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September 2014

Erastus Spalding's Mark Medal

2011_021DP1DBEvery now and then, a researcher’s inquiry will inspire us to take a closer look at an object in the collection—recently this mark medal made for Erastus Spalding (1775-1830) of Scipio, New York.  It was added to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library a few years ago.

On his medal, formed out of thin sheet silver in the shape of a plumb bob, Spalding commissioned a craftsman to engrave text and symbols.  On one side of the medal (shown on the left), Spalding had several Masonic symbols along with a mallet and keystone, emblems related to the mark degree, engraved.  On the other side of the medal (shown on the right), for his mark--the symbol he chose to represent himself--Spalding selected elements taken from 2011_021DP2DBthe Great Seal of the United States.  The seal, officially adopted in 1782, featured an eagle supporting striped shield. In one talon the eagle grasps an olive branch, representing peace; in the other the eagle grips arrows, to signify war.  From the eagle's beak a banner decorated with the motto E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one) flies.  Spalding also directed that a Masonic motto, “Virtue Shall Cement Us,” be incised on the medal, as well as the name of his lodge, Scipio Lodge No. 58.  

Born in Connecticut, Spalding first came to Scipio with his parents and siblings in the late 1780s or early 1790s. Spalding’s father, Oliver (1739-1795) served in the Revolutionary War. Grants of land made to former Revolutionary War soliders may have drawn his family to the area. Erastus and some of his brothers seem to have owned land in Scipio after their father’s death (you can see their names near plot 138 on this map). In developing their new community, area men established Scipio Lodge No. 58.  Chartered in 1797, the lodge counted Spalding among its early members.  He served on a committee that organized the construction of a new lodge building after an 1805 fire and as Junior Warden in 1807.  By the early 1810s, Spalding and his family left Scipio. They eventually lived in Charlotte, Rochester and, later, Lockport, New York.

Intriguingly, Scipio Masons did not establish their Royal Arch Chapter--Aurora Chapter No. 64--until 1819, several years after Erastus Spalding had moved.  Further research may uncover information about when and where Spalding took the mark degree.  Regardless, the text and symbols Spalding had engraved on his medal point to the pride he felt as a Mason and as a citizen of the new United States.


Mark Medal, 1800-1820. New York. Museum Purchase, 2011.021. Photos by David Bohl.  


A Short History: Scipio Lodge No. 110 (Ann Arbor, Michigan:  Edward's Brothers, Inc.), 1940.

Samuel J. Spalding, Spalding Memorial:  A Genealogical History of Edward Spalding of Massachusetts Bay and His Descendants, (Boston:  Alfred Medge & Son, Printers), 1872.

"A Sublime Brotherhood:" Last Gallery Talk 9/27

Newell PhotoWe invite you to a gallery talk of our major exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” at 2 p.m. on September 27, 2014. This will be the last chance to see the show before it closes. Aimee Newell, Ph.D., curator of the exhibition and Director of Collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, will lead this tour. We asked Aimee a few questions about the show and her experience giving talks to museum visitors. Here are her comments: 

Q: "A Sublime Brotherhood" has been on view since June, 2013. It will be hard to say goodbye to this show celebrating the bicentennial of Scottish Rite Freemasonry. As the show’s curator, what has been the most pleasurable part of sharing these artifacts and documents with the public?

Gallery September 2009A: Many of these objects had not been on exhibit before, so it was exciting to be able to share them with the Museum & Library’s audience. We take our responsibility as stewards seriously, which means both showing off these items and caring for them in storage. I enjoyed being able to share so much early Scottish Rite history with our visitors.

Q: What would you like people to remember about this show and the artifacts and documents it contains?  

A: For me, one of the most interesting things about Masonic history is how much it intersects with American society and culture. I hope that people will remember that the story of the Scottish Rite is intertwined with American history. For example, the fraternity traveled from France, to the West Indies and then to America – following trade routes of the mid-1700s. I also hope they will remember the wonderful artifacts and documents that we have in our collection and come back to see other exhibits.

Q: You have given many gallery talks about this show while it has been on view. What is the most interesting or exciting thing a participant in one of your talks has shared with you?

A: It’s exciting when people pull me aside at the end and tell me about their personal experience with the fraternity – either something about their own interest in its history, or about their relative who was a member.

Q: Could you share a favorite part of the gallery talk you give for this show? 

A: My favorite part is at the beginning when I talk about my goals for putting this show together and explain what I like about studying Masonic history. I also like the part where I explain about the schism that took place on the Supreme Council in the 1860s. It’s dramatic – and it’s complicated, but I like to think that I can explain it so that visitors understand it better.

Q: For you, what distinguishes a great gallery talk from a good gallery talk?

A: I try to give the kind of gallery talk that I like to attend. I like to give an overview of the exhibit’s themes and point out some of my favorite objects. I want to encourage people to return and look more at the objects that intrigue them. I don’t want to just repeat the labels on the wall. So, for me, a great gallery talk is one where the audience has questions and is inspired to learn more.

Q: Why should people come to see "A Sublime Brotherhood" and hear your 2 p.m. gallery talk on Saturday, September 27? 

A: It’s the last chance! The exhibit will be taken down so we can put up a new exhibit. While we will continue to care for these objects – and they are available for researchers to see, it will be a long time before they are all on view together again.

The exhibition celebrates the 200th anniversary of the Scottish Rite fraternity, which today encompasses 165,000 members in fifteen states. Through more than 100 objects and images ranging from decorative arts and paintings to stage costumes and folk art, “A Sublime Brotherhood” invites the visitor to travel through time to learn about the people who shaped the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and also about the fraternity’s contribution to its communities. To read more about the publication that accompanies the show and how to order it, check out our previous blog post.

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

The Secret Discipline, an 1833 book that escaped New York's Great Fire of 1835

GL2004_0059DS1_webWe have in our library's collection, The Secret Discipline, Mentioned in Ancient Ecclesiastical History, Explained. According to the title page, it was published in 1833 by James Ormond in New York and written by Theodore Temple.

Although the name Theodore Temple appears on the title page, this appears to be a pseudonym. The American Antiquarian Society has a copy of this book and, based on manuscript annotation in their copy, they suggest that the author is Thaddeus Mason Harris (1768-1842), pictured at left. Indeed, our copy contains copious corrections and annotations - consistent with those of an author correcting his work for a new edition. A comparison of the handwriting in our copy to known examples of Harris's handwriting suggest that this may have been Harris's own copy. The book was published during the anti-Masonic period in the United States and was in direct response to critics of Freemasonry who claimed that the beliefs of religious men - Christians particularly - were not compatible with Freemasonry. Harris, a Unitarian minister, defended Freemasonry throughout the anti-Masonic period and was active within the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts from 1797 on.

They very first annotation in our copy (pictured below) appears on the front free endpaper and gives a very interesting glimpse into the past:

"Soon after this little book was printed the publisher failed in business and before more than a dozen or two were sold, the stock was attached and remained in keeping in a storesafe till in the great fire of 1836 the whole impression was consumed."

Let's take this sentence apart to see what it might it reveal.

Great fire quoteReference to the "great fire of 1836" is much easier to understand. It is likely that this is a reference to the Great Fire of 1835, which, starting on December 16, destroyed almost 700 buildings in 17 city blocks. It is possible that, in writing about this later, Harris could have misremembered the December 1835 fire as having happened in 1836. Harris was living in Massachusetts, not New York, so this does not seem impossible to imagine.

The claim that the "the publisher failed in business" is a bit harder to understand. According to New York City directories, James Ormond appears to have been in business in New York City from 1829 until 1840. It is possible that Ormond might have "failed in business" some time in 1833 or 1834 and then re-started his business, but he is listed in city directories as a printer throughout that period. Perhaps further research may reveal more about this.

As for whether it's true that no "more than a dozen or two were sold," it's hard to judge. WorldCat only lists 11 libraries (including ours) that own a copy, so it certainly seems possible that this claim may be true.

Theodore Temple [pseud.]. The Secret Discipline, Mentioned in Ancient Ecclesiastical History, Explained. New York: Printed by James Ormond, 1833.
Call number: RARE 10.11 .T287 1833 

Thaddeus Mason Harris (1768-1842), ca. 1860, C. Harding, artist, Pendleton's Lithography, publisher, Boston, engraving on paper, Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.0059.

Lecture: Reinventing the Map

We are pleased to share more information about the first lecture in the fall, 2014, continuation of our Speaking of Maps: An Exploration of Cartography and History series:

Susan cropped_smallSaturday, 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 agricultural data, landscape features, the distribution of slavery, census results, and the path of epidemics, Americans gradually learned to view themselves and their nation in altogether new ways. Don't miss this special lecture by the country's foremost authority on thematic mapping.

Susan Schulten is a scholar who seeks out ways to share her findings with the general public. Her work on nineteenth-century Americans' innovations in the use of maps has appeared in many locations and formats. Her latest book is Mapping the Nation: History & Cartography in 19th Century America (University of Chicago Press, 2012). Copies of this work will be offered for sale after her lecture and the author will be on hand to sign them. In 2013 the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association awarded Mapping the Nation the Norris Hundley Prize for the most distinguished work of history published in 2012 written by a scholar living in the American and Canadian west.

Historical_Geography_Smith_croppedAs a complement to the book, Prof. Schulten has created a website of the same name that allows readers to explore the fundamentally new ways of thinking ventured into by nineteenth-century cartographers. At the site, you'll find high-resolution images of the maps featured in Mapping the Nation - it's a great teaching tool!

Schulten also writes for the New York Times "Disunion" series, which commemorates the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, and on the relationship of maps and history for The New Republic. Curious readers can check out her "Disunion" post on a mysterious map of Louisiana that illustrates the thorny problems confronted by former Massachusetts governor Nathaniel P. Banks, charged with Reconstruction planning for the Gulf region. Among her many other engaging posts at "Disunion" are one on the Civil War work of noted lithographer John Bachman, originator of the "bird's-eye view" map - in a time before aerial photography! - and one on the United States Coast Survey's visualization of the 1860 U.S. slave population, so important in the Union's efforts to communicate its war aims.

Susan Schulten is professor of history and department chair at the University of Denver. She is also the author The Geographical Imagination in America, 1880-1950 (2001). In 2010, she was awarded a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation grant for her work on thematic mapping. 

Upcoming programs in this series are:

Saturday, 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.

Saturday, 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].

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

Image credits:

Courtesy of Susan Schulten.

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.

New to the Collection: Odd Fellows Gavel

 2014_036DP2DBBy 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States numbering six million members.  To fully understand and appreciate Freemasonry in America, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collects objects and documents associated with all types of fraternal organizations.  Many of these groups were inspired by Freemasonry and adopted similar structures and rituals.  We recently acquired this carved gavel with the three-link chain symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  The gavel represents fifty years of American history.  An inscription on the head of the gavel reads “Presented to Grant Lodge No. 335 by H.W. Swank Lookout Mtn. April 29, 1914.”

In November 1863, Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the site of the Civil War’s “battle above the clouds.”  Under the leadership of General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), the Union Army was able to attack the Confederate troops who occupied the mountain and drive them away.  The following day the Union forces continued to Missionary Ridge and broke the Confederate lines around Chattanooga.  Unfortunately, H.W. Swank’s connection to Lookout Mountain is unknown.  Was he one of the soldiers that fought in that battle?  Did he have a relative that fought there?  Did he just enjoy the natural beauty of the site?  The mountain continued to be a tourist destination, as shown in this cabinet card from the Museum’s collection.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Americans began to visit Civil War sites as they healed from the war and remembered those who were lost there. 85_80_29DS2

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share some symbols, as well as the three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  Presumably, Swank was a member of Grant Lodge No. 335, which was located in Redkey, Indiana, a town about halfway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.  Thirteen members instituted Grant Lodge No. 335 in Redkey in September 1869.  According to a 1922 local history, Oddfellowship “prospered in Jay county [where Redkey was located] and…several lodges are reported to be doing well.”

The gavel is currently [September 2014] on view in our lobby as part of a changing display of recent acquisitions.  Consider coming by to see it – or leave us a comment below about whether you have been to Lookout Mountain!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Gavel, 1914, Tennessee, Museum purchase, 2014.036.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Unidentified Group at Lookout Mountain, 1870-1920, J.B. Linn, Tennessee, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 85.80.29.

New Acquisition Sheds Light on President Garfield as a Knight Templar

Garfield 2 (2)As I was flipping through a new acquisition, a minute book from the Hudson River Commandery No.35, I found a touching full-page tribute to President and Sir Knight James Abram Garfield (1831-1881).  His 1881 memorial is prominently displayed in the minute book (left) of this commandery from Newburgh, New York.  The page is written by hand in beautiful calligraphy.  

On the date of September 27, at Newburgh,the minute book reads, "A communication, under date of Sept. 23rd, 1881 was read from the Grand Commander of the State of New York, announcing the death of the late President of the United States:--Sir James A. Garfield, and ordering appropriate draping of asylum and other proper notice of the sad event..."  After considering the communication from the Grand Commander, the Eminent Commander of the Hudson River Commandery No. 35 made a motion that a separate page be written and put in with the records in memory of Garfield.  It is a fitting tribute for a former President and Sir Knight.  The "draping of asylum" referred to the meeting place of a Commandery and means retreat or place of safety. The recommendations to place mourning drapery at the asylum were observed.  Such tributes were recorded all over the United States in Knights Templar, Royal Arch, and other Masonic Proceedings.

On September 23, 1881, Knights Templar groups were part of Garfield's funeral procession and ceremony, along with soldiers, statesmen, and other dignitaries.  Among the Knights Templar groups were members of Columbia Commandery No. 2 of Washington.

In addition to participating in Garfield's funeral, the Knights Templar of Columbia Commandery No. 2 had also accompanied Garfield during his presidential inaugural procession on March 4,1881.  Garfield gave a short inaugural address and lasted in office only a matter of months--from March until July 2, 1881 when he was shot by an assassin at a railroad station.  He died on September 19, 1881 from infection of the wound.

Being a Knight Templar, Garfield had many other Masonic affiliations.  Garfield was made a Master Mason in 1864 at Columbus Lodge No. 30 in Columbus, Ohio and lived nearby in Cuyahoga County.  He attended Williams College, taught classics at Hiram College, became a brigadier general during the Civil War, and then was elected by Ohioans to Congress in 1862.  During the time he was in Washington as a congressman, he was affiliated with Pentalpha Lodge No. 23, as a charter member in 1869.  He became a Knight Templar in 1866 at Columbia Commandery No.2 in Washington and received degrees 4 through 14° in the Scottish Rite in 1872 from Albert Pike(1809-1891) of the Southern Jurisdiction. 


Image Caption:

Minute Book, Hudson River Commandery No. 35, Newburg, New York, 1865-1893.  Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, A2014/19/1.


For Further Reading:

Baldwin, Charles E.  History of Columbia Commandery no. 2, Knights Templar, 1863-1938.  Washington, 1938.    

Brown, E. E.  The Life and Public Services of James A. Garfield. Boston:  Lothrop, 1881.

Conwell, Russell H.  The Life, Speeches, and Public Services of James A. Garfield.  Boston:  B. B. Russell, 1881.

Doyle, Burton T and Homer H. Swaney.  Lives of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur:  With a Brief Sketch of the Assassin. Washington:  R. H. Darby, 1881.