On March 4, 1820, the officers of a mark master lodge, possibly Mark Master’s Lodge Gloria Mundi, signed and issued a certificate to William Gordon. This document attested that Gordon had received the Mark Master Mason degree and that the lodge officers recommended him “to all Free and Accepted Masons on the Globe.”
This colorful certificate with its charming portrayals of a lodge master at the bottom of the page is an intriguing one. In the early 1800s many grand lodges, such as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, began issuing certificates for all newly made Master Masons. Many were issued and saved. Today they are fairly common. However, certificates for the Mark Master Mason degree in any American state in the early 1800s are rare. This one, preserved in the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, appear to be the only example in that collection and there aren't any in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection.
Adding to this document’s interesting features, the information printed on the bottom edge of this certificate, which says, Engraved by Brother Amos Doolittle New Haven: for H. Parmele Diaploma of the 4th Degree. The above may be had of Br’s [scratched out] Phild. Saml Maverick New York, A. Doolittle New Haven, and I. W. Clark Albany…, suggests that production and sale of the certificate was conceived of as a coordinated effort by several entrepreneurs.
Amos Doolittle (1754-1832), a New Haven artisan, engraved the certificate. He did so for Henry Parmele (d. 1821), an author and publisher who also sold engraved Masonic aprons. From the brief information noted on the certificate, Parmele seems to have arranged that colleagues in different parts of the country offer the certificate, or diploma, to customers. Doolittle made the certificates available in New Haven. Samuel Maverick (1789-1845), an engraver and printer, sold them in New York City. Israel W. Clark (ca. 1789-1828), a printer, publisher and editor in Albany, had them for sale in that city. Parmele, according to census records, lived in Philadelphia by at least 1820, sold copies there. The scratched out name likely read “Wm McCorkle,” possibly William McCorkle (ca. 1776-1826) a Philadelphia editor and publisher.
Given that we have found only one record of another copy of this certificate, it seems that few copies were sold--it is hard to imagine that this multi-state business venture met with success. Adding to the mystery, research in proceedings of the Grand Chapters in the New England states, Pennsylvania and New York, has not turned up a mark lodge with the words “Gloria Mundi” in its name. It is possible that the phrase near the top of the certificate, rather than the name of a mark lodge, is an abbreviated version of the motto “Sic transit gloria mundi” (Thus passed the glory of the world), often used in Freemasonry. Compounding the mystery, to date we have not been able to identify the recipient of the certificate—William Gordon—or any of the lodge officers who signed this certificate.
If you have seen other early 1800s mark degree certificates or have ideas about this one, we’d love to hear from you—leave us a comment below.
Mantle Fielding, American Engravers Upon Cooper and Steel (New York: Burt Franklin ) vol. 3, 93.