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March 2014

What’s My Line? Occupation-Related Symbols on Mark Medals

2013_054_3 name sideSome time in the early 1800s, Cornelius P. Vrooman (1784-ca. 1821), a member of Middleburgh Mark Lodge, Middleburgh, New York, commissioned this silver shield-shaped medal.  It is a recent addition to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library's collection.  The maker incorporated important Masonic symbols into the form of Vrooman’s medal--the square, compasses and open Bible at the top of the shield.  Engraved details like the print on the Bible pages and the outline of the compasses’ legs help delineate the symbols.  On one side of the medal (illustrated to the left), the craftsman detailed Vrooman’s name and the name of his lodge as well as a keystone marked with the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master degree, HTWSTTKS.  On the other side (illustrated below), within the border of a circle, the engraver incised the mnemonic in ornamental script.  The circle contains Vrooman’s mark, a man with a scythe. 

As noted in previous posts, the emblem selected by the owner of a mark jewel represented something meaningful to him.  Mark Masons chose different kinds of emblems, from patriotic and Masonic symbols, to initials or family crests.  In addition, many Mark Master Masons decided on representations of their occupation or profession as their personal symbol.  Vrooman’s emblem appears to be one such, the man and a scythe likely denoting a farmer.  If an anecdote retold in a 1870s gazetteer can be believed, Vrooman was indeed a farmer.  In a description of the Vrooman family, the gazetteer's author noted that the four Vrooman brothers “were remarkable for their strength.”  As an example, the author related that Cornelius “was accustomed to carry one or two bags…on his shoulders, to favor his horse, when going to Albany with a load of wheat.” 

2013_054_3 mark sideAnother example of an occupation-related mark can be found in the record for Rev. Alpheus Harding (1780- 1869), whose mark of a lamb and cross spoke to his job as a religious leader.  This mark is noted in the mark book kept for King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter of Greenwich, Massachusetts.  (You can read previous posts about this beautifully illustrated record and its illustrator.)  Other examples of symbols connoting professions appear in the late 1700s and early 1800s records of Washington Royal Arch Chapter of Middletown, Connecticut.  Members of a mark lodge associated with the chapter often dictated a motto to go with their symbols, leaving a clue as to what their choice of mark represented to them.  For example, William Hall (dates unknown), recorded a knife as his mark and his motto as “amputation,” suggesting he might have been a surgeon.  Charles Magill (dates unknown) selected a brig as his mark and, for his motto, “navigation.”  His fellow member, Noadiah Hubbard, Jr. (b. 1765), accompanied the motto “husbandry” with a plough for a mark.  Another member, recorded in the 1820s, claimed a trowel as his mark along with the motto, “the implement of my profession.”  Taken together these occupational marks offer an intriguing glimpse into the professional landscape of early 1800s mark lodges.


James R. Case, August W. Von Hagen and Oswald H. Johnson, Early Records of Washington Chapter (6) Royal Arch Masons, of Middletown, Connecticut, Reproduced by Xerography on the 175th Anniversary (Hartford, Connecticut:  Bond Press, Inc.), 1958.

Hamilton Child, Gazetteer and Business Directory of Schoharie County, New York, for 1872-1873. (Syracuse, New York:  Hamilton Child), 1872, p. 115.

Photo credits:

Mark Medal, 1807-1821. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2013.054.3. Photos by David Bohl.

Registration Extended! April 11, 2014, Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism


We are pleased to announce that registration for our symposium, "Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism," on Friday, April 11, has been extended to APRIL 4.  Visit our website for more information and a registration form.  Please note that the deadline for the discounted hotel rooms remains MARCH 28.  Make plans to join us now for what promises to be a wonderful day!


Memories of World War I

2000_059_8DP1As the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s curator, I write a collections-related article for the quarterly publication of the Scottish Rite fraternity, The Northern Light.  This is a task that I enjoy very much and I can always tell when the issue is hitting mailboxes across the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, since calls and emails start coming in response to my article.  However, I was somewhat unprepared for the large response to my most recent piece on World War I, which appeared in the February 2014 issue.

In commemoration of the beginning of the centennial of the war, I highlighted several World War I-era items from our collection, including this trench art lamp, which we previously showcased in a blog post.  The lamp was presented to Union Lodge No. 31 in New London, Connecticut, on December 25, 1922, by member Robert T. Woolsey (1893-1944).  In the past few weeks, since the magazine was mailed to members, I have received more than twelve phone calls, emails and letters.  Several respondents told me stories about their own family World War I souvenirs – including two similar lamps.

Another caller wanted to clarify the significance of the Statue of Liberty motif that is painted on a World War I helmet in our collection.  The helmet, which was originally worn by soldier Timothy Mahoney (b. 1889), is also painted with the identification of his unit – part of the 77th Division.  In the article I mentioned that the Statue of Liberty was a common helmet decoration, reminding soldiers of what they were fighting for.  However, in this case, as the caller reminded me, it had a more formal connection since the 77th Division was known as the “Statue of Liberty Division.”  The men had shoulder patches showing the statue inside a blue truncated triangle, much as it appears on the helmet. 80_29_1cDI1

Several other responders generously offered World War I material from their own family collections as a donation to the Museum.  So far we have received a trench telescope used by a British soldier, a Masonic “Welcome Home” badge from Excelsior Lodge No. 175 and several items of ephemera from a soldier who fought in the 315th Infantry, including a menu for a Masonic dinner that he attended in 1919.  We rely on donations in order to refine and improve our collection, so we are extremely grateful for these gifts.  We look forward to cataloging them and using them for future research and exhibitions.  If you have something that you would like to donate to our collection, see our staff contact page and get in touch!

Masonic Trench Art Lamp, 1918-1922, France or United States, Museum purchase, 2000.059.8.  Photograph by David Bohl.

World War I Helmet, 1918, United States, gift of Eva M. Mahoney, 80.29.1c. 

Spring Gallery Talks: "A Sublime Brotherhood"

3.23  SC010T1_compressedWe have added some spring gallery talks in A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction to our programs roster.

The talks will be held at 2 p.m. on: Saturday, March 22; Saturday, April 26; Saturday, May 17; Saturday, July 26.

"A Sublime Brotherhood" was curated by Aimee E. Newell, the Museum's Director of Collections, in celebration of the bicentennial of the Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite's founding. The exhibition features keystone documents, such as the Francken manuscript (pictured here). You will also see richly decorated ritual objects, like a colorful and intricately carved lectern, and personal items, such as astronaut John Glenn's Scottish Rite ring

Come and learn about the Scottish Rite's French roots, its founding in America two centuries ago and its evolution into one of the most popular American fraternal groups during the 1900s. Among other features of the exhibition are photos, costumes, and Scottish Rite items, many of which have never previously been on view.

Our readers may be interested in the publication that accompanies "A Sublime Brotherhood," co-authored by Newell and other Museum staff. To learn more about the book and how to order it, read our previous post.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or check our website: www.monh.org.

Image credit:

Francken Manuscript, 1783. Henry Andrew Francken, Kingston, Jamaica. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 010. Photograph by David Bohl.

Register Now! April 11, 2014 Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

UN2000_0131_49DS1Don't miss out!  Register now for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library symposium on Friday, April 11, 2014 - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism.  This day-long symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.

The day will include:

"Mid-Nineteenth Century Lodges: Middle-Class Families in the Absence of Women," Kristen M. Jeschke, DeVry University

"Bragging Brethren and Solid Sisters? Contrasting Mobilization Patterns Among Male and Female Orders During the Spanish-American War," Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussels

"Painted Ambition: Notes on Some Early Masonic Wall Painting," Margaret Goehring, New Mexico State University

"Pilgrimage and Procession: The Knights Templar Triennial Conclaves and the Dream of the American West," Adam G. Kendall, Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge of California

"The Colored Knights of Pythias," Stephen Hill Sr., Phylaxis Society

"'The Farmer Feeds Us All': The Origins and Evolution of a Grange Anthem," Stephen Canner, Independent Scholar

Participants will also have their choice of a tour of our exhibition, "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction," a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum collection, or a tour of highlights in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.

Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception.  The day runs from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  To register - BY MARCH 21 - visit our website and complete a registration form.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, N.M.J., U.S.A.


Lecture: What Map Was Used by the British Officer Who Led the Retreat from Lexington and Concord?

Map of the Most Inhabited Parts of New England JeffreysIt's spring of 1775, and the Province of Massachusetts Bay is rebelliously defying the laws Parliament has passed to coerce the local Assembly to obey His Majesty, King George III. Instead of offering reimbusement for the tea destroyed in Boston Harbor back in late 1773, the country people outside of Boston have formed an illegal assembly which is turning the once-loyal town militias into an army of insurrection! What is a Regular Army officer to do? Imagine yourself in the position of Brigadier General Percy, commander of the 5th Regiment of Foot, stationed in Boston in 1774 to keep the King's peace. How can you make a strategic, tactical or even logistical assessment of the surrounding landscape? Are there maps available that provide the level of detailed information about the countryside required by your duties?

Join Matthew Edney, Osher Professor in the History of Cartography at the University of Southern Maine, as he explores these fascinating questions in a free lecture at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. On Saturday, March 15 at 2 pm, his topic will be: General Hugh, Earl Percy's Use of the Map of New England During the American Revolution. Edney delves into the evidence provided by the revealing annotations made on a personal copy of this map by Hugh, Earl Percy, a distinguished career officer in the British Army and commander of its 5th Regiment of Foot. (Our image is of the Museum & Library's print of this map; the print annotated by Percy is held by the Osher Map Library at the University of Southern Maine.) Percy led the relief column that saved the retreating British forces at the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This presentation will be a particular treat, as our museum is located just yards down the road from Lexington's Munroe Tavern, where Percy set up a temporary field headquarters on April 19th. A variety of other maps available in the period outline the distinct kinds of geographical knowledge possessed by the British military in Boston in 1774-1775 and will be also be examined in the lecture. This program is free to the public once again thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

Matthew_edneyMatthew Edney studied for a B.Sc. in geography at University College London before moving to the U.S.A. for graduate work in geography, cartography, and the history of cartography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He taught at the State University of New York at Binghamton for five years before moving to USM in 1995, at which time he declared himself a willing refugee from GIS and digital mapping. USM has allowed him to focus on his specific interests in map history, which have steadily expanded from the history of surveying technologies and their role in nineteenth-century European state formation and imperialism to encompass the wider practices and performances of map making in Europe after 1600, and more particularly in the British Atlantic World, 1650-1800.

On the same Saturday, March 15, we've planned a 12 noon gallery tour of "Journeys and Discoveries: The Stories Maps Tell" in anticipation of Matthew Edney’s lecture at 2 PM. Polly Kienle, Public Programs Coordinator, will focus the tour on some of the Revolutionary War-era maps from the Museum’s collection. While London mapmakers published views of the American colonies and towns where British soldiers and colonists fought for territory, other maps of North America reflected power struggles between European nations as well as Native American nations’ lessening influence on the continent. Click here to read a related past post from our blog.

Melinda Kashuba of Shasta College will join us on Saturday, April 12, at 2 p.m. for the series' second talk. Her topic will be: Organizing Wonder: Using Maps in Family History Research. After the lecture, the presenter will offer an informal discussion with interested audience members.

For our final spring map lecture, we will welcome David Bosse, Librarian and Curator of Maps, Historic Deerfield, to the Museum & Library on Saturday, June 7. His 2 p.m. presentation will be on: Map and Chart Publishing in Boston in the 18th Century.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or check our website: www.monh.org.

Image credits:

“A Map of the Most Inhabited Part of New England…,” 1755. Cartography by Bradock Mead, alias John Green, (ca. 1688-1757). Published by Thomas Jefferys (c. 1719-1771), London, England. Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives, 055-1755

Courtesy of Matthew Edney

Henry Ford Receiving the 33rd Degree in 1940

1.18 SC154DS1
At the Annual Meeting of the Supreme Council for the Scottish Rite's Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, held in September 1940 in Cincinnati, Ohio, George E. Bushnell, Deputy for the state of Michigan,

"presented the name of Henry Ford, of Dearborn, Michigan, to receive the degrees of the Rite from the Fourth to the Thirty-second, inclusive, and thereafter, the Thirty-third Degree, and asked for unanimous consent to ballot upon this nomination...The request was granted and the ballot spread and, it proving to be clear, Henry Ford was declared to be elected to receive the degrees of the Rite from the Fourth to the Thirty-second, inclusive, in some Valley of the Jurisdiction in which the degrees were being worked under the direction of the Sovereign Grand Commander, and the Thirty Third Degree after he has been duly created a Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret [i.e. 32nd degree]."

At the time that the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Supreme Council conferred the Thirty-Third degree on him at age 77, Henry Ford (1863-1947) had been a Mason for 46 years, having been raised in Detroit's Palestine Lodge No. 357 in 1894 at age 31.

On the evening of December 6, 1940, the Supreme Council opened a special meeting to confer the 33° on Henry Ford at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, Michigan. The meeting opened at 9pm and was over at 11:45pm.  Among those present were the men pictured in the photo above: Ohio Governor John W. Bricker, 33°; Sovereign Grand Commander for Canada’s Supreme Council John A. Rowland, 33°; Sovereign Grand Commander for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Melvin M. Johnson, 33°; and Deputy for Michigan (and future Sovereign Grand Commander) George E. Bushnell, 33°.

While Ford was unquestionably the most well-known person in the room that evening, two other men pictured in the photo above were not only well-known within Scottish Rite Freemasonry, but were, at the same time, luminaries in the legal field. At the time of the conferral, George E. Bushnell was Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and Melvin Johnson was Dean of the Boston University Law School. John Bricker, then Governor of Ohio, was also in the legal field, having served as Attorney General for Ohio from 1933-37 before becoming governor, and returning to law practice after his twelve years (1947-1952) as a U.S. Senator from Ohio.

The photo above, which is in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, appears in the new book, A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

(Left to right): John W. Bricker, John A. Rowland, Henry Ford, Melvin M. Johnson, and George E. Bushnell on the day Ford received the 33°, 1940. Detroit, Michigan. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 154.

Sources consulted:

Abstract of the Proceedings of the Supreme Council...Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. [Boston: Supreme Council, NMJ, 1940), 20.

Abstract of the Proceedings of the Supreme Council...Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. [Boston: Supreme Council, NMJ, 1941), pp. 4-6.