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February 2018

George Washington Masonic Folk Art

Cigar band plate, 1890-1920. United States. Gift of Milton and Berry Walter, 2005.006.

George Washington died of complications from an infection at the age of 67, at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia, in December of 1799. The American public produced many elaborate and public displays of mourning after Washington’s death. Artists and manufacturers also marketed mourning art and memorabilia in his name. In addition to mass-produced memorial items, unknown individuals often also created memorial folk art to commemorate Washington’s legacy.

Decades later an unknown artist fashioned this glass plate into a Masonic portrait of George Washington using paper cigar bands and cut-outs of Washington. The decoupage plate depicts Washington as a Freemason and celebrates his Masonic connections.  Washington wears a Masonic apron and collar. He is surrounded by Masonic symbols, including the all-seeing eye, columns, and an open bible with a square and compasses. Washington’s likeness and the aforementioned symbols appear to have been cut from a Masonic print. Washington’s stance and Masonic regalia suggest the print was modeled after an 1868 Currier & Ives print titled Washington as a Freemason. This popular Masonic lithograph was copied multiple times in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

In the mid-1800s, cigar manufacturers began to hire lithographers to produce decorative and aesthetically pleasing artistic cigar labels and boxes for their products.  These labels and boxes featured miniature portraits of historic figures, animals, logos, and landscapes. By the early 1900s, consumers began collecting the cigar labels and sharing information about them in groups like the International Cigar Band Society, founded in 1934. Individuals also started to create folk art using the paper cigar bands.  A popular homemade craft in the early 1900s, “cigar band art,” as it was commonly called, included decorated ceramics, glassware, and jewelry. 

Do you or someone in your family have Masonic related “cigar band art”? Let us know in the comments section below.

To learn more about George Washington memorial art, visit our online exhibition, The Many Faces of George Washington.

Love Model Trains? Come to the Train Show this Weekend, 17 and 18 February 2018

Train show N track lexington_2017
Photo courtesy of Bob Pawlak

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA, launches February school vacation week with a weekend filled with model railroading fun!  The Northeast Ntrak Modular Railroad Club will be at the museum Saturday, February 17 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 18 from noon-4:00 p.m. Admission to the train display is $5/individual and $7/family.

The 2.7 scale miles of three-track mainline with smaller N-scale trains means more trains and longer trains (50-70 cars) running through a variety of scenes on different modules will delight young and old alike. Visitors will see the colored lights and hear the authentic sounds of a circus with its circus train cars to carry the big-tent animals and performers or a carnival with Ferris wheel, merry-go-round and other animated rides as well as the beautiful Disney Island Castle with numerous enchanting details. Bridges Canyon State Park in the Great Northwest with its eleven bridges tunnels, and two river gorges is featured. Visitors will be transported across the U.S. to see a replica of the familiar Auto Train Depot in Lorton, Virginia, and then travel across the Atlantic Ocean to see a model of the famous Dammtor Train Station in Hamburg, Germany.  In travels across the country, the trains take viewers to the Black Hole Coal Company complex, a high rise building engulfed in flames, an oil refinery, and an intermodal transportation facility.

In addition to the featured Northeast NTRAK layout, there will be the Northeast T-TRAK table top modular train layout on display.  The N-Scale T-TRAK is designed to fit on standard tables and be the perfect height for children to enjoy.  The layout features animations and features a coal dumper, truck tipper, drawbridge, turntable, and much more.  At the layout, visitors can learn about different forms of energy: solar, wind, hydroelectric, coal, nuclear, thermal solar and oil.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library is dedicated to presenting exhibitions on a wide variety of topics in American history and popular culture. The Museum is supported by the Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States.  The Museum is located at 33 Marrett Road in Lexington at the corner of Route 2A and Massachusetts Avenue.  The Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m.-4:00 p.m. For the train weekend, the Museum will be open on Saturday, February 17 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. AND Sunday, February 18 from noon-4:00 p.m. Admission to the Museum is free. Admission to the train show is $5/individual and $7/family.  For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or visit our srmml.org.