« April 2015 | Main | June 2015 »

May 2015

Connecting to our Collection: Museum & Library launches new Flickr page

FlickrAs the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library continues to digitize its collection we are constantly searching for new and exciting ways to share our online resources with our members and the general public. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to access our objects and photographs and the stories they tell. So we are excited to announce the launch of our new Flickr museum page on May 26th.

The page will feature a curated selection of artifacts and photographs that reflect the variety and scope of our collection. We encourage folks to comment, like, and share the objects and photographs on our page.  Although you can browse through our page without joining Flickr, you can only comment, like, or share our images if you have a free Flickr account.On the Flickr page you can scroll through our objects via our “photostream” or look at items we have categorized within different “albums.” For example, you can find an image of the 1870 print Washington as a Freemason in the “George Washington: Master Mason” Album. Information about the different albums and the museum can be found under album titles and our profile page. Each object includes some basic provenance information and a link back to our online collections database. In our database you can search for a specific item or accession number you are interested in.  We will add more content to the site in the coming months and are happy to have yet another way for you to browse and research our collection online.

This museum Flickr page is just the first phase of a much larger digital access project. We intend to utilize other digital tools in order to better engage our audiences with our objects as well as develop new online exhibitions, tours, programs, and digital mapping and storytelling projects to enhance the general understanding of American Freemasonry and fraternalism. We also aim to create content specifically for members of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, many of whom may not have the opportunity to see our museum and collection in person.

You can find our Flickr museum page at https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalsrmml. Also look for a link to our Flickr page on our website Homepage and Collections page.

If you have any questions about how the site works or questions about a particular item please send an inquiry to ylaxton[@]srmml.org.



We are a Blue Star Museum!

2015 We Are Blue Star Museum

This summer, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is one of more than 2,000 museums across America to welcome military personnel and their families in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense, as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

The program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and identifies museums that offer free admission to active-duty military and their family members.  The Museum & Library is included on the Blue Star Museums website – www.arts.gov/bluestarmuseums.  “Blue Star Museums helps military families learn about the cultural resources in their communities, and offers a fun, high-quality experience that is budget friendly,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu.  Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet added: “Blue Star Museums has grown into a nationally recognized program that service members and their families look forward to each year.”  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is proud to participate in this program and to support our military families.


Masonic Revelries and the Roaring Twenties

A recent acquisition to the Scottish Rite Masonic Library & Museum reminds us of the Fraternity’s adoption of Orientalism, its passion for revelry, and captures the lively spirit of the 1920s.


After the opening of trade with Japan in the late 19th century, America’s consumer desire for all things “Oriental” grew exponentially, and of all the groups associated with American Freemasonry, the Shriners, noted for their use of the red fez, embraced the symbols and spirit of Orientalism to the fullest. This broadside addressed to New York State Assemblyman Alexander G. Hall, a member of both the Mecca Temple Shrine and the York Commandery, No. 55, invited Hall and his wife to the Colorful Oriental Durbar sponsored by the Mecca Temple Band of New York. The Durbar or reception was held at the 71st Regiment Armory on 34th Street and Park Avenue and highlighted by the music of the Mecca Temple Band, conducted by Arthur H. Hoffman.



Colorful Oriental Durbar Broadside and Envelope, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum Purchase, MA 430.

The Mecca Temple Band of New York City, undated. The Masonic Postcard Collection. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum Purchase, MM 025.

New to the Collection: Master Mason Apron

Master Mason Apron, 1800-1820, unidentified maker, United States, Museum purchase, 2014.115.3. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library was very excited to purchase this apron at auction last fall.  It has a rather jaunty painted decoration on silk.  The central image includes a mosaic pavement with two columns supporting a distinctive pedimented archway, hung with pink drapery.  At each side is a taller column, one with an allegorical figure of Faith, the other with Charity.  In the center, in the midst of a blue sky, sits a figure of Hope with an anchor.  Scattered along the sides are several Masonic symbols, often included on Master Mason aprons.  Unfortunately, we do not know who made or owned this apron.

But, it does bear a striking similarity in style and design to an apron now in the collection of the Detroit Historical Society.  That apron shows the same blue and white mosaic pavement and a very similar pedimented archway with drapery, although in blue rather than gold.  It also has the allegorical figures of Faith, Hope and Charity.  According to family history, this apron was owned by Oliver Williams (1774-1834), who became a Freemason in Corinthian Lodge in Concord, Massachusetts, in 1813, but moved his family to Detroit a few years later.

Family history for that apron attributes it to a William Marshall.  And there was a William Marshall in Boston who joined the city’s Lodge of St. Andrew in 1797.  However, he is listed as a merchant on his membership card at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.  Advertisements in the Boston newspapers from 1808 to 1815 note that Marshall specialized in wallpapers:  he “has on hand, a good assortment of new figured Paper Hangings and Borders, some of which are his own making,” as well as beds, bed ticking, mattresses and upholstered furniture.  Given this evidence, this apron may have been purchased from Marshall’s store – or there was another William Marshall who worked actively as an artist. 

Master Mason Apron, 1800-1820, unidentified maker, United States, gift of Robert U. Brown, 85.76.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

The pedimented archway that is so prominent on this apron calls to mind the elaborate doorway pediments that were popular in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts during the mid-1700s.  Perhaps the artist of this apron was from that area, or had visited and was influenced by the doorways.  The bright color scheme was popular during the early 1800s.  Here are examples of two other aprons from our collection that employ similar colors and symbols.  The history of ownership and manufacture has been lost for each, but taken together with the one we just purchased, we can see that Freemasons of the early 1800s enjoyed bright colors and a similar rendering of central Masonic symbols.

Master Mason Apron, ca. 1836, unidentified maker, United States, Museum purchase, 98.063.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

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.



How to Catch Masonic Impostors Using Index Cards

MSA BulletinThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's blog turns seven years old this month! As in years past, we celebrate the anniversary of our blog by revisiting the topic of our very first post: Masonic impostors.

Pictured above is the back page of the November 1933 (No. 552) Bulletin of the Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada, which explains how the Masonic Service Association distributed index cards of people known to impose upon Masonic relief boards for charity under false pretenses so that local boards of relief could compile an index of known "crooks and impostors."

Be sure to read all of our previous posts on Masonic impostors for more information about why someone would impersonate a Mason and how the Masonic Service Association and local Masonic relief boards attempted to detect those trying to defraud them.