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January 2011

The Adventures of Foxy Grandpa, Freemason. Or Is He?

77_36S1From 1900 to 1918, cartoonist Carl Edward Schultze (1867-1939) drew a popular comic strip about an old man and his young grandsons. Unlike “The Katzenjammer Kids” and other cartoons in which children get the better of their parents and grandparents, Schultze wanted the grandpa to be the smart one. Thus Foxy Grandpa was born. He plays practical jokes on the boys or makes their practical jokes on him backfire.

The comic strip’s popularity led to related products for sale, from toys and postcards to ornaments and doorstops. They also included the doll seen here. Made by Art Fabric Mills Company of New York, the dolls were sold in printed cloth sheets, meant to be cut out, sewn and stuffed. In a December 1904 issue of McCall’s magazine, the dolls were advertised for 25¢. Malted Cereal Company also promoted them. The Museum's doll is now featured in the exhibition "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection."

Carl Schultze signed the cartoons “Bunny”—his childhood nickname—along with a drawing of a rabbit. The doll holds a rabbit, Schultze’s alter-ego, under his arm.

The Museum purchased this doll in 1977 because of the watch fob he wears, which features a square and compasses, a common Masonic symbol. However, no one at the Museum has been able to identify a Masonic connection for the character. We haven't found any evidence that Schultze was a Mason, nor have we seen any references to Masonry in the cartoons.

Foxy_Grandpa_Rides_the_Goat_web Then a few weeks ago, I discovered a book entitled Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat for sale. As mentioned in an earlier post, some late 19th- and early 20th-century initiation rituals involved gags, such as “pushing a hoodwinked (blindfolded) candidate around a lodge room on a wobbly-wheeled fake mechanical goat,” one of which we have in the Museum's collection. I thought the book’s title might be a reference to Freemasonry, as did my colleagues in the various collections departments, so we purchased the book. And we were disappointed to find only one reference to Freemasonry in the book:

“Come and ride our goat, dear Grandpa,
     We see you’re a mason true,”
Said the boys as they glanced below
     At the mortar on his shoe.

Between the watch fob and the poem, it seems clear that Schultze was familiar with Freemasonry. Membership in Masonic lodges was at a peak in the early 1900s, so even the uninitiated likely learned about the fraternity through friends, colleagues, or family members who were Masons.

Schultze's references to Freemasonry are rather subtle, perhaps noticeable only to those who are looking for them. Especially since we have not been able to identify a lodge that Schultze belonged to, these clues seem like his wry joke, in the same vein as the cartoon itself.

If you know anything about Carl E. Schultze's Masonic membership or activities, please leave a comment on this post.


"Foxy Grandpa" Doll, 1903-1912. Art Fabric Mills Company, New York. National Heritage Museum Collection, 77.36. 

Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat. (Chicago: M.A. Donohue & Co.), 1908. National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives Collection

Florence Flieler: Grand Chief of the Pythian Sisters

A2010_9_1DSIn the spring of 2010, we were offered by a manuscript dealer in Canada, the personal diary of Mrs. Florence M. Flieler.  But who was Mrs. Flieler?  Why would we collect her diary?

Florence was born in Kansas in about 1885. She moved to Oakland, California in the 1920s according to the United States Federal Census. At this point she was married to Henry R. Flieler, an accountant in a bank, and lived in a household with his parents, Richard and Catherine. Florence was about 35 years old at this time.

Florence's great passion was participating in the Pythian Sisters. On May 22, 1925, Florence was installed as Grand Chief of the Pythian Sisters of California. Her diary (as seen above) shows this enthusiasm in her description her first five months in office after her installation. The diary includes descriptions of social and official visits with other Pythian Sisters in various towns in California including Sacramento, Chico, Arcata, Ferndale,Redding,and Eureka. Florence comments candidly in her diary, noting, for example, when ritual work was done well and when it was not. She usually stayed with other Sisters in the order when traveling. 

But who are the Pythian Sisters?

The Pythian Sisters is the female counterpart to the Knights of Pythias. This fraternal organization is similar to Order of the Eastern Star and the Rebekah Assembly in its relationship to its male  organizations. In 1888, the Supreme Lodge of the Knights of Pythias approved Joseph Addison Hill's ritual for a women's order. Hill was the primary organizer of the Pythian Sisters in Warsaw, Indiana.  Another group of Pythian Sisters from New Hampshire, with different ritual, merged with Hill's group in 1907. In the 1920s Florence Flieler would have been using and inspecting Hill's ritual in various temples in the Oakland area.

Like Order of Eastern Star and the Rebekah Assembly, a woman had to be the wife, sister, half-sister, sister-in-law, daughter, mother, stepmother, or mother-in-law, or grandmother of a Pythian Knight in good standing. Henry Flieler, or some other male relative, must have been a member of the Knights of Pythias, which would have made Florence eligible to join the Pythian Sisters. It is quite possible that the answer to this question lies waiting to be found in Florence Flieler's diary.

Image Caption:

Diary of Florence M. Flieler, 1925-1926.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2010/9/1.

Aboriginal Style and Victorian Excess

91_055_55DI1 I love the aesthetic shown by beaded purses like this one, which were made during the late 1800s and early 1900s by members of Native American tribes in upstate New York. The two-tone beading, the rich velvet and silk fabrics and the floral designs make these artifacts recognizable at one glance. So, when selecting objects from the National Heritage Museum collection for our current exhibition, Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection, I just had to pick one of the Native American-made purses from our collection.

Capitalizing on the Victorian love of decoration, Iroquois women beaded purses, wallets, pincushions and numerous other kinds of “whimsies” to sell to tourists at Niagara Falls and other popular vacation spots. Making and selling souvenir beadwork was a means of cultural as well as economic survival. The beadworkers created a successful mixture of aboriginal style and Victorian excess, allowing them to make a living in an manner deemed “acceptable” by white society, while also manipulating the market to not only accept, but prize, their aesthetic, which retained a sense of ancient beliefs and an independent spirit.

Paper patterns were frequently employed as guides to create the beaded motifs. The beadworker would anchor the pattern to the fabric and apply strings of beads across the surface, filling in the space. Some purses include a beaded fringe around the edge. This was a recognizable “Indian” characteristic for consumers, bringing to mind “traditional” Indian costumes made from animal hide and fringed at the ends.

Purse, 1860-1890, probably New York, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Prescott Richardson Collection, 91.055.55.

Wings Up or Wings Down?: Using Books to Find An Answer

[Note: this article originally appeared in the November 2010 issue of The Northern Light, the membership magazine for the Scottish Rite's Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.]

Maybe you've just joined the Scottish Rite, or maybe you’ve been a Scottish Rite member for years and have been elected to receive the 33°. You or a family member enthusiastically set out to buy something to commemorate the occasion. Right away, you notice that many of the double-headed eagles are available in either the "wings up" or the "wings down" position. You wonder, "what’s the difference?"  Asking your Scottish Rite brothers, you receive answers that are all slightly different and sometimes contradictory.

Baynard_Double_Headed_Eagle_detail_web Where can you find a definitive answer?
Call me biased, but I’d say one of your best bets (short of reading this article) is to contact the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives at the National Heritage Museum. I’ve had members contact me with this question and here’s how I was able to deliver a definitive answer.

First, I looked at two popular books on Freemasonry. Christopher Hodapp’s Freemasons for Dummies and S. Brent Morris’s The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Freemasonry both address this question. They draw the same conclusion: in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the wings-up version of the double-headed eagle is reserved for Active and Active Emeritus members. (No importance is attached to wing position in the Southern Jurisdiction.)

That’s a good start, but I wanted an authoritative source, so I looked at the Supreme Council 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s own Constitutions. In the 2009 edition of the Constitutions, articles 1216 through 1219 address the design of caps (optional in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, but still sometimes worn) and lapel buttons.

Orient_of_Philadelphia_Double_Headed_Eagle_detail_web In the description of 33° Active and Active Emeritus caps (art. 1219.1) and lapel buttons (art. 1216), the double-headed eagle is described as "a double-headed eagle, wings extended and pointing up." For the cap (art. 1219.2) and label button (art. 1217) of a 33° Honorary Member, the eagle is described as a "double-headed eagle, wings extended and pointing down," and for 32° lapel buttons (art. 1218.1) the eagle is described as a "double-headed eagle of gold, wings extended and pointing down."

It looks like the Supreme Council’s Constitutions first addressed wing position in 1934, with the description of lapel buttons, which had been formally introduced in 1927. The Constitutions did not describe caps until the 1955 revision and the position of the double-headed eagle’s wings on caps was not addressed until the 1960s.

Double-headed eagles only appear on 32° rings and are described in article 1209 of the Constitutions: "A Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret is authorized to wear a ring, the basic design of which shall be the double-headed eagle." We can infer that the wings should be pointed down.

Looking at the published Proceedings of the Supreme Council, I found that the wings-up versus wings-down question is not new. In a report on the double-headed eagle delivered by the Committee on Ritual and Ritualistic Matter at the 1885 Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council, they concluded "The rising eagle [i.e. wings up] is not improperly represented, and to those who prefer the ascending position there is, and can be, no objection." This indicates that the question was being asked 125 years ago, although the answer back then was different.

While I have focused on the personal use of double-headed eagles in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, it’s also worth noting that some Supreme Councils in the world use a wings-up double-headed eagle as the emblem of their Council. Both Supreme Councils in the United States use a wings-down version.

In conclusion, unless you are one of the approximately fifty 33° Active Members or an Active Emeritus Member of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the answer to the question "wings up or wings down?" is this: wings down.


Detail from cover of Samuel H. Baynard’s History of the Supreme Council, 33°…Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 1938. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 17.9735 .B361 1938.

Detail from cover of By-laws of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Orient of Philadelphia, Valley of Pennsylvania, 1878. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 17.9735 .Un58 1878.