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October 2016

New to the Collection: William L. Peet’s Mark Medal

Peets 2015_014_1DP2DB
Medal made for William L. Peets, 1824. Connecticut. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

Readers who subscribe to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library know we can’t get enough of the intriguing engraved medals created for Freemasons in the early 1800s, especially those associated with the mark degree. We’ve posted about mark medals in the past.  Today we want to introduce a recent acquisition—a mark medal that can, unusually, be attributed to a designer or engraver who put his name on similarly decorated examples.

In October of 1824 William Leavenworth Peet (or Peets, as noted on the medal) affiliated with the Masonic lodge St. John’s No. 3 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  In April of the same year he had joined Jerusalem Chapter No. 13, also in Bridgeport.  To commemorate his taking the mark degree at Jerusalem Chapter, Peet (1788-1866) commissioned a silver shield-shaped medal inscribed with his name, his chapter, its location and the date (illustrated at left).  On the other side of his medal Peet had engraved an emblem that he selected for himself as part of the mark degree--a letter “W” (illustrated below at right).  The letter may have referred to his first name or symbolized Wisdom, one of the supports of the lodge, often represented by the letter W or by an Ionic column.   

The craftsman who decorated Peet’s medal did so with flair.  He added vine-like lines to the edges of the metal and cut out tiny pieces of the medal in different patterns to give the medal a richly textured border.    A very similar style of engraving decorates a medal made for Lockwood N. DeForest in 1826, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a medal crafted for Silas Wooster Sherman in 1826, owned by the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  DeForest, like Peet, belonged to St. John’s No. 3 and Jerusalem Chapter.  Sherman was a member of Hiram Chapter No. 1 in Newtown, Connecticut.  An engraver or designer, C. Foote, signed these medals at the bottom of the circle that enclosed the owners’ personal emblems.  These medals, and two others in private collections that are signed by Foote, all belonged to Royal Arch Masons that lived in Connecticut. 

The signer was likely Charles Foote (1793-1862), a member of St. John’s No. 3 and of Jerusalem Chapter.  Intriguingly, Foote worked as a bank cashier, not as far as we know, as an engraver, artist or silversmith.  Records have not shed light on Foote’s interest or skill in engraving.  Hopefully further research will  uncover more information about Foote.  Alternately, Foote may have designed rather than engraved the medals or the Charles Foote who belonged to the same lodge and chapter as William L. Peet may not have been the C. Foote who signed the medals.   If you have any ideas about C. Foote and the medals he signed, be sure to leave us a comment below. 

W 2015_014_1DP1DB
Medal made for William L. Peets, 1824. Connecticut. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Theodore H. Sommers, Jr., 200th Anniversary of the Found of St. John's Lodge No. 3 (Bridgeport, Connecticut:  Masonic Temple, 1962).

Thanks to Richard C. Memmott, Sr., Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Connecticut.

 


George Washington Silhouettes

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is currently researching and digitizing the many prints in our collection that depict first president and Freemason George Washington (1732-1799). Among these are two silhouettes of George Washington. We own many examples of silhouette portraiture in the Museum & Library collection but have only a few profiles of Washington.

Silhouettes, also known as shades or profiles, were a popular and ubiquitous style of portraiture from the mid-1700s through the  1800s. They were less expensive than a painted portrait but declined in popularity with the invention of photography.  The word silhouette was derived from the name of French Minister of Finance Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) in the late 1700s. Silhouette cut shadow portraits as a hobby and was well known for his unpopular austere economic restrictions in France under king Louis XV (1710-1774). The term a-la silhouette  became synonymous with cheap. Profilist August Edouart (1789-1861) is thought to have popularized the word silhouette when he began using it to describe his profile portraits. 

There are four basic82_54_22DS1 techniques in the production of silhouettes: Hollow-cut, cut and paste, painted, and printed (engraved or etched). Hollow-cut ones are created by cutting the profile from the center of a piece of paper or other material and mounting it against a background of contrasting color, allowing the silhouette to show through the cut-out space. Cut and paste silhouettes are created by cutting out a profile and pasting it to a contrasting background.  

The Washington silhouette on the left is a bookplate engraving from Washington Irving’s (1783-1859) seminal work Life of Washington, Vol. IV, published in 1857. The engraving is based on the George Washington silhouette cut by Sarah De Hart (1759-1832) in 1783. De Hart, one of the earliest recorded American woman silhouettists, made her hollow-cut profiles without the popular physiognotrace device used to cut silhouettes in the early 1800s.  

The print includes this caption, “From the Original (cut with scissors) by Miss De Hart, Elizabethtown, N. J. 1783, Presented by Mrs. Washington to Mrs. Duer, daughter of Lord Stirling.” Catherine Alexander Duer (1755-1826) was a member of the prominent Livingston family from the Hudson Valley in New York. Her uncle Phillip Livingston (1716-1778), a New York delegate to the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. Her family was well acquainted with the Washingtons and George Washington gave her away at her 1779 wedding to Colonel William Duer (1747-1799).86_62_19DI1

The silhouette on the right is an engraved print from Johann Friedrich Anthing’s (1753-1805), Collection de cent silhouettes des personnes illustres et célèbres dessinées d'après les originaux [Collection of 100 silhouettes], originally published in 1791.  Dr. William L. Guyton (1915-2011) and Mary B. Guyton donated these silhouettes as part of a larger donation of George Washington engravings and prints. Guyton, a retired surgeon and World War II combat veteran, was a well-known collector of silhouettes and George Washington prints and books. He donated most of his silhouette collection to the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum at Colonial Williamsburg. To see the newly digitized George Washington engravings, visit our online collection: http://www.srmml.org/collections/online-collections/

Stay tuned for more additions to the online collection in the coming months!

Captions:

George Washington, ca. 1857, Unidentified Engraver; G. P. Putnam and Co., publisher; Sarah De Hart, silhouettist, United States, Gift of Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton, 82.54.22

Washington, ca. 1791, Johann Friedrich Anthing, Germany, Gift of Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton, 86.62.19.

References:

Alice Van Leer Carrick, A History of American Silhouettes: A Collector's Guide-1790-1840, Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1968.

E. Nevill Jackson, Silhouettes: A History an Dictionary of Artists, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1981.

 

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Digital Collections Highlight: 1860 Republic Party Ticket

A2008_058_1DSWith the presidential election coming up next month, we thought it might be fun to highlight an item in our collection from the presidential election of 1860. While we might still use phrases like the "party ticket" or "split-ticket voting," we are no longer talking about actual printed tickets. But tickets were once just that: paper slips listing all of a political party's candidates. These tickets, often handed out at polling stations or printed in and clipped from newspapers, effectively functioned as ballots. In an era before state-printed election ballots listed candidates from all political parties on a ballot, party leaders could insure straight ticket voting by supplying voters with these tickets, which voters then placed in ballot boxes for their vote. Massachusetts, one of the earlier adopters of state-printed ballots, did not implement the practice until almost twenty years after the 1860 election, with the passage of  "An Act to Preserve the Purity of Elections" [PDF] in 1879.

Pictured here - and available at our Digital Collections website - is the Massachusetts Republican Party's ticket for Worcester County for the 1860 presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 1860. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) tops the ticket, along with Vice Presidential candidate Hannibal Hamlin (1809-1891). At the bottom of the ticket is Velorous Taft (1819-1890), of Upton, Massachusetts, running for on one of three County Commissioner seats for Worcester County.

Lincoln, of course, was elected President in 1860, but what about Velorous Taft? He was an incumbent, up for re-election in 1860 and, like Lincoln, he and was also victorious in 1860. Taft, in fact, served as one of the Worcester County Commissioners from 1858-1875.

If you like this document, be sure to check out the Library & Archives Digital Collections website where, in addition to a rich collection of Scottish Rite documents, Masonic certificates, and lots of other important documents related to the history of Freemasonry, we also have some other election-related material, like this advertising pamphlet featuring presidential candidates for the year 1884, a campaign letter from Richard Nixon from 1960, as well as a broadside promoting the Antimasonic Republican ticket for the 1835 Massachusetts state election.

For a couple of quick reads about the use of tickets as ballots during nineteenth-century elections, check out the following:

University of California, San Diego's Library blog, "That’s the Ticket: Voting in the 19th Century"

The Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection blog, "That’s the Ticket! Getting Out the Vote in the 1860s"


Quilted Celebrations of Masonic and Fraternal Activity

2011_059DP1DBThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library received the Masonic quilt at left as a recent gift.  It was made in 1981 and helps us bring our fraternal quilt collection closer to the present, allowing us to compare and contrast this quilt with others from the 1800s and early 1900s (see these previous blog posts!).  Anyone who quilted or sewed during the late 1970s and early 1980s may recognize some of the fabrics if you look at them closely.  We loved the story that the donor told about this quilt's history.  His aunt, a lieutenant commander and nurse in the U.S. Navy, made this bed covering for him on the occasion of his installation as Master of Crescent Lodge in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for the second time.  Edith Bowen, the quilt's maker, bought a book about Masonic symbols here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library to help her design the quilt, which includes appliqued squares and compasses, cornucopias, a lyre and other recognizable symbols.

Shortly after we received this Masonic quilt, we were also given the fraternal quilt at right.  Made in 1989, it shows the symbol of the Pythian Sisters, a female auxiliary of the Knights of Pythias (for more on this group, see our posts), which was formed after the Civil War.  This quilt was a gift, honoring the accomplishments and volunteer efforts of one Pythian Sisters member, on the occasion of the group's centennial. 2011_066_4DP1DB

Have you made any Masonic or fraternal quilts?  Have you received one?  If so, we'd love to hear about it in a comment below.

Masonic quilt, 1981, Edith M. Bowen, United States.  Gift of Stephen J. Twining, 2011.059.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Pythian Sisters quilt, 1989, unidentified maker, United States.  Gift of the Estate of Geraldine M. Worley, 2011.066.4.  Photograph by David Bohl.