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September 2009

Freemasonry Unmasked! - An exhibition about anti-Masonry


Freemasonry Unmasked!: Anti-Masonic Collections in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives opens October 3 at the National Heritage Museum in the Library and Archives reading room.

Freemasonry Unmasked! features forty objects from the Library and Archives collection, ranging from 1700s and 1800s ritual exposures to an anti-Masonic comic book from 1978. The topics covered in the show include early ritual exposures, the “Morgan Affair,” the Anti-Masonic political party of the late 1820s and early 1830s, late 19th-century American anti-Masonry, European anti-Masonry perpetrated by the Nazis during World War II, and anti-Masonry from the past fifty years.

Over time, anti-Masonic propaganda has taken many forms. Exposés of Masonic ritual first appeared in the early 1700s.  In the 1820s and 1830s, following the kidnapping and presumed murder of a former Mason who threatened to publish an exposure of Masonic ritual, Americans began producing anti-Masonic newspapers, almanacs, broadsides and other pieces. During this same period, a political party that promoted anti-Masonic candidates formed.


Pictured above is the cover of an anti-Masonic almanac from 1835. The woodcut on this almanac’s cover highlights the central role the press played in spreading the fear of Freemasons. In the detail on the right, you can see the all-seeing eye, a common Masonic symbol, depicted with a printing press in the center, casting light upon the alleged darkness of Freemasonry. The rays emanating from the eye contain names of prominent anti-Masonic politicians of the 1830s, including John Quincy Adams, Edward Everett, and William Wirt.

If you're in the Boston area, stop by and take a look at the printed history of anti-Masonry. To encourage visitors to learn more about Freemasonry and the history of anti-Masonry, we have prepared a couple of bibliographies on the topic of anti-Masonry. Many of these resources were used in the research that was done for Freemasonry Unmasked!

The New-England Anti-Masonic Almanac for the Year of Our Lord 1835. Boston: John Marsh, 1834.
Call number: RARE 19.3 .N532 1835 No.7

"Lexington in 1775": School Curricula Go Online


The National Heritage Museum's website has been expanded to include a curriculum webpage. This location will be the home of a collection of original materials created in conjunction with our long-term installation "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty: Lexington and the American Revolution." Generated from the extensive primary source research that also forms the background of "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty," these lessons provide classroom educators with source-based, lively, and innovative units appropriate for primary and secondary school instruction. "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty" opened in April 2007. This cornerstone exhibition was designed to stimulate new ways of thinking about the battle at Lexington on April 19, 1775, a conflict that has long sparked the American imagination. Now, we are eager to acquaint educators all over the country with additional material that supplements the exhibition.

Lexington in 1775: Colonial Life and the American Revolution

The National Heritage Museum’s curriculum development team has created teaching materials for the third and the fifth grades that conform to the Massachusetts Department of Education’s history curriculum framework. The third grade unit focuses in local history. Students learn about everyday life in colonial Lexington by taking on the roles of real children who lived in the town in 1775. Through exploring family life, farm life, the economy, and community life, students come to understand that English colonists living in Lexington wanted to protect their freedom to own land and to govern themselves. The fifth grade lessons build on the third grade units with explorations of slavery in New England, taxation, women’s political participation, and self-government in Massachusetts.

Join the Conversation or Visit "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty"

Please join the conversation about this material through your feedback on our blog for educators, Learning at the National Heritage Museum: Using Primary Sources to Reconstruct the Past or by writing to us at programs@monh.org.


To learn more about group tours of "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty" and other educational programming at the National Heritage Museum, write to us at groups@monh.org.


Illustration by Joe Farnham, 2007


Have Questions About The Lost Symbol And Freemasonry? Ask Us!

The_lost_symbol No doubt you've heard that Dan Brown's novel, The Lost Symbol, has been published. And, no doubt, you've heard that Freemasonry plays a large role in the plot.

Now seems like a good time to promote ourselves a bit and remind you that if you've got questions related to Freemasonry, we can help. The National Heritage Museum boasts one of the country's finest collections of material and artifacts related to the history of American Freemasonry and fraternalism and its Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives is one of the finest Masonic libraries in the United States. Our collection of over 16,000 objects includes more than 400 aprons, 2,500 badges and jewelry items, and more than 1,000 pieces of Masonic and fraternal regalia.  In addition the Library and Archives holds 60,000 books, 1,600 serial titles, and 2,000 cubic feet of archival materials.  The museum and library were founded and are supported by 32° Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America.

If you've got questions related to Freemasonry, feel free to drop us an e-mail, give us a call, or leave a comment on our blog. Whether you've got questions about topics that come up in The Lost Symbol, are casually interested in something related to Freemasonry, need information about a Masonic or fraternal object or book, or are interested in conducting in-depth research on some aspect of Freemasonry, we've got resources that can help. Here's how to contact us by phone or e-mail:

- Jeff Croteau, Manager of Library and Archives: jcroteau[at]monh.org, 781-457-4125
- Aimee Newell, Director of Collections: anewell[at]monh.org, 781-457-4144
- Catherine Swanson, Archivist: cswanson[at]monh.org, 781-457-4116

If you don't know who to contact, just call the museum's main number (781-861-6559) and you'll be put in touch with someone who can assist you.

If you're in the Boston area, be sure to visit us and check out our exhibitions related to Freemasonry, including The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts: Celebrating 275 Years of Brotherhood (closing October 25) and an upcoming show opening in the Library and Archives on October 3, Freemasonry Unmasked!: Anti-Masonic Collections in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.

We look forward to helping you learn more about Freemasonry!

A Masonic Past Master's Jewel

GL2004_0145S1 As Freemasonry developed during the early 1700s in England and America, symbols were associated with each office.  The officers started wearing their symbols as silver pendants, called jewels, while attending meetings and public ceremonies.  Masonic jewels were almost always silver, generally made by a silversmith working in the area where the lodge met, although few are marked by their makers.  The lodge’s officer jewels belonged to the Lodge and passed from man to man as they entered and left office.  
The jewel seen here is a Masonic Past Master’s jewel.  Unlike lodge officer jewels, Past Master jewels were usually purchased by the lodge and then presented to the outgoing Master in appreciation of his service as leader.  The recipient would wear his Past Master jewel on his chest at lodge events to signify his experience.  This jewel was presented to James Dickson (1774-1853), Past Master of Boston’s St. John’s Lodge, in 1812.  Dickson was born in London and came to Boston by 1796, where he followed an acting career and managed the Boston Theatre during the early 1800s.  He later became a merchant, importing fancy English goods, and accumulated a fortune estimated at $100,000 by 1851.

Dickson became a member of St. John’s Lodge in 1804, serving in several offices between 1808 and 1815.  After receiving this jewel in recognition of his service as Master in 1812, Dickson again served the lodge as Master in 1818 and in 1829.  He also served as Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts; this jewel is now part of the Grand Lodge collection at the National Heritage Museum.

Past Master’s Jewel, 1812, Boston, Massachusetts.  Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts at the National Heritage Museum, GL2004.0145.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Conservation of Masonic Treasures: Saving the Mark Book

A92_001_1Thwing_cropped The King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter mark book (1825-1838) is a key Masonic treasure for both exhibition and research at the National Heritage Museum.  Because of renewed interest and fresh research related to this particular manuscript volume (as seen in three previous blog posts by National Heritage Museum staff members), the Library and Archives decided to explore the possibilities of having conservation work done on this object. The mark book contains the "marks" of men who received the Mark Master Mason degree in King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter in Greenwich, Massachusetts. The book is nearly two hundred years old and it shows its age: the book's binding is detached and the beautiful pages with watercolored Masonic "marks" are coming loose. I contacted Northeast Document Conservation Center and spoke with Deb Wender, Director of Book Conservation. We spoke about the mark book and what type of repair it needed.  We then sent the item to NEDCC via US Art, a company that transports fine art, so that the NEDCC staff could physically evaluate the object and provide us with cost estimates for different conservation treatments.

Soon thereafter, I received a treatment proposal from Mary Patrick Bogan, Senior Book Conservator at NEDCC.  This treatment proposal first described the condition of the piece upon receipt.  Bogan described the bound manuscript as worn and deteriorated.  The paper and leather were detached from the frontboard and backboard.  The binding was nearly detached.  The watercolored pages were dirty, discolored, acidic, and stained. She described the paper as flexible, however some of the pages had small tears and were cockled along the edges. 

The second part of the treatment proposal contains the recommended conservation treatment. Bogan describes step by step how repair will proceed.  NEDCC always provides both a written record of treatment plus before and after conservation photographs. The pages of the mark book would be collated where necessary, vacuumed, and surface cleaned to remove loose dirt.  Then the item would be disbound, removing the sewing and separating the sections.  Stains along the folds of the pages would be treated using moisture.  The blank pages at the end of the item would be washed in water to clean and reduce acidity.  The pages with watercolors would be alkalized by immersion in a calcium hydroxide bath to protect the paper from formation of acid in the future.  Small tears in the pages would be repaired with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste.  The text would then be reassembed and pressed to flatten.  Linen thread would be used to sew the pages into sections. A92_001_1T1Tabbot_cropped

Bogan gave me two options for the binding of the mark book. First she proposed to bind the manuscript in cloth using a case structure.  The second option would be to repair the existing binding by rebacking the piece with airplane linen and Japanese paper and constructing a custom-made storage box for it.

After further discussions with Bogan, we decided to move forward with the recommended treatment of the piece. We chose the second option for rebinding the manuscript because this will preserve the mark book's artifactual value as well as the inner informational value.

The mark book will likely be at NEDCC for six to eight months.  However, after the conservation work is complete and item returned, we will have a Masonic treasure that is more physically stable, has a longer life, and has its future ensured at the museum!

Captions for this post: 

Right: Mark of William K. Talbot, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Left: Mark of Thomas Thwing, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Willis Michael’s Clock Collection

Nailor Michael workshop doc size Many of the clocks on view in the exhibition “For All Time:  Clocks and Watches from the National Heritage Museum” came to the Museum from the collection of  Willis R. and Ruth Michael of York, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Michael’s gift of more than 140 pieces from the collection her husband assembled forms the core of the Museum’s timepiece holdings.

In the face of fast-paced change in the early 1900s, many Americans sought to celebrate past ingenuity and seemingly simpler times by collecting antiques. A similar impulse may have prompted Willis R. Michael (1894-1969), a tool and die maker and entrepreneur, to start his collection of antique American, European and other clocks. Mr. Michael purchased his first one in the late 1930s, a tall case clock crafted in the late 1700s by George Hoff of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  As Michael later described, he soon “got the bug.”  His collection grew to include hundreds of items including clocks, watches, automata, clockmaking tools and both antique and modern books about horology.   Drawing on his skills as a machinist, Michael learned how to repair, clean, and ultimately, make clocks.

The Michaels displayed clocks in every room of their home.  They also built an extensive display area to help share these treasures with others.  The photo of the Michael’s clock display area was likely taken at a dinner they hosted during Willis Michael’s tenure (1949-1951) as president of the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors.Visitors to the Willis Michael clock room 1949

A few years after Mr. Michael died in 1969, Mrs. Michael began making a series of gifts from her husband’s collection to the Museum, then newly founded by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Many years before, in 1924, Michael had joined his local Masonic lodge.  From then until his death, he was an active member in both the York and Scottish Rites.  He received the 33° in Boston in 1942.  Mrs. Michael likely gave many clocks from Willis Michael’s collection to the Museum in honor of her husband’s lifelong involvement in Masonry.

The Museum’s collection is much richer for the Michaels’ enthusiasm and generosity.

Willis Michael in his Workshop, 1940s or 1950s. Red Lion, Pennsylvania. Courtesy of Michael Nailor.

Willis Michael’s “Clock and Watch Museum.” Red Lion, Pennsylvania, 1949. Photograph by Henry M. Blatner. National Heritage Museum.

Franklin Opening the Lodge

81_56T1 While George Washington (1732-1799) is arguably the best-known American Freemason, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) may be a close second.  The National Heritage Museum collection includes a number of objects depicting Franklin, which recognize his Masonic membership. 

This print, Franklin Opening the Lodge, was published by Kurz and Allison of Chicago and dates to 1896.  The partnership, which extended from 1880 to at least 1899, produced a wide range of decorative prints, including a series depicting Revolutionary War battles.

Benjamin Franklin became a Freemason when he was initiated in St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia in 1731.  His involvement with the fraternity extended over the next fifty years, during which time he held several leadership roles.  He served as Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1734 and Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1749.  While in Paris during the American Revolution, Franklin became a member of the Lodge of Nine Sisters (La Loge des Neuf Soeurs), serving as its Venerable Master from 1779 to 1781.  (For more on Franklin's Masonic activities, see this previous post on our blog.)

In this print, Franklin wears a Masonic apron and a Master’s jewel around his neck.  He stands in a lodge room, surrounded by a number of Masonic symbols.  Presumably, this print appealed to Freemasons around the country and was considered appropriate as decoration in the lodge and in the home.

This print is pictured in the Treasures section of our website, which includes information on approximately 100 objects from our collection.

Franklin Opening the Lodge, 1896, Kurz and Allison (partnership 1880-1899), Chicago, Illinois, National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 81.56.  Photograph by David Bohl.

IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf

Connecting_to_collections The National Heritage Museum was selected as a recepient of the IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf, a core set of conservation books and online resources donated by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). IMLS has awarded almost 3,000 free sets of the IMLS Bookshelf, in cooperation with the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

For the next few weeks we're displaying the books that we received as part of the IMLS Connecting to Collections Bookshelf in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives reading room (see the picture above). Educating the public about preservation and conservation is an important part of the work we do. Along with the display of the books we've received, we have an informational sign that explains how we got these resources and why they're important.

But wait, there's more! A companion to the IMLS Bookshelf is the excellent Guide to Online Resources, which is another great way to learn more about preservation and conservation. In the reading room, we're showing the Connecting to Collections DVD as well. (Can't make it here? You can also watch the 4-minute video online.)

How did we get these great resources? The National Heritage Museum received this essential set of resources based on an application describing the needs and plans for the care of its collections. The IMLS Bookshelf focuses on collections typically found in art or history museums and in libraries' special collections, with an added selection of texts for zoos, aquaria, public gardens, and nature centers. It addresses such topics as the philosophy and ethics of collecting, collections management and planning, emergency preparedness, and culturally specific conservation issues.

We've cataloged the books so that anyone searching our online catalog or OCLC's WorldCat will know that we have these resources. The staff that works with collections here at the museum is happy to be the beneficiaries of the IMLS's generosity.

Here's a list of the resources we received:

Adelstein, Peter Z. IPI Media Storage Quick Reference. Rochester, NY: Image Permanence Institute, 2004.

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. The AIC Guide to Digital Photography and Conservation Documentation. Washington, DC:American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. 2008.

Canadian Conservation Institute, Department of Canadian Heritage. Framework for Preservation of Museum Collections. Wall chart. Ottawa: Canadian Conservation Institute, 2004.

Drewes, Jeanne M. and Julie A. Page, eds. Promoting Preservation Awareness in Libraries. West Port, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Ellis, Margaret Holben. The Care of Prints and Drawings. New York: AltaMira Press, 1995.

Gorman, G. E., and Sydney J. Shep, eds. Preservation Management for Libraries, Archives and Museums. London: Facet Publishing, 2006.

Heritage Preservation, The National Institute for Conservation. Capitalize on Collections Care. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation Inc., 2007.

_____. Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation Inc., 2005.

_____. Field Guide to Emergeny Response. Washington, DC: Heritage Preservation Inc., 2006.

International Review of African American Art: Collecting, Conservation, and Collaborations, 22.1, 2007.

Long, Jane S. and Richard W. Long. Caring for Your Family Treasures. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, 2000.

Malaro, Marie C. A Legal Primer on Managing Museum Collections. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1985.

National Park Service. Museum Handbook Part I: Museum Collections. Washington, DC: National Park Service, 2006.

National Trust. The National Trust Manual of Housekeeping: The Care of Collections in Historic Houses Open to the Public. Amsterdam: Elsevier. 2006.

Ogden, Sherelyn, ed. Caring for American Indian Objects: A Practical and Cultural Guide. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2004.

Ritzenthaler, Mary Lynn and Diane L. Vogt O’Connor. Photographs: Archival Care and Management. Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2006.

Ward, Philip. The Nature of Conservation: A Race Against Time. Marina del Rey, CA: The Getty Conservation Institute, 1986.