Our next exhibition will explore an aspect of material culture that is wonderfully represented in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s collection—Masonic aprons. A Mason’s apron is one of the most recognizable symbols of Freemasonry. Aprons are personal—Freemasons often own and wear them for their entire Masonic career. Aprons also provide a tangible connection between a member and his experience as a Mason. Many Masonic aprons were bespoke works of art, constructed and ornamented by expert craftsmen and women at the specific request of a client. “The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection,” based on research from the Museum’s recent publication, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, opens on March 19, 2016.
Drawing on a variety of sources—other aprons, book illustrations, engraved certificates and their own imaginations—for inspiration, over the years apron makers have created a wonderful diversity of Masonic aprons. They crafted these aprons from myriad materials including leather, linen, silk and cotton and decorated them with paint, ink, embroidery, bullion, beads and sequins. The Museum is well-suited to undertake an exhibition exploring Masonic aprons; we collect actively in this area and hold over 400 examples.The apron pictured to the left is an unusual example. The Masonic symbols on its surface were cut out of sheet metal, such as silver and brass, and then attached to the leather. Made in 1896, it belonged to Erwin J. Roberts (b. 1869) of North Adams, Massachusetts, and will be one of the aprons on view in the exhibition.
“The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection” will feature more than 50 Masonic aprons dating from the 1700s through the 1900s as well as related artifacts from the Museum’s rich collection, such as tracing boards, books, regalia catalogs, prints and photographs. Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to learn more about the history, symbolism and workmanship behind Masonic aprons as well as the intriguing stories of the people who made and wore them. We hope you will enjoy the show!
If you would like a preview of some of the aprons featured in the exhibition, you can order your own copy of The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, by Aimee E. Newell, published by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. It is available now for $39.95 plus shipping and tax (if applicable) at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.