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December 2016

A Santa Claus Production Designed by George McFadden

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Reindeer Dancers with Santa Conducting, 1930-1960, George A. McFadden (1904-1991), Massachusetts. Gift of the Estate of George A. McFadden, 91.018.33. Photograph by Briggs Photography.

Imagination and a love of making things shaped George A. McFadden’s (1904-1991) life. Visitors to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library know him for the colorful cuckoo clocks he made when he retired.  Three of his clocks are currently on view in Keeping Time:  Clockmakers and Collectors.  Design and automated figures interested McFadden for decades. As a teenager he created an automated display featuring a soda-drinking Eskimo to help sell Clicquot Club ginger ale at his family’s pharmacy in Bath, Maine. Soon after, he put his talent to the test as a student at the Museum of Fine Arts School in Boston. There he studied, among other things, stage and jewelry design.  For years, he and his wife Alyce Stewart Kent McFadden (1906-1978), a costume designer, worked together on productions for a number of Massachusetts theaters. He also designed mechanized displays for department stores and circus acts.

Among the clocks and art that McFadden gave to the Museum are two photographs and a watercolor depicting what appears to be the concept and

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Model Theater Stage (with reindeer dancers), 1930-1960, George A. McFadden (1904-1991), Massachusetts. Gift of the Estate of George A. McFadden, 91.018.24

models of a Christmas-time display.  McFadden did not rate his skills as an artist highly, noting in 1981 that, “I never did amount to much of a draftsman.  Art is more a means to an end with me.” But his painting of a reindeer stage show conducted by Santa Claus (at left) is adeptly executed and charming.  In this work Santa, as band leader, directs a six-piece ensemble accompanying three dancing reindeer.  They perform for an audience that includes an older reindeer couple (one of whom is sleeping through the show) and an inattentive reindeer mother with a mischievous child.  The younger reindeer in the image is attempting to startle the drummer with what one hopes is a toy spider suspended from a string.

A photograph (at right) shows McFadden’s model of the painted scene.  Another photograph (below) depicts a model of the band with a pair of reindeer performers doing tricks with balls, rings and a drum-shaped prop. Unfortunately, these images are not labeled and did not come to the Museum with any information about why and when they were made.  McFadden did, over the course of his career design, automated Christmas displays for Jordan March and Filene’s department stores. 

This painting and the related photographs suggest that the imaginative McFadden took a whimsical approach to celebrating the Christmas holiday.  If you have any ideas or information about McFadden’s models, please leave a comment below.  In the meantime, Happy Holidays to you from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.   

References:

Robin Wiest, “McFadden Creates a Fairy Tale,” The Winchester [Massachusetts] Star, April 30, 1981, pages 13 and 33.

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Model Theater Stage (with reindeer acrobats), 1930-1960, George A. McFadden (1904-1991), Massachusetts. Gift of the Estate of George A. McFadden, 91.018.25.

The International Order of the Rainbow

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The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired some items related to the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a group commonly known as the Rainbow Girls. The organization, founded in 1922 by Reverend W. Mark Sexson (1877-1953), was created for young women ages 11 to 20, whose fathers or family members were members of Masonic organizations. The group is now open to any girl interested in joining and offers a “Pledge” group for younger girls aged 8-10. The Rainbow Girls Headquarters have been located in McAlister, Oklahoma since 1951 and according to the Rainbow Girls organization, there are presently more than 850 assemblies that meet regularly around the world.

The Rainbow Girls organization was one of many Masonic-sponsored youth groups organized in the early 1920s to help teenage boys and girls develop “good citizenship and sound character.” Like Freemasons, the groups incorporated elements of ritual into their meetings and ceremonies. In 1922, Sexson, a 33°Mason, developed the Rainbow Girls ritual which focused on a series of seven lessons and “stations” representing the seven colors of the rainbow.

The most common symbols associated with the Rainbow Girls are a pot of gold, a rainbow, and and two hands clasped together with the initials “BFCL” (for bible, flag, constitution, and lambskin).  Lambskin is a reference to the lambskin aprons worn by Freemasons.

These attendance and officer pins are two examples of the paraphernalia in Rainbow Girl ceremony, meetings, and ritual. The 1950 photograph above shows a group of officers from Lexington Assembly #37 at Simon W. Robinson Masonic Lodge in Lexington, Massachusetts.

2016_040_11DI6IMG_1490 copyWe are actively collecting Rainbow Girls items. Do you or any family members have Rainbow Girls items, photographs, or ephemera? We would love to hear from you! Please contact Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator at ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

Captions:

Rainbow Girls attendance pin, 1980-1985, unidentified maker, United States, Gift of Beth McSweeney, 2016.040.11.

Rainbow Girls Worthy Advisor pin, 1983, unidentified maker, United States, Gift of Beth McSweeney, 2016.040.9

Reference:

Margaret Kendrick, Our place in time: 75 years of history: International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, McAlester, Oklahoma: International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, 1998.

 

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