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May 2010

New to the Collection: Asa C. Jewett's Presentation Sword

2009_048_1a-bDP2 Recently, the National Heritage Museum received a gift of two Masonic Knights Templar swords.  The Museum is fortunate to have an excellent collection of Masonic and fraternal swords, so we can afford to be selective about adding to it.  We get a number of calls each year from people who find a Knights Templar sword in their attic or on ebay and are looking to learn more about it.  Coming from an organization that numbered almost 200,000 members in 1900 with uniforms that required a sword, Knights Templar swords have never been rare.

What made us take a closer look at these two swords was the inscription on one: “Presented to Right Eminent Sir Asa Clarke Jewett by Gethsemane Commandery No. 35, K.T. Newtonville November 10, 1924.”  Among our collection of over 150 swords, we have few that are documented as presentation pieces the way this one is.

Collections Department volunteer Nancy Bernard recently completed some research on the sword and its original owner.  She was able to add to the sword’s story by exploring newspaper articles, Masonic membership records and histories of Jewett’s Knights Templar Commandery.2009_048_1a-bDP1

Asa Clarke Jewett was born in Pepperell, Massachusetts, on March 20, 1860.  According to his obituary, he was in the decorating business with an office in Newton Center and “was one of the best known men in this line in Greater Boston.”  Jewett was raised a Master Mason in Dalhousie Lodge in 1881 and joined Gethsemane Commandery in 1884.  He was also a Scottish Rite Mason and a member of Boston’s Aleppo Temple, part of the Shrine.  In October 1924, Jewett was elected Grand Commander of the Knights Templar of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The sword, which was presented to him in November 1924 by his home commandery, seems to recognize this achievement. 

Sadly, Jewett’s time in office was brief.  He died on July 23, 1925, while leading a party of Massachusetts and Rhode Island Knights Templar members to the organization’s 36th Triennial Conclave (or national meeting) in Seattle.  The group had stopped for the night in Glacier National Park, Montana, when Jewett passed away.

The sword is currently on view as part of a display of recent acquisitions to the Museum. 

Masonic Knights Templar Sword and Scabbard, 1924, and Masonic Knights Templar Sword and Scabbard, ca. 1884, both Ames Manufacturing Company, Chicopee, Massachusetts.  National Heritage Museum collection, gifts of Gordon Lathrop, 2009.048.1a-b and 2009.048.2a-b.  Photographs by David Bohl.

Are the National Parks Better in Stereo?

88_38_25DI1 Andrew Stereo cards, also known as stereographic or stereopticon cards, were among the most popular photographic media in the United States from the 1860s to the 1930s.  A stereo card consists of two virtually identical photographs of a given subject that are mounted side-by-side on a rectangular card.  When viewed through a special device known as a stereoscope, the two images would project a single, larger, three-dimensional image of that subject.  The National Heritage Museum has almost 200 stereo cards in its collection, including several that depict national parks in the western United States.

Both of the stereo cards pictured here show scenes from Yosemite National Park in California.  The first shows the Fallen Monarch, a deceased giant sequoia tree that can still be seen today in Mariposa Grove at Yosemite.  The card was published in 1908 by the Keystone View Company, one of the leading American suppliers of stereo cards in the early twentieth century.

This stereo card is a relatively uncommon example, because it is a hand-colored photograph.  Photographers in the late nineteenth century occasionally hired artists to tint a black-and-white image with watercolors, oil paints, or dyes.  While hand-coloring was something of a novelty for American photographers, it was very popular in Japanese studios during this period.

The second card, published in 1867 by the noted early Western photographer Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916), also shows a view of Mariposa Grove at Yosemite.  Typical of the stereo cards of the American West in the Museum’s collection, it is not hand-colored and does not depict any people.  Instead, its primary focus is the majesty of the Western landscape.  Although there were no true national parks in 1867, when this photograph was taken, California had already set aside part of the Yosemite Valley as a state park.  In 1890, Congress established Yosemite as a national park.88_38_62DS1 Andrew

Viewing stereo cards was a common pastime during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  Many upper- and middle-class Americans living in that period owned a stereoscope.  Ultimately, however, stereo cards declined in favor of newer technology. Handheld cameras like the Kodak Brownie, invented in 1900, allowed anyone to take snapshots of their favorite scenes.  By the time that the Keystone View Company ceased its regular production of stereo cards in 1939, motion pictures were already enormously popular with the American public.  Stereo cards were unable to compete with the social, cultural, and audiovisual experience of going to the movie theater.
To see photographs of the national parks as they appear today, please visit our current exhibition, Treasured Lands: The Fifty-Eight U.S. National Parks in Focus, which is on view through October 17, 2010.


Burns, Ken, and Dayton Duncan. The National Parks: America's Best Idea. New York: Knopf, 2009.

Gilbert, George. Photography: The early years: a historical guide for collectors. 1st ed. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

Runte, Alfred. National Parks: The American Experience. 3rd ed. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

"The Kodak Brownie at the Franklin Institute." The Franklin Institute History of Science and Technology. The Franklin Institute, 2010, http://www.fi.edu/learn/sci-tech/kodak-brownie/kodak-brownie.php?cts=photography-recreation, accessed March 31, 2010.

"Welcome to Carleton Watkins Stereoviews." Welcome to Carleton Watkins Stereoviews, http://www.carletonwatkins.org/, accessed February 28, 2010.

Top: The Fallen Monarch, Mariposa Grove, 1906, Keystone View Company, Pennsylvania, New York, Oregon, United Kingdom, Australia; collection of the National Heritage Museum, Gift of William Caleb Loring, 88.38.25.

Bottom: In the Mariposa Grove, 1867, Carleton E. Watkins (1829-1916), California, collection of the National Heritage Museum, Gift of William Caleb Loring, 88.38.62.

"Tramping about, victimizing Masonic lodges"

A2002_118_1_Imposter_posters_web Our blog turns two years old this week. In celebration of that anniversary, we invite you to take a look at our very first post, which discusses early 20th century Masonic impostors. While you're at it, also be sure to take a look at our follow-up post from a year ago, Masonic Impostors Redux: "sleight-of-hand and song-and-dance man."

Keeping with that theme is today's object - a broadside that was sent out to local Masonic boards of relief in 1877, warning them of a man posing as a needy Mason, and attempting to take advantage of Masonic charity. It is, essentially, a wanted poster for a Masonic impostor.

The broadside warns of a man going by the name "Herbert Sydney," and claiming to be an English Mason, supposedly left destitute by the huge fire in St. John's (Quebec) in June 1876. As the poster reports, the Masonic Lodge at St. John's reported that they knew of no Mason by that name.

As we discussed in earlier posts, the success of Masonic impostors during the late 19th and early 20th centuries relied on staying one step ahead of Masonic relief boards spreading the word. This broadside mentions that "Herbert Sydney" swindled relief boards in Baltimore and that he then went to Washington, DC. It's unclear where he went next, but no doubt he was hoping to reach Masonic relief agencies in cities that had yet to receive this "Caution!" broadside.

The broadside closes by warning that the man going by the name of Herbert Sydney is, like many Masonic impostors at the time, thought to be "tramping about, victimizing Masonic lodges."

Masonic Imposter broadside. D.K. Osbourne & Co., Baltimore, MD, 1877. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, A2002/118/1.  

Sharing Comments on The Initiated Eye

SR from IE with JB columns Here at the National Heritage Museum, we always include a way for visitors to leave their comments after viewing our exhibitions.  Since our show, The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry and the Architecture of Washington, D.C., opened almost six months ago, we have received a variety of feedback in the comment book at the end of the exhibit. 

The book offers visitors a chance to make any kind of comment they wish.  Sometimes they include their names and where they are from.  While most list an American town or state, we were excited to see some foreign visitors – including those from England, Scotland, Switzerland, and even India!

We are interested in all kinds of comments, whether positive or negative.  For example, one visitor helped us catch a typographical error by pointing out that the birth year for the artist was incorrect on one of the painting labels – it read “b. 1855” instead of “b. 1955”!  We appreciate this attention to detail and have fixed the errant label.

Still other visitors shared their favorite object in the show.  Nora Jane wrote “I especially loved the statue of George [Washington].”  Anja and Ashley, who signed the same page in the book, both liked the 38-star flag (don’t miss an upcoming June blog about this fascinating artifact).  And, Mike H. noted that he liked “the parade at the Capitol photo.”

Some visitors leave their questions in the comment book.  Thirteen-year-old Christina from New Hampshire wrote “I noticed in the painting to the left [Building the Temple Within, shown here at top] that the 2 columns were in the order of JB but here it is BJ [a pair of actual Masonic columns from the collection, shown at right].”  Undoubtedly, Christina has not been the only one to notice this discrepancy.  In fact, the exhibition includes two paintings – by the same artist – that contradict the order of the columns.  In the painting, An Auspicious Day, which depicts George Washington (shown below at left), the stair posts are labeled like columns and read “BJ.”  So, why the discrepancy?89_47S1

In Freemasonry, the columns marked B and J represent Boaz and Jachin, the columns that were erected at the entrance to King Solomon’s Temple.  They are described in the Bible, in 2 Chronicles 3:15-17, “And he reared up the pillars before the temple…and called the name of that on the right hand Jachin, and the name of that on the left Boaz.”  From this description, the B column should stand on the left, while the J column should be on the right.  This description is used in Masonic ritual, which is based on the story of the building of Solomon’s Temple. 

So, why do the columns appear in the opposite position in the painting Building the Temple Within – and, indeed, in a number of printed and published sources?  It may be that the artist was following the way the names of the columns are listed in the Bible – with Jachin coming before Boaz.  Or, it may relate to the fact that text is reversed when converted from Hebrew, which is read right to left, to English, which is read left to right.  When we set up our columns in the exhibition, we chose to follow the biblical description – and the Masonic ritual.  Unfortunately, we do not know why the artist of the paintings placed the columns in one order in one painting and in the opposite order in another.

GW from IE with BJ columns We appreciate all of the feedback we receive on our exhibitions.  It’s gratifying to know that this exhibition provided “new insights into our US history,” as one visitor wrote.  Or, as another commented, “New view of how history was made!”  So, let us know how you think we’re doing – on site or online.  We can’t wait to hear from you.

The Initiated Eye will be on view through January 9, 2011.  The paintings in the exhibition are the work of Peter Waddell, and were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved.  This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

Top: Building the Temple Within, 2005, Peter Waddell (b. 1955), Washington, D.C.  Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C. 

Middle: Masonic Columns, ca. 1840, Ohio.  Collection of the National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 89.47a-d.  Photograph by John Miller.

Bottom: An Auspicious Day, 2005, Peter Waddell (b. 1955), Washington, D.C.  Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.

"Jim Henson's Fantastic World": Public Programs in May

Now entering its second month at the National Heritage Museum, "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" continues to delight visitors. Throughout May, we are offering public programs for every age and interest level. Read on - you're sure to discover a program you'd like to attend.

Heather Henson Head Shot This Mother's Day, Sunday, May 9, at 2 p.m., Jim Henson's youngest child, Heather Henson, will offer visitors an exquisite treat, entitled "A Daughter Remembers." Heather Henson's reminiscences about her father's life and extraordinary career will open a window to her own professional activities. She is the president and artistic director of IBEX, an entertainment company which promotes puppetry for the stage, film, and gallery. This presentation is free.

If you come to the Museum a bit earlier on May 9, you can enjoy a free gallery tour of "Jim Henson's Fantastic World." Join Museum staff at 1 p.m. for insights into the artist's astonishingly versatile mind and works.

Would you like to plunge in and AnythingCanBeAPuppetride the waves of your own creativity? Let Jim Henson inspire you at our puppetry workshop, "Anything Can Be A Puppet," offered on Saturday, May 15, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Michelle Finston, art educator and puppeteer, will be on hand to lead a workshop for people of all ages in how to create puppets and use them to tell stories. Ages seven to adult will enjoy this program, which costs $20/participant for non-members and $15/participant for members. Reserve your spot by emailing: programs@monh.org.

Falk-IMG_4208-vF[1] The third May weekend brings a second special guest to the Museum. On Saturday, May 22, Karen Falk, exhibition curator and archivist at The Jim Henson Legacy, will offer visitors two exciting programs. At 12 p.m., she will lead a free gallery tour of "Jim Henson's Fantastic World." Please note that participation is limited to 25 and pre-registration required. To secure one of the few remaining spots, call (781) 861-6559, ext. 4101. Then, at 2 p.m., Ms. Falk will present a free talk entitled "Sell, Sell, Sell! Highlights from Jim Henson's Commercials." Did you know that Jim Henson was an innovator in advertising in the early 1960s, launching many of his characters' careers in that field? Come see video of this little-known and highly entertaining work!

Calling all pre-schoolers! Even the smallest visitorsErnie&Bert can connect with "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" through our Mornings at the Museum programs. Come on Thursday, May 13 at 10:30 for a "Puppet Delight." We'll read a story about an imaginative chicken named Minerva Louise and make our own puppets. On Thursday, May 27 at 10:30, "MONSTERS!" will be our theme. Find your inner monster by listening to Where the Wild Things Are, creating a monster mask, and parading to some fun and fuzzy monster tunes. Children ages 4 and under and accompanying adults will enjoy these programs. $5/child (non-members) and $3/child (members). No pre-registration necessary.

You'll find more information about these and other public programs offered at the Museum on our programs webpage. Send us a mail at programs@monh.org or give us a call at 781 457-4126 if you have questions about programming.

MLF name Blue The Smithsonian Community Grant program, funded by MetLife Foundation, is a proud sponsor of these public programs. 

"Jim Henson's Fantastic World" is on view at the National Heritage Museum through June 27, 2010.

Photo Credits:

Heather Henson. Photo courtesy of The Jim Henson Legacy

Puppet. Photo courtesy of Michelle Finston

Karen Falk. Photo by John E. Barrett

Bert & Ernie. Photo by John E. Barrett. TM & © 2010 SesameWorkshop. All Rights Reserved


“Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” is organized by The Jim Henson Legacy and SITES, in cooperation with the Henson Family; The Jim Henson Company; The Muppets Studio, LLC; and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition is made possible by The Biography Channel. Additional support has been provided by The Jane Henson Foundation and Cheryl Henson.

SmithsonianLogo      Henson_logo       Tbc_logo

Are Early Masonic Ritual Exposures Anti-Masonic?

Three_Distinct_Knocks_web Masonic ritual exposures from the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives are just one of the many examples of anti-Masonic materials that will be on view in the reading room through May 15 in the exhibition Freemasonry Unmasked!: Anti-Masonic Collections in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives. In selecting objects for the exhibition, I was looking at our collection of ritual exposés and thinking about this interesting and complicated corner of anti-Masonry.

Steven C. Bullock, in his essay “Publishing Masonry: Print and the Early American Fraternity” calls Masonic ritual exposés “the first important Antimasonic genre.” The first ritual exposure in book form – Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected – was printed in London in 1730. Prichard’s book, while an exposure, is an important document for historians as it provides the earliest known description of the Master Mason degree. To the historian, this type of documentation is invaluable. To the Mason, however, the idea of a ritual exposure is perhaps worrying at best, providing evidence of a betrayal of trust. But what about the historian who is also a Mason?

Arturo de Hoyos, who is both a historian and a Mason, addresses this tension in the introduction to his book Light on Masonry: The History and Rituals of America’s Most Important Masonic Exposé. De Hoyos writes: “The great secret of Masonic historians is that many of us have a love affair with ritual exposures. Like other affairs of the heart, it is exciting, but it may also be a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, they are the product of betrayal and are ipso facto suspect. On the other hand, they present the possibility of authenticity and may teach us a great deal about the evolution of the ritual.” In other words, what was once the product of betrayal may now be carefully used by historians to trace some of the changes and developments of Masonic ritual.

Masonic ritual is taught “mouth to ear,” although some jurisdictions also provide officially sanctioned ciphers or other memory aids that assist in memorizing ritual and also help insure uniformity in ritual work. As Masons who have visited other states or countries can attest, Masonic ritual is not exactly the same from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Likewise, not all men’s memories are the same and so it’s only natural that some candidates have wished for a printed version of the ritual to assist them. Unsurprisingly, in the absence of officially-sanctioned printed rituals, exposures sometimes served that role, especially in the late-18th and early-19th centuries.

One book illustrates this point well. Jachin and Boaz, a ritual exposure first published in London in 1762, was reprinted almost thirty times in the United States from 1793 to 1827. Although considered a ritual exposure, the book’s largest audience was likely those named on the book’s title page: the “New-Made Mason,” and “all who intend to become Brethren.” As Stephen C. Bullock has pointed out, “Although curious onlookers probably picked up the pamphlet on occasion, only an audience of brothers seeking to learn the rituals better could have encouraged American printers to reprint the pamphlet twenty-eight times between 1793 and 1827.”

From the point of view of the librarian, Jachin and Boaz is a book that complicates the question of whether a book should be classified as anti-Masonic or not. On the one hand, exposing Masonic ritual appears to serve the intention of betraying and antagonizing the Fraternity and can easily be thought of as anti-Masonic. On the other hand, a book like Jachin and Boaz is not sensationalist in nature and, one might argue, served a need for the Fraternity – both by helping Masons learn ritual, as well as potentially attracting the attention of men who became interested enough to join the Craft. Not all ritual exposures are the same, though, and some – if not most – were clearly printed with intentions hostile to Freemasonry.

Suggestions for further reading

Carr, Harry, ed. The Early French Exposures. London: Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076, 1971.

---. Samuel Prichard’s Masonry Dissected 1730: An Analysis and Commentary. Bloomington, IN: Masonic Book Club, 1977.

de Hoyos, Arturo. Light on Masonry: The History and Rituals of America’s Most Important Masonic Exposé. Washington, D.C.: Scottish Rite Research Society, 2008.

Jackson, A.C.F. English Masonic Exposures, 1760-1769. London: Lewis Masonic, 1986.

Smith, S.N. “The So-Called ‘Exposures’ of Freemasonry of the Mid-Eighteenth Century.” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum 56 (1946): 4-36.

Three Distinct Knocks and Jachin and Boaz: With an Introduction and Commentary by Harry Carr. Bloomington, IN: Masonic Book Club, 1981.

[A version of this article was originally published in the August 2009 issued of The Northern Light. You can now access all back issues of The Northern Light - back to its start in 1970 - at the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's website.]

Photo caption:
The Three Distinct Knocks...
London: Printed by John Bailey, ca. 1814-1822.
Call number: RARE 19 .T531