« June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

July 2008

Boone: A Biography

Brown University historian Gordon Wood, who spoke at a Lowell Lecture on Benjamin Franklin at our Museum recently, observed he thought Carl Van Doren's classic biography on Franklin is the one that has best stood the test of time.  I wonder if the same might eventually be said about Robert Morgan's Boone: a Biography, published last year.  Morgan admits he entered an already crowded field of books about Daniel Boone when he began his first biography, and reviews many of the earlier efforts in his introduction.  Yet he maintains he was compelled to write about his boyhood hero because, through his research, he "found Boone a much more complex person than I had noticed before."

Morgan draws heavily on the Draper Manuscripts at the University of Wisconsin, a rich resource gathered by Lyman Copeland Draper (1815-1891) who's life's work was assembling information about the 18th century American frontier.  Among those Draper interviewed were Boone's son Nathan and his wife.  Though Draper planned to write biographies of Daniel Boone and other pioneers, he never actually did.  Many others have used his material, however, including, most notably, Boone biographers Ted Franklin Belue, Neal O. Hammon and Michael A. Lofaro.  One of the areas Robert Morgan ventures into that hasn't been covered before is Boone's ties to Freemasonry.  Although I thought his documentation somewhat scarce, he does provide some circumstantial evidence that Boone and other members of his family were Freemasons.

Boone Most acknowledge John Filson (ca. 1747-1788) as the person who first brought wide attention to Daniel Boone.  He published The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky in 1784 and included a chapter "The adventures of Col. Daniel Boon" written as an autobiography.  Interestingly, Gilbert Imlay (1754-1828), who swindeled some land from Boone, also lifted the chapter and placed it in his own work: A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America, (RARE  F 352 .I33 1797) -- the first page of our library's copy of the 'borrowed' chapter appears at left.  While Filson's work introduced Boone to a larger American audience at the time, Imlay, through his association with Mary Wollstonecraft, and her ties to many of England's literary figures, broadened his fame to Europe.

If your image of Daniel Boone is Fess Parker or if it in anyway includes a coonskin cap, this very readable biography will introduce a much more interesting, multi-dimensional man.  He worked closely and fairly with Native Americans, was a skilled legislator yet saw himself as a simple woodsman with deep ties to family and community.  And, as America moved west, he lived in some very interesting times.

Some of the many resources available on Daniel Boone in our collection include: 

Bakeless, John.  Master of the Wilderness: Daniel Boone.  N.Y.: Morrow, 1939.
Call number:  F 454 .B724 1939

Imlay, Gilbert.  A Topographical Description of the Western Territory of North America.  3rd ed.  London: Printed for J. Debrett, 1797.
Call number:  RARE  F 352 .I33 1797.

Morgan, Robert.  Boone: A Biography.  Chapel Hill, N.C.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2007.
Call number:  F 454 .B66 M67 2007

Additional resources that may be of interest:

Filson, John.  The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucky.  Wilmington, Delaware : Printed by J. Adams, 1784.  An online version available here.

The Filson Historical Society in Louisville, Kentucky provides information and resources about the history and culture of Kentucky and the Ohio Valley.

Also, The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820 at the Library of Congress contains  "15,000 pages of original historical material documenting the land, peoples, exploration, and transformation of the trans-Appalachian West from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century."


Is this woman a Freemason? It depends who you ask.

Brother_mary_arlotte_web In the world of Freemasonry, 'recognition' and 'regularity' are important. Some Masonic bodies don't 'recognize' other Masonic bodies because they consider them 'irregular.' That is, one Masonic organization will not - for various reasons - consider another Masonic organization legitimate.  Tony Pope explains the concepts of 'regularity' and 'recognition' fairly succinctly in his essay At a Perpetual Distance: Liberal and Adogmatic Grand Lodges, and so I quote him briefly:

"Regularity

Every autonomous Masonic body has its own tests of regularity, based on its perception of its own character. Thus, each Grand Lodge considers itself to be regular, and requires its constituents to abide by its criteria, whether clearly defined or not. Consequently, every Mason considers himself to be regular because he (or even she!) was ‘regularly’ initiated in a ‘regularly’ constituted lodge, chartered by his (or, indeed, her) Grand Lodge."

Within the closed system of the autonomous Grand Lodge, determination of regularity—or its converse, irregularity—is a relatively easy process, and entirely valid. Problems arise when the definition of ‘regularity’ of one autonomous body is applied to another autonomous body, because ‘regularity’ is a factor in determining whether Grand Lodge A should ‘recognise’ Grand Lodge B, and vice versa.

Recognition

If two autonomous Grand Lodges wish to establish and maintain a fraternal relationship with each other, it is customary for them to ‘recognise’ each other by formal treaty. This usually involves a comparison of the two systems, to determine if they meet each other’s criteria for recognition. Each Grand Lodge has its own list of requirements which, in most cases, may be summarised as follows:

(a) Regularity of origin;

(b) Regularity of conduct; and

(c) Autonomy"

I think that Tony Pope's explanation is fairly clear, but if not, here's a real-world example: let's say you join the American Federation of The Order of International Co-Freemasonry (a.k.a. Le Droit Humain). You will consider yourself a legitimate Mason, the body which conferred degrees upon you considers itself perfectly legitimate, and you may know other men and women who consider themselves Masons and who will consider you a Mason. Yet there will be other Masonic bodies (e.g. any of the "mainstream" Grand Lodges in most U.S. states) that will not consider you a Mason. This is because there is no formal recognition between, say, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and The Order of International Co-Freemasonry. (Curious about who the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania does recognize? They maintain a list of Grand Lodges that they recognize on their website.)

So why do I bring up such a confusing subject?  To educate, of course!

More to the point, I bring this all up to mention that our Library & Archives collects broadly about the world of Freemasonry. Because we are interested in giving researchers the ability to look at the history of Freemasonry and fraternalism in its entirety, our Library & Archives collects broadly in both Freemasonry and other fraternal groups (focusing especially on Freemasonry and fraternalism in the United States), so our collections contain publications by and about any number of different Masonic organizations. Some of these organizations admit just men, some both men and women, and some just women.

While we'll refer you to a particular Masonic body if you've got specific questions about whether one Masonic body recognizes another or considers them regular, we'd be happy to assist you with learning and conducting research on any aspect of Freemasonry - whether you consider it regular or irregular.

The photo above shows Worshipful Brother Mary Arlotte, Grand Sword Bearer. It's from the May 1933 edition of The Ray, a magazine published by The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons. (And, yes, members of this self-described "masonic fraternity of women in the U.K." do refer to each other as Brother, something that they address on their FAQ page.) This organization is not recognized by a lot of the "mainstream" Masonic bodies, and I include it as an example of something that might be surprising and eye-opening to folks who know little about the rather large world of Freemasonry in general. If you're curious about women and Freemasonry and you're in London, you might want to check out an exhibition called Women and Freemasonry: The Centenary, that's currently on view at the The Library and Museum of Freemasonry.

As for our collections, we have a single issue of The Ray:
The Ray. London: The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, 1933. No. 24 (May 1933).


Order of the Eastern Star and Order of Amaranth: What is their relationship?

A95_015_easternstar2_scan_web The Order of Amaranth and Order of the Eastern Star have an intertwined history.  Early twentieth-century minute books of Order of Amaranth, donated by Barbara Lott in 2007, illuminate this relationship.

The postcard (MM 015) on the left depicts the symbol for the Order of Eastern Star, a symbol that is used in ritual as a teaching tool.  The five-pointed star represents Biblical characters.  Adah is the first point and is representative of Jephthah's daughter.  Adah's point is blue.  Ruth, who was a widow and gleaned the fields of Boaz is the secont point.  Ruth's point is yellow.  Esther, the wife, is the third point and was Ahasuerus' queen.  Her color is white.  Martha, the sister is the fourth point and represents the sister of Lazarus.  Her color is dark green.  Electa, the mother, is the fifth point on the star.  Though Electa does not appear in the Bible, her story is based on the Book of St. John.  Her color is red.  Each point to the star has emblems associated with it, which relate to the Biblical stories.

The Order of Amaranth was first organized in 1873 in New York, New York.  It was intended to be a higher degree in the Order of the Eastern Star.  Amaranth was to be a third degree, and Eastern Star and Queen of the South were to be the first and second degrees.  However, Order of the Eastern Star rejected this plan (conceived by James B. Taylor), and the Order of Amaranth became an independent order in 1895 in Brooklyn, New York.

At first, Amaranth members had to be members of Eastern Star. In 1904, in chartering Jessemine Court, No. 6 of New London, Connecticut, the minute book reads, "The undersigned, either the wives, widows, mothers, sisters, or daughters of Master Masons or affiliation with Master Masons in good standing and in possession of the degree of the Eastern Star..." This requirement that Amaranth members first be Eastern Star members continued from 1873 until 1921.

In 1921, by mutual agreement, the requirement that Amaranth members belong to the Eastern Star ceased.  They are now completely separate organizations.  Early evidence of this can be found in the minutes of 1931, in chartering the Charity Court No. 17 of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, in which the Grand Royal Patron, Fred C. Tilden, remarked that "the Order of the Amaranth was no part of the Eastern Star though working in Harmony with that Order."                         

Macoystheamaranth_scan_webThe illustration of the star seen here is the frontispiece from Robert Macoy's The Amaranth (Independent): A Royal and Exalted Degree in the Rite of Adoption with Appropriate Ceremonies [Call number: 81 .A488 M171 1897]. The illustration depicts the badge for Order of Amaranth members.  The symbol is similar to the OES symbol seen above, but has an Amaranthine wreath at the center of the star. A wreath made of amaranth was used to crown a new candidate when the Amaranth degree was conferred on a new candidate. The amaranth was chosen for its symbolic nature - the Greek root of the word means "never-fading."

Macoy, Robert. The Amaranth (Independent): A Royal and Exalted Degree in the Rite of Adoption with Appropriate Ceremonies. New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1897.
Call number: 81 .A488 M171 1897


Rob Morris's Poetic Allusions to the Battle of Lexington

Morrismasonicodes_web_3 As blogs go, you won't find much opinion at ours, but I'm going to break that just for a moment to say that, as a poet, Rob Morris is no Charles Simic. Yet while Morris may not be to everyone's poetical tastes, that doesn't make him any less interesting as a historical figure.

Like Simic, Rob Morris (1818-1888) is - or, rather, was - a poet laureate. While Simic is the current poet laureate of the United States (news-flash: Kay Ryan was recently named the new poet laureate, but she doesn't start until the fall), Morris was the Poet Laureate of Freemasonry. When first hearing this, I thought that perhaps Morris was a self-styled poet laureate, but, no, in fact, he was officially recognized as such at a ceremony that took place on December 17, 1884 at the Grand Lodge of New York in New York City. Only one other poet had been dubbed the Poet Laureate of Freemasonry before - Robert Burns. Yes, the Robert Burns. Most folks who don't read poetry have likely heard of Burns, and even if you don't think you know Burns's work, you do: he wrote Auld Lang Syne ("Should auld acquaintance be forgot..."). Burns, a Freemason, was made the Poet Laureate of Lodge Canongate Kilwinning No. 2, Edinburgh, Scotland in February of 1787.

In an article entitled "A Successor to Robert Burns," the New York Times described the crowning of Morris as the new poet laureate of Freemasonry at a ceremony which included a procession marching to the William Tell Overture, as well as an actual crowning of Morris with a laurel wreath. Of course, succeeding Burns is, some might say, no small task, but if anyone was going to be crowned poet laureate of Freemasonry at the time, Morris seemed like the man to pick.

Morris wrote and lectured extensively on Freemasonry. He also founded the Order of the Eastern Star and wrote its ritual. Morris's Masonic accomplishments are vast and it's difficult to understate his involvement with Freemasonry. His various affiliations and accomplishments are too many to list here.

Pictured above is the cover to the 1875 edition of Morris's Three Hundred Masonic Odes and Poems, published by William T. Anderson's Masonic Publishing Company in New York in 1875 [Call number: 63.1 .M877m 1875]. The book was published eleven years before Morris became poet laureate, illustrating, perhaps how the choice of Morris as poet laureate was, to many, a no-brainer. (If not Morris, who?)

Among the three hundred odes and poems, I found one that seems perfect for those of us writing from an American history museum founded by Freemasons and located in Lexington, Massachusetts. So, for your enjoyment and edification, I include the first stanza of Morris's poem "Lines to Lexington Lodge, No. 310, at Brooklyn, NY," from Three Hundred Masonic Odes and Poems, a poem in which Morris alludes to the Battle of Lexington, the presumed namesake of the lodge:

A fire was kindled on the plain
Of Lexington that gloweth yet;
Each blood-drop from a patriot's heart
A lasting horror did beget,
Of tyrant's chain and despot's rule,
With which our sorrowing world is full.

We have many works by and about Morris in our collection, far too numerous to list here. You can see what titles we have by searching our online catalog.


Freemasonry Throughout the World

Proceedings_gl_of_egypt_detailIf you look today at where Freemasonry exists in the world, you might initially be surprised. The National Grand Lodge of Togo? The Grand Lodge of India? The Grand Lodge of the Philippines? The Grand Lodge of New Zealand? How did Freemasonry spread to so many corners of the world?

Most of Freemasonry's travels through the world not only followed the same routes as colonialism, but, in fact, spread throughout the world via colonialism. This might seem surprising at first, until you realize that two of the major colonial powers of the 18th and 19th centuries - England and France - were also places where Freemasonry originated and flourished. And where colonial powers traveled, Freemasonry traveled with it. Wonder how Freemasonry ended up in the United States? That's right - colonialism. Freemasonry was established in what is now the United States in the 1730s - in what were then the British colonies. Some excellent scholarship on Freemasonry has been published recently, including a book that came out just last year on the topic of Freemasonry and British colonialism - Jessica L. Harland-Jacobs's Builders of Empire: Freemasons and British Imperialism, 1717-1927 [Call number: 17.942 .H37 2007].

Pictured above is a detail from the cover of the Proceedings of the National Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Egypt, 1922-1923, published in Cairo in 1923 [Call number: 17.962 .E32 1923]. The book is printed both in English and in Arabic. Freemasonry in Egypt began in the early 19th century with the first warrants for lodges coming from France and Germany. Later, in the 1860s, a number of other lodges were chartered by England, Scotland, and the Grand Orient of Italy. Eventually the National Grand Lodge of Egypt became the predominant Masonic body in Egypt. Its lodges conducted their ceremonies and business in Arabic, Greek, French, Italian, Hebrew, and German. When Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in 1954, Freemasonry in Egypt started being suppressed and was eventually abolished by President Nasser in 1964. Although Nasser died in 1970, Freemasonry is still essentially non-existent in Egypt today, something that is true in many countries in the Middle East. As with many countries where Freemasonry is outlawed (or effectively banned through intimidation), there are lodges that practice in exile in other countries. Egypt is no exception to this - one example is Lord Kitchener Lodge No. 3402, a lodge that was founded in Cairo in 1909, but which is now located in Cyprus.

If you'd like to learn more about Freemasonry throughout the world, a great place to start is the two-volume set listed below. Volume 1 covers the Americas and volume 2 covers Africa, Europe, Asia, and Oceania. Also listed below is the book by Harland-Jacobs mentioned above.

Kent Henderson and Tony Pope. Freemasonry Universal: A New Guide to the Masonic World. 2 volumes. Williamstown, Australia: Global Masonic Publications, 1998 & 2000.
Call numbers: REF 01 .H496 1998 (vol. 1) and REF 01 .H496 2000 (vol. 2)

Harland-Jacobs, Jessica L. Builders of Empire: Freemasons and British Imperialism, 1717-1927. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2007.
Call number: 17.942 .H37 2007


Daniel Fenning's The Universal Spelling-Book

Universalspellingbook_detail Daniel Fenning's The Universal Spelling-Book : or a New and Easy Guide to the English Language was originally published in London in 1756. This book was among the earliest spelling books available in the colonies. (Frances Austin gives a nice account of both Fenning and his book here.)

Our copy is a 4th edition, published in London by S. Crowder in 1760. Interestingly, I wasn't able to find a copy of this edition listed in either WorldCat or the English Short Title Catalogue, although, curiously, I did find it in the British Library's online catalog. Still, it leads me to me to believe that our library is one of the few that own a copy of this edition.

Our copy has several inscriptions in it as well, which tell us a little bit more about this particular copy. The first inscription reads "Elisha Harris, His Book: Bought in Providence, cost 40, In February the 24 Day in the year 1762." At that time it wasn't uncommon that most of the stock of a bookstore in the colonies would consist of books published in England and imported to America. It was also common at that time for bookstore owners (who were very often also printers themselves) to take it upon themselves to publish a copy of a book that was popular. In the American Antiquarian Society's collection, they hold a copy of Fenning's The Universal Spelling-Book that has an imprint "London, printed: Providence (Rhode-Island) re-printed and sold by John Carter, at Shakespear’s Head, near the Court-House., MDCCLXXXIII. [1773]." I haven't looked into how many booksellers were in Providence in 1760, but it's possible that our copy, bought by Elisha Harris in 1762, may have been bought from John Carter. And it's possible to speculate that Carter started publishing Fenning's book because he recognized, as a bookseller, just how popular the book was - with people like Elisha Harris buying up the London editions that he had imported to sell in his bookstore.

Pictured above is a detail from the wonderfully illustrated "Life truly painted, in the Natural history of Tommy and Harry," a moral tale that can be found in Fenning's 1760 Universal Spelling-Book.

Fenning, Daniel. The Universal Spelling-Book: Or a New and Easy Guide to the English Language. London: S. Crowder, 1760. 4th edition, with additions.
Call number: RARE PE 1144 .F4 1760


A Little Secret Ritual With Your Insurance, Perhaps?

Equitable_aid_society_2_web Pictured here are two illustrations from the Ritual of the Equitable Aid Union, published in 1889. The book is similar to ritual books that Masonic and other fraternals organizations have either published or used, and which were especially in abundance in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. If you're unfamiliar with a ritual book (also often called a cipher, since they are/were often written in code), one can think of ritual books as scripts to plays, in a way – they contain the text of various ceremonies and dramatic, performance-based rituals that are performed, or enacted, at the official meeting of a fraternal group (like a Masonic lodge). Ritual books are used by those who are going to be performing the ceremonies as a script to memorize. As with plays, they aren’t used when the actual ceremonies are enacted.

This ritual is particularly interesting because it contains illustrations. Although many of the ritual books from this time period contain charts such as those that illustrate the layout of a room where ceremonies are to be performed, not many contain colorful illustrations that depict various parts of ceremonies.

The Equitable Aid Union was organized at Columbus, Warren County, Pennsylvania on March 22, 1879, and they appear to have taken the word “equitable” quite literally by admitting both men and women equally. The organization was only around for eighteen years, dissolving in April of 1897 (you can read the New York Times article about the dissolution here). Mutual benefit societies flourished during the period of 1870 and 1900, during a time when millions of Americans derived no benefits from their employers. By joining a mutual benefit society, a person could obtain health, life, and/or burial insurance. (See our earlier post on how some folks tried to defraud Masonic relief agencies, by impersonating Freemasons.) According to the Cyclopaedia of Fraternitities, the Equitable Aid Union “sought to bring men and women into its Unions to promote benevolence, charity, social, and mental culture, to care for the sick and needy, to aid one another in obtaining employment, and to assist each other in business.”

Equitable_aid_union_3_webThe Equitable Aid Union included four Masons among its founders. Its ceremonies, like many other fraternal organizations’ at the time, were patterned after Freemasonry. Mutual benefit societies not only provided relief in times of need, but, like Freemasonry, they also offered members the chance to participate in self-improvement activities, secret rituals, and social functions. Mutual benefit societies also promoted ideas tied to a self-reliant work ethic, as well as the idea that support (financial, social, etc.) might be more easily achieved when a group comes together, rather than by each individual working in isolation.

Here’s an excerpt from the Ritual of the Equitable Aid Union which, I think, gives a good sense of the ethos of the organization:

Chancellor: Conductor, what say you of Equity?

Conductor: Worthy Chancellor, if Equity in all its benevolent workings were to pervade the various ranks of our social life, rulers would not oppress their people, nor masters act unjustly towards their servants; nor would the people or servants refuse to submit to just and equitable laws, but all would act their part in this great moral machine, with harmony and delight, and every station in life would contribute to the prosperity and happiness of the other.

And here are more complete citations for the books mentioned in this post:

Ritual of the Equitable Aid Union for the Use of Subordinate Unions, Under the Jurisdiction of the Supreme Union ; Adopted at the Annual Meeting of the Supreme Union, held at Columbus Warren Co., Penn'a., March 1889. Titusville, PA: Equitable & Union Herald Printing House, 1889.
Call number: HS 1510 .E8 1889

Stevens, Albert C. The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities: A Compilation of Existing Authentic Information... of More Than Six Hundred Secret Societies in the United States. New York: Hamilton Printing and Publishing Company, 1899.
Call number: 00 .S844 1899


J.J.J. Gourgas and his books

Gourgas_32i_3 J.J.J. Gourgas' signature, initials (shown at left), bookplate, notes and even reviews appear in the dozens of books from his collection held in our library.  His handwriting is distinctive and noteworthy.

John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865) was an important figure in Scottish Rite Freemasonry.  He was the first Secretary General and served as third Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction from 1832 to 1851.  In fact it's difficult to overstate his contributions to Scottish Rite Freemasonry.  At the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Supreme Council, August 5, 1938, Sovereign Grand Commander Melvin M. Johnson stated  “…the outstanding personality of the founders was John James Joseph Gourgas.  It was he who kept the Scottish Rite alive during the years when – but for him – it would have faded out.  It was Gourgas, assisted by [Giles Fonda] Yates, who re-vivified the Rite after the great anti-Masonic agitation, and then started our Supreme Council on its career to become the strong, virile and successful organization which it now is.”

Gourgas_plate2_2 According to biographer J. Hugo Tatsch, Gourgas was born in Switzerland to a family of French Huguenots and moved with several family members to America in 1803.  He stayed briefly with them in Boston then moved to New York City where he started as an accountant and later prospered as a merchant.  He first became a Mason in 1806 with initiation into Lodge L'Union Francaise but made rapid progress so that seven years later he was elevated to the 33rd degree.  Gourgas remained in New York City for most of his life but often summered at the 'Gourgas Place' in Weston, MA.  He died in New York on February 14, 1865 and is buried in the family plot in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The colored bookplate (shown at left) is one of three known Gourgas family plates.  According to Tatsch, his plate "is identical to the oldest (that of his grandfather Jean Louis Gourgas) except for the deletion of “Jean Louis” and the substitution of the [his] initials."

J.J.J. Gourgas seems to have continued the family tradition of acquiring and maintaining a fine library where he could place his bookplate as well.  Peter Ross, in A Standard History of Freemasonry in the State of New York (available online here) notes "the magnificent library which he gathered around him was evidence of his studious habits and his faculty for study and research.  His written and printed productions show him to have been a man of wide reading, a thinker, and a scholar and one who was full of the purest aspirations for the Masonic banner whether it covered Lodge, Chapter or Consistory.”  Tatsch maintains "He was continually buying books in Paris; others were procured from London and in America.  He was deeply interested in the history of the Crusades and the Knights Templar, and was doubtless a believer in the descent of Freemasonry from the chivalric orders.”

Gourgas_29_3 His signature appears (to the left) on the title page of Toland's History of the Druids but his notes about the book cover the endpapers and appear throughout in margins.  His review of the preface?  "A modest and sensible preface with a large body of notes which display very considerable ingenuity and learning."

Gourgas_36_3 One book in our current collection (shown at right) found it's way here by way of a purchase.  Tatsch explains, “Early in Dec., 1937, a copy of M. Zimmerman’s Solitude Considered with respect to its Influence on the Mind and the Heart, bearing the Gourgas bookplate was called to our attention by a Boston bookseller and promptly acquired.  It settled what had been a perplexing question, for on the title page is the inscription, “J.J.J. Gourgas, To Louise Marie Gourgas, my dear daughter.”  There had been some confusion about the number of children Gourgas had and the identity of Louise Marie, buried in the Gourgas plot with her husband, who also was her cousin.

The Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite awards the Gourgas Medal, the highest honor it confers, for "Notably distinguished service in the cause of freemasonry, humanity or country."

Many resources exist on J.J.J Gourgas and still others about his extended family.  A few used here include:

Ripley, Emma.  Weston, a Puritan Town.  Weston: The Benevolent-Alliance of the First Parish, 1961.  Call number:  F 74 .W74 R5 1961

Ross, Peter.  A Standard History of Freemasonry in the State of New York.  New York: Lewis Pub. Co., 1899.  Call number:  17.0775 .R825 1899

Tatsch, J. Hugo.  John James Joseph Gourgas, 1777-1865: Conservator of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.  Boston: Supreme Council, 1938.  Call number: 16.5 .G715 T219 1938

Also, the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives hold the Gourgas documents and correspondence [SC 083, 084].  Please contact our Archivist for more information.

The books where the images shown above are found include:

Initials:  Robison, John.  Proofs of a conspiracy against all the religions and governments of Europe, carried on it the secret meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and reading societies.  N.Y. : George Forman, 1798. Call number: RARE 19 .R666 1798

Signature:  Toland, John. A new edition of Toland's history of the Druids: with an abstract of his life and writings and a copious appendix, containing notes, critical, philological, and explanatory.  Montrose: Printed by J. Watt for P. Hill, 1814.  Call number: RARE BL910 .T7 1814

Dedication to daughter:  Zimmerman, J.  Solitude considered with respect to its influence upon the mind and the heart. Boston : Printed for Joseph Bumstead, 1804. Call number: RARE BJ 1499 .S6 Z53 1804


Frederick Douglass's 1852 Independence Day Oration

J.L. Bell, over at his always-interesting blog, Boston 1775, puts it well when he writes that one of the reasons that Independence Day is celebrated on the 4th, rather than the 2nd, of July has a lot to do with the 4th being the day that there was a public declaration of an event that occurred two days before - the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by Congress on July 2. Bell writes about John Adams's July 3, 1776 letter to Abigail Adams where Adams correctly predicts just about everything about how American indepence will be celebrated in the future, except for the date. (Bell also makes a good case for the role that the printed word played in cementing the 4th as the date for celebrating Independence Day.)

Public declarations - in the form of speeches - might not leap to mind as one of the elements of how Independence Day is celebrated today, however, orations have been a part of Independence Day celebrations since the 18th century - and, in fact, they continue to be a part of the celebration. (Here's but one example: the Archivist of the United States's 2007 Fourth of July address.)

While most Independence Day speeches are - and have been - celebratory in nature, many have gone beyond mere celebration - some with political motives in mind, and others reflective, and willing to ask questions about freedom and independence. Some, in certain ways, combined all of these elements.

Frederick_douglass_july_5_oration_w One well-known example is a speech delivered by Frederick Douglass at the request of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Sewing Society on July 5, 1852; the (slightly stained) cover of our copy is seen here. The speech was delivered as part of the Independence Day observances in Rochester, NY. Douglass, of course, was a man who was born into slavery, escaped from slavery, and went on to become one of the foremost abolitionists in the United States. He was also one of the abolitionist movement's greatest speakers.

Who, but Frederick Douglass, might speak better of independence and freedom - and about the troubling hypocrisy many saw at the time, of celebrating independence and freedom while slavery in America persisted - than a man who escaped from slavery? (And just to tie these themes a bit tighter, it's worth remembering that slavery was addressed in a rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, with wording that was not included in the adopted version of the Declaration.)

In this now-famous July 5, 1852 speech, Douglass looks to the past first, and speaks with admiration of the founders:

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too — great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory.

Later in the speech, he gets to his subject, and he speaks of the situation in America at the time, speaking directly about the celebration of Independence Day and slavery. The text gives a great sense of the fiery oratory of Douglass:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

For the entire text of the speech, you may, of course, come in and read our copy. The text is also available online - you can go here for the full-text of Douglass's July 5, 1852 speech.

For more info on the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, a fuller citation for the Douglass speech mentioned above, as well as resources on how the Fourth of July has been celebrated throughout U.S. history, we can recommend the following books from our collection:

Douglass, Frederick. Oration, Delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester. Rochester : Lee, Mann & Co., 1852.
Call number: E 449 .D7 1852

Burstein, Andrew. America's Jubilee: A Generation Remembers the Revolution After 50 Years of Independence. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2001. [A look at the 50th anniversary of independence, in 1826.]
Call number: E 285 .B88 2001

Maier, Pauline. American Scripture : Making the Declaration of Independence. New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1997.
Call number: E 221 .M24 1997 

Smith, Paul H. Time and Temperature: Philadelphia, July 4, 1776. Washington: Library of Congress, 1977.
Call number: E 221 .S57 1977

Travers, Len. Celebrating the Fourth : Independence Day and the Rites of Nationalism in the Early Republic. Amherst, Mass. : University of Massachusetts Press, c1997.
Call number: E 286 T73 1997

And, for good measure, a couple of new titles that I came across while looking into Douglass's speech and that we'll be acquiring soon:

Colaiaco, James A. Frederick Douglass and the Fourth of July. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
Heintze, James R. The Fourth of July Encyclopedia. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2007.


Twelve Mighty Orphans

Looking for an engaging yet quick read this summer?  How about something that combines sports and Freemasonry?

Sportswriter Jim Dent covered the Dallas Cowboys for 11 years. While in Texas he never heard of the Masonic Home, in fact he first learned about them half-listening to a story about an old football player on ESPN.  Something about it got his attention though and the next day he headed for Fort Worth and began researching the recently closed Masonic Home, Hardy Brown, coach Rusty Russell and and an entire team of underdogs that played in some of the biggest games in Texas high school history.

Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Might Mites Who Ruled Texas Football tells the story.  Dent details how this small band of orphans in the middle of the Depression, a bunch of underweight, under-equipped kids went on to beat larger, better funded, and much better-equipped schools during the 1930's and 1940's.  It's a great, true story.

Masonic_homeAdditional background information about the Masonic Home and School of Texas may be found in our copy of Robert L. Dillard's 1973 history of the orphanage (image at left is from the cover).  Dillard, a former President of the Board of Directors there, provides a detailed history of the institution that opened its doors in 1900.  While there is only brief mention of sports of any kind and a short note in the chronology for 1942 that "H.N. "Rusty" Russell, long-time Principal and coach, left the Home", it provides some background for Dent's more focused story.

Full information for both books follows:

Dent, Jim.  Twelve Mighty Orphans: The Inspiring True Story of the Mighty Mites Who Ruled Texas Football.  New York: St. Martin's Press, 2007.
Call number: 42 .D46 2007

Dillard, Robert L.  History of Masonic Home & School of Texas.  Fort Worth: Masonic Home and School, 1973.
Call number: 42 .D578 1973

And, as suggested by the comment below, see also an interesting look at the Masonic Home and the integral part athletics played in it, in

Vaughn, William Preston, "Masonic Home and School of Texas, 1920-1940: The Glory Days" in A Daily Advancement in Masonic Knowledge: The Collected Blue Friar Lectures.  Bloomington, IL: The Masonic Book Club, 2003.  Call number:  61 .D133 2003