Just as Freemasons use symbols during their rituals and degree ceremonies to teach initiates and members about Masonic traditions and values, they also use symbols to identify the officers of the lodge. Thirteen officers oversee the business of each local lodge. The head is the Master, followed by Senior and Junior Wardens, Secretary, Treasurer, Senior and Junior Deacons, Senior and Junior Stewards, Marshal, Inner Guard, Tyler, and Chaplain. By the mid-1800s, a number of retail companies specialized in producing Masonic and fraternal aprons and regalia. Lodges could buy complete sets of matching aprons for their officers. As the men changed offices, they passed their aprons to their successors.
One of the aprons pictured here bears the symbol of crossed keys, signifying that it was worn by a lodge Treasurer. It is one of six matching lodge aprons rescued from a southern Masonic lodge during the Civil War. All six descended in the family of George William Dupre (1881-1936), a member of Franklin Lodge in Grafton, Massachusetts.
After a man completes his service as Master of his lodge, he becomes a Past Master. The second apron shown here includes the Past Master symbol of a square and quadrant with a sun in the center. By wearing this apron to lodge meetings, the Past Master is reminded of his experience as head of the lodge, as well as of the respect and appreciation of his fraternal brothers. This particular apron has a label documenting that Wollaston Lodge of Quincy, Massachusetts presented it to Albert D. Healey (1888-1984) in 1923.
Want to learn more about the Masonic aprons in the National Heritage Museum collection? Check out the Treasures section of our website and look for past and future blog entries highlighting additional aprons.
Above: Masonic Treasurer’s Apron, 1850-1860, National Heritage Museum, gift of Trinity Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Clinton, Massachusetts, 98.015.2.
Right: Masonic Past Master’s Apron, 1923, Harding Uniform & Regalia Company, Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, 98.039.23a-b.