« June 2023 | Main | August 2023 »

July 2023

Now on View: From Head to Foot: Fraternal Regalia Illustrations

In the 1800s and 1900s selling regalia and costumes to fraternal groups became big business. Regalia companies seeking to attract customers produced richly illustrated catalogs and colorful advertising material to highlight the costumes and uniforms they manufactured. The artwork and advertising material in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s new exhibition, “From Head to Foot: Fraternal Regalia Illustrations,” were produced by the Cincinnati Regalia Company (1895-1998), of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Ihling Bros. Everard Company (1869-1995), of Kalamazoo, Michigan. These regalia makers, along with others, produced uniforms, regalia, and accessories for Masons, Shriners, Elks, and additional fraternal groups. These items can help us better understand how companies marketed and sold fraternal regalia between 1900 and 1980.

98_041_138DS1 5 of 5The number of Americans who were members of fraternal groups grew to millions by the beginning of the 1900s. Regalia companies attempted to outfit this large consumer base with everything they needed, from head to foot, as advertised in this flyer. Ihling Bros. Everard Company offered many types of Shrine regalia to appeal to two national Shrine organizations, the Ancient Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, with 87,000 members by 1904, and the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, which had established more than sixty temples across the US by the start of World War I. Shrine organizations took inspiration from traditional Middle Eastern clothing for their ritual and regalia. That taste is illustrated in this flyer by the turban, wide-leg pants, and curved-toe shoes worn by the model.

98_0003_121DS1Some of the artwork displayed in this exhibition was created to be reproduced in catalogs. This illustration, for example, appeared in an Ihling Bros. Everard Company catalog, printed around 1970, that featured costumes and accessories for the Knights Templar. This group, part of the York Rite of Freemasonry, draws inspiration from the crusading knights of medieval Europe. This model is presented in a “Pilgrim Warrior” costume, which, in addition to a pointed helmet, a sword, and a cape, included a full suit of what Ihling Bros. Everard Company called “armor cloth.” This cloth was patterned to look like scale mail, protective metal clothing worn by medieval knights and soldiers. These catalogs, printed in black and white, featured a variety of items, including hats, shoulder braid, jackets, pants, robes, tights, and shoes. Catalogs were used by fraternal groups to order uniforms and regalia for their members to wear for meetings, ritual work, parades, and other activities.

88_42_156_6DS1Some of the colorful illustrations, like the one shown here from the Cincinnati Regalia Company, were sent to customers to present color and design variations to supplement the black and white images in catalogs. Regalia companies served both women’s and men’s organizations and produced catalogs specifically designed for women’s organizations which displayed the regalia and costumes of particular orders. Because of the distinct American flag-inspired design of this costume, it was likely created for a group with a patriotic agenda, such as the Daughters of America, a Junior Order of United American Mechanics women’s auxiliary.

These attractive advertisements offer insight into the vibrant regalia industry during the 1900s. This exhibition will be on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library until July 26, 2024.

New to the Collection: Masonic Fair Bowl

2023_001DP1MC biggerIn the late 1800s White’s Pottery of Utica, New York, (also called the Central New York Pottery) is thought to have created this substantial stoneware vessel. Makers ornamented its surface with patterns and shapes, including swags, ribbons, flowers, and vegetables, all highlighted with cobalt blue. The legend “Masonic Fair” is impressed within shield-shaped cartouches in three places on the outside of the object. This handsome and intriguing bowl is a recent addition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

At first glance, this large footed vessel—over 19 inches in diameter—appears to be a punch bowl. However, a close look at the patterns beneath the lettering within the shield-shaped cartouches ornamenting the bowl raise questions about the vessel and the purpose for which it was originally designed.  

In addition to functional objects, such as jars, water coolers, and mugs, White’s Pottery and the Central New York Pottery made decorative stoneware objects such as commemorative tankards, match holders, and coin banks. One of the firm’s clients was Bardwell’s Root Beer, a company run by druggist Charles Ellis Bardwell (1853-1927) of Holyoke, Massachusetts. He advertised “Bardwell’s Unparalleled Root Beer” to his fellow drug store owners to sell at their soda fountains. In a 1900 notice he offered not only root beer syrup, but an “outfit, consisting of Bardwell’s Root Beer Cooler…Bardwell’s Root Beer Pitcher, Six of Bardwell’s elegant Steins.” The components of these sets were made of stoneware and are commonly thought to have been manufactured by White’s Pottery.

In 1899 Bardwell received a design patent for “a new and original Design for Bowls” that were distinguished by vertically oriented perforated cylinders at their centers. From an image accompanying one of Bardwell’s root beer outfit advertisements, it appears that the perforated element contained the pitcher from which the root beer was poured into lidded steins. Bardwell’s ads described the bowl with the cylinder at its center as a cooler, claiming that his delectable product was served in “ice cold steins kept cold in Bardwell’s cooler.” The perforated cylinder kept the pitcher used to serve the root beer out of the ice, but cool. The dense stoneware from which the cooler, steins, and pitcher were made was a good insulator and helped keep the root beer, steins, and pitcher cool.

2023_001detailFrom images of surviving examples and pictures in Bardwell’s ads, each element of Bardwell’s outfit—the cooler, the pitcher, and the steins—bore the name “Bardwell’s” or “Bardwell’s Root Beer” in distinctive script. Surprisingly, this vessel, though marked with the phrase “Masonic Fair,” was made from a mold originally designed for to create the bowl that was part of Bardwell’s root beer outfit. On this bowl recently added to the collection of the museum, letters spelling out “Bardwell’s Root Beer“ are faintly visible under the words “Masonic Fair” (below, at left, look for the letter "R" under the star). The phrase “Masonic Fair” was likely pressed into the bowl while the clay was still moist enough to accept the impression. Decorators later outlined it with cobalt blue.

A member of Mount Holyoke Lodge in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts, Bardwell may have offered coolers customized with the words “Masonic Fair” to serve refreshments or as prizes at fundraisers for Masonic organizations. Hopefully further research will shed light on the connection between Bardwell’s root beer coolers and Masonic fairs.


Advertisements, “The Popular New England Beverage for 1900…,” The Spatula, March, 1900, May, 1900, n. p.

John L. Scherer, Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection (Albany, NY: The University of the State of New York, 2015), 126-127, 136-141.

“What’s New?” The Spatula, April, 1900, 361.

For examples of stoneware made by White’s Pottery, see the Munson Museum, Utica, New York, online collection database.  

Photo credits:

Cooler, 1894-1901. Attributed to White’s Pottery, Utica, New York. Museum Purchase through the Special Acquisitions Fund, and Maureen Harper, Patricia Loiko, and Hilary Anderson Stelling in Memory of Jill Aszling, 2023.001. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

Detail Cooler, 1894-1901. Attributed to White’s Pottery, Utica, New York. Museum Purchase through the Special Acquisitions Fund, and Maureen Harper, Patricia Loiko, and Hilary Anderson Stelling in Memory of Jill Aszling, 2023.001. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.