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June 2010

Freemasons in the Civil War

2009_021_25T1 Recently, the National Heritage Museum was given two silver Civil War identification badges.  The story goes that soldiers wore these to identify themselves in case of injury or death, but also to convey their status as Masons.  Numerous anecdotal stories of northern and southern Freemasons who were injured or captured during the Civil War, but received aid and comfort from Masonic brothers on the opposing side, have been told since those battles.  Being somewhat of a skeptic, I always wondered whether these stories were true.

Now, the question has been answered.  In his recently published book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, Michael A. Halleran explores Freemasonry during the Civil War.  Halleran found sufficient evidence in letters, reminiscences and regimental histories to provide a documentary background for objects like these badges.  As a historian and curator, I feel much more confident in sharing these items with our visitors, using them to tell the story of Masons during the Civil War.2009_021_24T1

Both of these examples show the Masonic square and compasses symbol, signifying reason and faith.  If you look closely at the acorn-shaped one, you can see that the year 1888 was added to the “stem” well after its presumed initial use in the 1860s.  We think that the “G.A.R.” and “B. of L.E.” initials were also added later – they indicate the original owner’s membership in fraternal groups the Grand Army of the Republic and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. 

AW Lewis CDV Also in the collection, we have a number of carte-de-visite photographs of men in their Civil War uniforms.  Most of these photos show the subjects with a Masonic symbol or badge on their chest.  Indeed, the cover of Halleran's book shows two photographs from an album in the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts (now housed at the National Heritage Museum).  The men in these images wear their military uniforms and a Masonic pin.  Both men were members of the 43rd regiment, Massachusetts Infantry, and of McClellan Army Lodge No. 6, which was chartered by the Grand Lodge during the war. 

Another example, the CDV shown here from the Museum's collection, is a portrait of Albion Wesley Lewis (1828-1903) of Westfield, Massachusetts.  He wears a square and compasses pin on his coat (although it is hard to make out).  Indeed, the membership records at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts tell us that Lewis was a member of Mt. Moriah Lodge in Westfield and that he received the first three degrees in June 1861.  Various biographical sketches fill in details of Lewis’ life.  He went to California during the gold rush in 1849 and stayed there for four years.  When he returned, he married Caroline H. Loomis in 1855 and established himself in the business of manufacturing whips.  During the Civil War, Lewis was a member of the 46th Regiment, Massachusetts Volunteers, and of the 30th Company Unattached Artillery.  After the war, he went into the clothing business, forming the partnership Loomis, Lewis and Company.  Albion Wesley Lewis died on March 28, 1903.


William Richard Cutter, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts.  New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1910.

“Albion Wesley Lewis,” Lewisiana or the Lewis Letter 13 (May 1903): 162-163.

George Harlan Lewis, Edmund Lewis of Lynn, Massachusetts and Some of His Descendants.  Salem, Massachusetts: Essex Institute, 1908.

Top Left: Masonic ID Badge, ca. 1861, American.  National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 2009.021.25.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Masonic ID Badge for Jos. W. Perry, ca. 1861, American.  National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 2009.021.24.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Albion Wesley Lewis, 1861-1865, T.P. Collins, Westfield, Massachusetts.  National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 2009.021.4. 

"Don't Fire Until You See the Whites of Their Eyes!": Remembering Bunker Hill

2008_021_6DP2 In 1876, the United States celebrated its centennial anniversary with great fanfare.  As part of the celebration, souvenirs of all types were available for purchase – including this glass platter that was recently donated to the National Heritage Museum.  At the center is a depiction of the Bunker Hill Monument, which is actually located on Breed’s Hill, in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  The cornerstone for the monument was laid in a Masonic ceremony on June 17, 1825, the 50th anniversary of the famous battle.  Taking part in the festivities was the Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), who was making a tour through the United States at the time.  The monument was completed in 1843.

The famous battle, fought against the British on June 17, 1775, was one of the earliest of the Revolutionary War.  Although it was a British victory, the American forces killed or wounded almost half of the 2,200 British soldiers fighting that day.  The platter memorializes the names of four of the American military leaders: Israel Putnam, John Stark, William Prescott and Joseph Warren.  How many of these names do you know?  Here’s a short guide:

Israel Putnam (1718-1790) was born in Massachusetts, but spent his adult life in Connecticut where he was a farmer.  After military service during the French and Indian Wars, Putnam helped organize the Sons of Liberty in eastern Connecticut.  In 1775, he was appointed a brigadier general and eventually became second in rank to George Washington.  As field commander of the troops at Bunker Hill, Putnam reportedly gave one of the most famous orders in military history, “Don’t one of you fire until you see the white of their eyes” (although some accounts attribute this to William Prescott, also named on the platter).

John Stark (1728-1822) was a native of New Hampshire, where he made his living as a farmer and a miller.  Like Putnam, he also served in the French and Indian Wars.  After the fighting at Lexington and Concord, Stark traveled to Cambridge and was appointed colonel.  At Bunker Hill, he deployed his men between Bunker Hill and Breed’s Hill to defend the army’s left flank.  He was able to encourage his inexperienced soldiers to cover weak spots in the American defense that day.

Like Putnam and Stark, William Prescott (1726-1795) was also a farmer, tending the land left to him by his father in Groton, Massachusetts.  Also like Putnam and Stark, Prescott gained military experience in the French and Indian Wars.  The night before the Battle of Bunker Hill, Prescott, a commissioned colonel, was ordered to command the expedition to fortify Bunker Hill.  With 1,200 men, he instead entrenched Breed’s Hill.  He was able to defend against British General Sir William Howe’s advances twice.  Although the British broke through on their third advance, Prescott achieved a symbolic victory, suffering only 441 dead and wounded compared to the over 1,000 casualties on the British side.

Perhaps the best-known name on the platter belongs to Joseph Warren (1741-1775).  Warren, a Boston physician, had been elected President Pro Tempore of the Provincial Congress on April 23, 1775.  Just three days before the Battle of Bunker Hill, on June 14, Warren was elected a major general of the provincial army.  Sadly, he died at the end of the battle when Howe’s forces finally broke through.  At the time, Warren was also Grand Master of Massachusetts Provincial Grand Lodge. After recovering Warren’s body from the battlefield, members of both active Massachusetts Grand Lodges honored him with a Masonic funeral service.

Bunker Hill Platter, 1876, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Robert and Edith Zucker, 2008.021.6.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Addison Putnam: A Genealogical Quest


Who was Addison Putnam?  What information can a researcher find from studying Putnam's Masonic certificate?  In this case, the answer is quite a bit of information! For a recent workshop on genealogy and Masonic records, we used a Masonic certificate from our collection in order to demonstrate how one might use a document like this as a starting point for learning more information about the person named on the certificate. In this case, we used a Royal Arch certificate issued to Addison Putnam in 1855 (see image on left).

From examining Addison Putnam's Masonic certificate, a researcher can discern where Putnam's Royal Arch Chapter was located - which was Lowell, Massachusetts - and make an educated guess that Putnam himself likely lived in Lowell. The certificate also gave the name of Putnam's Royal Arch Chapter - Mount Horeb Chapter - and the date he joined Mount Horeb, which  was 1855.

A quick check of the Massachusetts Grand Royal Arch Proceedings (the annual record of the business of this organization), 1856-1867, mentions Mount Horeb Chapter in the 1850s-1860s, but  does not mention Addison Putnam.  Evidently he was not active at the state level of Royal Arch.

Since Mount Horeb is a Royal Arch chapter, we know that Putnam must have joined his local (i.e. Blue/Craft/Symbolic) lodge first, before proceeding to the York Rite. In that case, time for a call to Cynthia Alcorn, Librarian at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, to see if she had a membership card for Putnam. She does!  Putnam's membership card gives his local lodge as Ancient York Lodge (where he was a member from 1855-1868, until he demitted), and later Kilwinning Lodge (1867-), both meeting in Lowell.  The card also establishes Putnam's death date as April 28, 1905.

A search of the Library's online catalog tells us that we have a lodge history called By-laws And List of Members, Kilwinning Lodge, 1866-1907.  Exactly the time period we are looking for!  In a list of former members of Kilwinning Lodge is Addison Putnam's name.  With this information confirmed we move on.

Next we go to the database Ancestry.com and put in the information that we know: name, place lived, and death date.  Ancestry.com [a subscription database] yields loads of information.  First I try the Federal Census material from 1860, then 1900.  I find Putnam's birthdate, November 1824, that he lived in Lowell, the members of his household (Hannah B., wife, children, Lilias, Addison, and Frank, plus two maternal relatives, Emily and Matilda Puffer).  I find that he married Hannah in 1848.  By 1900, his children are grown and not living with him except for one son, Addison Putnam, Jr. and his wife.

Next I check the New York Times obituaries.  Putnam's obit shows up in the April 29, 1905 Times, with his death date listed as April 28, 1905.  Now I know for sure that I am dealing with the same man that the Masonic certificate was issued to.  However, the New York Times does not mention that Putnam was a Mason.

I check Lowell Sun newspapers and find out his home address which was Nesmith Street in Lowell from the 1894 issue.  In another issue of the Lowell Sun from 1938, I find that Addison Putnam was a very prominent citizen of Lowell.  He had been given the title of "Grand Old Man of Lowell" and the title was just being passed on to someone new.

Finally, I check directories from Lowell, 1889-1890 and have some important information confirmed.  The Federal Census form simply read "merch. clothing" [perhaps merchant] for occupation.  Putnam was, in fact, a clothier in Lowell in 1889 and his business was located on Central Street and was named Putnam and Son. This directory confirms his home address as well.

Our quest is successful!


Royal Arch Certificate of Addison Putnam, 1855, Engraving on paper, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, A78/042

PURPLE, White and Blue?

76_35aDI7 One of the eye-catching objects in the exhibition, The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C., is also quite unusual.  The large, 38-star American flag has a standard blue canton, white stars, and white stripes - but it also shows purple stripes.  The flag measures approximately 68 by 118 inches.

The 38th state, Colorado, was added to the Union on August 1, 1876, but the 38-star flag did not become official until 1877.  It was employed until 1889 when North and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states.

According to the flag’s donors, it was used by Samuel C. Carter (1853-1919) and his son, Samuel C. Carter Jr. (1888-1957), in ritual work at Franklin Lodge No. 216 in New York City.  This may explain the flag’s purple stripes, since purple is an important symbolic color in Freemasonry.

Samuel C. Carter was born in 1853 and joined Harlem Lodge No. 457 in 1894.  Five years later, in 1899, he affiliated his membership with Franklin Lodge No. 216, which had recently changed its location to Washington Heights.  According to the U.S. Census for 1900, Carter worked as a banknote engraver.  He lived in Manhattan in 1900 with three sons, Robert, William and Samuel Jr., and one daughter, Grace.  In 1910, Carter served as Master of Franklin Lodge, although if he used the flag during this term, it would have been outdated because of the number of stars.

According to Henry W. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia, many Grand Lodges authorized lodges “to make formal introduction and presentation of the National Colors at each meeting,” after World War I.  While Samuel C. Carter died on January 30, 1919, shortly after the end of the war, his son, Samuel Jr., was raised a Master Mason after his father’s death on March 24, 1919.  Perhaps he used the flag in his lodge to honor his father. 

In 1976, soon after the National Heritage Museum opened, two of Samuel C. Carter’s granddaughters generously donated the flag.

Do you know of other examples of American flags with Masonic symbols or colors?  Do you know anything more about the Masonic careers of Samuel Carter Sr. and Jr.?  We would love 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.

We thank Thomas M. Savini, Director of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York for sharing membership records about the Carters and lodge history on Franklin Lodge No. 216.

38-star American Flag, 1877-1889, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Dorothy T. Clark and Grace B. Curry, 76.35a.

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

“Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” will be on view through June 27.  If you haven’t had a chance to visit yet or would like to see the exhibition one last time, you may want to plan your visit to catch one of our June programs.

Gallery talk

On Saturday, June 5 at 2 p.m., join Museum staff for a free guided tour of “Jim Henson’s Fantastic World,” featuring drawings, cartoons and storyboards, puppets and television and movie props from throughout the artist’s career. We’ll explore his visual thinking and discover his talent as a storyteller and visionary.

Mornings at the Museum

Bert & Ernie, crop If Sesame Street is more your family’s speed, please plan on attending “Mornings at the Museum: All About Sesame Street” on Thursday, June 10 at 10:30 a.m. Whether teaching kids how to count or sort recyclables, Jim Henson’s Sesame Street characters are all about fun. Join us for a Sesame “expedition” to uncover some of the creative lessons taught by the Muppets. For children age 4 and under with accompanying adult. $5/child (non-members) and $3/child (members).

Special Performance

If you would to see something out-of-the-ordinary, be here on Sunday, June 20, 2010 from 12:30–1:30 p.m. for a performance of "The ClockWorks, the Universe and Everything: An Hour of Puppets and Song" with The Cosmic Bicycle Theatre. With this show, Jonathan Cross of The Cosmic Bicycle Theatre will present a miniature masterpiece of experimental puppet theater. The show whimsically combines found objects, Victorian toy theater, shadow plays, and marionettes. For ages 8 to adult. Limited to 140. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance by calling 781-861-6559, ext. 4101.

Look Both Ways & GoJane_Photo_cropped

On the same afternoon, Sunday, June 20, 2010 from 2:30–4 p.m.  Jane Henson, co-creator of the Muppets and widow of the late Jim Henson, will present “Look Both Ways & Go,” a behind-the-scenes look at how the pair created a cultural phenomenon. The presentation will feature seldom-seen video clips from the Jim Henson Archives. Free. No pre-registration necessary.

We will look forward to seeing you here at the museum in June.

Photo credits:

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

Jane Henson. Photo courtesy of The Jim Henson Legacy

“Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” is organized by The Jim Henson Legacy and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, 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.  

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

  Smithsonian_logo    Henson_logo      Tbc_logo

    MLF name Blue

Frederic Speed: Union Officer and Prominent Mason

Frederic_Speed_1883_Proceedings_of_MS On April 13, 1865, Frederic Speed (1841-1911), Union officer, was given the task of processing and arranging transport of released Union prisoners of war back to their homes.  In his haste to clear Camp Fisk, Speed counted only two trains of 600 men, rather than the three that came to Vicksburg, Mississippi to meet the steamboat, "The Sultana".  Speed thought that the number of men was around 1,300, but the actual figure was much greater - possibly 1,800 men. The steamboat was overloaded.   

Mechanical problems with the boiler started in Vicksburg.  Later, when the steamboat had just departed Memphis, Tennessee on April 27, 1865, two or more of the boilers exploded. Most of the passengers on board died in the wreckage of the steamboat or in the Mississippi River.

Frederic Speed was court-martialed for his part in this disaster, found guilty, but the case was later overturned.  Speed stayed in Vicksburg after the Civil War and became a judge and prominent Mason. 

Lodge_of_Sorrow_pamphlet_1879 There are several documents in our collection which show evidence of his prominence as a Mason in Mississippi.  Fourteen years after the disaster of the Sultana, Speed had taken on the role of a knowledgeable Masonic ritualist.  On January 15, 1879, Frederic Speed gave an address at a Lodge of Sorrow, or Funeral Lodge, in Okolona, Mississippi. This Lodge of Sorrow was held once a year in memory the fraternal dead.  The purpose of this ceremony was to describe the virtues of the departed brethren.   A Lodge of Sorrow renewed the focus on living and was meant to ease the transition to death for Masons.  We have an autographed copy of the address that Speed gave at this Lodge of Sorrow (see image to the right). 

In 1882, Frederic Speed became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi. He gave a detailed address at the 1882 Grand Lodge meetings.  Later, in 1905, he was elected to the role of Grand Secretary. A recently acquired autographed letter, written while he was Grand Secretary of  the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, concerns Masonic business (see image below). The letter is dated March 1905 and is written to H. H. Hall of Alabama who is interested in obtaining a Masonic certificate.

A2010_7_1a_DS Images (top to bottom):

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Mississippi, frontispiece, 1883, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Lodge of Sorrow, held in Okolona, Mississippi..., pamphlet, 1879, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Call number: 20.M678 1879

Frederick Speed Letter to H. H. Hall, Vicksburg, 1905, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2010/7/1a.