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September 2016

Daniel Rathbone’s Certificate and Mark Medal

Certificate Daniel Rathbone
Master Mason Certificate for Daniel Rathbone, 1796. Engraved by Isaac Hutton, Albany, New York. Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, A78/038/1.

Around 1790 Daniel Rathbone (1759-1808) moved about 70 miles from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to Saratoga County, New York.  Recently married to Anna Reddington (1764-1855), he relocated to the area to start a saw mill and a family in an area called Rock City, a community that later became part of Milton, New York.  A county history published in the late 1800s claimed Rathbone was Rock City’s first settler.  Over the next ten years he and his wife had eleven children. As part of establishing his life in a new town, Rathbone joined the first Masonic lodge in the area—Franklin Lodge No. 37 in nearby Ballston, New York.  His Master Mason certificate (pictured at left), issued in 1796, survives.  Engraved by Albany, New York, craftsman Isaac Hutton (1766-1855), it features images of Masonic symbols and a promise, attested by the officers of the lodge, that they “recommend him [Rathbone] as a worthy member.”

Area Freemasons solicited Franklin Lodge No. 37’s warrant from the Grand Lodge of New York in 1794.  A few years later, in 1803, Freemasons in Ballston requested and received a warrant from the Grand Chapter of New York for a Mark Master’s Lodge.  Franklin Mark Lodge No. 21 may have met in the same place as Franklin Lodge No. 37.  Daniel Rathbone was likely a member of this group.  A silver mark medal engraved with his name (pictured at right, below) and mark (pictured at left, below) forms part of the collection here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  As part of taking the mark degree, a Freemason chose an emblem to represent himself; often a symbol related to his profession or a representation of a value he held dear.  For his mark, Rathbone selected a bird surrounded by a snake eating its own tail (a traditional symbol of infinity or ouroboros).  What the symbols engraved on the mark medal meant to Rathbone is not obvious.  On the other side of the medal the engraver inscribed “Daniel Rothbon” (a variation on the spelling of Daniel’s last name) and “Mk Ms Lodge Ballston” (an abbreviation for Mark Master’s Lodge). 

According to a family history, Daniel Rathbone’s father, also named Daniel (1731-1823), moved from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to Milton, 

Mark Medal, 1803-1808. New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 78.45.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

New York, around 1804, near three of his sons.  Given the fact that both men lived near Ballston around the time residents founded the Mark Master’s Lodge No. 21, it is possible that the medal belonged to Daniel’s father. Daniel Rathbone Jr.’s certificate proves his interest and involvement in Freemasonry during the time that local brethren established the Ballston mark lodge.  It seems most likely that the medal was his property.  If the medal belonged to the younger Daniel Rathbone, he did not own it for long.  He died unexpectedly.  As noted on his gravestone, his “death was occasioned by an accident at his saw mill on the 13th day of December 1808 aged 49 years 9 months and 11 days."


Mark Medal, 1803-1808. New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 78.45.1. Photograph by David Bohl.



John C. Cooley, Rathbone Genealogy (Syracuse, N.Y.:  Press of the Courier Job Print, 1989), 483-485.

Dave Bixby, compiler, “Town of Milton Cemeteries, Rock City Falls Cemetery” (http://www.saratoganygenweb.com).

John Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 1994), 144-145.

Gary L. Heinmiller, compiler, Craft Masonry in Saratoga and Warren Counties, New York, (Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies, 2010-2011), 2, 13.

Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, History of Saratoga County, New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1878), 485.

Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, (Buffalo, New York: The Grand Chapter, 1871) 1:29.


Lecture: “Paul Revere: The Original Social Networker”

JeannineParis photoSaturday, October 1, 2016

2 PM


Lecture by Jeannine Falino, Curator and Museum Consultant, New York

Social networking is considered a thoroughly modern idea, but in this lecture by noted scholar Jeannine Falino, we will learn how Paul Revere pioneered the idea in the second half of the eighteenth century.  Revere is well known for his work as a silversmith, but he also expanded his business into other forms of metal working.  Revere’s mill produced the first rolled copper made in America, and his brass casting business crafted bells and cannons in the early eighteen hundreds. 

Despite his success in his trade, Revere longed to achieve a spot among the rich merchant class of Boston.  To this end, Revere joined numerous clubs and organizations, including Freemasonry.  He was able to use his many contacts within these clubs to generate business contracts.  Through this “social networking” he was able to secure his financial income but he was never accepted as a member of the Boston merchant class.      

In her lecture at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Falino will examine how Revere used his family connections and these social contacts, including Masonic associates, to create the most successful business model of all the Boston silversmiths in his generation.  

This lecture is made possible by the generous sponsorship of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation and is the final of four talks in the 2016 lecture series, “Enterprise and Craft in the Young Nation.”

The Unusual Cabinet Card

88_42_65DS1Cabinet cards, introduced in the 1860s, were similar to carte-de-visites (small paper photograph prints mounted on card stock). They served as a popular alternative to cased photographs like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Cabinet card photos measured approximately four inches by six inches and were mounted onto card stock. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns hundreds of cabinet cards featuring portraits of Masonic and fraternal members. Portraits were the most common type of photograph featured on cabinet cards, which is why it is always interesting to find a non-portraiture card like these two staff favorites in the collection.

The photograph on the left, purchased by the Museum & Library in 1988, depicts a caricature of a Masonic Shriner wearing a fez and riding a camel. The image is a combination of an illustration and a photograph. The Shriner’s head is a photograph atop an illustrated figure and camel. We found little information about the photography studio “F.S. Fowler” in Herkimer, New York, but were able to identify a Shriner (Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine) group in upstate New York near Herkimer. Mason Frazier W. Hurlbut helped to establish the Ziyara Shriners in Utica, New York, in 1877.  The group covered nearly 50,000 square miles of territory from Rochester to Albany and boasted a large membership through the 1970s. For more information about the Shriners visit these past blog pos88_42_101DS1ts

The photograph at right, also purchased by the Museum & Library in 1988, shows a posed scene with  props. At the lower right hand corner of the photograph it reads “photographed from life.”  In the photograph a man dressed up as Father Time, holds the hair of a young woman kneeling at a broken column. The scene includes many Masonic props and symbols: the hourglass, square and compasses, the broken column itself, a sprig of acacia, and the all-seeing eye. The photograph may also be described as a depiction of "Time and the Virgin." This same depiction is in The True Masonic Chart and Hieroglyphic Monitor by Masonic author and lecturer Jeremy L. Cross (1783-1860). Some sources credit Cross with creating the "Time and the Virgin" symbol.

Edward C. Dana’s (1852-1897) photography studio created the card in Brooklyn, New York, in 1896. Dana, a native of Massachusetts, received training from Boston photographer James W. Turner before opening his own studio in 1875. We have found no evidence that Dana himself was a Mason but have questions about how or why the photograph was commissioned,  or if the photograph was part of a collection of “theatrical” portraits produced by the Dana Studio. To see these cabinet cards and others in our collection visit our Flickr page!

Have you seen cabinet cards similar to these? Let us know in the comments section below. 


Masonic Shriner on Camel, 1870-1920, F.S. Fowler, Herkimer, New York, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.65.

Masonic Broken Column or Time and the Virgin Symbol, ca.1896, Edward C. Dana, Brooklyn, New York, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.101.










Library & Archives launches Digital Collections website

VGWDigitalCollectionsLogoThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has recently launched the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website, which makes available some of the riches of the Library & Archives collection. The Digital Collections website gives users access to high resolution images of each document and robust cataloging insures that users searching for materials will find them.

Master Mason certificate for Henry A. Mitchell, 1854. A2000/078/006. Museum purchase. View at the Library & Archives Digital Collections website.

The site currently includes 500 documents from the Library & Archives collection and continues to grow. Among the items that have been digitized so far are a large variety of Masonic certificates, a number of founding documents of the Scottish Rite, a selection of early 20th-century postcard views of Scottish Rite buildings throughout the United States, and the G. Edward Elwell, Jr. Autograph Collection of documents signed by well-known figures from American and European history. The site also provides access to a variety of other digitized materials reflective of the depth and breadth of the Library & Archives collection.

We hope that you’ll explore the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website and take a look at the many wonderful documents that the Library & Archives preserves and makes accessible through the generosity of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, NMJ, USA, and its members. Let us know what you think. We are always happy to receive feedback from users. Feel free to drop us a line at library@srmml.org.

A Centennial Textile Souvenir

2008_025DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has many images of George Washington (1732-1799) in its collection (stay tuned for more on that over the coming months!).  This banner features an image of the first president standing next to his horse.  So far, the source for this image of Washington is unknown.  The portrait may be original to the banner. 

The banner was probably produced as a souvenir in 1876, when the United States was celebrating its centennial.  Textiles like this one, along with many other items, were available for sale around the country and especially at the Centennial Exposition held that year in Philadelphia.  The red, white and blue color scheme was popular, along with the star, stripe and shield motifs, which were clearly understood as American symbols.  The shields are expressly identified on the banner as "Shield of U.S. America." 

Washington is reading a letter inscribed "Victory is Ours, Paul Jones."  This seems to be a reference to Revolutionary naval hero John Paul Jones (1747-1792).  Jones's best-known battle occurred in September 1779 while he served as captain of the Bonhomme Richard.  Jones engaged the Serapis, a British warship.  Outgunned from the beginning, Jones's ship suffered an onboard accident early in the battle when two of its guns exploded.  To compensate, Jones brought his ship close to the Serapis and secured the two ships using grapples and lines.  When the British captain asked Jones if he surrendered, Jones is famously said to have answered "I have not yet begun to fight."  Indeed, Jones led his crew to victory by repelling a British boarding party and causing significant damage to the Serapis

George Washington is well known as a Freemason; he joined Virginia's Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 in 1753.  John Paul Jones was also a Freemason.  He joined Saint Bernard Lodge No. 122 in Scotland in 1770, later becoming a member of the Lodge of Nine Sisters in Paris.

Do you have a centennial souvenir in your collection?  Have you ever seen a similar portrait of George Washington?  Let us know in a comment!

George Washington Banner, ca. 1876, unidentified maker, United States or England, gift of the Valley of Peoria, Illinois, A.A.S.R., N.M.J., 2008.025.  Photograph by David Bohl.