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December 2013

Merry Christmas! From the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library

84-87-7 croppedWe wish you a Merry Christmas—with the help of an expert—illustrator and cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902).  One hundred and fifty years ago—almost to the day—Nast’s employer, Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization, published this seasonal image drawn by Nast in their December 26, 1863 issue.

Nast had first created a festive illustration featuring Santa Claus engaged in a holiday activity for Harper's the year before. His 1862 illustration (published in early January of 1863) showed a slim but jolly Santa dressed in stars and stripes giving socks and other gifts to encamped Union soldiers.  For the pictured illustration, “Christmas 1863,” Nast again chose another Civil War 84-87-7 Evetheme—this time a furloughed soldier returning home to celebrate the holiday with his family.  In six vignettes Nast paints a picture of an idealized Christmas.  The left-hand side of the image, called “Eve,” features a small scene of Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus in the stable.  A larger picture shows Santa—possibly having just come down the chimney—watching two sleeping children.  On the far right of the illustration, “Morning,” in one vignette, the same children play with recently unboxed toys and unpack  their tiny stockings.  In the smaller scene beneath it, adults exchange greetings outside church.  The center scene of the illustration, “Furlough,” steals the stage with its sentimental content.  In it, the returning soldier, having cast his uniform cap and gun aside, receives a fond embrace from his wife.  Visitors coming through the door greet the soldier with enthusiasm.  A Christmas tree, decorated with ornaments, candles and an American flag add to the sense of celebration, as does the small vignette of the family sitting down to a Christmas dinner.  

Scholars credit Nast with helping popularize Santa Claus, who Americans first met in a few children’s poems, such as “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” (also called “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) published in the 1820s.  Nast’s Santa, seen by the thousands of readers of Harper’s Weekly and in illustrations he published elsewhere over the years, shaped Americans’ envisioning of Santa as round, jolly and festive—a picture of Santa that we still hold today.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library counts over 84-87-7 Morning1,100 printed versions of Nast’s illustrations and cartoons in its collection.  The vast majority of these illustrations and cartoons feature’s Nast’s pointed comments on the politics and public figures of his day, but several strike a gentler note and mark the Christmas holiday.  We are glad to be able to draw on one of them to wish our blog readers very Happy Holidays!











  84-87-7 Furlough



Christmas, 1863, 1863.  Thomas Nast (1840-1902). Published in Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 84.87.7. 








The Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen: A Membership Certificate

Certificate for Brotherhood of Locomotive FiremenThe Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen was founded in 1873, in Port Jervis, New York, by Joshua Alexander Leach (1843-1919), as a fraternal mutual benefit society for workers employed as firemen for steam locomotives.  The job of a locomotive firemen was a physically demanding, strenuous, dirty, and dangerous one.  They had to shovel coal into a train engine's firebox, through a narrow opening, feeding the fire.  This regular input of fuel kept the train running.

In 1873, Leach and ten other Erie Railroad firemen had just been forced to notify the widow of a locomotive fireman who had died in a crash, and decided to start an organization for this trade which gave benefits to families of those in this trade.  The major practical purpose of this organization was as a mutual insurance association.  However, it also had a ceremonial initiation for its members like many of the other fraternal societies of the 1870s and 1880s.  Its teachings included charity, industry, sobriety, and protection. As well, there was a women's auxiliary group called the Ladies Society of B of L F.

The membership certificate (shown above) illustrates each of these teachings across the lower edge.  There is an emblem for each principle.  The certificate also includes images of a railroad car, a railroad car falling off a bridge, members of the fraternity visiting a fireman's widow and offering her death benefits, and a fireman's funeral.  According to F. P. Sargent's A Short History of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, 1889, this membership certificate constituted a life insurance policy. Frank Pierce Sargent (1851-1908) was Grand Master of the organization and was a well known labor leader in the United States.

The certificate was issued to  Earl Shoemaker of Rainyday Lodge No. 553. The Grand Lodge of Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen was established in Peoria, Illinois in 1895. This color lithograph, or chromolithograph, is dated approximately 1900 and also includes an image of Leach at the very top.  Noted at the top of the certificate is that there were 22,000 members and 487 lodges of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen at this time.  From 1880 through 1899 there was approximately $4,000,000.00 paid out in life and disability benefits.

In 1969, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen merged with the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and the Switchmen's Union of North America to form the United Transportation Union.


Membership Certificate for Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, ca. 1900.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2013/32/1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Would You Jump? The Knights of Pythias Test of Steel

2013_057_1a-bDP1DBAt the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we collect objects, documents and books associated with any and all American fraternal groups - Masonic and non-Masonic. Recently, we were given this set of props that was used by the Knights of Pythias. While these two items may look identical in the photo - triangular wooden bases covered with pointed spikes - there is a crucial difference between them. On one, the spikes are metal and unyielding. On the other, the spikes just look like metal but they are actually rubber.

Founded by Justus H. Rathbone in 1864, the Knights of Pythias based their ritual on the story of the friendship between Damon and Pythias (for more on the Knights of Pythias, see our other posts). Like many American fraternal groups, and because founder Rathbone was a Freemason, the Knights took inspiration from Freemasonry, which was officially established in America in the 1730s. Like Freemasonry, the Knights of Pythias have three degrees, called ranks, each with an initiation ritual.

These props, known as the "test of steel," were a part of the ritual for the third Knights of Pythias rank - the rank of Knight. A published version of the ritual from 1928 explains how these objects were used. The candidate was asked to examine the one with the metal spikes. Then the officers would swap in the prop with the rubber spikes, without the candidate noticing. The Master at Arms would take the candidate to a set of steps and make sure he walked to the top. At the word of the man playing the King, the candidate had to jump into the center of the spikes. An earlier published version of the ritual, from 1882, differs slightly in that it does not call this part of the ritual the "test of steel," and suggests that these bases with spikes were not always used. In this version, the "instrument" is not specific - a blank is left in the text. The Master of Arms is commanded simply to go to the armory and "bring forth the first instrument of ---- upon which [his] hand may chance to fall." The rest of the ritual is conducted very similarly to that in the 1928 version - the candidate is led to the top of the steps and asked to jump after seeing the real item, which is then exchanged for the "fictitious" one (as it was called in the 1882 published ritual). Knights of Pythias Shall I Jump Postcard

A postcard in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection shows a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the "test of steel." Seen here at right, it shows a woman on top of a block with a bouquet of flowers on the floor in front. Inscribed on the block is the Knights of Pythias symbol and the words "Shall I jump?" A member of the Knights of Pythias would understand the allusion being made by the postcard.

Do you have any props from American fraternal groups? Tell us about them in a comment below!

Knights of Pythias Test of Steel, 1900-1930, American. Gift of James J. Bennette, 2013.057.1a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

Postcard, 1910, H.A. Bliler, American. Museum purchase, A87/219/1.

Sources Consulted:

Ritual of the Knights of Pythias (Supreme Lodge, 1882).

Revised Knights of Pythias Illustrated (Chicago: Ezra A. Cook, 1928).

Three Civil War Lectures Now Available Online!

Tony Horwitz 3-12 012We've come to the end of our two-year lecture series marking the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Through the generous support of Ruby W. Linn and the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation, we were able to mount nine fantastic talks by scholars of the Civil War. Our speakers brought us closer to wartime experience and the meaning people drew from it, as well as the larger context of the war in 19th-century America. In 2012 and 2103, hundreds of people came to see them. To see who the speakers were, click here for our posts about the talks - and be sure not to miss the second page!

If you were unable to attend these lectures, or you'd like to relive them, we can help. Here are recordings of the three fall 2013 Civil War lectures, given by scholars at the forefront of their research fields. The topics are diverse and represent different perspectives on the military and Copperhead Party_LOC_croppedsocial conflicts the United States struggled through, so one of them is likely to strike your fancy. Each video is about 50 minutes long.

Nicole Etcheson (Ball State University), The Anti-Civil War Movement in the North: Copperheads in a Midwestern Community, 1861-1865

LMAIllustrationJane Schultz (Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis), A Season with the Army: Civil War Nurse Harriet Eaton and New England's Role in Medical Relief Work 

Robert Weible (Chief Curator of the New York State Museum and New York State Historian), Not that this is Going to Be a Real War: The Civil War, the Marshall House Flag, and Elmer Ellsworth’s Martyrdom. This segment integrates a special treat - a piece on the conservation of the Marshall House Flag, a huge Confederate banner captured by Ellsworth Envelope_croppedthe first Union officer to fall in the Civil War. The video comes courtesy of New York State Military Museum

To read more about the talks, you can refer to our blog posts about the Etcheson, Schultz, and Weible presentations. We thank our friends at Lexington's community access station, LexMedia, for recording, editing, and posting all three talks.

Stay tuned for the next Museum lecture series, coming in spring 2014. Check our programs page for a preview.

Image credits:

Tony Horwitz speaking before a crowd of over 300 at the Maxwell Auditorium, March 2012.

The copperhead party - in favor of a vigorous prosecution of peace! Illus. in: Harper's weekly, February 28, 1863. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-132749.

Frontispiece illustration for: Louisa M. Alcott. Hospital Sketches and Camp and Fireside Stories. Boston: Roberts Bros., 1869. 

E.E. Ellsworth, late colonel of N.Y Fire Zouaves, c. 1861. E. & H.T. Anthony, New York. LC-DIG-ppmsca-08357.  Library of Congress.

Model Trains at the Museum, Dec. 14 & 15

Model Train Weekend is Back this Holiday Season!

Model Train Weekend, Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15

IMG_3751This family-friendly event is the perfect outing for adults and children of all ages. The HUB Division of the National Model Railroad Association presents miles of track with trains running on multiple main lines as they chug up mountain climbs, past coal mines, through small villages and into tunnels. Some engines pull 50 cars past hundreds of charming venues including icy lakes with skaters, snow-covered farms, and urban skyscrapers.

Here's a great video clip recorded at the 2011 HUB Train Show, put together by the Lexington community access station LexMedia. Watch it and gain a sense of the passion for detail and accuracy that the model railroad hobbyists of the HUB Division put into this yearly show.

Model Train Weekend hours are 10 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday, December 14, and 12 pm to 4 pm on Sunday, December 15.  Admission is $7 per family.

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The Persistence of "Cerneauism": The 1950s

Donnell_letterIn the late 1800s, the Supreme Councils for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) and the Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) began using the wonderfully peculiar word "Cerneauism" to describe the "clandestine" Scottish Rite bodies that persisted after the Union of 1867 had merged two previously competing Supreme Councils in the northeast to form the present-day NMJ. Cerneauism referred to Joseph Cerneau [pdf]and to the fact that these bodies traced their organizational roots (sometimes aspirationally) back to organizations formed by Joseph Cerneau in the early nineteenth century.

Until recently, historians have assumed that Cerneauism ended within the first two decades of the twentieth century. In their 2008 book, Committed to the Flames: The History and Rituals of a Secret Masonic Rite, Arturo De Hoyos and S. Brent Morris wrote that "the Cerneau movement ended in 1919 when M.W. Bayliss [the Sovereign Grand Commander for the Thompson-Folger Supreme Council] died." I was under the same impression as well until the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently received a small gift of material related to the Thompson-Folger Supreme Council. This material shows that the Supreme Council was active as late as 1951. 

The Thompson-Folger Supreme Council was formed in 1881 when Hopkins Thompson and Robert B. Folger, both members of the NMJ's Supreme Council "revived" Cerneau's Supreme Council, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite for the United States of America, Their Territories and Dependencies. Both men withdrew their membership in the NMJ's Supreme Council and were subsequently expelled by the NMJ in 1882.

The material we received mostly consists of pamphlets published by this Supreme Council. In one - A Brief History of the U.S. Jurisdiction - the author lists the Sovereign Grand Commanders from 1881 until 1951, including the starting year of their term after their names:
"Those serving as Sovereign Grand Commander since Ill. Bro. [Hopkins] Thompson have been Ill. Edward W. Atwood, 1883; Ill. John B. Harris, 1885, Ill. John Haigh, 1886; Ill. John J. Gorman, 1887; Ill. William A. Hershisher, 1895, Ill. Major W. Bayliss, 1897; Ill. Dr. Thomas G. Waller, 1916; Ill. Charles S. Webster, 1934; Ill. Leon W. Van Deusen, 1935, and Ill. Andrew F. Donnell, 1944, now serving."

Pictured above is the one letter that came with the collection. It is dated March 12, 1949 and addressed to Frank B. Spengler (1881-1957) from Andrew F. Donnell (1878-1967). Donnell, a newspaper reporter based in Melrose, Massachusetts, served as Sovereign Grand Commander of the group from 1944 until at least 1951. Spengler, a medical doctor based in Baldwinsville, New York, was his Lieutenant Grand Commander. (The content of the letter is itself interesting, but beyond the scope of this post.)

Both men were active in their local lodges - Donnell with the Lodge of Eleusis and Fourth Estate Lodge, Spengler with Ark Lodge No. 33. These lodges were recognized subordinate lodges of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the Grand Lodge of New York, respectively. Membership inquiries to both Grand Lodges show - perhaps suprisingly - that both men died as members in good standing. Donnell was even Master of his lodge (the Lodge of Eleusis) in 1942, just two years before taking over the helm for the Cerneau Supreme Council.

Grand Lodges, although outside of the Scottish Rite system, often reminded their members not to participate in unrecognized appendant bodies and sometimes expelled members who continued to participate. At this point there is not enough other evidence to know why both men continued to enjoy their blue lodge membership despite their participation in a clandestine Scottish Rite body. It is possible that, for example, some time between 1951 (the latest info we have on these two men's participation with this Supreme Council) and the death of Spengler in 1957, that they may have been asked to choose between maintaining their blue lodge membership or their participation in an unrecognized Scottish Rite organization and may have chosen the former. It is also possible that, with only two subordinate bodies, the much-diminished Supreme Council may have passed below the radar of both Grand Lodges. It is difficult to imagine a third possibility in which these two Grand Lodges would have simply tolerated Donnell's and Spengler's continued leadership of the Cerneau Council.

If you have any information about the activities of this Supreme Council during the 1940s and 1950s, we'd love to hear from you!

Collection of Cerneau Material (Thompson-Folger Supreme Council), 1891-1951. SC 161. Gift of St. John's Lodge, No. 1 A.Y.M., New York, NY.