Make plans now to come see our newest exhibition, "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles," which opens June 16, 2012, and runs through late 2012. The exhibition includes over 25 objects from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.
Textiles incorporating Masonic symbols, both home-made and commercially manufactured, have served many functions since the 1700s. They have transmitted family memories and history, becoming cherished heirlooms. They signified family identification with Freemasonry. Creating these objects offered an opportunity for the maker to display their skills. These textiles also functioned as educational tools - teaching family members about Masonic symbols and reminding Masons of the lessons they learned in the lodge. Like the quilts used to fundraise for political or social causes, Masonic quilts and textiles were - and still are - used to raise money for Masonic projects and charities.
The quilt above employs several Masonic symbols, appliqued in red, green and gold, a popular color combination during the late 1800s. The central motif in each block is a square and compasses symbol (representing reason and faith) with a stylized G in the middle (symbolizing God, geometry, or both). Trowels, mauls, plumbs and levels decorate the borders. The quilt offered its maker a way to learn about the values represented by the symbols. It may have been a gift to a Freemason and could have reminded the recipient of Masonic lessons.
The exhibition also includes other forms of needlework, such as embroidery and rug hooking. The needlework picture at right was stitched in Massachusetts in 1808. Using skills learned at a local academy, the female maker copied the design of a Past Master's certificate to commemorate Benjamin Russell's (1761-1845) term as Master of Boston's Rising States Lodge.
Textiles teach us about the individuals who made and enjoyed them, but also about the place of Freemasonry in American society. Please enjoy these "threads of brotherhood" as they tell a story of connected lives and shared values. Visit our website for more information. And, after you visit, come back and leave us a comment below about your favorite object!
Masonic Quilt, 1880-1920, unidentified maker, probably Ohio, Museum Purchase, 2002.008. Photograph by David Bohl.
Needlework Picture, 1808, unidentified maker, Massachusetts, Special Acquisitions Fund, 76.33.1. Photograph by John M. Miller.