Brothers Helping Brothers to Stand on their Feet: The Story of Masonic Employment Bureaus
January 14, 2020
Many readers know of the Scottish Rite’s mission to be a fraternity that fulfills its Masonic obligation to care for its members. Many documents in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library illustrate this theme like this 1911 letter from the Masonic Employment Bureau of Seattle, which highlights the Fraternity’s efforts to provide meaningful employment to their unemployed Brethren.
|Seattle, Wash. July 18, 1911.
Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Washington Lodge # 3 F. & A. M.
Worshipful Sir and Brethern [sic]:—
The object of the Bureau is to secure employment for worthy Master Masons of local Lodges, or sojourning brethern [sic]. You will no doubt agree that this is a step in the right direction, but, as many more of our brethern are coming to Seattle than can be supplied with positions here we are appealing to the Masonic Lodges of the State to aid us to secure positions in their respective Cities and Towns, where labor is in demand.
The Bureau can furnish first-class, capable men in all lines of work, and shall certainly be pleased to have your fraternal co-operation. If you know of any positions now open, or any that you may hereafter hear of, a letter to the Secretary-Superintendent will get results.
With best wishes to your Lodge, I remain
C. H. Steffen
The first Masonic employment bureau in the United States was created in the city of St. Louis in 1895 by a group of Freemasons who desired to see “worthy members of the Fraternity” find employment. The St. Louis bureau had a long and storied existence, which may have ended sometime in the mid- to late-1970s. It helped numerous Freemasons find employment during its existence, and in 1917, the Proceedings for the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star of for the state of Wisconsin reported that the St. Louis bureau had expanded its mission to include their members, as well as “their dependent ones.”
Classified ads for Masons seeking work
More importantly, the St. Louis Bureau inspired Freemasons to follow its example, and similar Masonic employment bureaus sprung up throughout the country. Builder Magazine reported that in 1924 alone, thirty Masonic Employment Bureaus existed, including the bureau in Seattle. The magazine also reported that as of 1922, twelve of these bureaus had found 16,578 individuals employment.
Do you have any information regarding the history of Masonic Employment Bureaus? Please contact us or comment about this topic in the comments section below.
Letter from the Masonic Employment Bureau to Washington Lodge, No. 3, 1911 July 18. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 630.004.