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May 2008

Is This Your Great-Great-Grandfather?

Josiah_drummond_web We get questions on a fairly regular basis from people who are interested in finding out more about their family history. Because of our collections, they usually come to us when there's a connection to Freemasonry or the American Revolution. We have some resources to help you get started with these kinds of questions, and we've put them together on a page on our website. The best place to get an introduction on how to approach genealogy that relates to Freemasonry is Paul Bessel's web page about Masonic genealogy.

Freemasonry actually consists of various different organizations, so there is no single place where all Masonic records are kept. And in answer to that question that might be on your mind, I'm sorry to say that there isn't one giant database that contains the names of every Mason who ever lived. However, there is still plenty of material available that's related to genealogy and Freemasonry, so take a look at the two pages I linked to above, and let us know if we can help you further.

The man pictured here is Josiah Hayden Drummond. Drummond was, among many other things, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council 33°of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which, I should mention, founded and continue to fund the National Heritage Museum). Drummond served as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1867-1879 - the first Commander to serve after the so-called Union of 1867 that unified the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's previously competing factions. Drummond's obituary in the New York Times mentions that he was a jurist, politician, mathematician, and genealogist. Born and raised in Maine, he served as Speaker, Senator, and Congressman in Maine's legislature, and was Maine's Attorney General from 1860-1864.

For more information about Drummond's Masonic activities - which are many - you could consult the 1903 Proceedings of the Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General of the Thirty-Third Degree for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (available in our library) where this engraving of Drummond, as well as a lengthy obituary, may be found. We have more materials available in our Archives too, related to Drummond's time as Sovereign Grand Commander.

Drummond was also a Masonic writer, and we have a number of books written by Drummond. Perhaps the most familiar - at least to Mason's in Maine - is the The Maine Masonic Text Book, which was first compiled by Drummond in 1877 (Drummond was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Maine from 1860-1862). To find other books by Drummond in our library, please search our online catalog, or drop us a line.

Oh, and if Josiah H. Drummond is, by some wonderful coincidence, related to you, let us know!


F. Earl Christy: Postcard Artist

91_0441_1_f_earl_christy_2 Among the many postcard collections at the VGW Library and Archives are a set by the artist F. Earl Christy (1882-1961).  He was an illustrator for many magazines and noted for his images of college women or beautiful young women sometimes playing sports.

The set of postcards in our collection includes four cards of college women from Harvard (shown here), Yale, Princeton, and Cornell.  In each, the young women are waving banners with their college colors and symbols.  Each woman is wearing a dress to match the college colors - for example, crimson for Harvard and blue for Yale.  The dresses on the postcards are made of silk.  The images are embossed onto the postcards. The postcards were signed before the printing process so each card holds Christy's name.

These postcards were produced around 1905 and were published by the Illustrated Postal Card Company of New York. At this time, F. Earl Christy was only 23 and attending Pennsylvania Academy of Arts.  These were some of his early works.

As with many travel postcards from this "Golden era," these cards served as souvenirs of their schools.  They were probably collected by college graduates of the time period and are still very collectible today.


Moses Dickson and the Order of Twelve

Moses_dickson_web Pictured here is Moses Dickson, from the frontispiece illustration of the 1879 book A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle. In 1872, the Rev. Moses Dickson founded the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an African-American fraternal order focused on benevolence and financial programs. Dickson was born a free man in Cincinnati in 1824, was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and afterwards became a prominent clergyman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dickson showed an interest in progressive fraternal organizations early on - in 1846 Dickson, with others, founded a society known as the Knights of Liberty, whose objective was to overthrow slavery; the group did not get beyond the organizing stages. Dickson was also involved in Freemasonry - he was the second Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri.

Dickson's International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor - or Order of Twelve, as it's more commonly know - accepted men and women on equal terms. Men and women met together in higher level groups and in the governance of the organization, although at the local level they met separately - the men in "temples" and the women in "tabernacles" (akin to "lodges" in Freemasonry). The Order of Twelve was most prominent in the South and the lower Midwest. The major benefits to members - similar to many fraternal orders of the time - was a burial policy and weekly cash payments for the sick.

What many people today remember about the Order of Twelve is an institution founded in Mound Bayou, Misssissippi in 1942 - the Taborian Hospital. Michael Premo, a Story Corps facilitator, posted his appreciation for the impact that the Taborian Hospital had on the lives of African-Americans living in the Mississippi Delta from the 1940s-1960s. The Taborian Hospital was on the Mississippi Heritage Trust's 10 Most Endangered List of 2000, and an update to that list indicates that the hospital still stands vacant and seeks funding for renovation. Here are some photos of the Taborian Hospital today.

Want to learn more about the Order of Twelve? Here are a few primary and secondary sources that we have here in our collection (with primary sources listed first):

Dickson, Moses. A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle, including the Ceremonies of the Order, Constitutions, Installations, Dedications, and Funerals, with Forms, and the Taborian Drill and Tactics. St. Louis, Mo. : G. I. Jones [printer], 1879.
Call number: RARE HS 2259 .T3 D5 1879

----. Ritual of Taborian Knighthood, including : the Uniform Rank. St. Louis, Mo. : A. R. Fleming & Co., printers, 1889.
Call number: RARE HS 2230 .T3 D5 1889

Beito, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number: 44 .B423 2000

Skocpol, Theda, Ariane Liazos, Marshall Ganz. What a Mighty Power We Can Be : African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2006.
Call number: 90 .S616 2006


The Jonathan Poor Mural

El_poor_wall_overall_from_the_sid_2Gracing one wall of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives is a mural that appears to have been created expressly for the space. Upon closer inspection, however, one sees its age and learns it began on the dining room wall of the Silas Burbank home in Mt. Vernon, Maine.

The peaceful scene, signed 'J D Poor 1830' was created by Jonathan Poor (1802-1845) of Sebago, Maine.  When Poor was 16 he began traveling with his more well-known uncle, Rufus Porter, (1792-1884).  He started as Porter's portrait painting assistant but around 1824 they switched from portraits to landscapes and found a market for painting murals in houses and taverns in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  Poor became known as one of Porter's most productive apprentices and has murals attributed to him throughout rural Maine, N.H., Groton, MA, and a fireboard at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont.

The mural was discovered in 1967, deteriorating under layers of wallpaper. Thus began a series of activities to save, conserve, remove and preserve the mural. A new, specially-made paint was applied to match the fading 178 year old colors and to help prevent further peeling. A dedicated group of volunteers worked together to save this treasure.

El_poor_wall_detail_with_signatureJonathan Poor's work is thought to closely resemble his uncle's and they often worked together. In fact, as reported in a letter from a great-granddaughter, "Jonathan and Rufus visited relatives in Vienna and Mt. Vernon while they painted, as they had plenty of them to stay with as they worked."  A small detail of our mural also suggests Jonathan Poor and Rufus Porter worked together: the man with a hat in the sailboat is a Porter signature.

More about Rufus Porter (and some mention of Jonathan Poor) may be found in:  Lipman, Jean. Rufus Porter: Yankee Pioneer.  N.Y.: Clarkson N. Potter, 1968.  (ND237 .P8135 L48 1968)  The author's thorough research about Porter and his work, including a detailed list of murals, helped his rediscovery in the 1960's.  Lipman revised the work as Rufus Porter Rediscovered: Artist, Inventor, Journalist, 1792-1884 (ND237 .P8135 L56 1980) and included more information about his many other interests and inventions, including that as founder and first editor of Scientific American.  See also The Rufus Porter School of Wall Mural Painting, (A/V ND237 .P8135 R8 2000) a videotape that tours 10 New Hampshire homes with outstanding original and restored murals by Porter (and Poor).

Click here for information on where to find many Rufus Porter murals today.  And, if you're traveling in Maine this summer, the Rufus Porter Museum in Bridgton is on the Maine Folk Art Trail.

The Jonathan Poor Mural, 2007.048, was acquired through the generosity of Judy and John William McNaughton, 33°,  Dorothy A. and Albert H. Richardson,  Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA,  Trustees of the Supreme Council Benevolent Fund,  The Webber Memorial Fund and Scottish Rite Masons in the fifteen states of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.            

Photography by David Bohl.


What is a Liberty Cap?

A2000_37_05flaggposter_2 The VGW Library & Archives has a collection of over 600 World War I and World War II posters.  There are many well-known illustrators represented in this collection. One of them is James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1960).  He designed the 1918 poster “Sow the seeds of Victory!”

The woman planting seeds in the garden symbolizes America.  She is draped in an American flag and wearing a stocking cap called a Liberty cap.  This cap symbolized freedom and was used during the American Revolution and French Revolution.  Here, the illustrator makes reference to this symbolism for those seeking freedom during World War I.

The poster was produced by the National War Garden Commission in Washington, D.C.  They encouraged Americans to garden, can, and dry foods during WWI.  It is on cardstock, small in size, and meant to be placed in windows. 


Album of Masonic Impostors

Masonicimposter_web_2 Why would someone impersonate a Freemason? And why would someone publish a book showing some of the supposedly more nefarious characters who have impersonated Masons?

Pictured here is a page from a book called Album of Masonic Impostors [Call no.: 19.78 .A345 1903], which was published by The Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada, an organization which was a sort of clearing house for improving the methods for providing relief by various Masonic organizations, as well as a central organization for disseminating informaton throughout North America about men known to have tried (or, in many cases, succeeded) in defrauding various Masonic relief agencies by claiming membership in various Masonic bodies.

Especially during a time when receiving benefits in the workplace was uncommon, one of the benefits of joining a fraternal organization was just that - receiving benefits. Death benefits and various types of insurance were some of what you received for paying your dues. (In fact, many non-Masonic fraternal organizations went on to primarily become life insurance companies, many of which still keep "fraternal" in their name, although the fraternal aspect of many of these organizations has been de-emphasized, or disappeared altogether.)

Because there was money to be had by members of a fraternity who were genuinely in need, a brisk business grew of con-men who traveled around posing as Masons and trying to get relief (in the form of money) provided by various Masonic organizations in the different towns and cities they visited. The Masonic Relief Association published an "Official Warning Circular" on a regular basis (a number of which we also have in our collection), that warned various Masonic relief organizations about some of the con men that might come their way. The Album of Masonic Impostors is a bit of a rogues' gallery of some of these men.

Call me soft-hearted, but when I see these photos, like the one of C.S. Salisbury above, I wonder what desperate circumstances drove men like him to resort to becoming "Masonic Impostors."

If you want to learn more about the role of Masonic and fraternal organizations in providing "relief" and social services, we've got a number of great resources. A great place to start is:

Beito, David T. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number:44 .B423 2000


Welcome everyone!

We're starting this blog because we want to hear from you. We also want to take the opportunity to open up the stacks a bit, in a way, and share more of our collections with you. We're hoping that through this blog you'll tell us what you think and that a conversation can take off from there.

We here at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives want to reach out to you - those folks who are already aware of us, but also those folks who maybe didn't yet know about us, but are happy to find that we're here. So, to any and all of you, welcome!

We're going to be using this blog to share more information about our Library & Archives collections. That might include news about new acquisitions, as well as interesting material that we come across during the normal course of our daily work (and there's a lot of that, I'm happy to say). It might also include more in-depth information about the stories of particular books and archival material that are featured in exhibitions here at the National Heritage Museum.

As we'll be sharing with you, we hope you feel compelled to share with us - we're hoping to hear back from you. We're inviting you to tell us what you think by making this more of a conversation. Comment on our posts - if you ask a question in the comments, we'll respond to it.