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January 2020

New to the Collection: A Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling

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Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added an elegant and distinctive mark medal to its collection. In 1817, the owner of this medal, Thomas Colling (d. 1859) received the first three degrees at the newly founded Utica Lodge No. 270, in Utica, New York. The same year, the Grand Chapter of New York gave area Freemasons permission to establish Oneida Royal Arch Chapter No. 57. Thomas Colling joined this organization as well. Sometime after he received the Mark degree at the chapter, he commissioned this sophisticated mark jewel (at left).

Colling’s jewel is a shield-shaped. One side bears the motto of the Royal Arch, “Holiness to the Lord” at the top. At the point of the shield, the engraver cut block and script letters spelling out Colling’s name and chapter within an oval. The center of the medal features a female figure holding a ball and a plumb line, leaning against a plain block with a triangle within a circle drawn on it that supports an urn. A group of Masonic tools, a book (likely a Bible), a compasses, a mallet, and a level, are at the bottom of the block. The figure on Colling’s jewel, dressed in robes and sandals in a classical style, could possibly represent Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune, chance, and luck.  She was usually identified by the attributes of a ball, wheel, or cornucopia.

In the early 1800s, the Masonic virtues of faith, hope, and charity, were sometimes represented by female figures shown with particular attributes. Faith carried a cross or Bible, Hope held an anchor, and Charity nursed or carried children. For his mark, engraved on the other side of the medal, Colling selected the virtue of hope (at left, below). The craftsman who engraved Colling’s jewel depicted hope as a woman on the shore, with a ship in the distance, gesturing upward and stepping on a large anchor half obscured by her skirt. At the top of the jewel, the craftsman engraved a square, compasses, and Bible. At the tip of the shield, he depicted a shovel, pick, and rod, the working tools of the Royal Arch degree.

An adept engraver decorated Colling’s medal using a number of techniques such as, line engraving, roulette work, and stipple. Although the name of this engraver is unknown, we hope further research will help uncover more about the craftsman who ornamented this jewel. If you have any suggestions or ideas about this medal, please leave them in the comment section below.

Many thanks to Joseph Patzner of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York.

 

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Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, mark side, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

Brothers Helping Brothers to Stand on their Feet: The Story of Masonic Employment Bureaus

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. 


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Letter from the Masonic Employment Bureau to Washington Lodge, No. 3, 1911 July 18.

 

Seattle, Wash. July 18, 1911.

Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Washington Lodge # 3 F. & A. M.

Worshipful Sir and Brethern [sic]:—

The several Masonic Lodges of F. & A.M. in Seattle have organized, and are now operating a Masonic Employment Bureau.

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

Fraternally yours,

C. H. Steffen
Sec’y.—Supt.


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.”

New Age  1931

Classified ads for Masons seeking work
The New Age Magazine, 1931 September

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 free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 


Captions

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.