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August 2014

Lecture Series: Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History, Fall 2014

Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History, Fall 2014

In the fall of 2014, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library continues its program series, “Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History." All programs will be free to the public thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

Maps were among the first objects that the Museum collected after its founding in 1975. Our collection holds maps dating from the 17th century to the present. Using this collection as a touchstone, the series reflects current research that helps us value historical cartography. We hope you are as eager as we are to delve into the past worlds historic maps describe and forge paths to the new ones that digital mapping promises to chart.

Mark your calendar with these dates; future blog posts will share more details about the speakers and their topics.

Historical_Geography_SmithSaturday, September 13, 2:00 p.m.

Susan Schulten, Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Denver

Reinventing the Map

We live in a culture saturated with maps. We have become accustomed to making them instantly and representing virtually any type of data. Technology makes this possible, but our contemporary use of maps is rooted in a fundamental shift that took place well over a century ago. Professor Schulten will illustrate how, beginning in the nineteenth century, Americans began to use maps not only to identify locations and represent the landscape, but to organize, display, and analyze information. Through maps of the environment, the distribution of the institution of slavery, the census, epidemics, and even their own history, Americans gradually learned to view themselves and their nation in altogether new ways.

JRS_smallerSaturday, October 4, 2:00 p.m.

John Rennie Short, Professor, Department of Public Policy, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Cartographic Encounters: Native Americans in the Exploration and Mapping of North America

In this lecture Professor Short will outline the role of indigenous people in the exploration and mapping of North America. Drawing on diaries, maps, and official reports, he will demonstrate how Native American guides, informants, and mapmakers were essential to European and American exploration and mapping in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

MetroBostonDataCommonSaturday, November 22, 10:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Workshop: How to Do History with Online Mapping Tools

In this workshop, participants will learn how to use an online tool to create maps that chart Metro Boston area history. Staff from the MetroBoston DataCommon, a provider of free applications that make it possible to map data, will collaborate with Joanne Riley, University Archivist at UMass Boston, to show lay historians, data fans, and map enthusiasts how visualizations of data related to our region can help us understand our history. Whether you are interested in exploring demographics, economy, the physical environment, politics or more, bring your curiosity and your questions. Our presenters will share examples and point the way to potential uses of digital mapping for your local history research. Space is limited; registration is required by November 5.  Contact: [email protected].

Image credits:

Historical Geography, [S.l.], 1888. John F. Smith.  llus. in: Harper's weekly, February 28, 1863. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, LC-2002624023. This and other maps can be explored at Schulten's website, Mapping the Nation.

Courtesy of John Rennie Short.

Courtesy of MetroBoston DataCommon.

A Thomas Harper Jewel

Thomas Harper jewel GL2004.3158Among the many treasures in the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts on extended loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is this jewel manufactured by London silversmith Thomas Harper (ca. 1744-1832). Harper, a prolific and skilled smith, produced a variety of Masonic jewels in the late 1790s and first decades of the 1800s, including officers’ jewels, mark jewels and presentation jewels.  An active Freemason and an officer for the Antient Grand Lodge, he played a role in bringing together the Antients and the Moderns to form the United Grand Lodge of England in 1813.  Today collectors prize his work.  In honor of Harper’s many accomplishments as a craftsman and as a Mason, in 1996 a group of British brethren founded a Lodge of Research named in his honor

How this jewel became part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is not known.  Hallmarks date it to 1811.  Its design—an oval in which much of the silver has been cut away (a technique called piercing) to form the shapes of several Masonic symbols—is one Harper produced many times.  An engraver outlined, detailed and embellished each of the emblems—a square, compasses, a level, plumb rule and a maul—on the jewel.  Cut glass stones set in silver ornament the hinge of the compasses, as well as form the bobs on plumb rule and level.  Pierced jewels, with only thin pieces of metal connecting different elements are fragile.  This one is missing a trowel that used to span the space between the right hand leg of the compasses and the rim.  You can view  jewels similar to this one as well as others Harper made in the collections database of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, at the United Grand Lodge of England.

Intriguingly, long before Harper made this jewel or founded his London business as a Masonic jeweler, he lived in the American colonies.  In the 1700s he made his home in Charleston, South Carolina, the biggest and most prosperous city in the South at the time. There he advertised as a jeweler, goldsmith and seller of imported jewelry and silversmith’s tools. Researchers have noted that he was involved in Freemasonry in Charleston; he served as Junior Warden for Lodge No. 190 in 1774.  The likely-London born Harper (the place and date of Harper’s birth are not clear) chose not to join the colonists in their fight against the British government and, as a consequence, left South Carolina for the Dutch West Indies with his family (which eventually grew to include over ten children) in 1778.  The richest and most interesting information about Harper’s career in Carolina comes from the 1780s petition he made for lost property to the British government.  Among the losses he claimed were a small house and 465 acres outside of Charleston, an enslaved man who worked in his business, uncollected debts and four years of unrealized work as a silversmith.  Harper valued his losses at over four thousand pounds.  In spite of having a taken a sizeable financial hit early in his career, Harper rallied.  He established himself as a silversmith in London in the 1790s and worked in that trade until his death in 1832.   


Jewel, 1811, Thomas Harper (ca. 1744-1832), London, England.  Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.3158.


E. Milby Burton, South Carolina Silversmiths 1690-1860, Rutland, Vermont: The Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1968.

Canada, Loyalist Claims, 1766-1835, ancestry.com.

Timothy Kent, “Thomas Harper (1736-1832), Masonic Jeweller and the Jewels of His Period,” Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (2004), 103-115.

Timothy Kent, “Thomas Harper, Masonic Jeweller and the Jewels of His Period,” Silver Studies (2005), 13-17.

Your All-Access Video Pass to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

Meet the Staff, Visit Behind the Scenes, Learn About Our Collections, Exhibitions…and More    

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has launched an ongoing video project designed to introduce you to all facets of this unique institution. Our plan is to present an interesting mosaic of the people, collections, exhibitions, programs, and mission of the Museum & Library. We will give you a look at the everyday—and extraordinary—things that happen behind the scenes.

Videos will include interviews with a wide variety of staff including our curators who have a deep knowledge and passionate appreciation of the collection, and our library staff who care for more than 60,000 volumes including seminal founding documents of the Scottish Rite. With an endless realm of things to explore you might be surprised at the depth and breadth of our holdings, and the scope of the work that we do. We’ll have some fun introducing you to the range of what we collect from the quirky, to the inspirational, to the deeply patriotic. How do we choose what objects to add to the collection? We’ll tell you all about it. How are exhibitions put together? You will enjoy a look at the planning and the process. We will also lead you through the mission of our stewardship of Masonic and fraternal history as we show you how we care for the collection, invest in it, interpret it, and present it to the public.

You will meet other staff members too like our designer who makes our exhibitions look spectacular, as well as those who keep our beautiful building running and plan all of our special events. Our programs serve audiences of all ages, and we will give you a glimpse of the kinds of events you can look forward to and enjoy.

We hope these videos bring to life the Museum & Library through the words of those who make this the world-class institution it is, and through the objects in our care that so eloquently speak to the mission we strive to honor and uphold.

All of our videos can be found in the "Video Gallery" area of our website. You can also subscribe to them on our YouTube channel.


Happy 201st Birthday to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction!

2013_030DI1Today, August 5, 2014, marks the 201st anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which founded the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1975). A year ago today, we celebrated the momentous occasion of the fraternity’s 200th anniversary – see our posts from last year - here and here. This year, the day is passing more quietly. However, our exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” which opened last year, is still on view – for a few more weeks. The exhibition will close on September 27, 2014, so if you haven’t visited, it’s time to plan a trip to the museum. We have one more gallery talk planned in the exhibit. The Museum’s Director of Collections and curator of the exhibition, Aimee E. Newell, will offer a free gallery talk on Saturday, September 27, at 2 p.m.

During the official anniversary ceremony last August, in New York City, Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton welcomed his counterpart from the Southern Jurisdiction, Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale. At the festivities, Commander Seale presented Commander McNaughton with a reproduction of the 1813 charter that officially created the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Commander Seale also presented a commemorative glass vase to celebrate the occasion (see above). The vase is currently on view in our lobby as part of our display of recent acquisitions. Engraved on the front is the double-headed eagle emblem of the Scottish Rite with an inscription, “Presented to the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, in honor of its Bicentennial Anniversary 1813-2013 by the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, USA.”

To order a copy of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's recent published history, which the exhibition is based on, visit the NMJ online store.

Vase, 2013, United States, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 2013.030. Photograph by David Bohl.