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August 2016

Ask A Curator Day! September 14th

#AskACurator Day with the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

Ever wonder what FrCo7VYHuWYAAV4I9.jpg largeeemasonry is all about, or what a curator does? What the difference is between an Odd Fellow, Elk, or Moose? Whether or not a symbol is Masonic? What your family’s connection to Freemasonry may be?  Which U.S. Presidents were Masons? Or, what the oldest object in our collection is? Now is your chance to get answers to your questions!*

Join us on twitter, September 14, 2016, for the international museum event, #AskACurator day. Hundreds of museums from around the world have participated in this live tweeting event since 2010. The event is coordinated by Mar Dixon, a social media and audience development consultant. For more information about which museums are participating and about the history of the event visit: http://www.mardixon.com/.

Our passionate and knowledgeable staff will be on hand from 9:00am to 3:00pm to answer your questions. Tweet your questions to @masonmuseum using the hashtag #AskaCurator on September 14th. Want to get your questions in early? You can! Tweet your questions using the instructions above or email them to ylaxton@srmml.org.

Please see below for Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library staff participating in the event:

Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D, Director of Collections Newell-Aimee

Aimee oversees the management of the museum’s collections department and the use of the object collection, which numbers more than 17,000 items, as well as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection of more than 10,000 artifacts, which is on long-term loan. In a given week, Aimee may spend her time answering inquiries about objects, bidding on a new item for the collection at auction, writing an article for a Masonic magazine or journal, giving a tour on site or a talk off site. She is active in the Masonic Museum & Library Association (MLMA) and will serve as its president from 2015-2017. She is also the author of the Museum’s recent book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library (2015).



Croteau-Jeff1Jeff Croteau, Director of Library and Archives

Jeff Croteau is the Museum’s librarian. As the Director of the Library & Archives he is responsible for all aspects of the library’s functions, which include acquiring books and periodicals, cataloging books, and providing reference services. He also frequently writes about the library’s collection for the Museum’s blog and The Northern Light, the quarterly magazine of Scottish Rite Masonry in America. He earned his Master of Library Science (M.L.S.) degree from Queens College in New York and Master of Arts (M.A.) in English from the University of New Hampshire.




Anderson-Stelling-Hilary1Hilary Anderson Stelling, Director of Exhibitions and Audience Development

Hilary oversees exhibitions and public programs. At the museum, she has curated exhibitions on topics ranging from Masonic decorative arts and neon signs to colonial history and contemporary photography. Hilary is a regular contributor to the Museum’s Blog and contributed to Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection (2013). If you have questions about exhibitions or programs, scheduling a special program or lecture for an event, planning a tour for your group or becoming a member of the Museum, please get in touch!




Coelho-John1Jeff Coelho, Archivist

John Coelho is the Museum’s archivist. He is responsible for all aspects of the archives’ functions, which include acquiring archival items and collections, cataloging collections, and providing reference services related to the archives. He has a Master of Science in Library & Information Science (M.S.) from Simmons College in Boston and a Master of Arts (M.A.) in History from Providence College in Providence, RI.




*We cannot offer any antique or item appraisals












New to the Collection: Phillip Langdon's Medal

Masonic Medal Made for Phillip Langdon, early 1800s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.2. Photograph by David Bohl.
Masonic Medal Made for Phillip Langdon, early 1800s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

As regular blog readers know, here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library we are fascinated by engraved medals created for Freemasons in the early 1800s. Some of these are mark medals that feature representative emblems chosen by their owners as part of the mark degree.  Others are medals that indicate affiliation with a particular lodge, sometimes called craft medals.

Recently the Museum purchased a craft medal produced for a Mason named Phillip Langdon (pictured, near left).  He is thought to have been associated with Columbia Lodge No. 91 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This medal closely resembles a medal purchased by the Museum thirty five years ago (pictured below, at right).  That medal is also engraved with the name of its owner, Benjamin Cannon. Neither man’s name appears on the list of members published in a history of Columbia Lodge, nor are they noted in the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's membership records, but their medals share iconography with a certificate printed for Columbia Lodge No. 91 in the early 1800s.

Both of these medals are teardrop (or plumb) shaped with feathered wings engraved on the widest part of the outside edges.  The maker incorporated a hanger in the shape of a half circle into the top of the medal.  Just under it, the engraver incised “No. 91.”  The medal owners’ names were written on a flowing banner clasped in an eagle’s beak on one side of the medal.  A history of Columbia Lodge No. 91 discusses how, in 1803, members decided to “procure a draft or design for a certificate plate” two years after their founding.  The engraver did not sign the plate.  Because engraver David Edwin (1776-1841) later became a member of the lodge, scholars have suggested he designed this plate.  The certificate made from it, like the medal, features an eagle with a sinuous banner bearing the lodge's name in its beak. Members also used a version of this eagle on an engraved apron pictured in the lodge history.  

The other side of both medals features the same group of Masonic symbols, most of them related to the first three degrees of Freemasonry (pictured at far left).  At the center, the engraver depicted an altar with an open Bible with a square and compasses on top of it, which represents the "Great Lights" of the lodge.  The Bible is flanked by two candles, another is above the Bible.  The candles are the emblems of the "Lesser Lights" of the lodge. An arch with a keystone decorated with the motto “Holiness to the Lord” surrounds these symbols. This emblem and motto typically relate to the Royal Arch degree. Although its history is sketchy, there seems to have been a mark lodge at Columbia Lodge in the early 1800s and the Royal Arch degree may have also been offered at the lodge around the same time.  As one scholar has noted, when the Ancients and the Moderns were at odds in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s, craft medals made for members of lodges that followed the Ancients often incorporated symbols associated with the Royal Arch degree. As seen on the certificate, which is addressed "To all Ancient York Masons," Columbia Lodge identified as an Ancient lodge. The Grand Chapter of Pennsylvania recognized Columbia Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 91 in 1822. 

Because of the iconography they share with the early 1800s certificate and the apron produced for Columbia Lodge, these medals were likely owned by members of the lodge.  However, many questions remain.  Hopefully further research will shed light on the men who commissioned them and what event prompted them to have the medals made.  If you have any observations to share, please leave them in the comments section. 

Masonic Medal Made for Benjamin Cannon, early 1800s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisition Fund, 80.10. Photograph by David Bohl.




John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons (Lexington, Massachusetts: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994), 140, 142, 185, 187.

Thomas E. Reilly, Centenary of Columbia Lodge, No. 91, AY. Y. M. (Philadelphia: 1901), 22-25, illustration between 40 and 41.

Abstract of the Proceedings of the Most Excellent Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Co-operative Printing Co., 1870), 92.  


With many thanks to Glenys A. Waldman, the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

New to the Collection: Scandinavian Fraternity of America Sign

2015_066DP1DBBy 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States, numbering six million members.  Part of this surge in fraternal organizations during the late 1800s came from the formation of numerous ethnic fraternities.  As immigration to the United States increased, foreigners in this new world sought out their countrymen and joined fraternal groups for social reasons, as well as to partake of the benefits that these groups offered, from help with securing employment to financial assistance for themselves and their families.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects objects associated with ethnic fraternal groups.  Recently we purchased this colorful sign at auction.

The sign was originally used by Mayflower Lodge No. 200 of the Scandinavian Fraternity of America.  This is the museum's first acquisition associated with this group.  The sign probably hung where the lodge met.  At the center it shows the fraternity's logo with pyramids or mountains and a golden sun.  Along the sides of the central triangle it reads "Svea / Nora / Dana," presumably representing the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

The Scandinavian Fraternity of America was founded in 1915, probably in Chicago.  One source suggests that it was a consolidation of three other organizations, including the Scandinavian Brotherhood of America and possibly the Scandinavian American Fraternity (although another source explicitly says that this one is unrelated).  It was open to both women and men.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to determine exactly where Mayflower Lodge No. 200 met, although it seems likely that it was a New England or even Massachusetts lodge.  The choice of such a quintessentially American name for the lodge seems at odds with a Scandinavian fraternity, but suggests a desire by the members to embrace their new country.  If you have any information about Mayflower Lodge No. 200, or other objects, documents or photos associated with the Scandinavian Fraternity of America, please let us know in a comment below!

Scandinavian Fraternity of America Mayflower Lodge No. 200 Sign, 1915-1945, Fred Hagberg, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.066.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Alan Axelrod, The International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders (New York: Facts on File 1997), 221.

Arthur Preuss, comp., A Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1924), 423.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania website: http://www2.hsp.org/collections/Balch%20manuscript_guide/html/sfa.html.


United States in Stereo: The Birth of American Tourism

Sara Rose is a Curatorial Intern in our collections department and a first year graduate student in the Library and Information Science program (Archives Management Concentration) at Simmons College. Throughout the summer she has assisted us in our ongoing digitization efforts and online collection social media projects. She shares some insight below about some of the objects she's been working with during her internship. 


Summer. A time of warm weather, long days, and of course, vacations. Whether it’s a day trip a few towns over or a weeks-long vacation across the country, Americans have had a long love affair with summer tourism. In the late 1800s there was a dramatic rise in recreational tourism throughout the United States. The newly completed trans-American railroad made interstate travel accessible to the masses, many of whom were increasingly located in urban regions after industrialization. As urban Americans flocked to the seashores and wilderness for leisure, tourism became a profitable enterprise.

National Parks, seaside resorts, and other tourist attractions promoted vacation travel within the United States. Photography played a key role in the development of national tourist attractions, making it possible to mass distribute images showing various places of interests and inspiring wanderlust for the American countryside. Below are just a few examples of this kind of tourism promotion from the over 300 sterocards in the  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.

2010_055_277DS1This stereocard, titled “Grandeur of the Waters,” showcases the famed waterfalls of Niagara, New York. Visible on the left side of the photograph is a group of tourists taking in the view.





Another stereocard, titled “In Surf, Sand, and Sun,” depicts throngs of beachgoers on the shores of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Atlantic City, one of the earliest resort cities in the United States, has remained a popular destination for summer tourists to this day.


2010_055_175DS1This final stereocard shows a street lined with cottages on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. Signs can be seen offering summer rentals to the crowds of tourists who flocked to the Vineyard for vacation, as well as laborers looking for seasonal work.


To learn more about stereocards in our collection visit our previous blog posts here.


Grandeur of the Waters, Niagara Falls, N.Y., 1905, H.C. White Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection, Gift of Thomas Garrett. 2010.055.277

 In Surf, Sand and Sun, Atlantic City, N.J., 1905, H.C. White Co., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection, Gift of Thomas Garrett. 2010.055.163

Fourth Avenue Campground, Martha’s Vineyard, 1873. Unidentified, USA. Fredric Woodbridge Wilson Collection, Gift of Thomas Garrett. 2010.055.175