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February 2009

King Solomon Reigns

EL2007_001Overall After smaller version
King Solomon Dedicating the Temple, 1874, George Whiting Flagg (1816-1897), Connecticut, Loaned by Annawon Lodge 115 A.F. & A.M, West Haven, Connecticut, EL2007.001, photograph by David Bohl.

One of the ways we serve our Masonic audience at the National Heritage Museum is by caring for important documents and objects on loan from local lodges.  This painting was presented to Annawon Lodge 115 in West Haven, CT in 1874.  In late 2006, Annawon Lodge sold its building to the city and prepared to move to smaller quarters – too small to house this large painting.  Lodge members did not want to see it destroyed, but had no way to display or store it locally.  Working with the Lodge, the Museum oversaw the transport of the painting from West Haven, CT to Lexington, MA.  Prior to hanging the painting in our Farr Conference Room, Museum staff facilitated conservation treatment of the painting and the construction of a new frame.  Through cooperative effort, the painting is now on exhibit at the National Heritage Museum for our visitors to enjoy, and to preserve this piece of Masonic history for the future.

The painting depicts King Solomon officiating at the dedication of his Temple.  The Bible tells the story of King Solomon building his temple.  This same story inspired the ritual behind the first three Masonic degrees – Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.  On the left-hand side of the painting is an urn burning incense with two workmen above.  One is an overseer holding a square, the other is a craftsman who is sitting down, indicating that their work is complete.  Other common Masonic symbols are also visible: a partial square and compass at top center, signifying reason and faith; and an all-seeing eye at top right, representing watchfulness. 

While the painting’s large size – it measures approximately 9 1/2 feet by 5 1/2 feet – makes quite a first impression, the story behind its origin is even more intriguing.  According to the painting’s history, Solomon’s face is modeled on the artist’s father.  The work also has a history of being started by one artist and finished by a second.

The painting is signed by George Whiting Flagg (1816-1897) of New Haven, Connecticut.  Flagg studied under his uncle, Washington Allston (1779-1843), and painted many historical scenes and genre pictures.  Early in his career, he was supported by his patron, Luman Reed of New York City, and was able to travel extensively in Europe.  No evidence has yet been found that Flagg was a Mason, but his father is listed as a member of New Haven Commandery No. 2. 

The story passed down with the painting states that the first artist passed away, leaving the canvas incomplete.  A second artist associated with the painting is Harry Ives Thompson (1840-1906) from West Haven, Connecticut.  Thompson trained as an artist, studying under Benjamin H. Coe and exhibiting at the National Academy of Design in the 1870s and 1880s.  Thompson was a Mason and a member of Annawon Lodge in Connecticut.  So far, we are unable to conclusively prove that two artists worked on the painting.  The story of one artist dying and the second taking up the brush cannot be true as Flagg, the initial artist, passed away in 1897, twenty-five years after the painting was presented to Annawon Lodge.   Although this colorful history cannot be supported with the available information, the newly conserved painting is a vibrant addition to the Farr Conference Room. 


Revels Repertory Presents "An American Journey" Sunday, March 1 at 2 pm

Revels The Revels Repertory Company presents "An American Journey" in a special performance at the Museum on Sunday, March 1 at 2 pm. The story, told through music, dance, and narrative, takes place in 1907 when more people immigrated to the United States than in any other year.  Although it focuses on the Irish, the Italians and the Eastern European Jews, it honors the struggles of all who left their homelands to journey to America and a new life.

Tickets are  $12.50/adult and $6/child for non-members. For Museum members, and residents of LCC-sponsoring communities (Bedford, Lexington, and Lincoln, MA), tickets are $10/adult; $5/child. Get tickets online, call 781-861-6559, or at the door. The Museum is located at 33 Marrett Road in Lexington, MA.

The Revels touring ensemble, Revels Rep, brings the group's joyful programs to public venues and schools throughout southern New England. Based on historic, seasonal and cultural themes, the ensemble’s original programs include traditional music, drama, dance, storytelling, and audience participation.

For map-lovers

Geog_us One of the recently announced American Library Association children's book award winners that particularly got my attention is Uri Shulevitz's How I Learned Geography.  The author-illustrator has included autobiographical details in previous books but never so poignantly.  His latest book tells of his Polish family, ravaged by war and forced to relocate.  Strangers in a new country, they are poor and hungry yet one night instead of food from the market his father brings home a large, colorful map and places it on their wall.  At first Uri and his mother are annoyed because there are so many other things they need.  In time he realizes the map nourishes him and his dreams as no food ever could.

It's a sentiment map-lovers of any age can appreciate.

And we are a museum of map-lovers.  Interesting, historic, beautiful and colorful maps both large and small may be found029-1779_T1 on many of our walls and often are exhibited or used in exhibits to illustrate the stories we tell.  Over thirty years ago when our Museum was new and the Library & Archives collection just being formed, maps were identified as a priority and a small but respectable collection acquired.  One of the early acquisitions, shown at right, Carte du Theatre de la Guerre dans L'Amerique...1775-1778 was drawn by Captaine de Chesnoy, an aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette and published in Paris. The three columns in the lower right list major campaigns of the Revolutionary War in chronological order so there's lots of visual and narrative interest all in one map.

Fortunately today it's easier than ever to find, study and even print or order reproductions of every imaginable kind of map.  New England has several wonderful map collections including the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Osher Map Collection at the University of Southern Maine (where the new map museum will open in September 2009).  Online resources about maps also are extensive.  It's hard to beat former British Library map librarian Tony Campbell's Map History site for an all around introduction to anything and everything having to do with maps.  The Library of Congress, University of Texas, New York Public Library and David Rumsay map sites also are comprehensive and, the Library of Congress along with the BPL site, provide the opportunity to buy reproductions from their collections.

And this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning Google and their many map products.  Several official and unofficial blogs are available to try to keep up with and make sense of their latest map offerings.

Sources listed and mentioned above: 

Chesnoy, Michel.  Carte du theatre de la Guerre... Paris: Chez Perrier graveur:  Chez Fortin, [1779].  Call number:  map 029-1779?

Shulevitz, Uri.  How I Learned Geography.  N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Silvestro, Clement M.  A Decade of Collecting Maps.  Lexington, MA:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1985.  Call number:  GA 190 .S54 1985




Museum Launches New Home Page

 Screenshot_new_nhm_homepage The Museum has a new home page!

The new format allows you to quickly scan all the exhibitions on view, as well as current and upcoming programs. A special “Spotlight” section is designed to highlight a new opening or a special event. While the at-a-glance design is simple to navigate, it guides you easily into deeper aspects of the Museum’s online offerings. You can explore the virtual Museum and tour online exhibitions like “Teenage Hoboes in the Great Depression” or “Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revoultion,” among others. The “Keepers of Tradition” audio tour, the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives online catalog, and various podcasts are now a click away. Be sure to visit us at www.nationalheritagemuseum.org


George Washington in Lexington

EL2006_002 Leutze GW CN Painted by lauded German American artist Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868), George Washington as a Master Mason portrays America’s first president as if he is presiding over a lodge meeting. 

The Scottish Rite Valley of Detroit purchased the painting in 1927 for display in their newly constructed and impressive Masonic Temple.  Exhibited in Detroit for decades, George Washington now watches over the National Heritage Museum’s auditorium.  A loan from the 32º Masons of the Valley of Detroit brought the painting to Lexington.

Interested in depicting inspirational moments in history, Leutze featured Washington in several compositions.  The best known of these continues to be George Washington Crossing the Delaware. Leutze first exhibited this now-iconic image to great acclaim in 1851.  Critics considered it a “great modern painting” in its day. 

But why did Leutze choose to paint Washington surrounded by Masonic tools and wearing an apron thought to have been given to him by Marquis de Lafayette?  (For more on the apron once believed the handiwork of Madame Lafayette, visit the Masonic Museum and Library of Pennsylvania.)  As far as we know, Leutze himself was not a Freemason.  New Yorker John Riston paid the princely sum of $10,000 for the large (over ten feet high) painting.  The artist likely created the work to fulfill a specific request from Riston.  Further research may help us understand the reason behind  Riston’s commission.  In the meantime, we hope you will enjoy Leutze’s celebration of one of America’s best-loved heroes in his role as a Mason on your next visit to our auditorium.

George Washington as a Master Mason, 1856.  Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1816-1868.  Lent by the 32nd Degree Masons, Valley of Detroit, Michigan, EL2006.002

"A Penny for Your Thoughts"--Send an e-Postcard from the Collection

Postcard_Harvard_girl "A Penny for Your Thoughts: Postcards from the Golden Age, 1898-1918" Now On View in the Van Gorden-Williams Library

"A Penny for Your Thoughts: Postcards from the Golden Age, 1898-1918" is a charming new exhibition now open in the Van Gorden-Williams Library. In the early 1900s, when telephones and cameras were few and automobiles were limited to the well-to-do, the postcard filled a necessary and appreciated role. Costing only a penny each to send, postcards were an inexpensive way to convey short messages. Images on the cards showed American pursuits and pastimes, customs, costumes, morals, and manners. Sold everywhere-in drug stores, souvenir shops, dime stores, specialty shops and even on street corners-many postcards from this age still exist today.

In "A Penny for Your Thoughts" more than 100 examples from the Golden Age will be shown, along with postcard scrapbooks. The images capture the optimism, the people, the industrialism, and the transportation of the period from 1898-1918. Visitors will see favorite tourist destinations, cityscapes, and period automobiles. They will also be able read the messages on these antique postcards. A variety of styles and subject matter will be shown, including color lithographic, photographic, novelty, and fraternal postcards.

The exhibition is drawn from gifts from Martin A. and Mildred H. Gilman and various museum purchases. Bertha Petersen, Martin A. Gilman's mother, collected many of the postcards when she lived in New Jersey and Connecticut from 1904-1917.

Send An e-Postcard!

Have some fun with our free e-postcard greeting feature! Just click here, choose an image, and send an instant greeting to friends and family--for even less than a penny!

Postcard, ca. 1907.  F. Earl Christy. Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives. Gift of Martin A. and Mildred H. Gilman

First Masonic book published in America

Franklinconstitutions Among the many gems in the library's collection is the first Masonic book printed in America. The book is called The Constitutions of the Free-Masons and was printed in June 1734 by Benjamin Franklin.

Why did Franklin print this book? It seems likely that Franklin had perceived that copies of the first edition of the Constitutions (which was published in 1723 in London)  were not easily available in the British colonies and, businessman that he was, he decided to print a new edition.

Franklin’s Constitutions was printed when Franklin was only 28 years old, almost exactly at the time that Franklin became Grand Master of Pennsylvania. Interestingly, Franklin did not give himself credit anywhere within the book for being the printer.  How do we know then that Franklin printed this item? One way we know is that scholars have attributed this book to Franklin’s press on the evidence of the type used – a sort of typographical forensics. There is also further, secondary evidence, such as the series of advertisements for Franklin’s Constitutions which first appeared in Franklin’s newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette in May 1734, all explicitly stating that the book is “Reprinted by B. Franklin.” It's interesting to note that Franklin called his edition a "reprint" (and didn't give himself credit as the printer anywhere in the book). In fact, if you compare his "reprint" to the 1723 edition, you can see that he tried to mimic the look of the original. (Speaking of mimicking the look of the original, a very well done digital (but not digitized) copy of Franklin's 1734 Constitutions is available here.)

Franklin’s Constitutions is an exceedingly rare book. Three fairly recent bibliographic censuses have been done for this book – in 1971, 1974, and 2003 (see the end of this post) – each of which counted less than twenty existing copies of this book in the world.  That being said, there may be more copies of the book in private hands. Our copy was described in the 1971 census by Harold V.B. Voorhis as follows. You will notice that many aspects of marks in this book are noted:

14 – Academy-Borneman Copy
I found this unbound copy in the Academy Bookshop in New York in 1933. It was purchased with a library in Long Island, New York, bound with other items and removed after purchased by the bookshop. It was sold to Brother Borneman of the Committee on Library of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for $500. After his death it was sold at auction in the Parke-Bernet Galleries to an unknown bidder for $500. It is now rebound. On page 30 is the signature of “Lewis Evans” and on page 86 there is an unidentified word at the bottom. Several pages of the book contain circular water-marks about the size of a silver dollar. The circle is quartered by diagonal lines and in the quarters are the letters “S-P-D-S” starting at the top, reading left to right.

I will briefly address the watermark mentioned above, if only to say that while this is certainly evidence of a very interesting kind (although I’ve not been able to trace which paper maker used this watermark), it does not give evidence of who owned the book, but rather who had a hand, in a way, in making the book.

I'm interested in "marks in books" - those traces of evidence that tell us more about a book's past (for example, who owned a particular book before it came to reside in our library), and so I was excited to find out that, as mentioned above, our copy of Franklin's Constitutions contains the signature of a former owner of the book, Lewis Evans, as well as the date 1741. Lewis Evans was an important early mapmaker, draftsman, and geographer. He was an associate of Franklin's as well - and Franklin published the book that accompanied Evans's famous 1755  A General Map of the Middle British Colonies (another item in our collection, that we'll address in a future post).

A question that I'd like to answer, but haven't yet, is why did Lewis Evans purchase Franklin’s reprint of the Constitutions? I haven't found evidence that Evans was a Freemason. Also, why did Evans obtain this book in 1741, as he presumably did, seven years after the book was published? Franklin most likely printed the Constitutions with the hope that members of various colonial Masonic lodges would buy up the edition. As late as 1750, though, Franklin was still advertising remaindered copies for sale.

Did Evans buy his copy out of curiosity about Freemasonry? Or, because he was a business associate of Franklin, did Evans obtain the book at a reduced cost or possibly even receive it for free, since Franklin was clearly not having an easy time selling out the edition he printed? These are questions I don't have answers for yet. I'm hoping that, with further research, more answers may possibly come to light.

Sources for censuses of Franklin's Constitutions:

Voorhis, Harold V.B. "Benjamin Franklin's Reprint of Anderson's Constitutions of 1723: The First American Masonic Book." Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Volume 84 (1971), pp. 69-74.

Miller, C. William. Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Printing, 1728-1766: A Descriptive Bibliography. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1974. Cat. no. 80, pp. 39-40

Walgren, Kent Logan. Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and IIluminism in the United States, 1734-1850: A Bibliography. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2003. Vol. 1, cat. no. 1, p. 3.

Masonic Aprons - Made with Love

Tarbell_apron_96014t While Freemasonry is an exclusive society, limiting its membership to men, female relatives of Masons were familiar with many of the fraternity’s activities and symbols.  Wives and daughters of Freemasons made aprons that the men wore at lodge rituals and meetings.  From the aprons, as well as from household objects decorated with Masonic symbols, women could recognize and understand Masonic motifs.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, three techniques were used to decorate Masonic aprons: printing, painting and embroidery.  Using skills they learned at the local academy, girls and women painted or embroidered some of the aprons in the National Heritage Museum’s collection, while professional artists painted others.  Local engravers and printers often provided designs printed on silk, which could be stitched into the familiar apron shape.

John Tarbell (1774-1852) of Massachusetts originally owned the apron shown at top.  He was raised a Master Mason in Cambridge’s Amicable Lodge in 1814 and held several Masonic offices between 1816 and 1820, becoming Worshipful Master in 1821.  The apron is embroidered and hand-painted with many familiar Masonic symbols including: the all-seeing eye, signifying watchfulness; a trowel, the symbolic tool that spreads the cement that unites Masons in brotherly love; and the square and compasses, symbolizing reason and faith.  Family history suggests that one of Tarbell’s nieces made this apron for him.

The second apron shown here is also embroidered.  It bears the phrase “Cemented with Love.”  79_70s1 Masons are taught that the cement of brotherly love binds men together and that the lodge is cemented with love and friendship.  This apron was brought to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when the Alexander Stuart McKee family emigrated from Ireland.  Under the flap is the name, “Wm. Leigh,” probably the apron’s original owner, and the date “1796.”

Above: Masonic apron, 1815-1820, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, Museum Purchase, 96.014, photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Masonic apron, 1796, County Down, Ireland, National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Streeter Jr., 79.70.

Baron von Steuben's Regulations

Revolutionary Army officers created a very succinct creed at Verplanck's Point, N.Y. in 1782 where they paid homage to those they felt most deserving of credit for the Army's success.  Naturally, they included George Washington, Nathanael Greene, Henry Knox -- and Friedrich Steuben:

"...We believe that Baron Steuben has made us soldiers, and that he is capable of forming the whole world into a solid column, and displaying it from the center. We believe in his Blue Book...."

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben (1730-1794) was born and raised in Prussia.  He received his early military experience in the Seven Years War (1756-1763) but by the 1770's was in search of another war.  Twice he approached Benjamin Franklin in Paris for assistance to go to America, and the second time he was successful in getting a letter of introduction to General Washington.  Steuben sailed to America and arrived in Portsmouth, N.H. on December 1, 1777; by February he was in Pennsylvania, and by March he had the Continental army in Valley Forge learning how to drill, something sorely missing in the early months of the army.  Washington was so impressed that he wrote to Congress in late April:  "I should do injustice if I were to be longer silent with regard to the merits of Baron von Steuben.  His knowledge of his profession, added to the zeal..."  Washington recommended and Congress approved Steuben be promoted to Inspector General but with the rank and pay of Major General, a situation that pleased Steuben. 

Stuben_1794 In The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army, author Paul Lockhart concentrates on how Steuben went about getting the army ready for battle, the relentless drilling, and the many campaigns that followed.  But as Steuben's charge was to bring overall discipline and order to the troops, during the winter of 1778-79 he spent more time writing than drilling.  Steuben improved earlier attempts at a military manual and produced Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (a copy of the title page of our Library's 1794 edition appears at left).  First published in Philadelphia in March 1779 with 150 pages and 8 plates, the initial printing produced over 1500 copies with blue covers (and thus it was known as the 'Blue Book').   It went on to have some seventy editions and to remain an indispensable manual for American soldiers until the War of 1812. The 'Blue Book' has even enjoyed several revivals, most recently during the Bicentennial of 1976, as it provided useful information for re-enactors. 

While early editions of the Regulations were quickly snapped up, an even larger market was created in 1792 when Congress passed the Militia Act.  As state militias began to appear, Steuben's manual filled the need for soldiers requiring instructions on everything from drilling to fighting in battle to setting up camp. The original manual usually was printed together with a more specific state manual.  

Our library is fortunate to have two copies of Steuben's Regulations, one published in Boston in 1793, and the other in 1794.  The latter was printed by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831) and the plates engraved and signed by Amos Doolittle (1754-1832).  Donald C. O'Brien in Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the New Republic explains that, like many printers, Thomas quickly got into the business of printing the manuals after the Militia Act and likely hired Doolittle to do the engravings because his usual engraver, Joseph H. Seymour, was too busy with other jobs. 

As one of Doolittle's plates below shows, the drawings were simple.  The accompanying information was more detailed, however, clearly providing instructions for all aspects of military life from marching (e.g. the Common Step "is two feet and about seventy-five in a minute" while the Quick Step "is about one hundred and twenty in a minute") to the correct motion for taking aim and firing.

Stuben_1794_ad2 Plate VII (shown at left) details the correct Order of Encampment.  Accompanying instructions state:  The infantry will on all occasions encamp by battalions, as they are formed in order of battle.

The front of the camp will occupy the same extent of ground as the troops when formed; and the intervals between the battalions will be twenty paces, with an addition of eight paces for every piece of cannon a battalion may have.  The quarter-master of each regiment shall be answerable that he demands no more  ground than is necessary for the number of men he has actually with the regiment, allowing two feet for each file, exclusive of the officers, and adding sixteen feet for the intervals between the platoons.  He is also to be answerable that no more tents are to be pitched than are absolutely necessary, allowing one tent for the non-commissioned officers of each company, and one for every six men, including the drums and fifes.

And finally, both of our copies of the Regulations have signatures and notes in contemporary hand Stuben_1794_smith from previous owners, and the 1794 copy, in particular, may demonstrate that the Regulations were in use until the War of 1812.  There is good evidence that Capt. Wm. R. Smith (signature shown in the image at right) is William Rogers Smith (1774-1818) the only surviving son of a landowning Baltimore County family who would have had the needed financial resources to be a member of the Baltimore Blues, an outfit that fought during the War of 1812.

Additional information on Baron von Steuben may be found at websites of both the Society of the Cincinnati (an organization he helped found), and the Steuben Society of America.  Many memorials exist for Steuben, most notably statues in Washington, D.C., Valley Forge, Monmouth County, N.J., and Potsdam, Germany.

Sources consulted and mentioned above:

Lockhart, Paul.  The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army.  New York: HarperCollins, 2008.  Call number:  E 207 .S8 L63 2008

O'Brien, Donald C.  Amos Doolittle: Engraver of the New Republic.  New Castle, DE:  Oak Knoll Press, 2008.  Call number:  Call number: NE 955.2 .O27 2008

Riling, Joseph R.  Baron von Steuben and his Regulations.  Philadelphia:  Riling Arms Books Co., 1966.

Steuben, Frederick William.  Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.  Boston:  Printed and sold by John W. Folson, Union Street.  Sold also by John Norman, Newbury Street, 1793. Call number:  RARE UB 501 1793  Gift of the J. Collier Family. 

Steuben, Frederick William.  Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, to which are added the United States Militia Act passed in Congress, May 1792, and the Militia Act of Massachusetts, Passed June 22, 1793.  A new edition illustrated by eight copperplates, accurately engraved.  Boston:  [Printed by I. Thomas and E.T. Andrews] For David West, No. 36, Marlborough Street and John West, No. 75, Cornhill, 1794.  Call number:  RARE UB 501 1794

Von Zemenszky, Edith.  The Papers of General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, 1777-1794 : guide and index to the microfilm edition.  Millwood, N.Y. : Kraus International Publications, 1984.

Many thanks to Librarian Francis P. O'Neill at the Maryland Historical Society for information on William Rogers Smith.

To our e-mail subscribers

This is a nuts-and-bolts post to those of you who subscribe via e-mail.

If you subscribe to this blog via e-mail, you may have wondered recently (like, say, the past month) why you haven't received any posts from us. Feedburner, the service we use to deliver the posts via e-mail was recently acquired by Google and during a recent transition period they encountered all kinds of problems that affected delivery of posts via e-mail. Many bloggers, including us, were unable to get our blog posts out to our subscribers via e-mail. The problem appears to be fixed, so you should once again be getting your regular dose of American history, Freemasonry, and fraternalism delivered straight to your inbox.

So keep your eyes peeled for new posts from us, and in the meantime head back to our blog and check out the posts you might have missed. There's plenty to learn about - from trick chairs to Masonic quilts, and a whole lot in between.