« June 2010 | Main | August 2010 »

July 2010

Summer at the Museum! Public Programs in August, 2010

Throughout this summer, the National Heritage Museum is offering public programs to help families beat the heat while spending some time together. In August, we have three events to chose from:

Kinggeorge Come to the Museum bright and early on Tuesday, August 10 for "Clothing, Fashion, and Homespun Politics" from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. This special program features Carrie Midura, historic interpreter and expert seamstress, who will demonstrate colonial fashion and explain the role it played in Lexington's revolutionary politics. For families with children ages 6 and up. $5/family (non-members); $3/family (members). Meet us in the "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty" gallery. Pre-registration is not necessary.


Meeting Billy On Wednesday, August 18, we have an offering for the very young. The "Mornings at the Museum" program will explore "Kids in Colonial Times." We'll read a story about how children lived in the 1700s, visit the exhibition "Sowing the Seeds of Liberty," and make a familiar colonial object. This program starts promptly at 10:30 a.m., please arrive by 10:15. The program is designed for children ages 2 - 5 with accompanying adult. $5/participating child (non-members); $3/participating child (members). Pre-registration is not necessary.


UnclewigglyWe invite everyone to join us on Wednesday, August 24 for Game Day! From 1 to 4 p.m., families can play classic board games for a range of ages in our (Farr Conference Center. You can also explore the toys and games in our galleries. Make a day of it with lunch in the Courtyard Cafe. For all ages. Free.


Don't forget to check out our website to learn more about current shows in our galleries. If you'd like more information, call our front desk at 781 861-6559 or write to programs@monh.org. We look forward to seeing you soon.

Photo credits:

King George III, Museum Purchase, 95.011.1

"Meeting Billy," Illustration by Sheli Peterson, 2007

Uncle Wiggly Game, Gift of Dorothy A. and Albert H. Richardson, 84.18.22


The Independent United Order of Mechanics

2007_029_2DI1 Here at the National Heritage Museum, we get pretty excited about lesser-known fraternal groups.  The apron seen here is a recent acquisition, which was originally used by a member of a little-known group - at least it wasn't listed in our standard reference books and it wasn't represented in our collection.

The apron was worn by Torrance Ashby (1897-1966), as a member of the Independent United Order of Mechanics, a group that is still active.  Ashby joined Star of Cambridge Lodge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1920, when he was about 23 years old.  When he died in 1966, the apron, along with a collar and his membership certificate passed to his son, Deighton Ashby (1935-2006).  We are pleased to have all three items in our collection.

The Independent United Order of Mechanics formed in England in 1757 as a Friendly Society, a type of mutual benefit society that also served ceremonial and friendship purposes.  Reportedly, a schism between two local English Masonic lodges spurred organizers to found the group.  In the 1800s, the Order spread to the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, and Canada.  The IUOM became established in the United States in its present form on January 3, 1910.  Membership is open to men and women, boys and girls, of "high moral and ethical standards, who believe in "A Supreme Being" who rules and governs the Universe."  Membership embraces all races, creeds and religions; indeed, the group has a tradition of a strong African American membership, which included the original owner of the apron, Torrance Ashby.

The group's motto is "Friendship, Truth and Love," suggesting some additional inspiration from the Odd Fellows.  Members aim to practice and promote justice, philanthropy, charity and benevolence.  They look after the welfare of their members and are active in their communities, particularly in healthcare and in education.

The apron is silk with a design printed on the front in black.  Bright pink and green silk, along with gold trimming are added as borders.  A close look at the apron suggests that Ashby's wife or another female relative made it at home.  One of the brown elasticized "ties" stitched at the corners has a clasp reading "Gem Golf Garter," suggesting that the maker repurposed the garter for the apron ties.

Independent United Order of Mechanics Apron, ca. 1920, probably American, National Heritage Museum purchase, 2007.029.2.


A Brittle and Torn Manuscript: Conservation of an early Scottish Rite Patent

Hays patent before conservation by NEDCC_CROPPED In selecting an item for conservation this spring, I chose a Scottish Rite patent from Henry Andrew Francken (1720-1795) to Moses Michael Hays (1739-1805). The document was in poor condition. Up until the mid-19th century, paper was generally made from linen and rags, materials which contribute to their physical integrity and longevity. The later nineteenth-century practice of adding cheaper wood pulp in the paper-making practice is what contributes to the type of brittle paper that we usually attribute to many late 19th-century newspapers, books, and other documents. (For more on this topic, and other factors that contribute toward paper deteriorating, check out the Library of Congress's helpful page on the subject). Despite being from a period when we might expect paper to be strong, the Hays patent was very brittle because the iron gall ink had burned through the document in several places. In addition, there were many tears and breaks along the folds of the manuscript and the upper left portion of the manuscript was detached (see photo at left).

In anticipation of the upcoming 200th anniversary (1813-2013) of the birth of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, I selected this document for conservation.  This is a very early and important Scottish Rite patent, a manuscript copy in Hays' handwriting, and dated 1768. The location of Francken's original patent to Hays is unknown. On December 6, 1768, Francken appointed Hays to be a Deputy Inspector General for the West Indies and North America.  This appointment and patent gave Hays the authority to confer the degrees of the Order of the Royal Secret upon selected Master Masons. The twenty-five degrees of the Order of the Royal Secret (often called the Rite of Perfection) was a precursor to the Scottish Rite, which was officially formed in 1801. Hays, born to a Dutch family in New York, lived in New York City at the time that Francken deputized him. A year later, in 1769, Hays was made the first Master of the newly formed King David's Lodge, a lodge whose namesake reflects the Jewish faith of its first officers (the silversmith Myer Myers was Senior Warden, and Isaac Moses was Junior Warden). Hays later relocated to Newport Rhode Island and then Boston. Hays served as Grand Master Massachusetts Grand Lodge from 1788-92.

Hays patent after 
conservation by NEDCC_CROPPEDThe document was taken to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, Massachusetts, which specializes in preservation and conservation of paper-based objects. Here, their trained professionals cleaned the document using dry cleaning techniques to reduce surface soil.  Then, the document was immersed in a filtered water and alcohol bath to clean the paper and reduce acidity.  After this, the item was alkalized (or deacidified) with a calcium hydroxide solution.  The document was later backed with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste to mend tears and fill in losses to provide overall support.  Lastly, it was humidified again and dried flat between blotters under light pressure.

When the document was completely dry, it was encapsulated in a polyester film (Melinex) to protect against dirt, handling, and atmospheric pollution (see photo at right).  This important manuscript can now be viewed and studied in preparation for the 200th anniversary of the Supreme Council.


When Do 40 Men Equal 8 Horses?

88_16_1DS1 This fraternal badge provides a visual representation of the name of the group that used it - La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux, familiarly known as "The Forty & Eight."  During WWI, American soldiers traveled to the French front in boxcars stenciled "40/8," signifying their capacity for forty men or eight horses.  Although uncomfortable, this mode of transportation became symbolic of the bond between those who served.  According to the group's official history, the 40/8 boxcars evolved into a "lighthearted symbol of the deeper service, sacrifice and unspoken horrors of war that bind all who have borne the battle."

Originally founded in 1920 by American veterans returning from WWI service in France, the group began as part of the American Legion.  In 1960, the Forty & Eight broke away to become an independent veterans organization, which is still active today.  Membership is by invitation among honorably serving or honorably discharged members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The group is devoted to upholding and defending the U.S. Constitution; to promoting the well-being of veterans, their widows and orphans; and to actively participating in selected charitable programs, including those that promote child welfare and nurses training.  Are you a member of this group?  Do you have other objects associated with it?  The National Heritage Museum would love to hear about it in a comment here.

The Forty & Eight Medal, ca. 1920, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Eva M. Mahoney, 88.16.1.


New to the Collection: Masonic Jewels

2006_015_3aDP1 At the National Heritage Museum, opening up the prospective donation of a box of Masonic or fraternal badges and jewels kept for decades often leads to “oohs” and “aahs” of excitement as we find a badge that we’ve never seen before.  Personal items like badges offer an intriguing way to learn about the history of fraternalism, providing a range of insights such as how the style of the badge reflects the era in which it was made or offering a glimpse inside the life story of specific members. 

A recent gift to the Museum tells the story of one man’s Masonic career.  Robert Baker visited the Museum a few years ago to present a collection of five jewels that belonged to his grandfather, Julius O. Christensen (1875-1947) of Kansas City, Missouri.  The jewels were handed down in the family, accompanied by an Eastern Star medal owned by Christensen’s wife, Elizabeth.  Christensen immigrated to the United States from Odense, Denmark, coming through Ellis Island in 1893.  After attending Beloit College in Wisconsin, he married Elizabeth Strack in 1900 at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Batavia, Wisconsin.  The couple moved to Kansas City, where Julius was employed by the Independent Electric Machinery Company.  They had one daughter, the donor’s mother, Vera (Christensen) Baker.

Christensen petitioned Ivanhoe Lodge in Kansas City in 1906 and was raised on January 17, 1907.  He served as Junior Steward in 1908 and was Worshipful Master in 1912.  The earliest of this group of jewels is Christensen’s Past Master jewel (seen here at left), from 1912.   

Julius Christensen did not rest on his laurels after serving as Worshipful Master of his lodge.  In 1917, he was named Secretary of the Ivanhoe Masonic Temple Company (the Temple was completed in 1921).  Christensen was also active in the York Rite.  One of the jewels (seen below) is dated 1920, the year he became High Priest, and is engraved, “Shekinah Council.”  The familiar all-seeing eye symbol on this jewel is formed with a small diamond.  The symbol takes up the center of a shield with crossed swords behind it.  An elegant archway shapes the body of the jewel and the pin at top is engraved with Christensen’s name.  2006_015_2aDP1

Christensen continued his Masonic service for several decades.  In December 1933, he became Secretary of Ivanhoe Lodge while also filling the post of Recorder of the Kansas City Commandery of the Knights Templar.  Julius O. Christensen died at the age of 72 in 1947.

Top: Masonic Past Master’s Jewel, 1912, probably American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Robert C. Baker, 2006.015.3a-b.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Masonic Royal Arch High Priest Jewel, 1920, probably American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Robert C. Baker, 2006.015.2a-c.  Photograph by David Bohl.


"Let's call it Petroleum Lodge!": Or, a guide for naming Masonic lodges

Lodge_Names_MSA_booklet_web It's 1938 and you and some of your fellow Masons are organizing a new Masonic lodge. Maybe this is because the lodge that you currently belong to has so many members that it's becoming slightly unwieldy and there's enough interested members to form a new lodge. (The average number of members in a Masonic lodge in 1938 was 160.) With the permission of the Grand Lodge in your state, you're granted permission to work as a new lodge "under dispensation" (usually abbreviated to "U.D."), often the step before a lodge gets officially chartered by the Grand Lodge.

Perhaps the first thing that confronts you is a question that you might not have considered. Namely, a name for this new lodge.

Maybe you want to pick a name that no Masonic lodge has used before, or maybe you want to pick something that's popular, but maybe not too popular. Thankfully, in May 1938, the Masonic Service Association issued a booklet entitled Lodge Names of the 15,734 Lodges of the Forty-nine United States Grand Jurisdictions: An Analysis and Classification, Designed to Assist Lodges U.D. in Choosing Names.

The names of all 15,734 lodges in existence at the time of the survey were collected and analyzed by the Masonic Service Association. This analysis included breaking the names down into categories (Biblical and Masonic Names, Famous Names, Geographic Names, etc.), which were then further analyzed at the state and national level. Below are the tallies at the national level, which reveal that the most popular type of names for lodges were those named after the place in which they are/were located. Fully 43.4% of all Masonic lodges in the U.S. in 1938 were named after the place they were located.

Biblical and Masonic        1,908 (12.1%)
Character and Patriotic        490 (3.1%)
Double                                120 (.8%)
Famous Names                    709 (4.6%)
Geographic                     1,080 (6.9%)
Imaginative                    1,251 (7.9%)
Other Place                        335 (2.1%)
Place                            6,827 (43.4%)
Proper                                558 (3.6%)
State                                    37 (.2%)
Unclassified                   2,269 (14.4%)
Unusual                              138 (.9%)
(Numbers only)                    12 (.08%)

The Lodge Names booklet lists the names of each of the lodges within each category, as well as the number of lodges in the U.S. with that lodge name. Unsurprisingly, some of the most popular names focus on patriotic and/or Masonic themes. The five most popular Masonic lodge names in the U.S. in 1938 were:

[Number that follows indicates number of lodges in U.S. with that name in 1938]

St. John's [all variants of that name] - 61
Hiram - 52
Washington - 48
Harmony - 45
Union - 43

Perhaps the part of the booklet that's the most fun is unusual names that show up for lodges. Here are some of my favorites:

Cotton Gin, Cowanesque, Difficult, Bee House, Drytown, Cereal, Invisible Friends, Fish House, Petroleum, Tidal Wave, Fourth Estate

It's likely that some of the lodge names in the Unusual Names category - including some mentioned above - may actually be place names. This is clearly the case with Drytown Lodge, No. 174, located in Drytown, California.

The last lodge mentioned above, Fourth Estate Lodge, was a Masonic lodge located in Boston, Massachusetts and comprised entirely of men in the newspaper business - the so-called "fourth estate."

As for the location of the lodge named after petroleum, maybe you're thinking "Houston!" Close, but no. It's Tulsa, Oklahoma, the earlier Oil Capital of the World that gave rise to Petroleum Lodge No. 474, chartered in 1917. In 1999 it appears to have merged with Millennium Lodge No. 543.


An Unfinished Apron

2008_058DP1 Kensett Apron As we may have mentioned in previous blog posts, we are very proud of our fraternal apron collection here at the National Heritage Museum.  We have over 400 aprons, which span the centuries and the world.  And, while we can afford to be selective about adding to this collection, we often get excited by many aprons that enter the market.  The apron shown here, which is a recent acquisition, provoked enthusiasm – it was never finished, so it offers fascinating insight into the apron-making process.

This silk apron is printed with an engraving by Thomas Kensett (1786-1829).  Kensett was born in England and emigrated to America, settling in New Haven, Connecticut, by 1806.  In 1812, he entered into a partnership in the map and print publishing firm, Shelton and Kensett, in Cheshire, Connecticut.  Indeed, we have an engraving in the collection printed by Shelton and Kensett titled American Star that depicts George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and John Adams (see below).  Around the time that Kensett partnered with Shelton, he joined Temple Lodge No. 16 in Cheshire.  His apron design seems to have been popular – we have another example of it in our collection – as well as a third that uses Kensett’s design but was engraved by Samuel D. Bettle (d. 1833) of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania (shown at bottom).83_50_14DI1 American Star

We know that aprons were generally printed before they were hemmed and finished, but this example has the flap basted along the top.  One of our initial questions, then, was whether it was printed before the flap was basted onto the body or after.  Careful examination tells us that the flap was attached before it was printed.  The edges of the engraving plate are visible on the flap and line up with the portion of the design on the apron’s body.  In addition, some of the detail of the tops of the clouds printed on the body extend onto the flap. 

77_24DI1 Bettle Apron cropped The apron has one selvage edge – along the left side – where the threads were woven more tightly together.  The other three edges remain raw.  They would have been folded under and hemmed, then finished with ribbon trimming.  The selvage edge, too, would have been turned under and hemmed.  And, of course, ties (probably made from ribbon) would have been added to the top corners. 

If you have a Kensett apron – or any Masonic apron in some state of partial construction - we’d love to hear about it in a comment here.

Top: Unfinished Masonic apron, ca. 1812, Thomas Kensett (1786-1829), Cheshire, Connecticut, National Heritage Museum collection, Museum Purchase, 2008.058.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Middle: American Star, 1812, Thomas Gimbrede, engraver, Shelton and Kensett, printers, Cheshire, Connecticut, National Heritage Museum collection, Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection, 83.50.14. 

Bottom: Masonic apron, 1823, Samuel D. Bettle (d. 1833), Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, National Heritage Museum collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 77.24.