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December 2011

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

96_005_3DS1Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library staff and volunteers are currently working to digitize our entire collection of historic photographs. This part of the collection includes over 1,000 images from the 1800s and 1900s, many showing men and women in their Masonic and fraternal regalia.

You can browse and search the images that have been digitized by visiting our website. Click on “Collections” and then click on “Online Collections” and “Click here to start a search of our online collection.” You will be taken to a new window where you can search for all of the photos by typing “photo,” or you can search for specific subjects, photographers, places or any other term. To date, we have almost 300 photos scanned and available for viewing, with more added each month.

The photograph above is just one example of the images now available online. It shows members of Boston Commandery, Knights Templar, during a visit to Mount Vernon in Virginia. When we first scanned the photo, we did not have any information about the date the photo was taken. But, with a little research, we learned that it depicts the group of Knights who visited George Washington’s home during their attendance at the 1889 Conclave (or triennial meeting) in Washington, D.C. Indeed, a Boston newspaper account of the trip notes that on October 10, 1889, the group traveled to Mount Vernon on a boat and “from the wharf they marched to the tomb where resides all that is mortal of that most eminent Mason, Brother George Washington.” The newspaper goes on to explain that “the knights then went to the portico of the famous old mansion and were photographed…” According to their own history, “on arrival [the Knights] formed a square about the tomb of Washington, when an impressive service was held…The old mansion was visited, and pleasant hours were spent on this historic estate.”

Pilgrimages to Mount Vernon seem to have been popular during the late 1800s. Another image in the Museum’s collection, seen below and taken in 1859, shows St. John’s Commandery No. 1, from Providence, Rhode Island, during their visit to Washington’s tomb at Mount Vernon. According to a published account of the visit, the men marched off the boat “to the sounds of mournful music” and first visited Washington’s tomb, as seen in the photograph. They next visited the house itself, which had fallen into disrepair. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association had purchased the estate the year before St. John’s Commandery’s visit, in 1858, and would open it to the public in 1860, after beginning a careful refurbishment.93_019DI1

Please tell your friends and family about our photo collection – and keep checking back to see new images as we add them. We hope not only to be able to share our wonderful collection with visitors near and far, but also to encourage scholars and researchers to use these images in order to better understand the history of Freemasonry and fraternalism in America.


Boston Daily Globe, October 7 and 11, 1889.

Historical Sketch of St. John’s Commandery No. 1 of Knights Templars. Providence: Rhode Island Printing Company, 1875.

History of Saint Johns Commandery Number One, Providence, 1902.

Memoir of the Pilgrimage to Virginia of the Knights Templars of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, May 1859. Boston: A. Williams and Company, 1859.

A Sketch of Boston Commandery of Knights Templars. Boston: Triennial Committee, 1895.

Boston Commandery at Mount Vernon, 1889, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Gift of Harvey B. Leggee Collection of Shrine and Fraternal Material, 96.005.3.

St. John’s Commandery No. 1 at Mount Vernon, 1859, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 93.019.

Rembrandt Peale’s Visit with George Washington

75_6T1In 1795, at just seventeen years old, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860) enjoyed the career-making opportunity to sketch George Washington (1732–1799) from life.  Rembrandt’s father, the established painter Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), arranged the sitting with the president at his son's request.  The elder Peale knew the president personally, having made several portraits of him, the first painted in the 1770s.  Rembrandt was embarking upon his own career as an artist and hoped that a portrait of Washington would be an attention-getting feather in his cap. 

At the sitting, father and son worked on portraits of Washington.  Rembrandt drew on the experience and the sketches he made at the time to produce portraits of the American hero for decades.  When selling these works in the 1840s and 1850s, Rembrandt Peale capitalized on his status as one of the few still living artists to have painted Washington from life. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library holds two of Rembrandt Peale’s portraits of Washington in its collection, one of Washington in military uniform (upper left)  and another of him in formal clothes (lower right).

Signature side of Peale letterThe first of these works descended in a Philadelphia family.  When the donor made the gift to the museum, he included a wonderful letter from Peale to the original buyer, Henry Paul Beck (1802-1874).  In this document Peale thanks the purchaser, compliments his taste, offers advice on framing and tactfully asks him to correct a payment error. He also suggests a reason why Beck bought the painting—Beck's father was Washington’s friend—a piece of information about the sale that would be difficult for us to know without this correspondence.

In both its creation and its sale, this painting’s story speaks to the power of firsthand experiences.  If 2000_016T1you would like to have your own firsthand experience of the painting, stop by Curators’ Choice:  Favorites from the Collection at the museum. 


David Meschutt, “Life Portraits of George Washington,” in Barbara J. Mitnick, ed., George Washington, American Symbol (New York:  Hudson Hills Press), 1999, pp. 33-34, 37.


George Washington, ca. 1847, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gift of John Bartholomew Webster, 75.6. 

Letter,1847, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gift of John Bartholomew Webster, A75/007/1.  

George Washington, ca. 1859, Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Gift of the Forrest D. McKerley Foundation, 2000.016.  Photograph by David Bohl

Old and Smelly?

Auld_and_Smellie_Free_Masons_Pocket_CompanionI recently came across a book in our collection - The Free Masons Pocket-Companion - published in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1765. The title page indicates that the book was "Printed by Auld & Smellie." I immediately sensed a printer's joke in this (just say "Auld & Smellie" aloud and see). It turned out, however, that this was a case of truth being stranger than fiction.

According to Cecil Adams's article, "The Freemasons' Pocket Companions of the Eighteenth Century," published in volume 45 of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (1932), "William Smellie (1740-1795) was a well-known Edinburgh printer, and for a time in partnership with Auld." Smellie was, in fact, well-known enough to warrant an entry in the 8th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Not coincidentally, Smellie was the driving force behind the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published in three volumes from 1768-1771.

A biography of Smellie was published in 1811, just 16 years after his death. The partnership between Auld & Smellie is referred to in the text and the book even includes some correspondence from Auld to Smellie.

This was not William Auld's first publication of The Free Masons Pocket Companion. Four years earlier, in 1761, an edition of the same book was "printed by Ruddiman, Auld, and Company; and sold by William Auld."

Auld_and_Smellie_detailWhile Auld & Smellie are not - for better or worse - pseudonymous names for two eighteenth-century printers, there is a rich tradition of not only writers, but also printers, using pseudonyms. If you're interested in the topic, William Cushing's 1885 book Initials and Pseudonyms: A Dictionary of Literary Disguises is a wonderful trove of pseudonyms and the names behind them.

(Many thanks to Martin Cherry at London's Library and Museum of Freemasonry for pointing me to the Cecil Adams article in AQC.)

Both images from:
The Free Masons Pocket-Companion. Edinburgh: Printed by Auld & Smellie, 1765.  
Call number: RARE 14.21 .F853 1765
National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives

Model Train Show, Dec. 17 & 18

Trains&GroupYour family won't want to miss the Museum's annual December Model Train Show. It will be held on Saturday, December 17, 10 AM to 4:30 PM, and Sunday, December 18, Noon to 4:00 PM (special Sunday hours).

The HUB Division of the National Model Train Association never fails to delight fans large and small with their model train display, so gather neighbors, grandchildren, and neighbors for this event. It is a perfect holiday-season outing for adults and children of all ages.

 The HUB Division modelers present miles of track with trains running on multiple main lines as they chug up mountain climbs, past coal mines, through small villages and into tunnels. Some engines pull 50 cars past hundreds of charming venues including icy lakes with skaters, snow-covered farms, and urban skyscrapers.

Admissions: $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members); $5/individual.

For further information, contact the Museum at 781-861-6559.

We look forward to seeing you at the Museum!

Miss Rose Lipp: Masonic Authority

SC79_12_6aDP2 In March 1912, the New England Craftsman, a monthly Masonic magazine published in Boston, Massachusetts, noted that one of the city’s regalia makers had recently changed storefronts and reminded readers that the owner “is recognized as an authority on correctness of design for the costumes of every period.” Rather than a brother Freemason, this notice referred to Miss Rose Lipp, a female manufacturer and dealer in “Masonic Supplies,” who maintained her business over at least thirty years, providing the aprons, jewels and uniforms essential to Masonic meetings and rituals.

94_012_5aDI1 The 44 items with Rose Lipp’s label in the collection of the National Heritage Museum attest to the variety available from her shop, as well as to her facility with regalia from all Masonic groups. We have 28 aprons, most for local lodges, but a few were sewn for Royal Arch chapters. For example, in 1924, she made a set of officer’s aprons for the newly-constituted Russell Lodge in Arlington, Massachusetts. The 14-apron set is now in the Museum’s collection and the Master’s apron is seen here. These aprons were a gift to the lodge from the other lodges in the district.

In addition to the aprons, we have two turbans, two robes, one sword, one sword belt, one hat, one fez, one badge, one collar, two miniature souvenir aprons, and four Scottish Rite sashes with Lipp’s label. One of those sashes is shown here; it was originally presented to Josiah T. Dyer when he received his 33rd degree from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. SC79_12_6aDP1 All of these objects help us to better understand the role that a female entrepreneur like Rose Lipp played in Boston Freemasonry.

Label Detail from Scottish Rite 33rd-degree sash (see below).

Masonic Apron, 1924, Rose Lipp Regalia Co., Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Russell Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Arlington, Massachusetts, 94.012.5a.

Scottish Rite 33° Sash, 1910-1930, Miss Rose Lipp, Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., SC79.12.6a. Photograph by David Bohl.

Lounging in Masonic Style

2005_042a-bDP1DB.tif This bathrobe, or dressing gown, from the late 20th century, is one of my favorite objects in the National Heritage Museum collection. So, when I was working on the checklist for our new exhibition, Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia, I knew I had to include it!

With nearly one million members by 1900, American Freemasonry offered – and has continued to offer – a tempting market for many vendors. Masons not only purchase regalia and costumes for their meetings, rituals and events, they also buy clothing and other accessories that identify them as members. This bathrobe’s fabric is decorated with perhaps the best-known Masonic symbol – the square and compasses, which signifies reason and faith.

Have you ever seen another bathrobe like this one? If you are a Mason, do you have favorite non-lodge clothing with Masonic symbols? Let us know in a comment below.

Masonic bathrobe, 1960-1980, probably American, Collection of the National Heritage Museum, Museum Purchase, 2005.042a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

Mark your calendar - Date Changes for 2012 Symposium!

90_20T1The date for our 2012 symposium, Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, has been changed to April, 28, 2012.  Please mark you calendar - registration information will be available in January.  Also, we have extended the deadline for the call for papers to January 2, 2012, so please consider submitting a proposal.  See the full call below.

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 28, 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 [email protected] or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421. Deadline for proposals to be received is January 2, 2012. For more information about the National Heritage Museum, see www.nationalheritagemuseum.org. For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.