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February 2012

Don't Miss "Inspired By Fashion" - Closing March 24!

78_47T1Don’t miss your chance to see “Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia” at the National Heritage Museum! The exhibition closes March 24, 2012 (visit our website for hours and directions). Here are a few objects from the exhibition to whet your interest.

Freemason J. Hull sat for this portrait in the early 1800s wearing his Masonic apron, sash and medal. Hull’s apron resembles the one designed by Abner Reed of Connecticut, which you can see below (and check out our previous post about Reed). It is difficult to make out the details on Hull’s medal, but it may be a mark medal. In the Mark Master degree, members chose an individual symbol to represent themselves. The mark medal shown here was made for H. Gardiner around 1800. He chose a crossed keys symbol for his mark, which also represents the treasurer’s office in the lodge.80_14DI1

During the early 1700s, Freemasonry offered a way for upper-class men to socialize and share views. Soon after, the fraternity experienced a tremendous upsurge in popularity among many classes of men, in part because its values of parity and brotherhood resonated with supporters of American independence. Lodge clothing also mirrored these Masonic principles of equality and brotherhood.

89_17S1From the 1700s on, Masons had a public presence, wearing their regalia and participating in parades on special occasions. In this way, men associated themselves with Freemasonry, while also creating an identity for the lodge itself. In part, members communicated this message by moving within contemporary fashion conventions. Specific items of clothing made from special materials conveyed the fraternity’s values as well as identifying the wearers of men striving for character and class.

If you are interested in learning more about the intersection of men's fashion and Masonic regalia, we hope you will come see "Inspired by Fashion"!

Mr. and Mrs. J. Hull, ca. 1800, Unidentified Artist, American. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 78.47a. Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Apron, ca. 1800, Abner Reed (1771-1866), East Windsor, Connecticut. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Museum Purchase, 80.14.

Mark Medal, ca. 1800, probably New York. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 89.17.


Tony Horwitz to Speak on Raid on Harper's Ferry to Kick off Museum's Civil War Lecture Series


Press-th_croppedJohn Brown_againJoin Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tony Horwitz at the Museum on Saturday, March 10 at 2 pm to hear the electrifying tale of John Brown and his mission that changed the course of American history.

Plotted in secret and launched in the dark, Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry ruptured the union between North and South. Yet few Americans know the true story of the militant idealists who invaded Virginia before the the shelling of Fort Sumter opened the Civil War. The lecture, “Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Civil War,” is based on Horwitz’s acclaimed Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War, which takes an unblinking look at a nation on the brink of explosive conflict. A book signing will follow. Admission is free. The lecture is part of a series on the Civil War, and is made possible by Ruby W. Linn.

Horwitz is a graduate of Brown University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. He worked for many years as a reporter, first in Indiana and then during a decade overseas in Australia, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, covering wars and conflicts for The Wall Street Journal. He won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting, and worked as a staff writer for The New Yorker before becoming a full-time author. Four of his books have been national and New York Times bestsellers: A Voyage Long and Strange, Blue Latitudes, Confederates in the Attic, and Baghdad Without A Map. He lives with his wife and sons on Martha’s Vineyard.

JBLastProphecyThe Museum is offering the lecture series on occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The series is designed to explore the history of this divisive conflict, and its meaning for our nation today. It also relates to Museum’s mission of fostering an appreciation of American history, patriotism and Freemasonry. All talks are sponsored by Ruby W. Linn.

Other lectures in the series are:

Gentlemen of the White Apron: Freemasonry in the American Civil War - Saturday, April 28, 1 pm

Michael Halleran, a freelance historian and practicing attorney, sets the standard for scholarship on Freemasonry in the Civil War. This talk will reveal the history behind the many mythical stories of Masonic Brotherhood across the Civil War battlelines.

Among the Ruins: Charles F. Morse and Civil War Destruction - Saturday, September 29, 2 pm

Megan Kate Nelson of Harvard University will unfold the Civil War experience of one Massachusetts soldier, Charles F. Morse, an officer in the 2nd Mass. Rgt. His letters, drawings, and other contemporary images will draw us into the world of ruin and destruction that participants in the war found themselves confronting.

Quilts for Civil War Soldiers: Stories from the Home Front and the Battlefield - Saturday, October 20, 2 pm

Pamela Weeks, Curator of the New England Quilt Museum, knows the stories behind the rare surviving Civil War quilts made by caring hands for soldiers fighting for North and South. Learn about the quilts, their makers, life on the home front during the war, and about how civilians organized to get desperately needed aid and supplies to the battlefield.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559. www.nationalheritagemuseum.org

Image credits:

Courtesy Tony Horwitz

John Brown in late 1856 (Courtesy of the West Virginia State Archives, Boyd B. Stutler Collection)

Brown's Last Prophesy, 1859. Courtesy of the Virginia State Archives, Boyd B. Stutler Collection

"Expel him and expel him quickly": A Union response to a Brother joining the Confederate Army

John_Fravel_Portrait_webIn a previous post, we took a look at Masonic Confederate imprints in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives's collection. In the world of bibliography and rare books there's really no such thing as a "Union imprint" but I thought it'd be worth dipping into some Proceedings published by Masonic bodies in the Union during the Civil War to see what interesting topics might turn up. It didn't take long before I found something quite interesting. Namely, the thorny question of whether a Mason belonging to a lodge in the Union should be kicked out of his lodge if he heads south and joins the Confederate Army. As you will see below, there were differing opinions on how to address this real-life issue.

In the 1863 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Indiana, the "Address" by Grand Master John B. Fravel (1814-1876) looked at the question of whether a Mason who left the Union to join the Confederate Army should automatically be expelled from Freemasonry. His opinion on the matter appears below the heading Decision as to the Expulsion of a Disloyal Mason and is focused on an actual case, brought to him by the Master of a lodge in Allensville, Indiana:

On the 12th of July, 1862, the Worshipful Master of Allensville Lodge, No. 81 submitted to me the following question:   

"A Brother in good standing in this Lodge has gone South, joined the Confederate Army, received a commission therein, and is now in arms against the Government of the United States. Can the Lodge expel him?"

My answer was that for that act alone, he could not be expelled. This decision is founded upon the express declarations set forth in the Second Chapter of the Ancient Charges...

Fravel then goes on to quote the passage, and ends by saying, "This question possesses much interest to us at this particular time; and as such I esteem it to be my duty to lay the whole matter before the Grand Lodge, not that I apprehend in the least that they will reverse the decision made, but that the Craft may know the precise position which we, as Masons, occupy to the legally constituted Government."

Despite Fravel's belief that no one in the Grand Lodge would reverse his decision, there was, in fact, a strongly worded response to Fravel in the "Reports from the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence," which contained a section entitled, On Expulsion of Disloyal Brethren. After a polite introduction, in which the Committee states that the matter was referred to them by the Grand Master and that while he "quoted the law as anciently recognized correctly," they did not believe that "in the decision, as reported by the M.W. Grand Master, the law is correctly applied." The report goes on to ask that if Canada or Mexico "should call together a large army, and with munitions of war advancing towards our borders, threatening to burn and destroy our cities, lay waste to our country and rob and murder our citizens," whether the Grand Master would rule the same way as he did with regard to the Confederacy.

The report ends with little question as to what the Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence thought should be done with a Mason who left the Union and joined the Confederate Army. The heat of the language makes clear how strongly passions burned on this topic in 1863:

Expel him and expel him quickly; and should you ever catch him engaged in his unholy purposes, treat him just as you would the assassin who, in the dead hour of night, would, with stealth, enter your bed-chamber, and there, while carrying out his purposes of robbery, plunge the dagger to the heart of the wife reposing on your bosom.

Your Committee deny, in the most emphatic terms, that there is any law of Masonry contravening or setting aside the first law of nature, 'Self-Preservation.'

As can be seen from the example above, although Masons met during the Civil War, the war was never far from their minds - and sometimes called upon them to address questions unique to this period of American history.

Photo caption:
Portrait of John B. Fravel in A History of Freemasonry in Indiana from 1806 to 1898. Indianapolis: Grand Lodge of Indiana, 1898.   
Call number: 17.9755 .M167 1898
National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives

School Vacation Begins with Ntrak Model Trains!

2010_02_14_0216_CroppedJoin us on Saturday, February 18 and Sunday, February 19 for a weekend filled with railroading fun! Whether you come for a weekend treat or as a way to kick off February vacation week, the N-scale train display is sure to please.

The Northeast Ntrak Modular Railroad Club will once again be with us, bringing their imaginative modular layouts based on a quarter century's club history. N-scale trains are smaller in size than traditional model trains, but are just as much fun. You'll see trains climb mountain passes, cross the Zakim Bridge, shunt freight cars, and use branch lines to pick up and set out cars at the many industries and stations along the way.

2010_02_14_0225_CroppedThe Northeast Ntrak Modular Railroad Club will be at the Museum on Saturday, February 18 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 19 from noon-4:00 p.m. Admission to the train display is $7/family, $5/individual. Proceeds support the education programs at the National Heritage Museum and the Northeast Ntrak Modular Railroad Club.

For more information, call the Museum at 781-861-6559, ext 4101.


Masonic Apron Mystery: Are These From the Same Hand?

76.22 Windsor Conservation PhotoAs we have explained in previous posts, we have a wonderful collection of Masonic aprons at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This striking painted apron, which is among my favorites, recently received some conservation treatment prior to being shown in our current exhibition, Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia. Prior to the treatment, the apron was in poor condition with severe splits to the silk ground fabric, as well as discoloration and staining. Conservator Deirdre Windsor of Windsor Conservation in Dover, Massachusetts, carefully surface-cleaned the apron as part of a treatment to stabilize it for exhibition and research, and to aid its long-term preservation. She humidified the apron to flatten out the creases and ripples. And, in order to employ best practices in preserving and exhibiting the apron, it was put into a pressure mount that provides full support of the fragile silk and protects the apron from airborne pollutants and soils.

The apron was donated to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1976 by a descendant of its original owner, Conrad Edick (1763-1845). Edick was born in German Flats, Herkimer County, New York, and lived there until the town was burned by the British in 1779, when he and his stepfather, Nicholas Weaver, moved to Stone Arabia, Montgomery County, New York. Shortly after the move, in 1780, Edick volunteered as a ranger in the Revolutionary War and saw several subsequent service assignments until his regiment disbanded in 1784. In 1787, Edick settled in Deposit, New York, where he married Margaret Whitaker (1770-1798) and became a merchant. Shortly after Margaret died in 1798, Edick married his second wife, Elizabeth Sneeden (1778-1858). With his two wives, Edick had nine children.

Records at the Grand Lodge of New York show that Conrad Edick was a member of Charity Lodge No. 170 in Deposit between 1814 and 1819. Other details about his Masonic membership require further research. The materials used to make the apron, along with the style of clothing worn by the Masons depicted on it help us date the apron to the early 1800s. This evidence supports the idea that Edick wore this apron to lodge meetings in Deposit.84_15DI1

The distinctive decoration of the apron suggests that it may have been made by the same person who created a second apron in the Museum’s collection (at right). The Museum acquired this second apron at auction in 1984, so unfortunately, we do not know its provenance – where it originally came from, or who owned it. But, the striking similarities in the colors and motifs strongly suggest that both aprons were made in the same shop.

Adding intrigue to the story about these aprons is the recent discovery of two more aprons showing a very similar style – in the collection of the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry at the Grand Lodge of California in San Francisco. Collections Manager Adam Kendall takes it from here to tell us about those aprons:

571_Fraktur_Edick clone_1The first example (at left) is almost identical to the Edick apron, although in this case, there was no provenance documented in the original museum records and, unlike the Edick apron, there is no name inscribed within the ovals on the upper flap; they are left blank. However, its resemblance is uncanny and its possible relationship was brought to my attention by first seeing the Edick apron in Bespangled, Painted and Embroidered by Barbara Franco. The layout, the materials, the colors, the Germanic fraktur-style lettering, and the overall artistic style all point to a possibility that the aprons are from the same artist, or at least a close copy from a similar time period.

The second apron (below at right) is also similar to the Edick apron and gives much more detail: an inscription under the flap states that it was "used to raise Brother Ralph Hankins, Tammany Lodge No. 83, November 16, 1807." St. Tammany Lodge was founded in 1800 near what is now Milanville, Pennsylvania—a 45 mile distance from Deposit, New York (the latter location being the origin of Edick’s apron).

Like the two other aprons, it is hand painted and inked on silk with various Masonic symbols - most prominently the personification of Hope standing beside her anchor. On the rounded flap is an all-seeing eye flanked by two cherubim holding cloth banners that spell out Sanctum and Sanctorum. The entire scene is stylistically reminiscent of the aforementioned aprons, the common design of other Masonic aprons of that era notwithstanding.7912_Tammany_whole

While there are many stylistic similarities—particularly the cherubim and the calligraphy (Sanctum and Sanctorum) upon the festoons in their tiny hands, it is my belief, due to slight artistic differences, that this apron may not have originated from the same maker as Edick’s. However, it is most certainly from the same general location, and resembles the Palatine German decorative art motifs common in Edick’s birthplace of German Flats, Herkimer County, NY. As observed by Franco, “Edick’s apron is a Germanic interpretation of a popular Masonic design which appeared in English and American engravings between 1790 and 1815.” I do believe the two aprons within the possession of the Henry W. Coil Museum and Library can be classified in this same category.

Have you ever seen another apron decorated like this? Please let us know in a comment below. And, to see the Edick apron in person, visit the Inspired by Fashion exhibition before March 24, 2012.

Top Left: Masonic Apron, 1800-1820, New York. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, gift of J. Earl Edick, 76.22. Photograph by Windsor Conservation.

Top Right: Masonic Apron, 1800-1820, probably New York. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 84.15. Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom photos: Courtesy of Adam Kendall, Collections Manager at the Henry W. Coil Library & Museum of Freemasonry, www.masonicheritage.org.

Reference: Barbara Franco, Bespangled, Painted & Embroidered: Decorated Masonic Aprons in America, 1790-1850, Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1980.

The Carte-de-Visite and Society: Innovation, Education and Nationalism

2003_010_113DS1As an aspiring curator, I started working at the National Heritage Museum as an intern this past fall. The internship allows me to work directly with the collection by scanning and linking photographs to the museum’s database in order to make these objects accessible online. Recently, I came across a collection of cartes-de-visite depicting portraits of famous individuals including: George Frederic Handel (1685-1759), Martin Luther (1483-1546), Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870), Dante (1265-1321) (see below), Rembrandt (1606-1669), and Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) (at left). All except for Dumas had died before the invention of the carte-de-visite. Questions arose in my mind. How did these carte-de-visite portraits differ from ones of everyday people of the late 1800s? I thought this over for a few moments and asked myself another question. Did these cartes-de-visite function as a discussion starter? Perhaps discussions about these images took place at social gatherings?

Carte-de-visite is French for visiting card. The carte-de-visite (or CDV) was a photographic marvel of its age during the late 1800s. The card was small in size, about 2 ½ x 4 inches, and showed an image on albumen paper. Although the details continue to be debated, it is widely believed that Andre Adolphe-Eugène Disdèri (1819-1889) invented the carte-de-visite in 1854, since he introduced the name, format and method for producing the images. Disdèri's process produced up to eight different poses with a single lens, allowing for production on a single wet glass plate. The photographs were produced on a single sheet of albumen paper, which would be cut and adhered to a card. In 1862 and 1865 the process was enhanced by the addition of lenses to the camera, which increased exposures and decreased the size of the photo. Because multiple exposures were produced on a single plate, this process aided mass production and ultimately made the carte-de-visite more affordable.2003_010_120DS1

Disdèri’s new process became extremely popular with nobility after he photographed Napoleon III in 1859. The popularity and affordability of the carte-de-visite allowed it to spread to the middle class; soon scenes of important sites, art work, and images of historical figures were easily carried in one’s pocket or purse via the carte-de-visite. This led me back to my initial questions. Were they merely the trading cards of the late 1800s? Could there be something more to these tiny art works? The carte-de-visite arrived at a time of great social reform, which was characterized by the spread of women’s rights, the idea of universal education and the fight for more humane working conditions. According to historian William C. Darrah, photographers wanted to get these once unobtainable objects into the public’s hands in order to educate the masses. They also hoped to instill a form of nationalistic pride in their country. I think that if education played a factor, the carte-de-visite must have been discussed as a form of intellectual enlightenment at social gatherings. What do you think?  Leave us a comment below!


William C. Darrah, Cartes de Visite: In Nineteenth Century Photography, Gettysburg, PA: W.C. Darrah Publishers, 1981.

William Crawford, Keepers of the Light: A History and Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes, Dobbs Ferry, NY: Morgan and Morgan, 1979.

George Gilbert, Photography: The Early Years: A Historical Guide for Collectors, New York, NY: Harper & Row Publishers, 1980.

Top: Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), 1850-1900, German, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Patricia MacMillan, 2003.010.113.

Bottom: Dante Alighieri, (1265-1321), 1850-1900, German, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Patricia MacMillan, 2003.010.120. 

Registration Now Open! April 28, 2012 Symposium

90_20T1Plan now to join us on Saturday, April 28, 2012, for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Symposium – Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism, Lexington, Massachusetts.  Registration is now open!  Visit our website for a registration form.

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 fresh interpretations of American society and culture.

Seven scholars from the United States, Britain and Belgium will fill the day’s program:

• Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, “The Goatee’s Revenge: A Founding Myth and a Founder’s Cult in American Fraternalism”

• Yoni Appelbaum, Brandeis University, “The Great Brotherhood of Toil: The Knights of Labor as a Fraternal Order”

• Adam G. Kendall, Henry W. Coil Library and Museum, “The Shadow of the Pope: Anti-Catholicism, Freemasonry, and the Knights of Columbus in 1910s California”

• Samuel Biagetti, Columbia University, “A Prehistoric Lodge in Rhode Island? – Masonry and the Messianic Moment”

• Alyce Graham, University of Delaware, “Secrecy and Democracy: Masonic Aprons, 1750-1830”

• Bradley Kime, Brigham Young University, “Masonic Motifs in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”

• Kristofer Allerfeldt, Exeter University, “The Significance of Fraternalism in Three Criminal Organizations of Late Nineteenth Century America: The Mollie Maguires, the Ku Klux Klan and the Mafia”Symposium 2010 People

All Symposium attendees are invited to a public lecture by Michael Halleran, Independent Scholar, “Gentlemen of the White Apron: Freemasonry in the American Civil War,” at 1 PM, in the Maxwell Auditorium. This presentation is made possible through the generous support of Ruby W. Linn.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, 33°, N. M. J., U.S.A. Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception. To register, complete the Registration Form and fax to 781-861-9846 or mail to Claudia Roche, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421; registration deadline is APRIL 14, 2012. For more information, contact Claudia Roche at croche@monh.org or 781-457-4142.