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.


Two Bear's Daughter

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Two Bear's Daughter, 1878-1890. David Francis Barry, Bismarck, Dakota Territory. Gift of Richmond G. Wight, 85.79e.

In this cabinet card photograph, taken in the Dakota Territory at the end of the 1800s, a young Native American woman looks directly into the camera. Her hair and neck are decorated with dentalium shells, an adornment that was highly valued by indigenous people from the Pacific Coast to the Dakotas. The subject of the portrait is identified below the image as “Two Bear’s Daughter.”

The back of this photograph bears information about the maker, photographer David Francis Barry (1854-1934). The image of “Two Bear’s Daughter” must have been taken between 1878 and 1890, when Barry had a studio in Bismarck. During that time, he traveled around the Dakota Territory, as it was called by the United States government at the end of the 1800s, photographing Native Americans, including Sitting Bull, the famed tribal leader who was imprisoned by the government at Standing Rock Reservation after 1881.

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Two Bear's Daughter, 1878-1890. David Francis Barry, Bismarck, Dakota Territory. Gift of Richmond G. Wight, 85.79e.

Two Bear or Mahto Nunpa (1826-ca. 1878) was a member of the Upper Yankton Dakota tribe. He also lived in the Dakota Territory. Two Bear later made his home at Standing Rock Reservation, which had been established in 1868 by the Treaty of Fort Laramie. Two Bear and other Dakota chiefs signed this treaty, as well as the 1865 Treaty of Fort Sully. Reflecting the tumultuous nature of relations between Native Americans and the United States government, Two Bear was present at the 1863 Whitestone Hill Massacre and fought in the 1876 Battle of Little Bighorn.

Two Bear had seven daughters, complicating the search for the identity of the sitter in this photograph. The daughter in this image appears to be a teenage girl. Three of Two Bear’s daughters—Atatewin, Wasacu Wastewin, and Mahpiya Bogawin (also known as Nellie “Two Bear” Gates)—were in their twenties or thirties in 1878, the earliest year that this photograph could have been taken. It is unlikely that any of them are the young woman pictured here.

The woman pictured in the museum’s photograph must have been one of Two Bear’s other four daughters. These include: AsaWin (birthdate unknown), daughter of Two Bear and Hupadutawin; Matokenapewin (b. 1867), daughter of Two Bear and Tiwcantihowin; and Tasinahinwastewin (b. 1859) and Ptesetwin (b. 1861), daughters of Two Bear and Honkakagewin. Barry also photographed one of Two Bear’s sons, Tasonkakokipapi or Young Man Afraid of His Horses.

We may never know which of Two Bear’s daughters is presented in this photograph. However, the process of elimination has allowed us to narrow the list down to four young women. Perhaps further evidence will come to light that will reveal more about the subject of the photograph and the context of its making. If you have any information about Two Bear’s family, the Dakota people in this area, or David Francis Barry’s photography, please let us know in the comments!

Related Objects:


New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Jewels Owned by Edward H. Caldwell

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Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.2. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

In December of 1867, Edward Holland Caldwell (1844-1872) of Mobile, Alabama, received the fourteenth degree at the newly established Mobile Lodge of Perfection No. 1. The following year he received the eighteenth degree, and later, the thirty-second degree. Caldwell’s jewels for the eighteenth and thirty-second degrees survive and were recently added to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Crafted of silver and cut-glass stones (also called pastes), Caldwell’s jewels were formed in the shape of symbols associated with the eighteenth and thirty-second degrees. The eighteenth-degree jewel is in the shape of a compasses topped with a crown (at left). An arc connects the legs of the compasses. Within the compasses is a cross highlighted by red stones and a cast representation of a pelican feeding seven chicks from the blood of her breast. On the reverse side is a cast cross and rose and an eagle with spread wings (at right). Caldwell’s thirty-second degree jewel is in the shape of a crown on top of a cross with arms of equal length with leaves or vines between the arms (at left, below). At the center of the cross is the number 32 reverse painted on glass in gold and black. On the back side of the jewel, at the center of the cross, two crossed swords are reverse painted on glass in black and gold with a white background.

Caldwell likely became a Mason in Mobile Lodge No. 40, the largest Masonic lodge in Alabama in the 1860s. He later joined a new lodge, Athelstan Lodge No. 369, constituted in Mobile in 1870. In 1868, when he took the eighteenth degree, he was the father of two young sons and involved in a local business. Caldwell and Emil Oscar Zadek (1848-1908) owned “Zadek & Caldwell, Importers and Manufacturers of Fine Jewelry” from about 1866. The firm advertised “handsome jewelry of every description. Also watches, silver ware, plated ware, opera glasses, etc.,” for customers in search of “an elegant article at reasonable prices….” Zadek was, according to the local paper, an accomplished craftsman who was not “surpassed in Mobile as a gold or silver smith.” Caldwell’s Scottish Rite jewels are not marked with the name of the manufacturer, so it is not known if his firm produced them in Mobile, or if Caldwell ordered them from another source.

Caldwell had grown up in New Orleans, the son of a wildly successful actor, theater owner, and entrepreneur, James Henry Caldwell (1793-1863). As a young student, he attended Spring Hill College in Mobile in 1856 and 1857, but does not seem to have graduated from that institution. Only a few years after he joined with Zadek in the jewelry business,  Edward Caldwell's business and circumstances changed when his older brother, James Henry Caldwell, Jr.,

2022_004_2 DP2 MC 18 backReverse of Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.2. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

died in his early 30s in 1870. Upon his brother's passing, Edward Caldwell inherited a large estate and became the president of the Mobile Gas, Light and Coke Company. This firm was one of the companies that his father had founded. His brother had previously served as president of the business. Reflecting this change, on the first of November in 1870 Edward Caldwell and Emil Zadek officially dissolved their partnership in the jewelry business.

Caldwell’s time as the head of the Mobile Gas, Light and Coke Company was short lived. He died in 1872 while in New York City. An obituary in a New Orleans newspaper stated that Caldwell was “noted among his friends for the geniality of his disposition and his boundless liberality." The writer also described Caldwell's philanthropy, observing that "no call for charity" made to him was unnoticed. All appeals to him, the writer continued, received "a cheerful response" from Caldwell, "a princely income enabling him to do much good in this respect.” As a sign of respect, Freemasons in New Orleans escorted Edward Caldwell's body to the train depot in New Orleans before it was put on a train to Mobile where Caldwell was buried. Caldwell's two handsome Scottish Rite jewels offer evidence of his involvement in Freemasonry and speak to his pride in his association with the group. 

References:

"Removal and Purchase," The Mobile Daily Times (Mobile, AL), April 1, 1866, page 10.

Notice, Mobile Register (Mobile, AL), November 25, 1869, page 3. 

Notice, Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), October 8, 1872, page 4.

Many thanks to:

Michelle Lambert of the Grand Lodge of Alabama; Katy Osborne, Special Collections, Spring Hill College; Larissa Watkins of the Library, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. 

 

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Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868-1872. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.1. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

Now on View: 300 Years of Anderson's Constitutions

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The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, 1723. London, England. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, RARE 31 .A547 1723, c.2

This year, 2023, marks the three hundredth anniversary of the printing of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, a book that codified the earliest rules and regulations of organized Freemasonry. To mark the occasion, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has brought together seven editions of the Constitutions in a reading room exhibition, "300 Years of Anderson's Constitutions."

The Grand Lodge system of organized Freemasonry can be traced back to the 1717 founding of the Grand Lodge of England in London. The group published its first Constitutions in 1723. This work contained a mythologized history of Freemasonry, as well as the group’s Charges and Regulations, a set of rules governing lodges and the expected behavior of Masons. Although often referred to as “Anderson’s Constitutions,” after one of its authors, today, the 1723 Constitutions is viewed as the work of three people—the Reverend James Anderson (1679-1739), the Reverend Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683-1744), and George Payne (ca. 1685-1757).

The 1723 Constitutions begins with a “traditional history” of Freemasonry, written by Anderson. This narrative fancifully traces Freemasonry back to the biblical Adam in the Garden of Eden. Anderson’s history was intended—and should be read—as literary hyperbole, created to burnish the young organization by giving it a place within a well-known narrative. Following this is a section setting out rules and regulations governing who could join, as well as the Enlightenment principles of meritocracy and egalitarianism governing Freemasons. The ideas behind these rules and regulations still guide Masons today. They include civic responsibility, emphasis on personal merit above wealth or social standing, civility and morality, as well as a belief in a Supreme Being. Payne, who served as the Grand Lodge’s Grand Master in 1718 and 1720, wrote the General Regulations, which laid out the governance and operation of the Grand Lodge and its subordinate lodges.

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Constitutions of the Antient Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, 1784. London, England. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, RARE 31.A547 1784

The Constitutions were not a static document. They have been revised and reprinted many times. On view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room are three editions that were printed during the 1700s, along with two reprints of the 1723 edition published during the 1800s. The most recent copy on view is a century old—a reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions published in 1923, to mark the two hundredth anniversary of its publication.

Three centuries after its publication, the Constitutions still contain ideals and sentiments that Masons look to today. Although the United Grand Lodge of England’s Constitutions have undergone extensive revisions over the years, its Constitutions, as well as those that help govern Grand Lodges throughout the world, can still be traced back to Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions

300 Years of Anderson's Constitutions is on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives through March 8, 2024.


Now on View: Michigan Rainbow Girls Memento

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International Order of Rainbow for Girls Tinsel Painting Owned by Isamay Addis, 1951. C. H. Johns, Detroit, Michigan. Gift of Isamay E. Osborne in Memory of Robert N. Osborne, 2019.011.1. Photograph by Julia Featheringill.

In 1951, Ivan and Stella Addis of Dearborn, Michigan, presented their daughter Isamay with this charming personalized keepsake. Its vibrant colors–red, blue, gold, purple, yellow, silver–shine out from a black background. This item, called a tinsel painting, showcases both an American folk art form and Isamay’s affiliation with the International Order of Rainbow for Girls (IORG).

Tinsel paintings were made by securing reverse-painted glass over a surface of different colored foil. Parts of the glass were painted with a black pigment like lampblack–finely powdered soot–to highlight the colors of the foil. These paintings were especially popular in the latter half of the 1800s, but examples from the 1900s, like this one, do exist. Many tinsel paintings featured botanical or patriotic themes.

This example features a half circle enclosing the letter R, to represent the “Rainbow” in “International Order of Rainbow for Girls,” above clasped hands and a small pot of gold. These are symbols of the organization, which was founded in 1922 and welcomes girls ages eleven to twenty with a family connection to Freemasonry. Atop the rainbow design are the letters B, F, C, and L. The B stands for the Bible, reflecting the religious nature of the order. The F represents the flag and the C the Constitution. The L stands for “lambskin,” i.e. a lambskin apron, worn by Masons around the waist and by Rainbow girls around the wrist.

Isamay Addis (1936-2023) lived with her parents Ivan (1907-1972) and Stella (1916-2000) in Dearborn. Stella was Mother Advisor for Dearborn Assembly No. 3 in the 1940s. In 1949, Isamay joined IORG at age thirteen, at Dearborn Assembly where her mother was involved. Isamay later served as Worthy Advisor of this assembly and held different roles at the state level in Michigan IORG in the mid-1950s. In 1959, she graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and married Robert N. Osborne (1936-2008), whom she met while they were both involved in Dearborn Rainbow and DeMolay.

In 2019, Isamay generously donated a group of Rainbow and DeMolay material to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in memory of her husband, who was a Past Grand Master and Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Michigan, a 33rd degree Scottish Rite Mason, and Past Deputy for Michigan. Isamay passed away on May 15, 2023. Her obituary noted that she was “an extremely talented crafter.” She was also a longtime friend and supporter of the Museum & Library. This tinsel painting–a lustrous example of the form and an excellent memento of Isamay’s time in Rainbow–is currently on view in our exhibition “The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History.”


The Rise of Youth Organizations: Newly Acquired Juvenile Branch Charter of Grand United Order of Oddfellows Juvenile Branch

At the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, there are incredible collections in the archives, but they are not often visually interesting. Occasionally, however, archival materials in our collection are both historically fascinating and beautiful. We recently acquired this Juvenile Branch, No. 44, charter of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, which checks both boxes. It is a stunning as well as an important testament to Black life and culture in Danville, Kentucky. A2023_135_001DS1_reduced
The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was, at one time, the largest Black fraternal order in the United States. In 1843, Peter Ogden and several other Black men were rejected from the white Independent Order of Odd Fellows. After receiving a charter from the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in England, they founded Philomathean Lodge, No. 646, and started the American branch of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a Black organization unlike its originator in England. The Juvenile Branch began on September 13, 1897, when the first warrant was granted to the Household of Ruth, No. 29, in Washington, D. C. The juvenile branches, which operated under the supervision of the Household of Ruth, the women’s auxiliary order established in 1858, were open to children, from the ages of three to sixteen, regardless of whether their parents were a part of the Order. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows celebrated the fourth Sunday in September as “Children’s Day.”

The charter for Juvenile Branch, No. 44, acquired by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, features rich art with red, white, and blue American flags surrounded by pink roses and detailed images of three women, embodying the Odd Fellows’s motto, “Friendship, Love, & Truth,” which is written in Latin on the banner below the women. The woman sitting on a pedestal atop the Odd Fellows coat of arms looks lovingly down at the two naked toddlers in her arms and the two young children at her knees. The woman on her left stands looking at the scene with a sword in her left hand and a scale in her left. The woman on the right looks into a shining mirror and holds the Rod of Asclepius associated with healing and medicine. The charter was designed by the Grand Secretary, Charles H. Brooks, and was printed in Bradford, England, demonstrating a continuing close relationship with England. It should be noted, as well, that the women and children that Brooks designed are white. Why would the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a proud Black American organization, use white woman to represent friendship, love, and truth? The vivid bright colors and the large size of the charter (24” x 17”) mark the charter as a showpiece that was meant to be displayed prominently. Did this charter once hang framed at the lodge? Or was it brought out only for special occasions?

Juvenile Branch, No. 44, was under the direction of the Household of Ruth, No. 59, located in Danville, Kentucky and was established on March 22, 1898, only six months after the first Juvenile Branch was founded. It is striking that in those six months, forty-four juvenile branches were formed. Not much is known about this Juvenile Branch or the Household of Ruth, No. 59. The five women listed as members of the Household of Ruth branch, Bessie B. Shain, Paulina Langford, Ann Word, Georgiana Allen, and Agnes Green, all seemed to be part of the working class—respectably married, and in their thirties and forties with children. Langford was a carpet sewer, Allen was a cleaner, and Green worked in the laundry business. Did they form the Juvenile Branch for their children and their communities’ children to bring them more fully into the fold and involved with the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows?

Around the turn of the century, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows’s membership was greatly increasing and from 1897-1898, the organization issued six hundred and sixty-five warrants for new branches. This Juvenile Branch was part of the shifting movement to bring the whole family into the fraternal order which reached its peak in the 1910s and 1920s with the popularity of youth organizations such as DeMolay. The Juvenile Branch, No. 44, charter documents the early growth of youth organizations and the spread of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in Kentucky.

 

Caption:

Grand United Order of Oddfellows Juvenile Branch, No. 44, charter of the Household of Ruth, No. 59, 1898 March 22, Museum purchase, A2023-135-001.

 

Resources

Needham, James F. General Laws and Regulations of the Household of Ruth. Philadelphia, PA: Sub-Committee of Management, 1923.

Brooks, Charles H. The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America: A Chronological Treatise. Philadelphia, PA: Sub-Committee of Management, 1902.