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June 2017

New Acquisition Highlights Masonic Political Resistance to the Anti-Masonic Period in Vermont

Research into a new acquisition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, an 1830 letter written by a Freemason to the Past Master of his lodge, reveals a much more complex and interesting story of the Anti-Masonic movement in America. The movement began well before the death of William Morgan in 1826, and may be divided into two distinct periods: the moral opposition to Freemasonry, which began around 1790, and the political opposition to Freemasonry, which began after the election of President Andrew Jackson in 1828. 

This basic timeline for the birth and evolution of Anti-Masonry was typified in the state of Vermont, the home state of both the author and recipient of the Archives’ 1830 letter. Moral opposition to Freemasonry arose as early as 1798 by members of the Baptist Church, and it continued in this form in the state of Vermont until 1829, when President Jackson’s use of the spoils system to remove Democratic office holders prompted the Anti-Masons to form a political party. This letter from the collection provides one Mason’s response to the growth and threat of Anti-Masonry as a political movement. It represents the opinion of a political insider and provides us with a fascinating insight into American politics. 

The letter, written by Justus Burdick (1793-1849) of Burlington, Vermont, to Vermont Secretary of State Norman Williams (1791-1868) of Woodstock, Vermont, is reproduced below, along with a transcription.

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[page 1]
Burlington. Oct. 3 1830

Dear Sir,

I received yours by [Mr. Brown?] last evening who left in the Boat at 9 o’clock for his majesty’s dominions. -- I am well aware that the election in yr [your] town must have been [a] matter of deep regret among you, as well as in other parts of the state. -- We here regretted it the more on account of the effect it would have in favor of the Antis. -- And we see those effects which were anticipated now making their appearance.  -- How it is expected that the “[?]” is coming out, and I believe that Jno N. Pomeroy and Gam Sawyer the partner of Jno. C. broke ground yesterday + we shall be disappointed if it does not turn out that Hon Jno. C. himself and Bill Griswold are at the bottom  of it. -- The state will become Antimason, beyond doubt. The thing will be cut + carved at Montpelier, many very many will act with that party, who wish for office, who we have not yet suspected. There are various reasons for [guessing?] so. -- In the first place, our party expected nothing not even civil treatment from the hands of the Adams men therefore it is six of one and ½ doz of the other with us

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which of the parties rule the State. -- the Antis can do no more than proscribe all of us, and that much the nationals will do. -- Then again, the Clay men must be satisfied that their party can never here after alone make any election in this state, and their troops will desert by dozens + scores. -- The parties will stand at 90 Adams, 80 Antis, 50 Jackson and on the election of Gov. Crafts can get only a part of the Adams men + now the others. -- I therefore set him down as defunct. -- Meech is also out of the question -- his party will sooner go for an Anti candidate than Crafts. -- Then what is to be done? -- We hope that there will some arrangement be made between Crafts + Meech’s friends to go together for some person and elect him. -- If they will join forces the state is saved from disgrace. -- They can make the Gov. Senator, and Supreme Court and if they will act together on these questions this fall, they can go together also in one ticket in 1831 which will insure success. -- but if no overtures are made and accepted between those parties, then the State becomes Antimason -- certain -- Unless we are very much deceived Palmer stands a good chance for Senator as he will have the support of our people in preference to [your?] neighbor. We shall run a Jackson man but without expecting to elect him. -- I have no doubt should the Antis get the reins they will another year at least

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None of those persons, masons, who went with the Antis in [your?] election have disgraced themselves. except [B. F.M.?] the others had no character to lose --

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Turn you out [?] + [?], + Maj. Swan Also -- now I apprehend that if the plan of uniting the two parties should come from [your?] county backed up by the most able men say Mr. Swan, Mr. Marsh, Wyllys Lyman, Mr. Everett + [co?]. You would succeed -- We are willing to do anything which is consistent and honorable, as I believe, to put down Anti-ism. -- I have nothing to lose thank God -- but I would rather lose my liberty one year than Titus should ride into the Senate on the Antimasonic hobby. I have not the least doubt of [your?] election this year. But I think you would stand better another year, if this union of parties can be brought about. And if you are of the same way of thinking you can do much. -- And as I believe risk nothing. -- The train must be set at home and when arrived at Montpelier. Then must be our great caucus, made up of all the members opposed to the Antimasonic rule, and they must agree who shall be Gov. and who shall be senator also and who shall be the Supreme Court. -- [There?] would be no trouble in convening a sufficient number to carry any measure and they would then stand pledged to draw to-gether. -- The measure however must be proposed by Adams men and not by us -- Mr. Marsh must come to Montpelier in good season too. He is no mason and can do much -- say to him so if you please -- these remarks are merely hints for your consideration, I may be wrong.

Yours truly
J. Burdick
 

Captions

Letter from Justus Burdick to Norman Williams, October 3, 1830. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 600.001.


New to the Collection: Masonic Collar Box

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Collar Box, late 1800s-early 1900s. Museum Purchase, 2017.012. Photograph by David Bohl.

Recently the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchased a wooden box decorated with inlay for the collection (illustrated at the left).  This three-part round box was designed for a particular purpose—storing collars and collar studs.

Householders favored round and oval boxes made of wood for storing kitchen and pantry items throughout the 1800s.  Makers designed boxes in different sizes for all kinds of supplies including meal, sugar, cheese, butter and herbs. This box probably dates from the late 1800s.  Its manufacturer employed the same materials and techniques utilized in making round household boxes in earlier decades.  These boxes typically had sturdy wooden tops and bottoms with sides constructed out of thin pieces of strong, pliable wood shaped on a mold.  Box tops sometimes bore labels or were decorated with paint or carving.

In the mid-1800s, a new style of men’s shirt began to take hold—shirts worn with detachable white collars.  This innovation allowed men to wear a fresh, starched collar without the expense or labor of someone laundering an entire shirt.  By the 1890s specialized manufacturers produced millions of linen and cotton collars, as well as celluloid and disposable paper collars for men.  Manufacturers often sold collars in decorated cardboard boxes advertising their brand.    

This small round box (just over 5 inches high and 7 inches in diameter) was designed to store collars.  Two interlocking trays allowed the owner to separate different kinds of collars.  A small drawer cleverly fit into the side of

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Collar Box, late 1800s-early 1900s. Museum Purchase, 2017.012. Photograph by David Bohl.

the box (illustrated at the right) provided a convenient place for keeping track of the small collar studs which secured collars to shirts.   An inlay design on the top of the box featured a square and compasses with the letter G—a symbol of Freemasonry—which suggests that this box once belonged to a well-dressed Mason.   

 

 

Reference:

Nina Fletcher Little, Neat and Tidy:  Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early American Households (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1980), 150-161.


The Electrified Signet

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Masonic Rainbow Girls Electrified Signet, 1930-1960. Unidentified maker, United States. Gift of Frank W. Thompson Lodge A.F. & A.M., 2012.073.1.

 I came across a four foot tall sign in the museum collection identified as an electrified signet when I was researching the Rainbow Girls, a Masonic youth group. I was curious about the name, since signets are most often associated with rings or personal seals that were used to authenticate  documents. I further investigated the history of these types of signs and found the term signet used primarily by the Order of the Eastern Star and the Rainbow Girls to describe their respective emblems.

Fraternal regalia companies like M.C. Lilley and C.E. Ward manufactured and sold electrified signs, or signets, like this one (pictured to the left), beginning in the late 1920s and early 1930s. These signs used to provide instruction during ritual ceremonies. The different colors and symbols in this particular Rainbow Girls sign could be lit up when the concepts were introduced or revealed during instruction.  In 2012, Frank W. Thompson Lodge A.F & A.M. in Bedford, Massachusetts, donated this Rainbow Girls signet to the Museum. The pictured hanging control box operated the sign.

For blog
(L) Masonic Order of the Eastern Star Signet, ca. 1938. Unidentified Maker, United States. Gift of Social Summit Lodge #50, Canaan, New Hampshire, 2011.013.2. (R) O.E.S. Supply Catalog, 1938. C.E. Ward Company, New London, Ohio. Gift of the Estate of John A. Waterhouse, A2011/37/89.

The Rainbow Girls sign is similar to this Order of the Eastern Star electrified signet (pictured to the right) donated to the Museum by Social Summit Lodge #50, in Canaan, New Hampshire, in 2011. 

A 1938 C.E. Ward catalog featured a similar Eastern Star signet for $143. In several different O.E.S. supply catalogs, the electrified signet is described as “a real addition to any chapter room” and “easily operated and unexcelled for rendering the Ritualistic work in the most beautiful and impressive manner.”

To learn more about the Rainbow Girls or Order of the Eastern Star visit our past blog posts here.

 

References:

Mark Tabbert, American Freemasons: Three Centuries of Building Communities. Lexington, Massachusetts: National Heritage Museum, 2005.

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