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December 2010

Happy New Year!

95_061_5DS1 RESIZED I imagine that, over the next few days, many of our readers will be tipping a glass to the arrival of 2011 – a glass filled with some kind of alcoholic beverage – just as I will. When I set out to write this blog post, I started with a search of the National Heritage Museum collections database, looking for objects associated with New Year’s Day. I ended up settling on this photograph, in part because I enjoyed the irony: we think that the woman was a member of the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT), a temperance organization that believed in total abstinence and no license (to sell alcohol).

Unfortunately, we do not know her name, but her IOGT membership was important enough to her that she chose to be photographed – rather formally – in her fraternal collar. On the back of the photo, someone, possibly the sitter, has written “Happy New Year” and signed it with initials. 95_061_5DS2 DETAIL

The IOGT formed in 1850, branching off from the Knights of Jericho, an all-male temperance group in Utica, New York. The Good Templars decided to admit women because it was thought that they would “increase the power of this order for good.” The group grew steadily. By 1907, they numbered 350,000 members in the United States and were also active in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. To learn more about earlier temperance groups, see these previous posts.

So, allow me to be the first to wish a happy new year to all of our subscribers and readers, whether you prefer to toast with champagne or soda water. We look forward to many more blog posts, as well as your comments, in 2011.

A programming note…

Starting next week (January 2011), we will post once each week on Tuesdays. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to our blog.  Just click on the link at top left – it’s easy! And, don’t hesitate to make a comment or ask a question. We love to hear from you!

Reference: Albert Stevens, The Cyclopedia of Fraternities, New York: E.B. Treat and Company, 1907.

Unidentified Woman, 1880-1890, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 95.061.5.

There are Masons in Foxholes

Lamp smallerFighting boredom as well as the enemy, soldiers have long passed the time between battles making gifts and souvenirs using available materials and improvised tools. With these objects, these men often sought to remember or mark their extraordinary experiences during their service. A previous post on this blog highlighted a Masonic pendant made by a French prisoner in England between 1793 and 1814, during the Napoleonic Wars. During World War I, however, in part because spent shells and other war-related debris littered the trenches and battlefields, this so-called trench art like this three-armed lamp, which is featured in our new exhibition, "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection," became more common. Despite its name, however, not all of this trench art was made by soldiers on the front lines or in prison camps. Soldiers and civilians who lived through the conflict also purchased commercially produced souvenirs, often after the fighting ended.

According to a brass plate attached to the base of the lamp, Brother Robert T. Woolsey presented it to Union Lodge #31 in New London, Connecticut, on December 25, 1922. The lodge used it to let late-arriving members know which of the three Masonic degrees the lodge was working in, depending on whether one, two, or three of the bulbs were lit. The Museum purchased the lamp from the lodge in 2000.

Born in Appleton, Missouri, in 1893, Robert Woolsey enlisted in the Navy on June 5, 1917, just two months after the United States entered World War I. Following the war, he landed in Connecticut, where he was initiated in Union Lodge on March 22, 1922, and was raised a Master Mason on April 19, 1923, several months after giving the lamp to his lodge. It appears that he made a career of his military service. The 1930 census lists him as a mariner in the navy, living in Vallejo, California, with his wife, Jean, and two small children. By World War II, still in the navy, Woolsey had moved back to New London, Connecticut. He died in November 1944.

Although we made some inquiries, we don’t know if the shell is from naval or land-locked artillery. This information would help us figure out whether Brother Woolsey collected the shell himself or purchased it during or after the war. Neither do we know if he made the lamp himself. He may have bought it ready-made from one of the many vendors in America or Europe who created trench art. Unfortunately, Union Lodge #31 had a fire in 1923, and all previous records were lost. If you have any insights or questions about this object, please leave a comment or e-mail Aimee Newell, Director of Collections at anewell@monh.org.

Reference: Jane A. Kimball, Trench Art: An Illustrated History (Davis, CA: Silverpenny Press, 2004).

Photo: Lamp, 1922. France or America. National Heritage Museum purchase, 2000.059.8. Photograph by David Bohl.

"The Initiated Eye" Extended Until February 26, 2011

02 Have you visited the Museum’s exhibition, "The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C."? Worried that you’ll miss it? Well, fear not – we are extending it for one more month. "The Initiated Eye" will now be open until Saturday, February 26, 2011. We hope you will make plans to see it before it disappears!

"The Initiated Eye" presents 21 paintings by artist Peter Waddell, based on the architecture of Washington, D.C., and the role that our founding fathers and prominent citizens (many of whom were Freemasons) played in establishing the city. The depictions of historical events, activities, and ceremonies carefully explain and demystify Freemasonry for the public. In addition to the paintings, approximately 40 objects from the National Heritage Museum collection enrich the exhibition.  The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. We are located at 33 Marrett Road (Route 2A) in Lexington, Massachusetts. Please visit our website for more information.

This painting, The Age of Reason Made Manifest, shows the working plan for the city of Washington, D.C., laid out on a desk at Monticello. The creative dialogue between Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), George Washington (1732-1799), and Pierre L’Enfant (1754-1825) resulted in a classically-inspired vision and plan for Washington, D.C. Although the vast majority of the design was realized, a few key landmarks seen here were not built. The Supreme Court building was to have taken the form of a Roman temple at the site of Judiciary Square; the Washington Monument would have been an equestrian statue of George Washington; a rostral column would lie south of it; and a cascade flowing from a pyramid would grace the base of Capitol Hill. 

The paintings in the exhibition 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.

The Age of Reason Made Manifest, 2005, Peter Waddell, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.  Photograph by Carol Highsmith.

New to the Collection: An Apron with a Story

2009_080T1 Recently, the Grand Lodge of AF & AM of Illinois generously donated a Masonic apron to the National Heritage Museum.  Regular readers of our blog will know that the Museum is fortunate to have a top-notch apron collection – and that we are always looking to add aprons with interesting stories.  This one does not disappoint!

Although this apron is in only fair condition, it came with a typewritten note that explained, “Apron taken from casket [of President Grover Cleveland] by Mrs. Emily Hurlburt, a first cousin, of Hammond, Ind.  Mrs. Hurlburt gave apron to her son, Mr. Chas. W. Hurlburt.  Mr. Hurlburt died recently and his son, Mr. Wm. Hurlburt not being a member of the craft, wished some one interested to have it, and gave it to Jack Mundinger.”  While it is not unusual for us to receive objects with notes like this, it was exciting to get an apron associated with a U.S. president.  And, we are always wishing we had more history about the objects in our collection – who owned them and when, for example – so this note just added to the interest.

At the same time, even though we love this kind of note attached to an object, we have cultivated a strong sense of skepticism every time we read one – presidential association or not!  So, I did some research and turned up a number of facts that seem to contradict the information in the note.  First of all, Grover Cleveland was not a Freemason, although he seems to have been “sympathetically disposed to the Craft” according to numerous websites.  This assessment seems to stem, in part, from a remark Cleveland made at a banquet following the dedication by the Grand Lodge of Virginia of the monument erected to Washington’s mother, Mary.  Cleveland stated that he “regarded it as his misfortune that he had never been made a Mason.”  There was talk at one time in the Grand Lodge of New Jersey of making him a Mason “at sight,” but it never happened.  So, the odds that Cleveland ever wore or owned this apron seem pretty slim.

So, then I tried to investigate the family connection that is outlined in the note.  Another dead end because, as far as I can tell, Cleveland did not have any first cousins named Emily.  And, then, I found an account of Cleveland’s funeral in the New York Times from June 26, 1908, where it notes that the only relatives expected at the funeral were Cleveland’s sister, Rose, and his nephew, Cleveland F. Bacon.  I suppose that this cousin, Emily Hurlburt, could have taken the apron from the casket at some kind of private family viewing, but it seems unlikely that she wouldn’t have attended the funeral as well.  That leaves aside the question of why Cleveland would have had a Masonic apron in his casket to begin with, since he was never a Mason.83_46_1S1

The apron itself probably dates to the 1825 to 1850 period and is printed with a design that seems to resemble one on an apron by Lewis Roberson and Oliver T. Eddy of Vermont (at right), already in the Museum's collection.  If you compare the two, you will notice a number of similar motifs and a similar layout.

Despite the contradictions in the accompanying note and the very slim possibility that this apron ever belonged to President Cleveland, we are pleased to add the apron to our collection.  It represents yet another early 1800s apron design, which will allow us to compare and contrast many other aprons in our collection.  Although the apron's story of presidential associations is probably not true, it still tells a tale that captures our interest!

Top: Masonic apron, 1825-1850, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of the Grand Lodge of AF & AM of Illinois, 2009.080.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Masonic apron, 1814-1822, Lewis Roberson and Oliver T. Eddy, Wethersfield, Vermont, National Heritage Museum Collection, gift of Paul D. Fisher, 83.46.1.  Photograph by John M. Miller.


Chief Two Moon Meridas: Native American Healer or Snake-Oil Salesman?

75_72_1T1 Advertising is one of my favorite primary sources for historical research. Ads can tell you so much about the time in which they were made. They can also tell you about some of the compelling characters who made and sold products.

Not much is known about Chief Two Moon, whose real name was Chico Colon Meridas, before 1914, when he moved east and began selling his patent medicines in New York and Philadelphia. Soon after, he met and married Helen Gertrude Nugent and set up shop in Waterbury, Connecticut. Although his marriage certificate states that he was born in Devil’s Lake, South Dakota, in 1888, historians have not been able to confirm this information. As his product’s name implies, he claimed to be of Native American descent, but this information is also unconfirmed. In fact, his 1933 obituary states that when he died, the Department of the Interior had recently refused to certify him as an Indian. Biographers have suggested that his father, Chico Meridan, was Mexican, but this too is unconfirmed. One thing seems clear, however. He took his pseudonym from his mother’s maiden name, Mary Tumoon.

Chief Two Moon’s popular patent medicines and his practice as a naturopath made him a wealthy man. Sales took off following the 1918 influenza epidemic, when, according to newspaper accounts of the time, none of his patients died. By his death in 1933, “his immense [medical] ‘practice’ was more than mere legend,” according to the New York Times.

A clever salesman, he hawked his products by combining modern advertising practices with Americans’ romantic ideas about Native Americans’ healing powers in the 1920s. As seen in this advertisement, which is featured in our new exhibition, "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection," depictions of his motorized advertising bus—“The Only one of its Kind”—and his 1925 Waterbury, Connecticut, laboratory—implying that he used scientific manufacturing techniques—flank the mystical central image of a contemplative Indian above a powerful waterfall. The word “Health” magically floats between the waterfall and the moon. At the time, a number of patent medicine companies featured Indians in their advertising because the American public believed that Native Americans, especially their medicine men, had knowledge of herbal remedies through a deep connection with the natural world. But Chief Two Moon claimed to be the real deal.

The last few years of Meridas’s life contained both honors and difficulties. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council named him an honorary chief on August 6, 1930, for his philanthropy, providing cash, food and other supplies for the tribe. However, he was also faced with several lawsuits in New York and Connecticut for practicing medicine and naturopathy without a license. He died on November 3, 1933, of liver failure. His wife continued to sell the Chief Two Moon products long after her husband’s death.


"Chief Two Moon Dies in Waterbury," The New York Times, November 3, 1933.

Tom Fillius, "Chief Two Moon Meridas": http://home.comcast.net/~tomahawks1/

Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, "Indian in a Bottle," unpublished paper, February 2008

The Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center has a number of objects related to Chief Two Moon and his products. Here is one example.


Advertisement, 1925–1933. Parker-Brawner Co., Washington, D.C. Gift of Deborah Hills, 75.72.1. Photograph by David Bohl.


A Dewey Decimal System for Masonic Libraries

Frank_Thompson_System_of_Card_Membership Even if you're not much of a library user, you've still heard of the Dewey Decimal system. Chances are, you probably haven't thought much about what it is or who chooses/creates the call numbers for the books in the library (hint: librarians; more specifically: catalogers). You probably haven't thought too much about what the alternatives are to Dewey either. (Unless, like me, you're a librarian.)

Most public libraries in the United States use the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system, while most academic libraries use the Library of Congress (LC) classification system. Many specialized library collections, however, use other classification systems. The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, for example, uses the LC system for its American history collection, but we use the "Boyden system" for our Masonic book collection. Yet the Boyden system is not the only classification scheme devised for Masonic libraries.

In the early twentieth century, at least two classification systems specific to Masonic collections were created. In 1908, A System of Card Membership Record for Masonic Bodies and A Scheme of Classification for Masonic Books, Being an Extension of the Dewey Decimal System (left) was developed by Frank J. Thompson, who served in many Masonic capacities in North Dakota, including Grand Librarian of the Grand Lodge of North Dakota. Thompson was also director of the Fargo Public Library, which started in the Masonic Temple in Fargo. Thompson’s classification scheme is simply an expansion of the Dewey classification number 366.1, used for Freemasonry. That is, Thompson was still using the DDC, but he used the pre-existing class and provided instruction on how to expand upon it. (In Thompson's system, for example, call number for Proceedings of Scottish Rite Supreme Councils would begin 366.1-8994.)

Seven years later, in 1915, William L. Boyden, Librarian for the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction in Washington, DC, published Classification of the Literature of Freemasonry and Related Societies (below). Thompson and Boyden were both prompted to create their schemes Classification_of_the_literature_of_freemasonry because, as Boyden writes in the preface to his pamphlet, "[the Dewey Decimal System] provides no classification of freemasonry, assigning one class only to the subject, which class is practically incapable of subdivision. The scheme which I have devised...provides for nearly four hundred classes and sub-classes." Where Thompson simply extended the 366.1 Dewey class, Boyden created a whole new classification system. In the same way Melvil Dewey attempted to divide the world into ten broad classes, Boyden divided the Masonic world into ten major classes, as seen through Boyden's eyes in 1915.

Is it possible to wax poetic about the classification of Masonic libraries? Perhaps. Boyden’s colleague and friend, J. Hugo Tatsch, addressed the topic of classification at the 1932 Conference of Masonic Students and Librarians at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia, stating, "The importance of a Masonic classification list cannot be over-estimated. It is the framework about which your library is built. It is the anatomical structure through which the card catalog, the soul of the library, expresses itself."


December Programs at the Museum

Come join us during this festive month of December for public programs suited to the holiday season.

Yosemite This Saturday, December 4th, Museum staff will offer a gallery talk in our exhibition, “Treasured Lands: The Fifty-Eight U.S. National Parks in Focus.” Learn more about photographer Quang-Tuan Luong, the man behind these stunning worlds of natural beauty, as well as his techniques and his artistic project. Find us in the "Treasured Lands" gallery at 2 p.m. for this free talk.


Trainshow Mark your calendars so you and your family don't miss the annual December Model Train Show. It will be held Saturday, December 11, 10 AM–4:30 PM and Sunday, December, 12 Noon–4 PM (special hours). The HUB Division of the National Model Railroad Association never fails to delight fans large and small with their model train display, so gather neighbors, grandchildren, and friends for this event. Admission: $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members); $5/individual.

We look forward to seeing you at the Museum!


Photo credits: Yosemite National Park, California, January 2002. Quang-Tuan Luong. © by the artist; courtesy National Heritage Museum.