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October 2012

Are you a fan of Pilgrims?

Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims_Fan_75.69.99Before the advent of air conditioning, men and women carried fans to help them keep cool.  As one scholar has described, “decorative hand-held fans brought relief to an overdressed, overheated society.”  These dress accessories also added color, movement and glamour to the indoor landscape for centuries.  Among the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s collection of fans from the 1800s and the early 1900s is this example:  a paper folding fan with bamboo sticks that bears a photogravure of a famous American painting, Robert W. Weir’s Embarkation of the Pilgrims. 

Robert Weir (1803-1889) first painted this work in 1843 for the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol.  There it is joined by other depictions of pivotal events drawn from American history, such as Columbus’s landing in the New World and De Soto’s discovery of the Mississippi.  Decades later, Weir created a smaller version of the work that fair organizers exhibited at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia.  Americans also became familiar with Weir’s version of the Pilgrims' departure from Holland through printed versions.  As well, from 1863 through the early 1900s, a version of Weir’s painting decorated $50 bank notes.  Fan_Detail_75.69.99

Makers likely crafted this fan in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The Photo Gravure Company of New York printed the image on the center of the fan.  Craftsmen assembled the fan, affixed metal brilliants to its surface and embellished the fan with painted flowers.   Underneath the photogravure of Weir’s painting, the printer featured a quote, “Truly dolful was ye sight of that sad and mournfull parting.”  William Bradford (1590-1657), the chronicler of the Pilgrims' settlement, penned those words to describe the travelers’ feelings as they left friends and family behind and started on their journey to Massachusetts.

For a description of the museum's painting, "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in America, a.d., 1620," by Charles Lucy (1814-1873), see this past post.  If you have any information or questions about this fan, please leave us a comment below!


Anna Gray Bennet, Unfolding Beauty:  The Art of the Fan, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1988, p. 12.

Object credit:

Fan, 1875-1900.  Printed by Photo Gravure Co., A. C. Bosselman, New York, New York.  Gift of The Estate of Russell J. and Vera L. Wilder, 75.69.99.



A Bookplate in a Book about Bookplates

Godard_bookplate_webAnyone with a love for books has likely come across a bookplate before. Bookplates are ownership labels, usually pasted on the inside cover of a book. As J. Hugo Tatsch and Windward Prescott write in their 1928 book Masonic Bookplates, these "may be an elaborate coat-of-arms or a plain label reading 'This Book belongs to John Smith.'" Bookplates often read "ex libris," a Latin phrase meaning "from the books (i.e. library) of," followed by the person's name.

In addition to containing a brief history of bookplates, with a specific focus on Masonic-themed bookplates, Tatsch and Prescott's book also reproduces a number of examples of Masonic bookplates. The book also contains Winward Prescott's "Descriptive Check List of 586 Ex Libris of Masonic Interest," an impressive list of nearly six hundred bookplates that are in some way connected to Freemasonry.

Fittingly, our copy of the "Subscribers' Edition" of Masonic Bookplates (no. 84 of 102 copies) contains a bookplate pasted in the front inside cover showing that it previously belonged to Alphonse Cerza (1905-1987), who gave the book as a gift to our library in 1985. Since all 102 subscribers (i.e. people or organizations that paid in advance for a copy of the book) are listed in the back of the book, we can conclude that Cerza was not the original owner.

Another nice aspect of our copy of this book is that it has a number of loose Masonic bookplates tucked in the book - possibly ones that Alphonse Cerza, or a previous owner, had collected. They include bookplates for the libraries of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the Scottish Rite Temple (Philadelphia), as well as the private libraries of Dwight C. Kilbourn (1837-1914) and George Seymour Godard (1865-1936).

The bookplate for George Seymour Godard, pictured above, was designed by W.F. Hopson in 1921. It depicts an elaborate doorway and reads, on either side, "Some to Read, Others to Own," a sentiment that many book collectors might share. Godard was Connecticut's State Librarian from 1900 to 1936. His Masonic affiliation - the double-headed eagle of the Scottish Rite - is subtly indicated on the upper left of bookplate's illustration. A short biography of him in the 1906 book Men of Mark in Connecticut makes his Masonic affiliations clear.

The designer of this bookplate,William Fowler Hopson (1849-1935), was an accomplished artist from Connecticut. He is well-known today for his work in designing bookplates. A 1910 checklist of Hopson's bookplates lists 102 different bookplates designed by Hopson between 1892 and 1910. Godard's, having been designed in 1921, does not appear on the list, which ends nearly a decade earlier. You can see more example of Hopson's bookplates here.

J. Hugo Tatsch & Winward Prescott. Masonic Bookplates, Supplemented by a Check List of 586 Ex Libris of Masonic Interest. Cedar Rapids, IA: The Masonic Bibliophiles, 1928.
Call number: 05 .T219 1928
Gift of Alphonse Cerza

Healing a Cerneau Mason: The Story of Nathan Hammett Gould

A98_038_01_Cerneau healing certificate_Web versionNathan Hammett Gould (1817-1895) was born in Newport, Rhode Island on April 23, 1817.  He resided in Newport most of his life and was a merchant by profession, having an office at 30 Touro St.  He was also manager of Gould and Bull's American Law and Claim Agency, which was located opposite City Hall.  He married Emily J. Rogers on September 29, 1845 in Boston, Massachusetts.  

He was made a Master Mason in St. John's Lodge No.1 of Newport in 1846 and served as its Master from 1857 until 1858.  

In January of 1849, Gould received the Scottish Rite degrees from the Grand Council of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret for the State of Rhode Island, obtaining all 32 degrees. This Scottish Rite body was organized by Joseph Cerneau in 1813.  Later in 1849, eleven members of the Newport Scottish Rite decided to petition the J. J. J. Gourgas-led Supreme Council and  pledge their allegience to this to this group.  While they had formerly been under the allegience of a Supreme Council formed by Joseph Cerneau, this group had lost influence by the 1840s (they would again gain more influence later in the nineteenth century). 

On August 10, Gould was Masonically "healed" through a process of receiving a certificate (shown at the left) signed by Killian Van Rensselaer and Giles F. Yates, becoming a "Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret", or 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States.  By September 16, 1849, a resolution was adopted by the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in which they agreed to charter the four Scottish Rite bodies in Newport.  

Joseph Cerneau (ca. 1764-1840) was considered by Emanuel DeLaMotta(1761-1821) , John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865), Giles Fonda Yates,(1796-1859), Killian Henry Van Rensselaer (1799-1881), and others, to be a Scottish Rite impostor and his Masonic work clandestine in every way.  Historians are still debating these claims. 

Van Rensselaer and Yates signed this "Certificate of Healing" (as shown below), which "healed", or "regularized" a Cerneau Scottish Rite Mason.  This certificate proclaimed that Nathan H. Gould and the other eleven Newport Scottish Rite Masons were made 32nd degree Masons, or "Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret."  In the eyes of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, they wereA98_038_01_Cerneau healing certificate_page 2_Web version now considered legitimate. 

Nathan H. Gould participated in Scottish Rite activities in both Newport and at the state level as Deputy for Rhode Island to the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction from 1861 through 1867.  Again he served as Deputy for Rhode Island to the Supreme Council from 1867 until 1876.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library holds the letters of credence giving him this authority.

In 1876, Gould moved to San Antonio, Texas where he retired.  He died in 1895 and was buried in Texas. 

It is interesting to note that in 1998, that the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library purchased the documents relating to Gould's Masonic "healing" and his rise through the ranks in Scottish Rite from Robert B. Morris, Jr. of Forth Worth, Texas.


Certificate of Healing of Cerneau Masons, signed by K. H. Van Rensselaer and G. F. Yates, 1849.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, MA, Museum purchase, A98/038/01 (recto and verso).


Baynard, Samuel Harrison.  History of The Supreme Council, 33º, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and Its Antecedents, Boston, MA: The Supreme Council, 1938.

Massachusetts, Town Vital Collections, 1620-1988.  Ancestry.com.  

Rugg, Henry W. History of Freemasonry in Rhode Island, Providence, RI:  E. L. Freeman & Son, 1895.





Lecture and Gallery Talk: Women, Quilting, and the Civil War

Be sure to join us at the Museum on Saturday, October 20. We are offering two free programs about women's contributions to 19th century American public life.

Pam weddingAt 2 pm, Pamela Weeks, Curator of the New England Quilt Museum, will present "Quilts for Civil War Soldiers: Stories from the Home Front and the Battlefield." Weeks is a quilt historian, appraiser, and artist well-known in the region for her expertise. She will share the stories behind three rare surviving Civil War quilts made by caring hands for soldiers fighting for North and South. At her talk, you can 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.

After the talk, Weeks will sign copies of her 2012 publication, Civil War Quilts, co-authored with Don Beld, which will be available for purchase. Weeks also curated the 2011 New England Quilt Museum exhibition "One Foot Square, Quilted & Bound." The quilts and objects she assembled for it explored a quilting method developed in New England in the nineteenth century. These "potholder quilts" were made from fabric blocks individually layered, quilted and finish-bound, and only then whip-stitched together — "one foot square, quilted and bound." Known in the pre-war period, the technique became a popular way for groups of seamstresses to work together to make quilts for injured and recuperating Civil War soldiers.

This is the final lecture in our 2012 Civil War series of programs. Look for a new Civil War series for 2013 - more information is coming soon! The series explores 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, and reflects both current research and exciting themes relevant to our world. The generous sponsorship of Ruby W. Linn permits us to offer the program in both series at no charge to the public. 

MasonicQuilt 1860For further insights into how women used their needlework to help shape public life in 19th century America, join Director of Collections, Aimee Newell, for a 1 PM talk in the "Threads of Brotherhood: Masonic Quilts and Textiles" gallery on the same day, Saturday, October 20. See our previous blog post for more information on the talk.

For more information about visiting the Museum, call 781-861-6559 or see our website, www.nationalheritagemuseum.org.

Photo Credits:

Pamela Weeks. Courtesy of Pamela Weeks

Masonic Quilt, ca. 1860, American. Museum purchase, 95.043.11. Photograph by David Bohl.

Grand Canyon Photography Exhibition - Opening and Gallery Talks

S&A Partners-Rainbow_WebCompressThe Grand Canyon is wild and unforgiving. But it is also one of the most stunning landscapes on Earth—a place for recreation, reflection and reverence. “Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography” allows us to marvel at this natural wonder without camping equipment, emergency rations or rappelling ropes. We invite you to explore this new exhibition of Grand Canyon photography at the Museum this fall, opening on Saturday, October 13. You can discover more about the photographers and their experiences in the Grand Canyon at our gallery talks. Come learn more on:

Sat., Oct. 13, 2 PM; Sat., Nov. 17, 2 PM; Sat., Dec. 1, 2 PM. All gallery talks are free.

Featuring 60 color photographs, the exhibition is a collaboration between the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the Grand Canyon Association. Early photographers got the perfect shot by dangling from cables, their cumbersome camera equipment balanced precariously on their shoulders. More recently, photographers have created bold and dramatic images, revealing the canyon’s capricious weather, its flora and fauna, waterfalls and wading pools, and awe-inspiring cliffs and rock formations. Contemporary images in the exhibition were selected by representatives from Eastman Kodak’s Professional Photography Division and National Geographic.

Grand Canyon National Park, 2,000 square miles of snaking river beds and sheer rock walls, is a world like no other, where vibrant cliffs and flowing water create a striking complement to the Western sky. “What you do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and for all who come after you, as one of the great sights which every American should see,” Teddy Roosevelt urged. Roosevelt, ever the naturalist, was just one of the canyon’s devotees. There are millions of others, including the 26 featured photographers of “Lasting Light,” who ran the river and climbed the rocks to capture these breathtaking images.

GCA 26-5 JDykinga Toroweap Sunrise_WebCompress“The Grand Canyon taught me a way of seeing. How to see light and design,” said featured photographer John Blaustein. This and other dedicated artists share their insight into the power of the canyon in intriguing narratives that accompany the exhibition’s photographs.


“Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography” is an exhibition created by the Grand Canyon Association and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The Grand Canyon Association is a non-profit, membership organization founded to support education, scientific research and other programs for the benefit of Grand Canyon National Park and its visitors.

For further information about this exhibition or visiting the Museum, call the Museum's front desk at 781-861-6559 or refer to our website.

Photo Credits:

Rainbow, 1995. S&A Partners. Photo courtesy S&A Partners

Toroweap Overlook in Morning Light, 1987. Jack Dykinga. Photo courtesy Jack Dykinga.

Prince Hall's Half Century Matrons Club in Los Angeles

A2012_9_1DS1_Web versionAmong the new acquisitions this spring 2012, was a manuscript Minute Book of a Prince Hall affiliated "Half Century Matrons Club" dated from 1950 through 1959.  This club was formed in 1950 by Past Matrons of the Order of Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliation from the state of California.  The club took its name, "Half Century Matrons Club", because it was formed in mid-20th century. 

Marjorie Herbert (President) of Guiding Star Chapter, ran the meetings beginning on December 6, 1950 in Los Angeles, California.  She offered her house as a venue for the first meeting, which was located at 2286 West 22nd Street in Los Angeles.  Other officers included:  Marguerite Norman (Vice-President)-Victory Chapter, Ella Dastey (Secretary)-Starlight Chapter, Gertrude Devers (Treasurer)-Affectionate Chapter, and Roberta Walkins (Chaplain).  Among the other members were:  Gertrude Allen (Electa Chapter), June Harvey (Deborah Chapter), Alberta Parker (Acacia Chapter). 

According to historian Josh Sides, the 1950s in Los Angeles was a postwar economic and industrial boom time. During World War II, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) put constant pressure on the federal government to abolish segregation in the armed forces as well as on the homefront workforce.  However, by the 1950s segregation still existed in Los Angeles in industry, in choosing a home, as well as in fraternal groups. 

On March 31, 1951, Parker reported to the club that she had consulted with Los Angeles Urban League about deciding on a charity project.  They recommended that because of "racial barriers" the club should focus their energy on assisting needy children at the local high school, as a project, rather than as foster mothers to a child in an orphanage. Unfortuantely, there are no more details in the minute book about the orphanage.

In 1951, Herbert and Parker sat in on an NAACP conference in Los Angeles.  The NAACP was and is the nation's oldest civil rights organization.  Herbert reported to the club that speaker Franklin P. Williams had stressed the point that African Americans and people of color must continue to move forward.  According to sociologist Theda Skocpol, Prince Hall Masons had a long history of collaborating with the NAACP.  As early as the 1920s Prince Hall members encouraged and gave financial support to the NAACP. 

According to the minute book, in discussions throughout November and December of 1952, the members of the Half Century Matrons Club decided not to admit Past Patrons from Prince Hall. Herbert reported that she "told P[ast] Patrons as tactfully as she could that the club at this time unless and until the club itself decided to amend its bylaws no past [patron] could be admitted to membership, and that the club hoped he [William Henry] would not feel unwanted or unwelcome."  These women wanted to make their own decisions and keep discussions private.  This was an unusual step at the time, as Past Patrons were admitted to chapters of affiliated OES. 

Prince Hall Masons and the affiliated Order of Eastern Star are alive and well in Los Angeles today.  They recently celebrated Prince Hall Day, in September of 2011. 

Do you have more information about any of the original Half Century Matrons Club members of Los Angeles?  Please leave a comment if you do.   


Minute Book for Half Century Matrons Club, Order of Eastern Star, Prince Hall, 1950-1959.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum  purchase, A2012/9/1.


Sides, Josh.  L.A. City Limits:  African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London:  University of California Press, 2003.

Skocpol, Theda et al.  What a Mighty Power We Can Be:  African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality.  Princeton and Oxford:  Princeton University Press, 2006