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November 2014

New to the Collection: Medal Engraved for James Campbell

2014.100 name sideWe are very excited to add this engraved medal to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.  This type of personal Masonic medal, embellished with a variety of Masonic symbols and engraved with an owner’s name and his date of initiation, celebrated the wearer’s membership in a lodge.  Owners likely wore them during processions or at lodge meetings.  You can read about another personal Masonic medal in the Museum collection in a previous post

Few engraved Masonic medals that date from the late 1700s and early 1800s come to the museum with much—if any—information about who owned or made them. Digging into the history of a medal like this one, originally the property of a man named James Campbell, and considering how this medal’s history relates to that of comparable medals in craftsmanship, style and iconography, can help us better understand it.  Along with Campbell’s medal, we received two handwritten notes that hinted at the names of  two previous owners of the medal.  One note also stated that Campbell had served as a private in the Revolutionary War.  Since James Campbell is a common name, even for men who served in the Revolutionary War, research into the family histories of prior owners was essential to helping us identify which James Campbell first commissioned the medal.  Born in Windham, New Hampshire in 1759, the James Campbell who orginally owned this badge, lived in Acworth, New Hampshire, and later Walpole, New Hampshire.  A farmer, Campbell also served as the Register of Deeds for Cheshire County, New Hampshire.   When he died in 1825, an obituary in a local paper recorded Campbell was “a man universally esteemed.  He has held the office of Registrar, by universal consent for about 20 years.”  

Intriguingly, this medal is one of four very similarly engraved badges owned by different institutions: 2014.100 reversethe Museum, the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, the Grand Lodge of Iowa and the Henry Ford Museum.  Of  like size and displaying the same selections of emblems, manner of engraving and style of script, these badges appear to have been decorated by the same craftsman.  In addition to the names of their owners: James Campbell, Joseph Winslow, Joseph Williams and Roger Ransted, each medal also bears the owner’s initiation date.  These four medals were manufactured between 1796 and 1807. 

Three of the medal owners, Roger Ransted (1769-1852), of Westmoreland, New Hampshire (and later, Thetford, Vermont), Joseph Winslow (dates unknown) of Putney, Vermont, and Campbell lived in the same part of the country on the New Hampshire and Vermont sides of the Connecticut River.  The craftsman who shaped and decorated these medals likely worked in the same area.  Membership records at the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire related to Ransted, Winslow and Campbell showed that they belonged to the same Masonic lodge, Jerusalem Lodge No. 4 of Westmoreland and Walpole, New Hampshire.  There is still more of this history to uncover—such as who engraved these medals.  If you know of any similar Masonic medals or have ideas about James Campbell’s medal, please leave us a comment or drop us a line. 



Masonic Medal, 1798.  New England.  Museum Purchase, 2014.100.


Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling and Catherine Compton Swanson, Curiosities of the Craft:  Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection (Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts:  Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 2013), 76-77.   

Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1976), 30.

Many thanks to Bill Kreuger, Grand Lodge of Iowa, Donald Campbell, Grand Lodge of Washington and Tom Lowe and Roberta Langis, Grand Lodge of New Hampshire.




World War I - Home Service Banners


This year (2014) marks the one hundredth anniversary of the conflict that would become known as the "Great War," and, later, World War I.  Although the United States did not get drawn into the conflict until 1917, the start of the war was not ignored on these shores.  While the war had been brewing for some time, the immediate cause is widely acknowledged to be the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) of Austria in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, on June 28, 1914.  A month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary fired the first shots in preparation for an invasion of Serbia.  Lines were quickly drawn along what would become the Western front between Germany and France, and the Eastern Front between Russia and Austria-Hungary.  Shortly after the first shots were fired in 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.  Italy and Bulgaria joined the war in 1915 and Romania in 1916.  In April 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies (Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Russia, prior to its surrender).  With the entrance of the United States, the Allies were able to surge forward and eventually win the war.  Germany agreed to an armistice on November 11, 1918.  More than nine million combatants lost their lives; Germany and Russia lost territory; the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires were dismantled; the map of Europe was redrawn; and the League of Nations formed to prevent a future conflict.  Sadly, the League would fail just twenty years later when World War II began. 

Almost five million Americans served in the war, more than four million of these in the Army.  Although the front was far away from the United States, the war effort was foremost in the minds of many at home.  Families with a man serving overseas often hung a “Home Service Banner” in a window.  These banners, with a red border around a white center and a star to represent the serviceman, became a display of patriotism during World War I.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection includes one of these banners, but unfortunately we do not know who originally owned it (at right).  It has one star, which signified one family member fighting in the conflict.  A blue star signified hope and pride; a silver star indicated that the soldier had been wounded; and a gold star represented sacrifice, indicating that the soldier died in battle.  If the family had more than one soldier overseas, the banner would show multiple stars.  The first home service flag was designed and patented in 1917 by Robert Queissner of Ohio, who had two sons on the front lines. 78_36DI1

Recently, the Museum & Library was given a similar flag, but with twenty-three stars (twenty-two blue and one cream-colored star) around a blue square and compasses symbol (see above).  This flag shows the same red border and white center as a home service flag.  The flag was found at Old Colony Lodge in Hingham, Massachusetts.  The lodge did not have any information on the flag, but it may have indicated that twenty-three members of the lodge were serving in World War I or World War II (these flags were also used during that conflict), and that one man was wounded or killed.  We hope that pursuing additional research into the lodge’s records may answer the question of when the flag was used and confirm this theory about its significance.  Does your family own a home service banner?  Let us know in a comment below!

Masonic Flag, 1910-1920, United States, gift of Old Colony Lodge, Hingham, Massachusetts, 2011.025.

Home Service Banner, 1917-1919, United States, gift of Henry S. Kuhn, 78.36.