From the mid-1840s through the 1860s, merchant tailor Abner W. Pollard (1808-1886) sold Masonic aprons and other regalia to Freemasons throughout New England from his store in Boston. An 1849 price list published by Pollard notes several of the different types of aprons he offered to his customers. Included on this list were Master’s aprons in satin for $2.50 to $3.00. A less costly option was a Master’s apron in leather for $00.75 to $1.00. Polland’s price list also noted a painted satin Royal Arch apron for $5.00. Many examples of the aprons that Pollard sold survive to the present day. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library holds aprons marked by Pollard and others attributed to Pollard in its collection, as well as several on loan to the museum by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. Surviving examples of Pollard’s aprons with histories of ownership show that he supplied regalia to many lodges in Massachusetts, including lodges in Cambridge, Andover, Dorchester, and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston.
Photographic portraits of Freemasons wearing Pollard aprons provide evidence of the popularity of Pollard’s designs beyond his home state. Photographer William Weiman Peabbles (1831-1901) who worked in Livermore Falls, Maine, captured this image of a man in his street clothes, a top hat, and what appears to be one of Pollard’s aprons (at left). The relatively plain apron in the photograph bears an image of the jewel of a Senior Deacon, an officer in a Masonic lodge. This design, though it features a Senior Deacon’s jewel, or badge of office, appears to have been used broadly by Master Masons and by lodge officers. The “Master’s aprons” on Pollard’s 1849 price list may have been similar in style to the apron in this portrait. Extant examples of aprons like this one are printed on white silk edged in pleated light blue silk ribbon and silver trim. Others were printed on leather, such as this one with a history of having been used at Union Lodge in Dorchester, Massachusetts.
A Freemason who had his photograph taken in White River Junction, Vermont, wore what is likely one of Pollard’s aprons designed for members of Royal Arch chapters. He donned the apron and a sash over his street clothes of a vest and pants in a matching pattern and a coordinating coat. The apron that the subject of this portrait (at right) posed in likely resembles this example edged in pleated red silk ribbon.
After almost two decades of outfitting Freemasons, Pollard retired, turning his business over to his son. Abner Pollard’s work survives not only in examples of silk and leather aprons he sold, but also in portraits of proud Freemasons wearing his products.
Man in Apron, 1860-1870. William Weiman Peabbles (1831-1901), Livermore Falls, Maine. Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.158.
Man in Royal Arch Regalia, 1860-1863. Culver Brothers and Hodges, White River Junction, Vermont. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.52.
Aimee E. Newell, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library (Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2015), 167-169.
Abner W. Pollard, Price Sheet, 1849, Boston, Massachusetts. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Maria C. Rogers, A2006/57/3.