paper flowers illustrated here.

This example in the Museum collection is a wax flower composition crafted in 1890 by Chrissie Taisey Whitehill (1855-1937) of Vermont. Whitehill was married to John F. Whitehill (1844-1912), a member of Pulaski Lodge No. 58 in Wells River, Vermont. She mounted her wax flower creation on black velvet and likely made it to memorialize an–as yet–unidentified member of the fraternity. 

In the Victorian era, wax flowers enjoyed immense popularity as decorative elements included in ornamental household wares, personal accessories, and memorial or mourning pieces. Most often crafted by women, wax flower modelling was "a gendered and class-linked accomplishment, promoted as a welcome activity for women of social standing or pretension to social standing."

 Making wax paper flowers was an intricate process in which makers first disassembled a real flower, tracing each component on paper. They then used those pieces as templates to create paper petals which were carefully cut out, shaped to achieve a realistic look, and glued or wired onto stems. The flowers were often finished by applying wax on each petal. By the 1850s, manufacturers also produced wax flower kits and models with ready-made flower parts that could be shaped and assembled. Do you have a family heirloom made with wax flowers? Let us know in the comments below.

Caption:

Square and Compasses, 1890. Chrissie Taisey Whitehill, South Ryegate, Vermont. Gift of the Supreme Council, 33º, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 74.1.53. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Elegant Arts for Ladies: Comprising Bead Work, Bead and Bugle Work, Calisthenic Exercises... (London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1856), 184-197.

Ann B. Shteir, "'Fac-Similes of Nature": Victorian Wax Flower Modelling," Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 35, no. 2, 2007: 649-661.


Magic Lanterns and Snow Balls

2008_023_129DS1"The Snow Ball--1. 'Joe made a ball as big as an orange.'" 1895-1925. A. D. Handy Stereopticons and Supplies, Boston, MA. Gift of Anne R. Berntsen, 2008.023.129.

The holidays are here! At this time of year we seek shelter from the cold, staying indoors with loved ones, comfort foods, and, of course, entertainment. In 2020, that last item often comes in the form of glowing images on a screen—but did you know that over a hundred years ago, things weren’t so different as you might imagine? 

In the late 1800s, a device known as the magic lantern was used in American households as well as at schools, churches, and other venues. Also called stereopticons, magic lanterns earned their more common moniker by dazzling audiences with glowing projected images. These machines were invented in the late 1600s. The technology developed and the device became easier to use over the next two centuries. Here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we have a number of these early slide projectors—many Masonic lodges used magic lanterns to deliver lectures. You may see examples and read more about their fascinating and varied history at our online exhibition Illuminating Brotherhood: Magic Lanterns and Slides from the Collection.

2008_023_130DS1"The Snow Ball--2. 'And the farther it went the bigger it grew.'" 1895-1925. A. D. Handy Stereopticons and Supplies, Boston, MA. Gift of Anne R. Berntsen, 2008.023.130.

Many types of slides and programs were developed to use with magic lanterns. By the late 1800s their production—largely focused in the northeastern U.S.—was booming, with slides being made for every imaginable purpose, from advertising and entertainment to educational presentations offered in schools, public lecture halls, churches, and fraternal organizations. Some slides featured photographs while others bore hand-colored images. Many told humorous stories with successive images and accompanying text. For example, "The Snow Ball", three slides of which are pictured here, illustrates the amusing hijinks of a group of boys whose snow creation wreaks havoc on a country town. A long-lived Boston stereopticon company named A. D. Handy produced these slides. You may view the rest of the riotous story of the snow ball, as well as more magic lantern slides produced by this company and others, at our Flickr page

 

2008_023_136DS1"The Snow Ball--8. It was Darwin's latest, 'The Descent of Man!'" 1895-1925. A. D. Handy Stereopticons and Supplies, Boston, MA. Gift of Anne R. Berntsen, 2008.023.136.

Do you have any magic lantern stories to share, or perhaps slides or projectors in your attic? Let us know in the comments section below! As always, we invite you to visit our other online exhibitions and explore our collections online. Happy holidays!

 

 


Digital Collections Highlight: Theodore Gleghorn's 1921 Master Mason certificate

A2019_124_001DS1_web                                                                                                                                                             Theodore Gleghorn's Master Mason certificate is just one of many documents available in the African American Freemasonry & Fraternalism collection at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. Hermon Lodge No. 21 issued this Master Mason certificate (above) to Gleghorn (1890-1978). The certificate is dated October 10, 1921, and signed by Hermon Lodge’s Worshipful Master Charles Murdock and Secretary P. B. French. Located in Sparta, Illinois, Hermon Lodge No. 21 was chartered in 1875 by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient & Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois.

Detail_of_A2019_124_001DS1_webWhat makes Gleghorn's Masonic certificate so different from the many hundreds of Masonic certificates in our collection is that it includes a photograph of the certificate's owner (at right), embossed with Hermon Lodge's seal. This, in addition to the lodge officers' signatures, and Gleghorn's own signature, helped prove the document's authenticity if Gleghorn presented it to a lodge where he was not known.

Seeing Theodore Gleghorn's portrait on the certificate makes one wonder - who was he? What do we know about him? According to the WWI registration card that Gleghorn filled out in 1917, he was born in Cutler, Illinois in 1890. In 1917, the Wilson Bros. Coal Co., in Sparta, Illinois, employed him as a miner. The 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses also show that Gleghorn continued to work in the coal mining industry. Around 1947, Gleghorn moved north to Springfield, Illinois, where he was employed by the State Division of Local Health Services. He worked there for at least twenty-five years. A 1971 newsletter published by the Illinois Department of Health includes an article and photograph showing that Gleghorn and other long-serving employees had been honored as members of the Illinois Department of Public Health's "Quarter Century Club."

Gleghorn was married to Emma L. (Britton) Gleghorn (1907-1980) and they had a son, Emmett D. Gleghorn (1933-1987). If you know more about Theodore Gleghorn's Masonic involvement or any other details about his life, we would love to hear from you. Just post a comment below or contact us through our website.

Caption:
Prince Hall Master Mason certificate issued by Hermon Lodge, No. 21, to Theodore Gleghorn, 1921. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2019/124/001.


The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World

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Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World Jacket, 1952-2011. Mr. Leggs and Fraternal Supplies, Inc., New London, Ohio. Museum Purchase, 2019.013.8. Photograph by Julia Featheringill

Founded in 1897, the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World (IBPOE of W), is an African American fraternal order that offered leadership training, professional networking opportunities, and social fellowship to members. Modeled on the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE), the IBPOE of W operated in the same principles of charity, justice, brotherly love, and fidelity. In addition, founders Arthur James Riggs (1855-1936) and Benjamin Franklin Howard (1860-1918), both members of other fraternal organizations, established the IBPOE of W to advocate for “the expression of ideals, services and leadership in the black struggle for freedom and opportunity.”

In support of that mission, the group formed a number of "departments," including a Civil Liberties Department in 1926, to actively coordinate campaigns against segregation and for equal civil and political rights. In its first thirty years, the IBPOE of W experienced problems with factionalism, copyright, and incorporation issues in various states, as well as a number of legal conflicts with the all white Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Despite this turbulent beginning, the still-active IBPOE of W became one of the largest African American fraternal organizations in North America, with lodges in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

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Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World Jacket, 1952-2011. Mr. Leggs and Fraternal Supplies, Inc., New London, Ohio. Museum Purchase, 2019.013.8. Photograph by Julia Featheringill

To show the pride in their association with the IBPOE of W, some members wore street clothes decorated with symbols of their fraternity. Fraternal Supplies, Inc. in New London, Ohio, which operated until 2011, embroidered the jacket pictured here with images and names related to the IBPOE of W, sometime between 1952 and 2011.

The Order’s emblem, the head of an elk within a circle and the words Cervus Alces, the Latin name of the American elk, are on the front of the jacket, along with an elk in a forest. On the back is an embroidered image of an Elks member and the words “Sons of the Forest.”  The Museum acquired the jacket, with original tags, from the former Fraternal Supplies, Inc. factory in Ohio in 2019.  The jacket may have been a sample or an order for an individual that was never delivered or fulfilled. 

Have you or a family member owned a jacket like this one? Have you seen a similar kind of jacket? Let us know in the comments section below.   

References:

Tamara L. Brown, Gregory S. Parks, and Clarenda M. Phillips, eds. African American Fraternities and Sororities: The Legacy and the Vision (Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 2005), 86-87.

Marshall Ganz, Ariane Liazos, Theda Skocpol. What a Mighty Power We Can be: African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006), 16-17.

Alvin Schmidt. Fraternal Organizations (Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1980), 107-108.


Rooted in Tradition: Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library

Rooted in Tradition landing pageThe Museum and Library invites you to explore our newest online exhibition, Rooted in Tradition: Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. Since Freemasonry’s early days in England, the apron has been a part of the group’s distinctive symbols and rituals.

Aprons evoke the symbolic association of Freemasonry with working stonemasons—craftsmen who wore aprons to protect their clothing from wear and dust. Decorated aprons may have emerged as a way for non-working, or symbolic, Freemasons to distinguish themselves from working, also called operative, stonemasons and other artisans.  

Rooted in tradition, but also a product of their time and place, Masonic aprons show the influence of the larger society and culture as well as trends within Freemasonry. Apron shape, size, decoration, and method of manufacture reflect the era in which an apron was made. Apron designs also have a close relationship with fashion and decorative arts. The aprons and other objects highlighted in this exhibition explore these ideas and help tell the story of the history, symbolism, and workmanship behind Masonic aprons. Most importantly, they shine a light on the people who made and wore them.

This online exhibition is based on an exhibition that was on view at the Museum and Library in 2016 and 2017.  You can learn more about many of the aprons in this exhibition in the 2016 publication Badge of a Freemason: Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. 

Caption

A Meeting of Free Masons for the Admission of Masters – The Master on raising the Candidate gives the Grasp, Embrace, Etc. and declares him duly Elected a Master Mason, 1812. Thomas Palser (active 1799-1843), London, England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 77.10.1f.


New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis

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Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis, ca. 1863. Museum Purchase, 2020.028.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library recently added a sparkling jewel owned by Winslow Lewis (1799-1875) to it its collection. This jewel, in the form of a compasses and arc topped with a crown containing a cross and a pelican feeding her chicks was likely presented to Lewis when he served as the Most Wise Master of Mount Olivet Chapter of Rose Croix in Boston in 1863.

Lewis’s jewel is made of metal set with cut glass stones in white, green and red. These stones, called paste, are imitation gems cut from lead glass that is soft, refracts light and can be produced in different colors. The jewel, almost 4 inches high, features a symbol, the pelican in her piety, used in the 18th degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry. The pelican, as depicted on this jewel, feeds her chicks with blood drawn from a wound in her chest, representing self-sacrifice, charity, and resurrection. On this jewel, the head of the pelican and the chicks are formed from red stones, echoing the color of the blood. At the center of the cross is a group of red stones set in a circle that symbolize a rose. Unfortunately, the jeweler who created this elegant object did not mark it; its maker is unknown.

On the back of the jewel (see below), on the arc, an engraver noted the name of its owner, "Winslow Lewis." Trained as a physician, Lewis was a surgeon and anatomist who taught more than 400 private medical students and was associated with the Massachusetts General Hospital. He wrote and translated several book about anatomy. Many other interests claimed his time. In 1861, for example, members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society elected him president, a position he filled until 1866. He amassed a well-regarded collection of Papal medals and was the first president of the Boston Numismatic Society, founded in 1860. He served as a trustee at Harvard College and at the Boston Public Library.

In addition to these and other pursuits, he led, as one author described, “a Masonic life of greatest activity and usefulness, extending over more than thirty years.” He first received his degrees at Columbian Lodge in Boston in 1830 and 1831, and, soon after, took the York and Scottish Rite degrees. Twenty-four years after he was raised at Columbian Lodge, he served as the Grand Master of Massachusetts for two years. He held the office again in 1860. During the time that he received this jewel, along with his office at Mount Olivet Chapter, he was the Grand Secretary General for the Supreme Council. Lewis’s jewel is a striking artifact and reminder of the Masonic career of a man who declared that, “…in Masonry, I have found the best friends, the best social ties and comforts….”

 

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Back of Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis, ca. 1863. Museum Purchase, 2020.028.

References:

"Personal Sketches," Freemasons' Monthly Magazine, Vol XX, No. 8, June 1861, 231.

“Obituary, Dr. Winslow Lewis” Boston Journal (Boston, MA), August 4, 1875, [2].

Samuel Harrison Baynard, Jr., History of the Supreme Council, 33°Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Vol. 1 (Boston, MA: The Supreme Council, 1938), 428-29.


Digital Collections Highlight: WWI Masonic Roll of Honor

A2013_010_1DS1_webThis Veterans Day, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is highlighting how one local Masonic lodge honored its members who served during World War I. We recently digitized the item seen here and added it to our Digital Collections website.

Both during and after World War I, a number of Masonic and fraternal organizations assembled rolls of honor to recognize the service of their members. Constellation Lodge, which was located in Dedham, Massachusetts, issued this Roll of Honor, which listed the names of twenty-nine of its members who served during World War I.

The location of each man's wartime service varied widely. Those who served stateside included Masons like Edward J. Ziegler, who served as a Yeoman at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire, and Edward S. Colburn, who served in the Gas Mask Department in Philadelphia. Many on the list served overseas, including a number of men whose location is simply listed as "Somewhere in France."

Constellation Lodge mailed this particular copy of the Roll of Honor to one of the Masons honored. William Crawford, Jr. (1896-1987) received the Roll of Honor while he was still serving at the Aerial Station in Chatham, Massachusetts, a town located on the elbow of Cape Cod. The Chatham Naval Air Station was only in existence from 1917 until 1922 and served an important role during the war, by patrolling for German U-boats off the coast of the United States. The air station was also involved in defending against the only attack on U.S. soil during WWI. The Chatham Historical Society has a number of images related to the Chatham Naval Air Station digitized and available on their website.

The Roll of Honor pictured here is one of nearly 900 digitized items that can be found at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Digital Collections website. Also, be sure to check out our previous blog posts related to WWI.

Caption:
Constellation Lodge Roll of Honor, 1918. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Gift of William Douglas Crawford, A2013/010/1.