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October 2011

Fight, Save, Buy, Wake Up! Selections from the National Heritage Museum’s Poster Collection

A2000_37_05_DS1 Sow the Seeds of Victory!Starting November 5, 2011, we will be featuring a new exhibition of selections from the collection in our corridor space, “Fight, Save, Buy, Wake Up! World War I Posters."  Big, bold and intriguing, our World War I posters have long been favorites of mine.

Throughout America’s participation in World War I—from April 1917 through November 1918—these colorful and compelling posters exhorted Americans to fight, conserve food and buy bonds.  At the beginning of the war, volunteer artists formed the Division of Pictorial Publicity of the Committee on Public Information.  Some of the better-known participants whose posters are featured in this exhibition are: James Montgomery Flagg (see a recent post on one of his works in the exhibition), Howard Chandler Christy, Henry Raleigh and Fred Goss Cooper (see one of his posters in the exhibition illustrating this post and another in this historic photo from Connecticut).  Experienced, professional illustrators who drew pictures for books, magazines and advertisers, these artists and others turned their noted talents to selling the government’s message during the war. The Division created a host of advertisements, including 700 poster designs. Millions of their posters hung in public spaces and workplaces—citizens could not escape their pressing and persuasive messages.

Posters helped recruit soldiers.  They also drummed up dollars.  To help finance the war, the U. S. Treasury sold savings bonds, called Liberty Loans. An army of volunteers promoted these bonds door-to-door and at rallies.  Posters and other advertising for the bonds emphasized the importance of civilian participation in the fundraising effort.  Four Liberty Loans and one Victory Loan, organized after the fighting concluded, helped the government raise billions of needed dollars. Save a Loaf a Week

Along with money, Americans conserved and produced food to support the war.  According to Herbert Hoover, then head of the United States Food Administration, food was “second only to military action,” in winning the war.  Hoover crafted policies and organized the logistics that allowed America to feed citizens, soldiers and the Allies by controlling the supply, distribution and conservation of food.  To help achieve these aims, food agencies enlisted eye-catching posters urging Americans to conserve, preserve (see one Flagg's posters encouraging canning in action), and produce.

The twenty posters gathered in this exhibition offer a glimpse of a time when American citizens and artists, facing uncertain outcomes, responded to their government’s urgent requests to fight, save, buy and wake up!  I hope you will have a chance to visit the museum and see if these posters might attract your attention. 

Photo credits:

Sow the Seeds of Victory!, 1918.  James Montgomery Flagg (1877-1860), United States.  National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, gift of Andrew S. Dibner, 2000/37/05.

Save a Loaf a Week, 1917-1919.  Fred Goss Cooper (1883-1962). Printed by W. F. Powers Co., New York, New York.  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Walton H. Rawls, Wake up, America! : World War I and the American Poster, New York : Abbeville Press, Inc., 1988. 

Exhibition Curator to Trace the Fashionable Roots of Masonic Regalia, 10/29

Join the Museum's Director of Collections Aimee Newell, Ph.D, for a tour of the exhibition, “Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia,” on Saturday, October 29 at 2 p.m. Newell, curator of the exhibition, will trace the fashion antecedants behind traditional Masonic costumes and regalia.

2008-039-27Popular television programs and movies have been known to poke fun at fraternal groups by featuring characters that belong to made-up fraternities with goofy names and even funnier hats and costumes. Do you remember Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble who were members of the “Royal Order of Water Buffaloes” on The Flintstones cartoon? Even among Freemasons, Masonic costume has been perceived as weird, funny or outlandish.

And, indeed, Masonic regalia can have an element of wackiness. But, we may think the same thing about the clothing we see in historic prints, paintings, and photographs from the 1700s and 1800s. Even people of the era reacted to what they perceived as the extremes of fashion by publishing cartoons and satires. Then, as now, fashion itself was as wacky, if not more so, than the regalia worn by Masonic groups.

Furthermore, when we start to look more closely, comparing Masonic costumes and photographs with clothing and images from the same time periods, we can see that regalia manufacturers often took their cues from fashion houses. Come and see garments and images from the Museum’s collection that demonstrate the four different design sources for Masonic garments – contemporary fashion, the military, Orientalism, and theater. Learn how there have always been connections between everyday style and Masonic fashion!

To participate in the gallery tour, meet Aimee Newell in the “Inspired by Fashion” gallery at 2 p.m. For more information, please call the Museum reception desk at 781 861-6559 or visit our website.

Image credit:

George S. Anderson, Grand Commander, Masonic Knights Templar of Georgia, 1860-1869. Smith and Motes, Atlanta, Georgia. National Heritage Museum, gift in memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.039.27.

Call for Papers: Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

90_20T1 The National Heritage Museum announces a call for papers for its biannual symposium, “Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism,” to be held on Saturday, April 7, 2012, at the Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The National Heritage Museum is an American history museum founded and supported by Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. As the repository of one of the largest collections of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources. The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present day.

By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture. Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; proposals are invited from a broad range of research areas, including history, material and visual culture, anthropology, sociology, literary studies and criticism, gender studies, political science, African American studies, art history, economics, or any combination of disciplines. Perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods are welcome.

Possible topics include:

• Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of fraternalism

• Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups

• Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups

• Fraternal groups for women or teens

• Role of fraternal groups in social movements

• The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism

• Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups

• Fraternal symbolism and ritual

• The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature

• Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives; the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism

Proposals should be for 30 minute research papers; the day’s schedule will allow for audience questions and feedback.

Proposal Format: Submit an abstract of 400 words or less with a resume or c.v. that is no more than two pages. Be sure to include full contact information (name, address, email, phone, affiliation). Send proposals to: Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., Director of Collections, National Heritage Museum, by email at anewell@monh.org or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421. Deadline for proposals to be received is December 15, 2011.

For more information about the National Heritage Museum, see http://www.monh.org. For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.

Masonic Emblematic Chart, 1840-1850, probably New York, National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 90.20. Photo by David Bohl.

Skeleton Leaves and Phantom Arrangements

2010_076_1DS1 The National Heritage Museum recently received a gift of four stereocards titled Skeleton Leaves and showing the same leafy arrangement shaped like a Masonic square and compasses symbol. One of the cards is shown here (for more on stereocards, see our previous post). I was struck by how quintessentially Victorian this image seems and became curious about the story behind the image.

According to the card itself, the publisher was John P. Soule of Boston. Soule was born in Maine in 1828. City directories for Boston from the late 1850s tell us that Soule was a partner in the firm of Rogers and Soule, Printsellers. Soule’s partner was none other than John Rogers (1829-1904), the sculptor whose “Rogers Groups” would become popular decorations in many Victorian homes. By 1859, Soule was identified as a “photographist” in the Boston directory. He went on to publish a number of stereocards in the 1870s, including this one. In 1888, Soule moved to Seattle; he died in 1904.

The Masonic symbol shown on the card is perhaps the most recognizable sign of the fraternity. The square and compasses represent reason and faith. The letter G in the center stands for God, geometry, or both. While this symbol was used on all sorts of objects during the late 1800s – from furniture to ceramics – this representation is done in a specific medium – that of skeletonized leaves (also called “phantom leaves” or “phantom bouquets”).

Instructions on how to pursue this type of project were provided in numerous late-1800s household guides and ladies’ magazines. For example, the March 1870 issue of The Lady’s Friend reprinted directions from an 1867 issue for skeletonizing leaves “at the special request of new subscribers.” The writer acknowledged the popularity of this activity, “These Phantom Bouquets are more beautiful than could be believed by those who have not seen them…We had not thought that anything so dainty and airily graceful could be preserved in this way.” To make one of these arrangements, the leaves were gathered while green and then soaked. The “green matter” had to be rubbed off the surface of the leaf, leaving the “fibrous network” or skeleton of the leaf. Once the leaves were thoroughly dry, they could be bleached and then formed into an arrangement.

This stereocard notes that an I.L. Rogers registered the image at the Library of Congress in 1873. Reportedly, a Mrs. I.L. Rogers of Springfield, Massachusetts, patented an improved method for skeletonizing leaves in 1877. While we were particularly interested in this image because of its Masonic content, a number of stereocards were available during the late 1800s showing other arrangements of “skeleton leaves,” primarily non-Masonic and decorative.

Have you ever tried skeletonizing leaves? Do you know more about Mrs. I.L. Rogers? Do you have a stereocard showing a “phantom arrangement”? If so, let us know in a comment below!


“John P. Soule Family,” http://familystacks.com/custom/views/fam/S02.htm.

The Lady’s Friend 7 (March 1870): 202-206.

Routledge’s Every Boy’s Annual, London: George Routledge and Sons, 1866.

Skeleton Leaves, 1873, John P. Soule (1828-1904), Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum Collection, gift of Ronald T. Labbe, 2010.076.1.