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.