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April 2013

Civil War Photography on the Battlefront and Home Front : : May 4 at 2 p.m.

AWLee_PublicityPhoto_smOur 2013 Civil War Lecture Series continues this weekend! The series explores the history of this divisive war and its meaning for our nation today.

Anthony Lee
Civil War Photography on the Battlefront and Home Front
Saturday, May 4 at 2 p.m., free

What did Americans see and feel when they looked at the first photographs of Civil War battlefronts? Join Anthony Lee, Professor of Art History at Mount Holyoke College, in a discussion of Civil War photography, focusing on Alexander Gardner's work. Lee will be available after the talk to sign his book, On Alexander Gardner's Photographic Sketch Book of the Civil War.

This free lecture is made possible by the generous support of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

For more information on the Civil War Lecture Series, please refer to the Museum's programs page. For information on visiting the Museum please click here, or call 781-861-6559.

Photo credit: Courtesy Anthony Lee

George Washington Welcomes You!

Museum_Washington_CloseUp for portalIf you have visited the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library since 1979, you have been greeted by a statue of George Washington (1732-1799) outside the building.  As you may know, Washington was a Freemason.  Initiated in 1753 in Fredericksburg, Virginia, he became the first Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22, in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1788.  That lodge was later named Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 to honor the first President.  (For more posts related to George Washington, click here.)

The statue that greets our visitors today is pictured at left.  In 1784 the Commonwealth of Virginia commissioned the well-known French artist, Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), to make a sculpture of George Washington.  Houdon traveled to Mount Vernon in October 1785, where he took measurements of Washington and made plaster casts of the man's face and limbs (check out this link for more on Houdon's process).  In 1791 Houdon completed the work and in 1796 it was installed in the Virginia State House.  The statue, which is 81 inches high, combines elements representing aspects of Washington's life.  In it he holds the cane of a gentleman, wears a soldier's uniform, stands in front of a farmer's plow, and rests his arm on an ancient Roman "fasces" or bundle of thirteen sticks - signifying his authority and the unity of the thirteen original states.  In 1910 the General Assembly of Virginia authorized the Gorman Company to make bronze replicas.  The one on view in front of the Museum is one of twenty-two made in the 1910s and 1920s.Library GW resized

Prior to the installation of the Gorman Company statue in front of the Museum in 2006, a statue of Washington by sculptor Donald DeLue (1897-1988) welcomed visitors.  Recently, that statue has been reinstalled in the reading room of the Museum's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives (at right).  This is a half-size replica of the original statue, which the Grand Lodge of Louisiana commissioned from DeLue in 1959.  That nine-foot-tall statue was erected in front of the Public Library in New Orleans.  According to DeLue, the museum's sculpture is the "original model from which the large one was made."  It depicts Washington wearing his Masonic apron and holding a gavel as he stands next to an column-shaped altar.  The statue was a gift of the Stichter family in memory of Wayne E. Stichter, the Grand Lieutenant Commander of the Supreme Council and the Scottish Rite Deputy for Ohio.  Brother Stichter had served as Vice President of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library prior to his death in 1977.

Top: George Washington, 1924, from original by Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828), Gorman Company, Providence, Rhode Island, loaned by the Scottish Rite Valley of Columbus, Ohio, EL2004.001.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: George Washington as Master Mason, 1959, Donald DeLue (1897-1988), United States, gift of the Stichter Family, 2010.042.1.


Have Cartographer, Will Travel

Carte du theatre de la guerreWhen you travel for work, do you bring your own mapmaker to document your plans and triumphs?  Gilbert du Motier, the marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834) did when, in 1777, he sailed from France for South Carolina to help fight in the American Revolution.  Among the over 40 maps, books and objects in “Journeys and Discoveries:  The Stories Maps Tell,” on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, is an intriguing map based on the work of Lafayette’s very own cartographer, Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy (1746-1804).   

Talented, experienced and about ten years older than his boss, Capitaine du Chesnoy (who, confusingly, held the rank of captain when he first arrived in the colonies) drew maps of the conflicts in which Lafayette participated in 1777, 1778 and after.  Eighteenth-century military officers valued mapmaking skills.  Understanding landscape, waterways and structures helped military strategists plan campaigns, stage retreats and organize travel.  Officers also used maps and drawings to communicate important ideas and information to their colleagues, superiors and supporters.   

Capitaine du Chesnoy made several manuscript maps portraying some of Lafayette’s different militaryA Plan of the Action at Bunkers Hill 1775 activities.  At least eighteen of these maps survive in American and European collections.  Six ink and watercolor maps now form part of the collection of the Library of Congress.  You can view them on the library’s website.  When Lafayette traveled to France in 1779, he asked Capitaine du Chesnoy to put together a cartographic summary of the battles of the American Revolution up to that point for Lafayette to share with King Louis XVI (1754-1793). A Paris printer produced an engraved version of the summary map and made it available to the public in 1779.  One of these printed maps--the only one of Capitaine du Chesnoy’s manuscript maps known to have been engraved--is on view in “Journeys and Discoveries.” Come see it and compare Captiaine du Chesnoy’s work with other 1700s maps portraying military events--such as Thomas Hyde Page's (1746-1821) summary of the battle of Bunker Hill--and others. 


Paul E. Cohen, “Michel Capitaine de Chesnoy, the marquis de Lafayette’s Cartographer,” The Magazine Antiques, January 1998, 170-177.

Photo credits:

Carte du Theatre de la Guerre, 1779.  Cartography by Michel Capitaine du Chesnoy.  Paris, France.  Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 029-75. Photograph by David Bohl.

A Plan of the Action at Bunkers-Hill…, 1775-1778. Compiled by Lieutenant Thomas Hyde Page.  Engraved and published by William Faden (1749-1836), London England.  Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 071-86.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Rare J. J. J. Gourgas Manuscript Book Conserved

130015B000BT005In honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Scottish Rite, a rare manuscript book written by J. J. J. Gourgas (1777-1865) was conserved at Northeast Document Conservation Center. J. J. J. Gourgas was one of the earliest founders and charter members of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, was Secretary of the organization for over 20 years, and then served as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 until 1851. 

The photograph on the left shows the condition of the manuscript before conservation. According to the conservator's report, the manuscript pages were dirty, discolored, and acidic, yet flexible. There were tears on many pages and detached pages with paper seal had a major tear.  The text block consisted of support leaves of laid paper with entries in iron gall inks. The manuscript book's boards (or front and back covers) were worn at the corners.     

According to the treatment report from the conservator, the manuscript document was washed in filtered water and then alkalized or deacidified with calcium hydroxide.  Tears were mended and folds guarded where necessary with Japanese kozo paper and wheat starch paste.  Buffered barrier sheets were inserted where clippings, paper seals, or heavy ink deposits were causing discoloration on adjacent pages.  The board corners and edges were stabilized using wheat starch paste.  The detached manuscript pages (shown at the right) were placed in a buffered folder.  The volume and folder were housed in a custom drop-spine box. 130015B000AT005 

This document will be featured in the upcoming exhibition opening on June 15, 2013, "A Sublime Brotherhood:  200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Jurisdiction" for all to see.   The exhibition staff will turn the pages of the manuscript every month so that the inks do not fade from the light in the gallery. 

This conservation has ensured that the manuscript will have a long life and can safely be used and handled by staff and future researchers.

 For more information on the contents of this manuscript book, see our earlier blog post.


Photographs of Gourgas Manuscript before and after treatment by Northeast Document Conservation Center by NEDCC staff, 2013.

New to the Collection: A Masonic Punch Bowl

2012_019DP2DBThis colorful punch bowl, which the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired at auction, includes Masonic symbols in its decoration. It seems likely that it was used in a lodge, or by a Freemason at home, during the early 1800s. “It was the custom in those days,” one member of Saint Paul Lodge in Groton, Massachusetts, reminisced, “to drink to the health of every candidate who was initiated, crafted or raised.” The pursuit of sociable fellowship has guided Freemasonry since its beginnings in the 1600s and 1700s. The Museum has two more punch bowls from the early 1800s in its collection (which differ in shape and decoration), suggesting that they were popular sellers at the time. 2012_019DP5DB

This bowl commemorates the “Cast Iron Bridge over the River Wear,” which opened on August 9, 1796. A scene printed on the outside of the bowl shows the bridge (see above - the scene is repeated inside the bottom of the bowl). Two pitchers in the Museum’s collection (see one example below) also depict the bridge. The pitcher shown here includes Masonic symbols, while the other is decorated with Odd Fellows emblems. The Wearmouth Bridge was located in Sunderland, where this bowl (and the pitchers) were made, providing easily accessible subject matter. Before the bridge was built, the only way to cross the River Wear was by ferry. The 1796 bridge was repaired and reinforced several times until 1927, when construction on a new bridge began around it. In 1929, when the new bridge was completed, the old bridge was demolished. The 1929 bridge is still on the site today.

80_49_2S1The bowl also bears several inscriptions. Lines reading “The Flag That’s Braved a Thousand Years / The Battle and the Breeze,” refer to the English flag and come from a poem written by Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) in 1800. The poem, “Ye Mariners of England,” was set to music and appeared in a number of song books during the 1800s. Campbell was inspired to write the poem by an older song called “Ye Gentlemen of England,” which praises the achievements of the English Navy.

Another verse on the bowl reads “When tempest’s mingle sea and sky, And wind’s like lion’s, rage and rend, Ship’s o’er the mountain water’s fly, Or down unfathom’d depth’s descend, Though skill avail not, strength decay, Deliver us good Lord we pray.” These lines come from a hymn written by James Montgomery (1771-1854). Montgomery wrote more than 400 hymns, while also editing the Sheffield Iris newspaper for thirty-one years. Montgomery’s spiritual hymn offers an interesting counterpoint to another verse on the bowl: “Women make men love, Love makes them sad, Sadness makes them drink, And drinking sets them mad.” 2012_019DP6DB

Masonic Punch Bowl, 1800-1825, Sunderland, England, Museum Purchase, 2012.019. Photograph by David Bohl.

Details of punch bowl, photographs by David Bohl.

Masonic Pitcher, 1800-1825, Sunderland, England, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James DeMond in memory of Gertrude and John D. Lombard, 80.49.2. 

Sources consulted:

“Wearmouth Bridge (1796), site of,” www.engineering-timelines.com/scripts/engineeringItem.asp?id=1131.

“Broadside Ballad Entitled ‘Ye Mariners of England,’” http://digital.nls.uk/broadsides/broadside.cfm/id/14758.

“James Montgomery,” www.hymnary.org/person/Mongomery_J.

Rural Conversations of the Merry Midshipman (A Royal Arch Cipher)

Rural_conversations_webIt is no surprise that here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library we have a large and interesting collection of rituals. In the past, we've written about a couple of Masonic ritual cipher books that have deliberately misleading title pages: Magicians' Magic Movements and Ceremonies and Hindoo Theology for the Use of Missionaries. These books are part of a subset of Masonic ritual books, mostly written in cipher, and often containing an intentionally misleading title page. They are often bound with a flap that closes over the opening and snaps shut, much like a diary. The use of cipher, the false title page, and the clasp binding all serve one purpose: to insure that, should the book fall into hands of a non-member, that person would not be able to make heads or tails of the contents.

Our readers may be familiar with perhaps the two best known examples of these cipher books: Ecce Orienti: An Epitome of the History of the Ancient Essenes, Their Rites and Ceremonies and King Solomon and His Followers: A Valuable Aid to the Memory, Strictly in Accordance with the Latest Authors. Both are Masonic ciphers for the Symbolic (also known as Craft or Blue Lodge) degrees.

The title page seen here is yet another example in this rather whimsical tradition of creating false title pages. It is, compared to the others mentioned above, decidedly more absurd:

Rural Conversations of the Merry Midshipman, Pompous Manes, Monkish Epicurean Mantchoo, and Rollicking Ambling Moufflon

What in the world...? you might be thinking. This title, of course, reveals little about the book's contents. The true title of the book is:

Ritual Ceremonies of the Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch Mason

As you can see, the misleading title uses the first letter of every word in the real title, but substitutes them with outlandish phrases.

So what is this book? It is a cipher ritual for the Royal Arch degrees for the state of Kentucky. The 1949 edition pictured here contains a helpful page that precedes the title page, which states that it was "Printed and Published by Order of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Kentucky, Royal Arch Masons." The book is a mix of plain English and cipher and would have been used by members of local Royal Arch Chapters in Kentucky for memorizing the four degrees that are conferred in a Royal Arch Chapter.

Although the edition being discussed here was published in 1949, the first edition of Rural Conversations was published by the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Kentucky in 1887. The organization's Annual Proceedings of that year devote many pages to it.


Title page of Rural Conversations of the Merry Midshipman, Pompous Manes, Monkish Epicurean Mantchoo, and Rollicking Ambling Moufflon. 8th ed. (Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Kentucky, Royal Arch Masons, 1949)