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April 2019

New to the Collection: Native American Shriner Blankets

Blanket with Shrine Symbol, 1921. Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon. Museum Purchase, 2018.001. Photograph by David Bohl.

In 2018, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added to its collection two 1920s wool blankets with Native American-inspired patterns and Shriner emblems as their featured central design. One of these, pictured at left (and the reverse, below), was manufactured by Oregon’s Pendleton Woolen Mills. It bears a label reading “Copyright 1921.” At that time, in fact, blankets of this style enjoyed popularity in American culture.

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s—ending right around the Great Crash of 1929—a vogue for Native American goods held sway in the U.S., for art collectors and fashionable types all the way down to Americans of more modest means. Popular magazines touted domestic displays that ranged from just a few items, to entire rooms arrayed with Native American baskets, bowls, and blankets. Known as "Indian corners," these displays became a common feature in home design, with many of the goods used in them created specifically for the market by Native artists. Merchants and makers sold these goods in department stores, “Indian stores,” and other commercial outlets.

Blankets like this one—called trade blankets, since they were originally exchanged between Native Americans and European settlers—were among the most popular collectors’ items. Pendleton Woolen Mills was the first American company established solely for their manufacture. Although there were other mills that also produced this kind of blanket, Pendleton took the craft to a new level. This was thanks in part to its employment of loom artisan Joe Rawnsley (d. 1929). Rawnsley toured the West to work with Native populations in creating specific designs and color schemes inspired by different tribes’ traditions. He used the Jacquard process in which punched cards guided automatic looms to produce blankets of much greater variety and detail than previously possible.

But what about that Shriner emblem, with its familiar crescent and scimitar? Around the time of this blanket’s design copyright, the Shriners—and Freemasons in general—were growing in strength and number throughout the country. National membership in the Shrine had grown to approximately 500,000 by 1921. Possibly this blanket was created to attract the purchasing dollars of this Masonic group. Regardless of what prompted its creation, this blanket reflects the popular interest in both Native American objects and Freemasonry in the 1920s.

Reverse, Blanket with Shrine Symbol, 1921. Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon. Museum Purchase, 2018.001. Photograph by David Bohl.




Crazy Crow Trading Post, “American Indian Trade Blankets: The Rise of Pendleton Woolen Mills as the Primary Trade Blanket of Contemporary Native Americans,” https://www.crazycrow.com/site/rise-of-pendleton-native-american-trade-blankets/, (accessed Feb. 14, 2019).

The Henry Ford, “Sparking Innovation: The Jacquard Loom,” https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/sparking-innovation-the-jacquard-loom/, (accessed Apr. 16, 2019).

Elizabeth Hutchinson, The Indian Craze: Primitivism, Modernism, and Transculturation in American Art, 1890-1915 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009). 3, 11-13.

William D. Moore, Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006). 106-7.

Pendleton, “Indian Trading Blanket History,” https://www.pendleton-usa.com/indian-trading-blanket-history.html, (accessed Feb. 14, 2019).


Rare Temperance Letter Provides Insights into the Lives of Women

Research into this unsigned letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot (1851-1942) in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library provides an intimate look into the life of this nineteenth-century reformer and sheds light into the personal motives that led many American women to champion the crusade against alcohol. In the letter, which may be read in full by clicking the image below, Elliot, the Grand Worthy Secretary for the Grand Lodge Massachusetts of the Independent Order of Good Templars, offers her support and praise to an anonymous female Temperance reformer whose relative suffered from alcoholism.

Temperance letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot, August 3, 1876


"I wish I could fly to you – if only for a moment—to tell you how deeply I sympathize with you and how I would gladly lighten your burden of sorrow if I could. It seems cruel that one who has saved so many as you have and caused so much happiness should be permitted to see one so dear to her suffer from temptation. If you succeed in this same period in saving him what a glorious triumph it will be, I have for him feelings of the tenderest sympathy and trust that the prospect now looks brighter, knowing as I do your fidelity and devotion I feel confident that the victory will be yours. You have my earnest prayers that this may be the result; that he who is so kind and generous and capable of accomplishing so much good in the world may yet conquer his appetite."

While more research needs to be conducted to verify the identity of Elliot’s female recipient, readers may conclude from Elliot’s letter that she was most likely a leader or potential leader in the Temperance movement, a charismatic speaker and advocate of the cause who inspired both men and women alike through her lectures throughout the state of Massachusetts.

In addition to being an advocate for Temperance reform, Mary E. Elliot was a passionate supporter of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans association. In 1878, Elliot helped form an auxiliary relief corps to Willard C. Kinsley Post, No. 139, G.A.R., in Somerville, Massachusetts, and for fifty years, served as the Secretary for the Department of Massachusetts Women’s Relief Corps, the state’s auxiliary to the G.A.R.  Elliot also served as a regular contributor to the military department of the Boston Globe for nearly 20 years, where she wrote extensively upon the efforts of women to support the Relief Corps.

Do you have any information regarding the history of this document or the people behind its creation? Or would you like to learn more about the Temperance movement in America? Feel free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.


Temperance letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot to unknown recipient, August 3, 1876. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 300.010.


Anonymous. 1901. Charles Darwin Elliot, Mary Elvira Elliot, from the Massachusetts Edition of the American Series of Popular Biographies. [Boston?]: [publisher not identified]. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://archive.org/stream/charlesdarwinell00np/charlesdarwinell00np_djvu.txt

Cambridge Chronicle. 1879. “Temperance Reminiscences. Some Recollections of Twenty Years.” August 23, 1879. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://cambridge.dlconsulting.com/?a=d&d=Chronicle18790823-01.2.2

Daily Boston Globe. 1942. “Mary E. Elliot is Dead at 91.” November 8, 1942.

Digital Public Library of America. n.d. “Women and the Temperance Movement.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/women-and-the-temperance-movement

Howe, Julia Ward, ed. “Mary Elvira Elliot” In Representative Women of New England, 305-307. Boston: New England Historical Publishing Company. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://books.google.com/books/about/Representative_Women_of_New_England.html?id=BY0EAAAAYAAJ

IOGT International. n.d. “The History.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://iogt.org/about-iogt/the-iogt-way/who-we-are/the-history/

Library of Congress. n.d. “The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/garintro.html

National Woman’s Relief Corps. n.d. “Women’s Relief Corps.” Accessed 25 March 2019. http://womansreliefcorps.org/

Woman's Relief Corps (U.S.), Department of Massachusetts. 1895. History of the Department of Massachusetts, Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co. Accessed 25 March 2019. https://archive.org/details/historyofdepartm01woma/page/n7

"Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited": A Conversation with Fred Lynch

Fred Lynch  Old North Church Photograph by Troy Paff.
Fred Lynch. Photograph by Troy Paff.

The exhibition "Paul Revere’s Ride Revisited: Drawings by Fred Lynch" is on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library through March 7, 2020.

What inspired you to select Paul Revere’s route as the subject of this project?

FL: An interest in American history started at a young age. Growing up, my family would walk the Freedom Trail, visit the Mayflower and wander through old cemeteries. My father was a high school history teacher. Now I’m an educator in the illustration department at Rhode Island School of Design and among the courses I teach is Visual Journalism—the creation of non-fiction artwork of investigation and research. With my own work, I practice what I preach. Preceding this project, I created a large series of drawings from and about faraway Central Italy, where I teach each July. I drew in a state of wonder, like we all experience when we travel. Following that experience, I wanted to turn my attention to a subject closer to my home and heart. I live in Winchester, only five miles from where Paul Revere's route passes by. I wanted to draw attention to the rich history and specific character of the place I live and where so much has happened.

How do you make your drawings?

FL: Drawing on site is an experience as well as an art. It’s extra-sensory. As I sit and draw for hours on the streets, I soak up every inch of the scene, along with its sounds, smells, and local characters. It is quite different from the monastic life of the studio. My goal is to translate and communicate that rich experience through my drawings. Each drawing is the result of hours spent driving along Paul Revere’s route, followed by walking around, and then finally drawing from observation. When I leave in the morning, I rarely know what I’ll draw that day. Something has to catch my interest or catch my eye. I guess I’m seeking serendipity. Much depends upon being at the right place at the right time. There are lots of obstacles to working onsite—such as traffic, weather, lighting, or even pests.

I start with a light interpretive pencil drawing, followed by many washes of ink. Drawing with exaggeration and character is welcome as long as the drawing is still faithful to the subject. After all, drawings are personal translations. My use of monochrome not only reduces the number of pictorial elements I need to worry about in the time I have, it also makes a historic link to documentary drawings and illustrations of the past. I want my pictures to be seen as informative as well as decorative, and timeless as well as contemporary.
After the work on location, comes the work in the studio. There I examine photographs I’ve taken to be sure I did not miss essential details. Often at this stage, I will add more contrast to the drawing and detail to some of the more precise elements. Research and writing is done last.

What did you learn over the course of this project?

FL: My stated goal at the start of the project was "to draw landmarks of the past and present, in order to form a visual essay that explores, documents, and reveals history, preservation, and change in America." In doing so, I soon found that it would take a lifetime to draw everything I found interesting. Between Boston and Concord, the landscape forms an extraordinary quilt of historic places and periods, rich with visual interest and stories. This route holds the story of America in many ways. For example, I’ve drawn everything from Colonial era slave quarters to Barack Obama’s apartment building when he attended Harvard Law School. Revolution, industry, religion, immigration, culture, entertainment—all can be examined in one short ride. In the short time since I’ve created these works, some places have changed, thus making my drawings…history themselves.