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July 2021

The Shaving Mason

2001_072aeS1cropped for blogIn 1904, American innovator and Freemason King Camp Gillette (1855-1932), first a member of Adelphi Lodge in Quincy, Massachusetts, who later belonged to Columbian Lodge in Boston, began manufacturing a safety razor with disposable blades. While some form of a safety razor had been in use for decades, Gillette patented the first disposable blades with a double-edged safety razor. This innovation made shaving easier—men no longer needed to sharpen their blades. In the late 1800s and early 1900s tastes and styles in men's facial hair changed. A growing number of men preferred to be clean-shaven and Gillette's new razor dovetailed with this trend. 

In this same period, membership in fraternal societies was at an all-time high. Manufacturers, including the Gillette Company, made products decorated with Masonic and fraternal symbols, appealing to the high number of Masonic and fraternal consumers in the United States. This shaving kit, with a two-piece double-edged razor and a box for disposable blades, features a Masonic emblem at the center—a square and compasses with the letter G.

Other shaving related products gained in popularity with this clean shaven trend, including shaving mugs, soaps, and brushes. Ernest Price EPrice shaving mug 2016_044_3 for blog(1892-1966), a carpenter from Watertown, Massachusetts, had this standard shaving mug personalized with his name and Masonic symbols. Price, a member of Sydney No. 84 in Nova Scotia, emigrated to Massachusetts in 1920. in 1945 he affiliated with Pequossette Lodge, in Arlington, Massachusetts. The Museum has several examples of personalized fraternal shaving mugs in the collection. These mugs illustrate the connection between consumer goods and fraternalism in the early 1900s.

To see more shaving related material from the collection visit our online collections site here: https://bit.ly/3iSJxfw

Captions:

Shaving Kit, 1920-1950. Gillette, United States. Gift of Richard W. Parker, 2001.072a-g. Photograph by David Bohl.

Shaving Mug, 1920-1950. United States. Gift of Mabel P. Mills, 2016.044.3.

References:

Robert Blake Powell, Occupational & Fraternal Shaving Mugs of the United States Catalog, (Hurst, TX: Publications Company Hurst, 1978).

Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons Membership Cards 1733–1990. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Ancestry.com. Accessed July 27, 2021.


Digital Collections Highlight: Check Signed by President Garfield and Albert Hawkins

Hawkins check frontThe G. Edward Elwell, Jr., Autograph Collection contains around one hundred documents collected by G. Edward Elwell, Jr., 33°, a member of Caldwell Consistory (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), a professional printer and Scottish Rite Mason. In 1898, the 12-year-old Elwell wrote a letter to Admiral George Dewey (1837–1917), a hero of the Spanish-American War. Dewey’s reply became the first signed document in Elwell's collection. The items in the collection span nearly 500 years of history (1489-1960), and each contains the signature of a well-known figure from American and European history.

One of the items that has always caught my eye is this check, dated June 30, 1881. President James A. Garfield (1831-1881) signed this check, which was issued to Albert Hawkins, the White House's coachman, two days before the President was shot. The sixty-dollar check was Hawkins' monthly salary. After the death of President Garfield, his widow, Lucretia Garfield, gave the check to the historian Edward Everett Hale, who notes the history of the check on the reverse.

Hawkins check backThere is little doubt that Elwell collected this item because of its association with President Garfield, but today, we can see that it helps tell a more complete story, that of Albert Hawkins, a Black man who served as the White House's coachman under six U.S. presidents. The White House Historical Association, in writing about Hawkins, states that “Albert Hawkins was a coachman who began his service under Ulysses S. Grant. By the 1880s, he was among the most celebrated of Washington’s African American community…”

You can see a high-res image of this check at our Digital Collections website.

Caption:
Check issued to Albert Hawkins, 1881 June 30. Gift of Caldwell Consistory, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, A74/002/043.


A Portrait of Samuel Larison, Freemason and Winemaker

2008_038_17DS1 Samuel Larison
Samuel Larison, 1860-1869. California. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.17.

Around 1853 the subject of this photograph, Samuel Larison (also spelled Larrison), drawn by the promise of the Gold Rush, emigrated to California. Larison mined for a few years and “met with more or less success.” Eventually he left prospecting and purchased land to farm. He settled with his family near the town of Cloverdale in Sonoma County, California. There he became a pioneer winemaker, a cooper for the new wine industry, and a charter member of the town’s Masonic lodge. 

In the 1870s Samuel Larison (1821-1899) advertised multiple times as a cooper, declaring, “Wine-Growers, Attention! Cooperage of all kinds on hand and made to order….” A note in the local paper detailed that he used white oak from neighboring Lake County to make wine-pipes (specialized wine barrels) that held 150 gallons (about 750 modern bottles of wine). Starting in 1868, he cultivated grapes, with 18 acres planted with Zinfandel, Burgundy, and other varieties by 1883. Ten years later one observer drew attention to his product, noting that on a visit to the Cloverdale Winery “a load of Burgundy grapes grown by Samuel Larison…were the best we ever saw.”

Larison had first become a Mason as a young man in Ohio. He was a member of Yuba Lodge No. 39 in Marysville from 1856 to 1857. Later he was one of the charter members of Curtis Lodge No. 140 in Cloverdale, founded soon after he settled in town. The lodge received its charter in 1860; that same year Larison served as the lodge’s Tyler. Decades later, his obituary recalled that Larison was “an ardent admirer of masonry and for fifty years was a member of that order.”

This photograph shows Larison wearing the regalia of a Royal Arch Mason sometime in the 1860s. His obituary stated that he was a “chapter mason,” or member of a Royal Arch Chapter. When Larison first became a Royal Arch Mason or which chapter he belonged to is not known. Though many details about Larison’s Masonic career remain to be uncovered, this portrait of Larison in his apron suggests the pride he felt in his association with the group.

Many years after this photograph was taken, Larison continued to demonstrate his devotion to Freemasonry. In 1895 he was the oldest living member of the lodge and attended an installation of lodge officers. The local paper recorded of Larison that on this occasion, even though he did not travel into to town often, “his fraternal love for Masonry was to[o] overpowering to resist this opportunity to meet again with his brothers.”

If you'd like to more photographic portraits in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection, visit our online collections database or take a look at our flickr albums of cabinet cards and daguerreotypes.

 

Many thanks to Thomas Krummell, Assistant Grand Secretary/Recorder, Grand York Rite of California, for his help in researching Samuel Larison's Masonic activities in California.

References:

Tom Gregory, History of Sonoma County, California with Biographical Sketches (Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Company, 1911), 668, 671.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, CA: Frank Eastman, Printer, 1857), 175.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, CA: Frank Eastman, Printer, 1860), 476.

“Wine-Growers, Attention!,” Sonoma Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) December 14, 1872, 7.

"Samuel Larrison of Cloverdale…," Los Angeles Daily Herald (Los Angeles, CA) July 9, 1874, 2.

“Cloverdale,” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) September 19, 1883, 2.

“Local Items," Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) September 24, 1892, 3.

“Samuel Larrison, a charter member…,” Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) December 28, 1895, 3.

“Samuel Larrison Passes Away,” Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) May 27, 1899, 3.