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July 2015

New to the Collection: James Higgins’ Mark Medal

SRMML 2008_010 Brayman mark side
Mark Medal made for Henry Brayman, ca. 1818-ca. 1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2008.010. Photograph by David Bohl.

A year ago the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library was lucky enough to receive a gift of a collection of chapter pennies and badges, mostly dating from the early 1900s. Mixed in with the comparatively modern tokens was an engraved silver mark medal that belonged to James Higgins, made in the 1810s or 1820s (below, at left).

As regular blog readers know, these individually commissioned badges can be fascinating.This one sparked our interest because of its intriguing shape and similarity to another in the collection: a gilded and engraved crafted for Henry Brayman, a member of David’s Royal Arch Chapter (at left). 

Both of these medals were cut in an interesting lobed form.  One side is engraved with the owner’s name and chapter, the other bears the Royal Arch motto “Holiness to the Lord,” a mitre and eight circles (both below).  Within each circle the engraver illustrated selections of Masonic symbols or scenes that relate to the Mark Master degree. For example, the circle on the upper right contains images of a keystone, chisel and mallet—all symbols of the Mark Master degree.The circle at the lower left encloses three candles, an open Bible, a square and compasses—the lesser and greater lights of the lodge. Comparison of the symbols and scenes engraved within the circles points to a common inspiration for these vignettes, although we don’t yet know what it is. Each medal

SRMML 2008_010 Brayman
Mark Medal made for Henry Brayman, ca. 1818-ca. 1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2008.010. Photograph by David Bohl.

also features an integrated hanging loop, as well as similarly styled script letters in the mnemonic “HTWSSTKS” separated by simple flowers, and a trailing vine embellishing the top edge of the medal by the loop. Together, the similarities between the two medals suggest they may be the work of the same engraver.

Mark Medal made for James Higgins, 1816-1827, New York. Gift of Kevin Farrell, 2014.073.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

The man who owned the gilded medal, Henry Brayman, belonged to David’s Chapter No. 34 and St. Paul’s Lodge in Auburn, New York. He may have been the Henry Brayman (1791-1853) who lived in Aurelius and later Buffalo, New York. James Higgins owned the silver medal. He is likely the James Higgins (1766-1827) who was born in Connecticut but later lived in Hamilton, New York, where he worked as a cabinetmaker, hotel keeper and tanner. He was  a member of Hamilton Lodge, No. 121, as well as Cyrus Royal Arch Chapter No. 50 of Eaton, New York. Brayman selected a personal mark of a square and awl and had these the symbols engraved on his medal along with his name. James Higgins never had his mark incised on his badge, for reasons we can only speculate about. Hopefully ongoing research will uncover more about these expertly crafted and interestingly decorated medals. If you have any insights to share, please let us know in a comment.  

Many thanks to Tom Savini, Director, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, Grand Lodge of New York.







A Baseball-Playing Mason in 1887

Harry Wellington Davis markI was recently looking at a volume of Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter's Book of Marks, which is in our Library & Archives collection. The book contains the "marks" of 175 members of Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter, between January 21, 1867 and October 6, 1897. I was particularly intrigued by Harry Wellington Davis's mark, pictured here, which suggests that when Davis joined the Chapter in 1887, he had a strong interest or connection to baseball.

The Mark Master degree is conferred in Royal Arch Chapters. As part of the degree, each candidate selects a unique, personal “mark,” an allusion to the marks that working stonemasons left on medieval stone work. Marks selected for the Mark Master degree often represent or incorporate a Mason’s name or occupation, or feature Masonic symbols. Sometimes they reveal an interest, hobby, or other avocational passion.

Curious about Davis's baseball emblem "mark," I dug a little deeper to see what I could find.

Harry Wellington Davis (1863-1943) was a salesman who was born and lived in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1886 he petitioned Simon W. Robinson Lodge, the local Masonic lodge, and was raised a Master Mason on February 7, 1887. In 1887, Lexington did not have its own Royal Arch Chapter, so Lexington Masons would have to have joined Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter in Arlington, the next town over. Menotomy Chapter was named after the old name for the town it was founded in - Menotomy, later known as West Cambridge, renamed itself Arlington in 1867, as a memorial to the Civil War dead buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Davis was one of only six members who joined the Chapter in 1887.

But what about those baseball emblems? A quick internet search turned up an 1887 photograph of the Lexington Baseball Team. The photograph - which is part of the Worthen Collection at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts - reveals that Harry W. Davis was, in fact, a member of the team in 1887. He is pictured in the middle row, far right, in the 1887 photo.

Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter was chartered on June 12, 1866. In 1993, Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter effectively came to an end when it merged with Belmont Royal Arch Chapter and the chapter in Belmont became the surviving chapter.

When Davis died in 1943, he had been a Mason for fifty-six years. He was posthumously awarded the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts' Veterans Medal.


Mark of Harry Wellington Davis, from Book of Marks for Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter, 1867-1897. Gift of Mystic-Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, Woburn, Massachusetts.

Masonic Tintypes

A tintype is a type of photograph that is produced by printing a direct positive of an image onto a thin sheet of metal (tin) coated with a dark enamel or lacquer. This photographic process was first described in a publication by photographer Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857) in 1851 and is often referred to as the wet collodion process.Tintypes were widely enjoyed from the early 1860s to the late 1890s and were inexpensive and relatively quick and easy to make compared to their predecessor, the daguerreotype. Although tintypes were extremely popular throughout the American Civil War (1861-1865), they were soon surpassed in popularity by albumen carte-de-visites and cabinet cards.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns a fantastic collection of tintypes, daguerreotypes and ambrotypes featuring Freemasons, fraternal members and their families. Below are two unique tintype objects in our collection.

Miniature “Gem” Album

2masonic tintype
Sprague Family Miniature "Gem" Album, 1875-1900, Unidentified Maker, Massachusetts, Gift of Britta Fleming, 2009.039.1, Photograph by David Bohl.

This miniature photo album, referred to as a “gem” album because of the small size of the images, measures just about 3 inches wide by 2 inches long. The photographs themselves are a tiny 3/4 by 1 inch and were created using a unique twelve-lensed camera that could make a dozen “gem” portraits with one exposure.  Gem portraits were commonly stored in special albums with provision for a single portrait per page. Slightly larger versions also existed. Some gems were cut to fit lockets, cufflinks, tiepins, rings and even garter clasps.

This album is part of a larger donation given to the museum by Britta Fleming, the niece of Harold Sprague (1887-1980), the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1952, whose Sprague family lineage is intricately tied to Massachusetts and United States history. You can read more about the Sprague family and the collection here.  

Set of 64 Masonic Portraits

Set of 64 Masonic Portraits, 1860-1900, Unidentified Maker, New Hampshire, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2001.063, Photograph by David Bohl.

This collection of tintypes and ambrotypes is a unique example of wet plate process photography. Each of the photographs includes its' own individual frame within the larger frame, which measures a striking 21 ¾ by 38 ¼ inches. The name and age of each of the men is written on the reverse of each photograph and many of the men’s faces have been tinted pink as was commonly found in photographs of this era. At the center of the collection of images is a photograph of a bible with the Masonic square and compasses.

The museum purchased this object in 2001 and it is believed to have originated from a New Hampshire lodge and to have been made some time in the 1860s. The museum cannot verify the information and is currently researching the legible names and ages to find out where exactly the portraits were made.


The Daguerrian Society, Frequently Asked Daguerreotype Questions, The Daguerrian Society website, http://www.daguerre.org/, 2015.

The J. Paul Getty Museum, Photography: The Wet Collodion Process, The J. Paul Getty Museum website, http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/video/134942/photography:-the-wet-collodion-process/ 2015.

Howarth-Loomes, B.E.C., Victorian Photography, An Introduction for Collectors and Connoisseurs, St. Martin's Press, New York, NY, 1974.