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December 2012

Visitors enjoy "Lasting Light: 125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography" Closing January 5, 2013

GCA 26-4 JDykinga Snowy Ponderosa_WebCompressIf you have a spare hour, are entertaining visitors from out-of-town or need a change of pace, come to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library to enjoy "Lasting Light:  125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography" in its final weeks at the museum.  If visitor comments are any indication, you will be glad you did!

We love reading visitors' remarks to see how folks touring the galleries respond to our exhibitions.  In "Lasting Light:  125 Years of Grand Canyon Photography" many visitors have been moved by the photographers' work on display.  Here is one comment: "As a photographer I came to be inspired and I was -- over and over!"  Other visitors left ready to pack their bags:  "How inspiring--I visited [the Grand Canyon] many years ago but plan to return.  Thank you."  Some even experienced the canyon without even leaving the state:  "Thoroughly enjoyed this exhibit--I've wanted to visit the Canyon but as yet have not -- this exhibit had me almost standing within it.  Thanks to all the patient and talented photographers who contributed...."  More visitors summed up their feelings in just a few words:  "Amazing Wonders" or "Impressive! Beautiful! And the colors!" 

Please come and let us know your impression of the varied photographs in the exhibition. We would be thrilled to hear from you in the comments section below or in the gallery.

S&A Partners-Rainbow_WebCompress“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 planning a trip to the Museum, visit our website or call  781-861-6559.


Photo credits:

Snow Covered Ponderosa Pine, North Rim, Jack Dykinga, 1992.  Photo courtesy Jack Dykinga

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

Found on a Civil War Battlefield

80_60DI1The recent release of the movie Lincoln reminds us that we are still marking the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. As previous posts have noted, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is fortunate to have a number of items associated with that conflict in its collection (to see more, visit our website, select our online collection and search for “Civil War”).

I recently came across this intriguing, Civil War-related photograph in the collection. The round case (about 1 3/4 inches in diameter) contains photographs of Union Generals Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-1881) and George B. McClellan (1826-1885). Burnside was born in Indiana and attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After serving in the Mexican War (1846-1848), he settled in Rhode Island. Burnside returned to military service during the Civil War, but is remembered for a lackluster record, including a disastrous performance at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, when the Union Army suffered 13,000 casualties. After the war, Burnside entered political life, serving as Governor of Rhode Island three times and as a U.S. Senator twice. In 1871, he became the first president of the National Rifle Association. He died in Rhode Island in 1881.

George B. McClellan, born in Philadelphia, also attended West Point in the 1840s and fought in the Mexican War. In 1857, he left the military and took a position as Chief Engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad. When the Civil War began, McClellan returned to military service, becoming popular with his men, but employing a command style that put him at odds with President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865). In November 1861, McClellan became General-in-Chief of the Union army. McClellan often hesitated and delayed his attacks, fearing that he faced an enemy with more troops than he had. By November 1862, after McClellan’s failure to make significant progress, he was relieved of command. In 1864, he ran against Lincoln for president and lost. After the war, McClellan returned to work in the engineering field and also served as Governor of New Jersey. He died in New Jersey in 1885.

When these photos were donated to the Museum in 1980, the donor provided a family story that the case “was found on the battlefield at Gettysburg in the latter part of August or early September 1863 by my grandfather, George E. Blose.” George Elmer Blose, born in 1836 in Hamilton, Pennsylvania, was 27 years old in 1863. By the time of the 1860 federal census, Blose had moved east to Perry Township, Pennsylvania, where he lived in his father’s house and worked as a laborer. Records of George’s military service during the Civil War are unclear – a couple of George Blose’s are listed from Pennsylvania, but it is inconclusive which record belongs to George E. Blose, if any. By the time of the 1900 U.S. Census, Blose was listed as the head of his household and worked as a farmer in Perry.

At the time that the Civil War began, photography was still a relatively new development. Family members scrambled to have portraits of their loved ones taken before the men marched off to battle. Portraits of generals, like these of Burnside and McClellan, were popular sellers in the North. Whether George Blose found this pair of portraits on the battlefield as his family recalled, or if he purchased them as a souvenir of the nation-rending conflict he lived through is not known.  Nor is the maker of these portraits identified.  While Mathew Brady is perhaps the most well-known photographer associated with Civil War pictures, he actually took few himself. Instead, he financed a group of field photographers, sending them out to take the images, while he acquired and published the negatives. To see more photographs from the Museum’s collection, visit our website and search the online collection.

Generals Ambrose E. Burnside and George B. McClellan, ca. 1862, unidentified maker, United States. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, gift of Olney V. Wadding, 80.60.


William Marvel, “Ambrose E. Burnside (1824-1881),” retrieved November 28, 2012, from Encyclopedia Virginia: http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Burnside_Ambrose_E_1824-1881.

“Ambrose E. Burnside,” retrieved November 28, 2012, http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/ambrose-burnside.html.

“George B. McClellan,” retrieved November 28, 2012, http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/biographies/george-mcclellan.html.

“Photography and the Civil War, 1861-1865, Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History,” retrieved November 28, 2012, http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/phcw/hd_phcw.htm.


Modern Woodmen of America Postcards: Then and Now

A2011_37_19_1DSIn 1883, Joseph Cullen Root (1844-1913) founded the Modern Woodmen of America.  Root held the opinion that Freemasonry and other fraternal organizations were crucial to the promotion of human welfare.  He belonged to the Masons, Scottish Rite, Knights Templar, Knights of Pythias, and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

 Root wrote the ritual and served as the first “Head Consul” for the new order, which was established as a fraternal assessment society.  In 1888, the Royal Neighbors of America was established as the women's auxiliary to the Modern Woodmen of America.  By 1889, there were 42,694 members of the MWA organization.  This fraternal organization was prosperous and by 1913, the year of Root’s death, the membership had increased to 700,000.

In 2011, The Scottish Rite Museum and Library acquired several MWA postcards by donation.  These donations complement the growing collection of postcards with images from the Modern Woodmen of America.  Most of these postcards date from 1908-1912.  This was the height of membership for MWA A97_053_1modern_woodmen_of_the worldand also coincides with the “Golden Age” of postcards which ocurred from 1907 through 1915.

The newly acquired postcard above bears the insignia or emblem of MWA and several of their symbols including the axe, mallet, wedge, five stars, and branches of palm.  These are all displayed on a shield.  There are lumberjacks or “woodmen” cutting down trees in the background.  This was symbolic for MWA as the clearing of forests refer back to clearing away problems of financial security for member’s families. 

From our exisiting collection is a photographic postcard of a man in his MWA uniform and is dated   about 1910.  This man belonged to a MWA “camp”, No. 513, probabaly from Montana.  His jacket has the MWA symbols of the axe, mallet, and wedge.  The man is also posing with a parade axe. 

When the MWA was founded it excluded men with risky or dangerous occupations such as:  firemen, miners, wholesalers and manufacturers of liquor, sailors, plow grinders, and brass workers.  The organization also sought low-risk members and excluded men from the largest urban centers such as:  Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cincinnati. 

Today, MWA is solely a fraternal financial company named Modern Woodmen.  It provides life insurance and disability insurance for its members.  Life insurance totaled over $34.2 billion in 2011.   It now has a modern office building, on the Mississippi River, in Rock Island, Illinois, which it has occupied since 1967. 


Modern Woodmen of America Postcard. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Gift of Michael T. Heitke, A2011/35/8. 

Modern Woodmen of America Postcard. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A97/053/1. 









The Earliest Record and Minutes of the Scottish Rite’s Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

Minute_book_NMJ_inside_cover_webIn 2013, the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) celebrates its bicentennial. Among the important treasures in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is a ledger book that contains the earliest record and minutes of the meetings of the NMJ’s governing body, the Supreme Council, from 1813 until 1851. The inside cover of the ledger book (at left) notes that these are the:

Records [of the] Sovereign Grand Lodge of R[ose Croix] of H-R-D-M. of the 18th; Sovereign Grand Consistory (30th, 31st and 32d degrees) of Sublime and Valiant Princes of the Royal Secret, and of the Grand and Supreme Council of the most Illustrious and Puissant Sovereigns, Grand Inspectors General of the 33d degree, sitting at New York City, State of New York, for the Northern Masonic District and Jurisdiction of the United States of North America, by 40° 42' 40" North Latitude.

As stated above, not only does the book contain records of the "Grand and Supreme Council...for the Northern Masonic District and Jurisdiction," but also contains information related to Masonic bodies in the lineage of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and which pre-date its founding in 1813.

The ledger book was kept by and is in the handwriting of John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865), who served as the NMJ’s first Grand Secretary General and was its third Sovereign Grand Commander, serving from 1832 until 1851. Gourgas is often referred to as the “Conservator of the [Scottish] Rite” not only because he collected and kept safe the important early documents of the Scottish Rite, but because he also revived the Scottish Rite in the 1840s after it had nearly died out completely, owing mostly to an anti-Masonic movement in the late 1820s and 1830s. The bottom half of the page above shows Gourgas's elaborate, armorial book plate and, to the right of the plate, lists "Dates of [Masonic] powers granted me at various times," and begins with July 9, 1806, when Gourgas was initiated into the Grand Chapter of Rose Croix d'H-R-D-M of Kilwinning at New York City.

The earliest records in the ledger book are not minutes of meetings, but consist more of a general overview of the earliest days of the formation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, which appear to have been written by Gourgas at a later date, as a way of preserving the history of the formation of the organization and tracing the organization's Masonic lineage. In addition to recording the formation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Gourgas also includes handwritten copies of various patents, excerpts from registers, and other material that provides a foundational background for the Masonic legitimacy of the group that, in 1813, became the “Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and District” (later called the “Northern Masonic Jurisdiction”).

The first recording in Gourgas’s ledger of what could be properly termed “minutes,” are for the June 15, 1844 meeting of the Supreme Council, the beginning of what might be called the revival of the Scottish Rite’s NMJ.

The NMJ’s Supreme Council recognized the importance of publishing these minutes as early as 1872 and the entirety of the ledger was published in 1876. The introduction to the 1876 book reads, in part, “The early Proceedings of the Supreme Council never having been published, and many that were published being out of print, a proposition was made at the session in 1872 to reprint them.” In addition to the Gourgas ledger book, the 1876 publication also includes reprints of the Supreme Council Proceedings from 1851 to 1863, the years directly following Gourgas’s leadership of the NMJ. The volume is also indexed, which makes this an especially useful tool for researchers.

If you are interested in reading this primary source material, you don’t have to leave your house to gain full-text access to these minutes. Because a copy of these published Proceedings is in the collection of the University of Michigan's libraries, one of the contributors to the Google Books project, a fully digitized copy can be accessed online, and downloaded as a PDF.

Here's the citation for the Proceedings published in 1876:

Proceedings of the Supreme Council of Sov. Gr. Inspectors General 33°, for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States: Gourgas Body, 1813-1851; Raymond Body, 1851-1860; Van Rensselaer Body, 1860-1862. (Portland, [ME]: Stephen Berry, printer, 1876)
Call number:
17.9735 .Un58 1781-1862

Photo caption:
Record and Minute Book, 1806-1846
John James Joseph Gourgas
New York, New York
Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, SC 011