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April 2015

Hanging Out by the Water Cooler

83.16 Raynsford water cooler overall
Water Cooler, ca. 1825. Moses Tyler (1794-1846), Albany, New York. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 83.16. Photograph by David Bohl.

This sturdy vessel, shaped like an upside-down pear, was made for a particular purpose—to hold water and to help keep it cool and easily accessible through a spigot at the container’s base.  Although it is a utilitarian object, this water cooler features decoration and personalization that point to an interesting story about who owned and used it. 

Now part of the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, this water cooler originally belonged to Edmund Raynsford (1784-1855). Born in Sheffield, Massachusetts, Raynsford moved to Bethlehem, New York, around 1820. Records note that he earned a living in a variety of ways—as a merchant, hotel owner and postmaster. The United States government appointed Raynsford postmaster at New Scotland in 1824. Descriptions of the town from the 1880s tell us that the post office and tavern or hotel were located in the same building. Active in politics, Raynsford helped organize the effort to have a law passed in the early 1830s that created a new community—New Scotland—out of the town of Bethlehem.  He also served as a state representative in 1838.

The potter who shaped Raynsford’s water cooler, Moses Tyler (1794-1846), lived about eight miles away from Raynsford, in Albany, New York.  Tyler operated his business near the area clay deposits he used to make stoneware.  Tyler impressed his mark “M/ Tyler & Co./Albany” near the neck of this vessel.  He also incised Raynsford’s name on the cooler, highlighting the letters he cut in the wet clay with blue cobalt glaze. In addition, Tyler applied clay formed in the shape of different Masonic symbols—a moon and star, a candlestick and a square and compasses adorned with a beehive—all colored with blue glaze—to the surface of the water cooler.  Taken together with Raynsford’s name, these symbols suggest that Raynsford was a Freemason. Unfortunately, it is not known which lodge claimed him as a

83.16 detail Raynsford water cooler
Detail, Water Cooler, ca. 1825. Moses Tyler (1794-1846), Albany, New York. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 83.16. Photograph by David Bohl.

member. There seems to have been a lodge in Bethlehem starting in the early 1800s. As well, there were several lodges in Albany that would have been reasonable traveling distance for Raynsford.  Regardless of which lodge Raynsford called his own, this charmingly decorated water cooler makes clear he was proud of his association with Freemasonry.  It is easy to imagine how the water stored in the vessel helped refresh the thirsty travelers and locals who stopped by Raynsford’s hotel and post office to transact their business and discuss the news of the day.    


John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994).

Compiled by R. W. Gary Heinmiller, Craft Masonry in Albany County, Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society, February 2010, September 2012.





Happy 40th! A Look Back at the Museum & Library's Grand Opening

Orientation Exhibition at Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 1975. MNH 025

Forty years ago today, on April 20, 1975, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library officially opened its doors to the public - two hundred years and one day after the Battle of Lexington. Over 1,400 people attended the opening day ceremonies, a crowd that included local school children, Active Members of the Scottish Rite's Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, state and local politicians, and representatives of various state and national-level Masonic organizations, as well as many local citizens. The Museum's first director, Clement M. Silvestro (1924-2014), predicted that the Museum & Library - opened in time to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial in 1976 - would be "counted among the enduring projects emanating from the Bicentennial commemorative events." Among the first exhibitions was an "orientation exhibition" (pictured above) in the Museum's lobby which "explained that the new Museum and Library is sponsored by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States of America [and] was built to commemorate the 200th anniversary of our Nation's founding..."

Flag raising ceremony at Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, April 20, 1975. MNH 025

A recounting of the day's events in the Supreme Council's 1975 Annual Proceedings, includes a description of the flag raising ceremony (photo at right):

"Prior to the dedication ceremonies, students of the Lexington Public Schools presented the Museum with a thirteen-star flag, and raised it to the accompaniment of musket fire from the Minuteman Guard of Honor, and a musical salute by the Linn Village Drum Band. The fifth graders participating in the flag raising ceremony were George Young and Mary Lyons from the Adams School, Laura Taylor and Keith Johnson from the Munroe School, and Micah Sheveloff and Stephen Shapiro from the Bowman School."

Museum Director Clement M. Silvestro speaking at Museum's dedication day ceremonies, April 20, 1975. MNH 025

Following the flag raising, a dedication ceremony took place in the Museum's auditorium. Members of the Scottish Rite's Supreme Council, led by then-Sovereign Grand Commander George A. Newbury, conducted a "richly symbolic and dramatic Masonic ceremony." Secretary of the Air Force, John L. McLucas, then delivered a dedicatory address. After McLucas spoke, Silvestro, the Museum's Director, standing at a lectern that's now part of the Museum's collection, delivered his own address to the packed auditorium.


Were you at the Museum & Library's "Dedication and Grand Opening" on April 20, 1975? Tell us about it in the comments below. If you took photos that day, we'd especially love to hear from you!

New to the Collection: A Royal Arch Apron

Masonic Royal Arch Apron, ca. 1820, Henry Parmele, probably Connecticut, Museum purchase, 2014.115.4. Photograph by David Bohl.

With over 400 Masonic and fraternal aprons in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection, we can be choosy when we add to our holdings.  But we are always intrigued when an apron with a different style or decoration shows up.  This was the case with this one, which we purchased at auction last fall.  The engraved design was new to us and we were very excited to add it to the collection.  The central archway with the ark of the covenant, columns, drapes and the figures in the center and to the sides all relate to the ritual for the Royal Arch degree.  The (originally) red trim also helps identify this apron as one that would have been worn to Royal Arch chapter meetings.  Unfortunately, the history of this apron has been lost and we do not know who originally owned it.  It also does not have any markings identifying the engraver or the printer.

Many engraved designs used on aprons were also used on certificates.  As far as we know, we do not have a copy of this certificate – yet.  But, our friends at the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry in San Francisco do have a copy of a certificate decorated with this engraving.  That certificate does have some information about the publisher and sellers.  Printed along the bottom of the certificate is “Pub[lishe]d by H. Parmele.  To be had of [Comp[anion]s?] S. Maverick N. York A. Doolittle New Haven and J.W. Clark Albany.”  Presumably the apron was printed from the same plate, or at least a plate engraved by the same person who cut the plate for the certificate.

Printer and publisher Henry Parmele (ca. 1781-1821) was active in Connecticut.  He reportedly came up with the idea of an illustrative Masonic chart of symbols before Jeremy L. Cross’s (1783-1860) The True Masonic Chart, or Hieroglyphic Monitor (1819), but Cross beat Parmele to the press and his book, with its groundbreaking illustrations, was available first.  Cross’s book became a best-seller and Parmele’s chart languished.

The other men named on the certificate were all active engravers in their respective locations.  Doolittle worked with Cross on the illustrations for his The True Masonic Chart.  Maverick (b. 1789), Doolittle (1754-1832) and Clark (dates unknown) inevitably both engraved and sold Masonic certificates, along with many other types of documents.

To learn more about our apron collection, see our new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, available June 2015 at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.  Members of the Museum & Library or of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction can pre-order the book now (April 2015) through May 31 at a discounted price, by mailing this form with a check.

Unusually Shaped Masonic Emblem Cards

Among the Masonic emblem cards currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, those of H.G. Belcke (1841-1892) and H.P. Monroe (1850-1937) stand out because of their unusual shapes.

Belcke, H GHenry G. Belcke's cross-shaped card was created specifically for the 1880 Triennial Conclave, held in Chicago. Belcke was a member of Peoria Commandery No. 3 and the words "Chicago Pilgrimage" on his card refer to the trip that his Commandery made from their hometown of Peoria to the Conclave's location in Chicago. The use of the word "pilgrimage" is intentional and alludes to Christian religious pilgrimages, although Commanderies traveling to Triennial Conclaves were not taking a religious trip, but rather a fraternal and social one. The shape of Belcke's card also clearly underscores the Christian character of Masonic Knights Templar. While mainstream American Freemasonry requires members only to profess that they believe in a Supreme Being, with no further definition or religious affiliation, Knights Templar candidates must "profess a belief in the Christian Religion.

Monroe, G PHazzard Purdy Monroe was a pharmacist as well as a member of Dunkirk Commandery No. 40, from Dunkirk, NY. His triangular-shaped card features a skull and crossbones at the top. The card echoes the familiar Masonic Knights Templar apron which, although no longer worn, would have been emblematic of Knights Templar in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The skull and crossbones symbol, found in Knights Templarism and in many other contexts is often known by the Latin phrase "memento mori," or "remember death." In its traditional use, the skull and cross bones is a reminder of mortality and that life on earth is finite.

"Masonic Emblem Cards: Victorian Tradition in a Fraternal World" is currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

New Acquisition Sheds Light on a Mason and His Role in the Growth of Freemasonry in Pre-Civil War America

Recently, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library acquired a collection of documents related to the growth of Freemasonry in the state of Alabama, many addressed to the Grand Secretary for the State of Alabama, Amand P. Pfister.

Pfister, 32°, received the Scottish Rite degrees by a Deputy of the Southern Grand Consistory and served as the Grand Secretary for the Grand Chapter, the Grand Council, and the Grand Lodge of Alabama. Born in 1802 in the Bahamas, Pfister’s family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he was 12 years old, and he was educated at the now defunct Mount Airy College in Germantown, a neighborhood of Philadelphia.  At age 16, Pfister moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he was made a Mason. For many years, he partnered with Joel White, under the name White, Pfister and Company as retail book sellers.

In addition to his many contributions to the growth of Freemasonry, Pfister was active in the fields of education and music. In 1829, he served as instructor of Music and French at the Sims Female Academy, one of the state’s first schools for women. In 1839, Pfister, the “unofficial composer laureate” for the state of Alabama, wrote the “University March” for the University of Alabama, which was played at various University ceremonies for the "next hundred years.”
    Back cover

Amand P. Pfister died on January 28, 1857, and was buried at the Church Street Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama. An elegant monument was erected over his grave by the Grand Lodge of Alabama in acknowledgement of his “unyielding devotion to the best interests of the fraternity.” 

 Scan_2015-03-12_17-38-49A. B. Dawson to Amand P. Pfister, 26 October 1840

Wetumpka, 26th Oct. 1840

Know ye, that I Armistead B. Dawson Dept. [Deputy] Grand High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Alabama, Do hear authorize and delegate in my name, our worthy companion + [and] Brother Armand Pfister the Grand Secty [Secretary] to visit the city of Columbus in the state of Mississippi and organize the chapter in that city under the virtue of [authority] given them under charter under my hand + [and] Seal as O[ffice]. E. H[igh]. P[riest]. of the State of Alabama In [witness?] I here [indiscernible] set my hand The day above written.

A[rmistead]. B. Dawson, D[eputy]. G[rand]. H[igh]. P[riest]. T[uscaloosa?]. Alabama

 Your two letters were [duly?] recd [received] and owing to [sickness?] of which I have had [indiscernible] they were not answered. I shall be in Columbus myself in some 15 days and would be pleased to get there in time to aid and assist you. Start them to work. when I come “I can see how you have done it.” Give them instruction as to arranging room furniture +c [and charter?] + [and] see that they have it all prepared.

A[rmistead]. B. Dawson

Family yet sick



Blandin, I. M. E. (1909). History of Higher Education of Women in the South: Prior to 1860. New York: Neale Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=C6AWAAAAIAAJ 13 March 2015.

Herndon, E., Wood, S. A. M., & Wiley, J. M. (1859). Report from Committee on the Pfister Monument. In Proceedings of the Annual Communications of the Grand Lodge of Alabama Held in The City of Montgomery, Commencing December 6, 1858, (pp. 172-173). Montgomery, Alabama: Barret & Wimbish.

Hughan, W. J. & Stillson, H. L. (1892). History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, and Concordant Orders. Boston: Fraternity Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=a51r-n4e0fwC 13 March 2015.

Mitchell, J. W. S. (1859). History of Free Masonry and Masonic Digest. (Vol. 1). Marietta, Georgia: J. W. S. Mitchell. https://books.google.com/books?id=195AAAAAcAAJ 13 March 2015.

Owen, T. M. (1921). Pfister, Armand P. In History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. (Vol. 4, pp. 1355). Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing.
https://books.google.com/books?id=R2Z5AAAAMAAJ 13 March 2015.

Richardson, W. C. (1888). XIII. Tuscaloosa. In Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical Illustrated, (pp. 513). Birmingham, Alabama: Smith & De Land. https://books.google.com/books?id=5e8xAQAAMAAJ&source=gbs_navlinks_s 13 March 2015.

Wiley, J. M. (1858). Annual Address of the Most Worshipful Grand Master. In Proceedings of the Annual Communications of the Grand Lodge of Alabama Held in The City of Montgomery, Commencing December 7th, 1857, (pp. 9-23). Montgomery, Alabama: Barret & Wimbish.


Cover and Letter from A. B. Dawson to Amand P. Pfister, October 26, 1840. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 001.440.

Masonic Books and Jewels. Advertisement. Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Alabama, at its Annual Convocation, in Montgomery, December 4, 1849, back cover. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 17.974 .A316.