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January 2022

Now on View - Recent Acquisitions in the Library & Archives

A2021_021_006_webThe exhibition currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room features some recent acquisitions. This circular is among the items.

On June 7, 1893, the worst fire in Fargo, North Dakota’s history, destroyed much of the town, including its city hall, the business district, and homes of most of Fargo’s 6,000 residents. This circular describes the destruction, which included “every Lodge Room in the City.” The General Relief Committee of Northern Light Lodge No. 1 sent out this appeal for donations to other Odd Fellows. It noted that fifty members of the lodge “lost home, business and everything they possessed.” If you are interested in learning more about the fire, the North Dakota State University Archives has a page about the fire, including photos that depict the devastation.

The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives is one of the premiere repositories in the United States for the study of Freemasonry and fraternalism and is recognized as one of six major Masonic libraries in the country. Its collections reflect the Museum’s scope of Freemasonry, fraternalism, and American history. The Library & Archives holds one of the world's most comprehensive collections on the subject of Freemasonry, as well as other fraternal organizations, such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias, whose development paralleled or was influenced by Masonry.

The Library & Archives collections pre-date the founding of the Museum in 1975, with the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council library collections forming the nucleus of the Van Gorden-Williams Library. Since its inception, the Library & Archives has continued to add to its holdings—from unique manuscripts to the latest scholarship on fraternalism—through purchases and donations.

The Library & Archives encourages both serious and casual researchers to consult its collections and learn more about American history, especially the wide variety of fraternal groups that have been part of our national story, and which demonstrate the role that Masonic and fraternal organizations have played—and continue to play—in American life.

Do you have something you're interested in donating? Feel free to get in touch with us through the museum's website.

Caption:

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Circular Letter, 1893
Issued by Northern Light Lodge, No. 1
Fargo, North Dakota
Museum Purchase, A2021/021/006


The Masonic Hall of Fame: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

As we passed on it seemed as if those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have an end. Meriwether Lewis, 1805

NPS_INDE_14096_MeriweatherLewisByCWPeale_600 smaller
Meriwether Lewis, ca. 1807. Charles Willson Peale. Independence National Historic Park.

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson charged Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) to lead an expedition to explore and map the land that the United States had gained with the 15-million-dollar Louisiana Purchase. This area stretched from Louisiana to what is now Montana. Jefferson asked the explorers to find a water route across the continent, make scientific observations, and establish diplomatic relations with the Native American tribes over whose land they traveled. Lewis and Clark, with the other members of the Corps of Discovery, made progress on all of these goals. As well, the keenly observed impressions that the pair recorded in their journals about geography, plants, animals, and people, have sparked the imagination of generations to dream about exploration, discovery, and the American West.

Corps of Discovery

In twenty-eight months of exploration, from 1803 to 1806, Lewis and Clark’s party traveled over 8,000 miles from St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark’s group of volunteers from the Army as well as interpreters, including Sacagawea (c. 1788-1812), a Lemhi Shoshone woman and her baby, witnessed many wonders. They also endured unpredictable weather, shortages of supplies, illness, accidents, and uncertainty. Lewis and Clark made their initial report of the expedition to Jefferson in 1806. A narrative of their expedition, based on their journals, was published in 1814.

Friends and Brothers

Lewis and Clark first met when they served together in the Army in the 1790s. Lewis had become a Freemason during that time, at Door to Virtue Lodge No. 44, in Albemarle, Virginia, in 1797. In 1809, Clark took his degrees St. Louis Lodge No. 111, where Lewis had served as founding Master just a year before. Their time as members of the same lodge was cut short by Lewis’s unexpected death in 1809.

"The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History"

Lewis and Clark are included in the  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s new exhibition, "The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History." This

William Clark portrait 1921-055-0001
William Clark, ca. 1810. John Wesley Jarvis. Missouri Historical Society.

exhibition showcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition will be on view through October of 2024. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons, like Lewis and Clark, who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours.