The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's blog started fifteen years ago this month, with a post about Masonic impostors. Nearly every May since then, we have returned to the topic of Masonic impostors. This year is no exception. Pictured here is a detail from the June 1924 issue of the Official Warning Circular of The Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada.
The Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada began publishing the Official Warning Circular in 1886. The primary function of the circular was to try to prevent non-Masons from imposing on the charity of Masonic organizations and defrauding them out of their money. This was accomplished by a type of crowdsourcing: local Masonic organizations would share information about known imposters with the Masonic Relief Association who then, in turn, would share that information in their circulars throughout the U.S. and Canada, in an attempt to stay one step ahead of those who would travel from state to state, presenting themselves as Masons in need.
In some cases, these Masonic impostors appear to have fallen on hard times and were defrauding Masons out of desperation. In other cases, the impostors appear to be well-practiced con artists who presented themselves as Masons and told a convincing story in each new town and city.
This is quite evident with case number 7413, John J. McGettigan, pictured above. The description of McGettigan notes that he had used at least three different aliases and had been published in the circular before under different case numbers which cast light on earlier successful swindles. The description also contains details of some of McGettigan's previous brushes with the law, and that he was, at the time that the circular was published, wanted by the Solicitor General of Atlanta, Georgia.
McGettigan, it turns out, may have been part of a larger confidence game - that is, an attempt to defraud people after first gaining their trust. In 1925, McGettigan's capture was front page news in the June 4, 1925 edition of the Sioux City Journal. In the article, pictured above, McGettigan is described as having been one of five "leaders in confidence games of national scope" who was captured as part of a coordinated effort in Chicago, Illinois.
If you want to learn more about Masonic impostors, be sure to check out all of our previous posts on the topic.