American Freemasonry

Chattanooga Communication Souvenir

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Prince Hall Temple Souvenir Pin, 1914. Chattanooga Button & Badge Manufacturing Company, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gift of Valley of Columbus, Ohio, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 99.013.29.

On August 2-7, 1914, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee celebrated its forty-fourth annual meeting, or Communication, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This souvenir badge in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library was created to commemorate that meeting and connects the stories of emancipation and African American Freemasonry.

The annual Communication was a chance for African American Masons from all over Tennessee to meet and visit. The larger Chattanooga African American community found other ways to convene. On January 1, 1914, leaders in the city hosted an “emancipation celebration.” As reported by the Chattanooga Daily Times, “the fifty-first anniversary of emancipation was celebrated yesterday by the colored population of Chattanooga under the auspices of the Colored Boosters' Club of this city.” The observance included speeches, banquets, musical performances, and a parade “nearly a quarter of a mile long.”

This anniversary celebration seems to have been tied to the original Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863. However, Lincoln’s Proclamation depended on the Union winning the Civil War to take effect in the South. Hence June 19, 1865–the day when news of the war’s end and the resulting emancipation of enslaved people reached the African American community in Galveston, Texas–is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. Five years after that momentous date, on August 31, 1870, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee was founded.

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Prince Hall Temple Souvenir Pin, 1914. Chattanooga Button & Badge Manufacturing Company, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gift of Valley of Columbus, Ohio, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 99.013.29.

The pin at the top of this commemorative item shows the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge building in Chattanooga. This three-story brick building was built in the 1800s as a commercial building and renovated by the local Masonic community between 1903 and 1908 to house seven Prince Hall Affiliated Masonic lodges, three women’s auxiliaries, and one Knights Templar commandery. The building was located on East 9th Street, the same street as the City Auditorium where many events that were part of the 1914 Communication were held. The use of the Masonic Temple on the Annual Communication pin reflects the pride of Chattanooga Masons and celebrates the progress of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

The ribbon is marked on the back with the name of the maker, Chattanooga Button & Badge Mfg. Co. This company was founded around 1911 and located on East 4th Street in Chattanooga, a few blocks from East 9th Street where the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge was.

In preparation for inclusion in The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History, this souvenir badge was conserved in 2021. This souvenir, a compelling symbol of African American identity in the South after emancipation, will be on view at the Museum & Library until October 2024.

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Similar examples at Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture:


Masonic Mathematics: The 47th Problem of Euclid

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Past Master's Jewel, 1823. Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832). London. 2017.018.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

Do you remember the Pythagorean Theorem? This geometric figure, also known as the 47th Problem of Euclid, represents the idea that the area of the two smaller squares created by using the lines of a right-angle triangle as bases is equal to the area of the largest square created in the same way. It is stated mathematically as c2 = a2 + b2 in which “c” is the hypotenuse (longest side) and “a” and “b” are the other two sides. Like many geometric expressions, it’s difficult to describe with words, but its meaning is fairly comprehensible visually.

Luckily, then, this symbol appears on Masonic aprons, jewels, pitchers, quilts, lantern slides, mark medals, tracing boards, and other decorative and ritual material in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Freemasonry draws symbols from a variety of sources, including geometry, to teach instructive lessons to its members.

This geometric figure has two names associated with some of mathematics’ historic giants: Pythagoras (ca. 570 B.C.E. – ca. 495 B.C.E.) and Euclid (ca. 300 B.C.E.). However, its roots reach back further. Babylonians (ca. 1900 - 1600 B.C.E) used it to solve geometric problems that involved right triangles. In Freemasonry, it is often called the 47th Problem of Euclid. This symbol is introduced in the 3rd or Master Mason degree.

The object shown here, an engraved Past Master’s jewel, bears a particularly compelling visual representation of this noteworthy geometric figure. English silversmith Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832) crafted this jewel, marking it with his initials and British silver hallmarks. The “leopard’s head” mark indicates that the silver was hallmarked in London after 1822. The lowercase “h” indicates Harper made the item in 1823, according to the “date letters” that were used in British silver.

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Past Master's Jewel, 1823. Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832). London. 2017.018.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

This form of a Past Master’s jewel featuring a right-angle square with a rectangle engraved with a depiction of the 47th Problem of Euclid, was popular in English lodges in the early decades of the 1800s. This style of jewel inspired Past Master’s jewels in Pennsylvania, which often have a right-angle square bearing a suspended rectangle with the geometric figure engraved on it.

This fascinating Past Master’s jewel is currently on view at the museum in "What's in a Portrait?" and in our online exhibition. You can see other items in the museum’s collection that bear the 47th Problem of Euclid on our searchable online collections database.


Digital Collections Highlight: 1768 Lodge Summons Printed & Signed by Paul Revere

Revere summons for webPerhaps best remembered today as the messenger who brought word to his fellow colonists that the British Army had left Boston and were headed west toward Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere (1734-1818) was much more than that. He was a talented silversmith and engraver, a political organizer, a forward-thinking entrepreneur, and a Freemason. This document from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Digital Collections website helps illustrate many of these roles. It is a lodge summons, a notice which was sent from the Lodge of St. Andrew to its members to inform them of an upcoming meeting.

Raised a Master Mason in 1761 in the Lodge of St. Andrew, Revere held a number of offices between 1762 and 1765 - first as Junior Deacon, then Junior Warden, and Senior Warden. From 1767 to 1769, Revere served as Secretary of the lodge. His duties would have included sending out notices summoning members to the lodge's next meeting. This particular summons has many interesting connections to Revere.

The bottom right hand corner of the lodge summons makes it clear that it was "Engrav'd, Printed, & Sold by Paul Revere. Boston." Yet what makes this particular copy of the summons special is that it is also signed by Revere in his capacity as Secretary of the lodge. This summons is dated February 10, 1768, during the time that Revere held that office. The summons directs the member to a meeting at "Freemason's Hall," which is the how the lodge referred to their meeting place - the famous Green Dragon Tavern - beginning in 1764.

This summons was produced quite early in Revere's time as a Mason. In 1794, over twenty-five years after this summons was issued, Revere was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. During Revere's three years in office as Grand Master, he chartered 23 new lodges, almost doubling the number of lodges in the state, which left a lasting mark on Freemasonry in Massachusetts.

If you’d like to take a closer look at this summons, visit the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections site.

Caption:
Paul Revere. Masonic Summons issued by the Lodge of St. Andrew, 1768. Museum Purchase with the assistance of the Lodge of St. Andrew and the Kane Lodge Foundation, MA 001.243.


In the Spirit of Unity: The Meaning of Prince Hall Americanism Day

The exact date of the first Prince Hall Day celebration referred to in this program from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is difficult to pinpoint. An uncorroborated article in the Los Angeles Sentinel provides the date 1808, while a gap in the primary source material until 1927 suggests the origin of this African American celebration may have taken place well after the death of Hall in 1808. The journey to discover the true meaning of this document and day underscores Prince Hall Freemasonry's commitment to being a unifying force in American society.

A2022_001_002DS001Prince Hall Americanism Day proclamation and program, 1964

"As the Christian has a revival, the Moslem [sic] has a pilgrimage to Mecca, so do Prince Hall Masons have revivals, and they are called Prince Hall Americanism Day, celebrated on or as close to September 12th each year. It is a time for the Prince Hall Mason to take stock of his life, renew his faith in God, Country and Fraternity, which will include his neighbor. It is a time to renew his faith in God, his patriotism to his country and his duty to   mankind. It is in the truest sense a Masonic Revival."The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas, 2021.

During the 1950s, the theme of “Americanism” was expanded upon by the Grand Masters Conference of Prince Hall Masons in response to the Red Scare of the '50s. The Grand Masters, who also served as leaders within the African American Community, understood the disenfranchisement of African Americans within American society, and saw this moment in history as an opportunity to bring people together in a common cause. "Masonry and Americanism," they stated, "will embrace, substantially, those spiritual drives of our Reverend Brother Prince Hall, who along with his contemporaries [Washington and the Founding Fathers]. served as a founding father of our American Idealism."

It was in this spirit, in the spirit of Prince Hall Freemasonry and of unity, that on Wednesday, September 7, 2022, the two Sovereign Grand Commanders of the Supreme Councils (white) and the two Sovereign Grand Commanders of the United Supreme Councils (black) of the United States met at Washington, D.C., in the House of the Temple to sign a statement of unity. This document recognized the other bodies as the “sole and legitimate conservators” of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the United States and pledged to “support one another in the cause of Scottish Rite Freemasonry” and to serve as example of unity to the world-at-large.  

Scan_2022-10-04_18-39-54Statement of Unity
proclamation, September 7,2022
 

Do you have any information regarding the origins or history of Prince Hall Day? Please free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.


Captions

Prince Hall Americanism Day proclamation and program, 1964. Peter B. C. Brown, Jr., Prince Hall Masonic collection, 1964-1989. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 210.001.

Statement of Unity proclamation, September 7, 2022. Records and Correspondence of the Supreme Council, NMJ. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.


References

Arizona Sun. “Masons to Observe Prince Hall Day.” September 16, 1955: 7. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Boston Globe. “Auxiliary is Formed : Colored Women Organize to Assist Prince Hall Grand Lodge Centennial Committee.” September 26, 1907: 10. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <ProQuest>

Bridgeport Post. “Prince Hall Lodges of Masons to Hail Founder with State Celebration by 1,000 Members here Sept. 10.” August 23, 1961: 20. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Newspapers.com>

Evening Review. “Prince Hall Day Program.” September 11, 1929: 14. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Freemasons. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas. “Why Masons Celebrate Prince Hall Day,” 2021, Accessed: 9 September 2022. https://www.mwphglar.com/list-item-title

Freemasons. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. n.d. Protocol Manual. Accessed: 9 September 2022. https://cdn.website-editor.net/13c5a24262424017aa80012c701f5962/files/uploaded/ProtocolManual%2520%25281%2529.pdf

Hartford Courant. “1,000 Masons to Note Prince Hall Day Sunday.” September 4, 1962; 33. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Newspapers.com>

Herbert, Archille W. “Prince Hall Day Address.” Prince Hall Masonic Digest 7, no. 1 (1958) : 3-6. Accessed: 9 September 2022. https://oakland.access.preservica.com/?s=Prince+Hall+Masonic+Digest

Jackson Advocate. “Prince Hall Masons of Louisiana Hold 94th Annual Session.” June 29, 1957: 6. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Jackson Advocate. “Prince Hall Message Made Part of Congressional Record.” September 19, 1959: 4. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Los Angeles Sentinel. “City Proclaims Prince Hall Day.” September 22, 1966, C2.

News-Herald. “A.M.E. Zion.” September 29, 1928. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Parmer, Burrell D. “In Remembrance of Prince Hall on the Eve of Prince Hall Americanism Day.” The Texas Prince Hall Freemason II, no. 5 (Winter 2011): 54. Accessed: 9 September 2022. https://www.mwphglotx.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/TPHFM-Volume-2-Issue-5-Winter-2011.pdf

Pittsburgh Courier. “Attention Fraters.” March 12, 1927: 9. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Newspapers.com>

“Prince Hall Americanism Day Across Illinois: In Salute of the Father of African American Freemasonry in America and Beyond.” Prince Hall Masonic Journal. Fall 2013-Winter 2014. 9. Accessed: 9 September 2022. https://mwphglil.com/2013-14Winter.pdf

Shreveport Journal. “Negro Masons Will Observe Prince Hall Day.” September 14, 1951: 24. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Weekly Town Talk. “Prince Hall Day Set.” September 13, 1952: 5. Accessed: 9 September 2022. <Chronicling America>

Wesley, Charles H. History of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of Ohio, 1849-1960: An Epoch in American Fraternalism. Wilberforce, Ohio: Central State College Press, 1961.

Wesley, Charles H. Prince Hall: Life and Legacy. Washington, D.C.: United Supreme Council Southern Jurisdiction, Prince Hall Affiliation, 1977.

 


New to the Collection: Blood Donor Recognition Pin

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Blood Donation Lapel Pin. ca. 1983. Gift of Kamel Oussayef, 2022.049a-b.

New to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection this month is a small gold-colored lapel pin bearing a square and compasses and a “G” in blue enamel. Masonic lapel pins are abundant in both members’ homes and the Museum’s collection. This, however, is the first pin in the collection in the shape of a drop of blood.

Throughout the United States, more than ten state Grand Lodges sponsor a Masonic blood donation program of some kind. The model for many programs involves a coordinator at each local lodge who schedules blood drives on location and encourages brethren to donate. Each unit of blood donated by individual lodge members is counted towards the total for the whole lodge.

Lapel pins are given to individual members who achieve certain blood donation milestones. Some, like this one, are awarded for an initial donation of one unit. Others are given when the Mason reaches a certain volume of blood donated. For example, the Virginia Grand Lodge Blood Program specifies that new donors and donations under two gallons receive the pin type shown here, with a “G” in the center of the Masonic square and compasses. When an individual donates more than two gallons, each subsequent pin bears the number of gallons, increasing by increments of two.

Some Masons donate impressive volumes of blood throughout their lives, such as Scottish Rite Mason Steven Fishman of Georgia, who has donated over thirty-seven gallons since the 1970s. Given that one gallon is equal to eight one-pint donations and that donors can only give once every eight weeks, achieving that volume would take a minimum of forty-five years.

As mentioned above, individual donations by members are counted towards the one lodge’s contribution to the blood program. In Rhode Island, for example, lodges who seek to earn the Grand Master’s Award are advised to participate in local blood drives and ensure at least ten percent of their eligible members give blood.

This new addition to the collection helps us tell the story of how Masons, as the Virginia Blood Program Manual says, “. . . facilitate donations in an organized and craftsman-like fashion . . .”

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Reference and Further Reading:


Hurricane Gavel

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Gavel, ca. 1939. Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2657.

High in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, there is a grove of Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). In the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection cared for at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, there is a gavel made from the wood of one of these trees. The story of this gavel – from seeds to storage – brings together natural science and Masonic ingenuity.

In the early 1900s, Charles Sargent (1841-1927), the first Director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, wanted to add examples of Cedrus libani to the collection of trees and shrubs at the site. However, these trees – which are mentioned in the Bible – grew primarily in the warmer climate of Lebanon and did not seem suited for New England weather. With the help of German naturalist Walter Siehe (1859-1928), Sargent was able to locate a forest of Cedars of Lebanon in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. These trees grew further north and at higher altitudes and the two men thought they might also grow in Massachusetts.

In early 1902, Siehe shipped a number of cedar cones to Sargent and the trees were propagated in the greenhouses at the Arboretum. They started well and were planted on the grounds. By 1930, the Turkish Cedars of Lebanon were growing well and producing their own seed cones. The experiment was a success.

Then came the Hurricane of 1938, one of the most severe storms in New England history. The storm devastated the forests of the Northeast, destroying an estimated two billion trees in New York and New England. In the Arboretum, at least five of the Turkish cedars fell victim to the storm. (Happily, in 2022, eight of the original trees still survive on site.) As for the hurricane-damaged ones, a group of local Masons “grasped the opportunity to perpetuate these trees Masonically,” as one of them later said.

William Judd (1888-1946) was a member of Eliot Lodge in Dorchester and a gardener at Arnold Arboretum. During the clean-up after the hurricane, he and Welby McCollum (1887-1952) of West Roxbury Lodge decided to use some of the cedar wood to make a gavel. Given that McCollum worked as a builder, he may have crafted the piece.

After the gavel was completed, it was given to West Roxbury Lodge’s Past Master, Alexander McKechnie (1887-1965). He wrote out the story of the gavel on two typewritten pages – kept with the item – as a draft of his planned speech for a January 1940 presentation to West Roxbury Lodge. McKechnie mentioned in a handwritten addendum that he intended to present the gavel to the lodge and thence to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts if desired. His note is addressed to Joseph Earl Perry (1884-1983), then-Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, and ends, “If you decide to put this gavel in the Museum you can pick out the important points in the above for a small card.” This small piece of material culture made of wood more than one-hundred-twenty years old still has a big story to tell.

Reference and Further Reading:

Anthony S. Aiello and Michael S. Dosmann. “The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon,” Arnoldia, Volume 65, Issue 1 (2007). https://arboretum.harvard.edu/stories/the-quest-for-the-hardy-cedar-of-lebanon/


A Maine Mason at Sea

In 1852, shipbuilders in Calais, Maine, near the American border with Canada, launched a ship named the Lincoln. The following year, the Lincoln would commemorate American Independence Day many miles from Maine, in the Aegean port of Smyrna, Greece (now İzmir, Turkey). Like the Lincoln, her captain that day left his Maine home to make a living in the maritime world of the nineteenth century.

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Bark Lincoln, W.H. Polleys Master Laying at Anchor in Smyrna July 4th 1853. Raffaele Corsini, Smyrna, Greece. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 85.9.

In this watercolor, acquired by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1985, the Lincoln is shown lying at anchor in the foreground, with the city, its castle, and surrounding hills in the background. The ship bears four flags: from bow to stern, the “Union Jack” or Navy Jack, a blue flag with a Masonic square and compasses, a masthead pennant, and an American flag. The Lincoln’s Union Jack, a blue flag with white stars flown on American ships, appears to have twenty-six stars and her American flag twenty-one stars. Given that the United States had thirty-one states by 1853, perhaps the ship’s owners or captain had not updated her flags or, more likely, the painter took artistic license with these details.

It is believed that ship’s captains sometimes raised a flag bearing a square and compasses to invite Masons in the area aboard their vessel. To local residents and other mariners, this signaled his fraternal affiliation and served as an invitation for conversation, informal meetings, and trade. The Lincoln was in Smyrna in July 1853 to purchase opium, a common ingredient in American patent medicines at the time.

The Lincoln’s captain and 1/16 share owner for her first five years was Woodbury H. Polleys. Polleys was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine in 1817 and raised in Portland Lodge No. 1 in 1844. When he took command of the ship, he had been, as he later wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, “at sea as Master of a Ship since June 1848, principally trading between Europe & southern ports . . .”

After the Lincoln, Polleys went on to captain other vessels, including at least three Union ships during the Civil War. These included the USS Katahdin, USS Oleander, and USS Madgie. The latter two ships were part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, preventing Confederate vessels from eluding the Union trade blockade. After the Madgie sank off North Carolina in 1863, Polleys traveled north to Maine for a month’s leave “to procure a new outfit and visit my family.”

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Polleys used his knowledge of international trade to serve the new United States as Consul to Barbados and Commercial Agent to Cuba. Woodbury H. Polleys died of suicide in 1885 and is buried in Portland’s Pine Grove Cemetery. His headstone bears a Masonic square and compasses, as his ship’s flag did that day in 1853, many miles from Maine.

If you want to dive into this piece of artwork further, you can visit it and many others in our exhibition, “What’s in a Portrait?,” now on view at the Museum & Library. You can also visit the online version of the exhibition.

Further Reading:


Recent Acquisition: Hill Family Masonic Collection, 1817-2019

Donations to the collection, along with museum purchases, have made the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library one of the premier institutions in the world for the study of American Freemasonry and fraternalism. The staff are always grateful for the museum’s generous supporters and donors who have helped to build its world-class collection over the course of its nearly fifty year history. Today, we're highlighting the contributions of Jon Gregory Adams Hill, 33°, who has donated numerous artifacts to the museum’s collection (see a selection here), and who has recently donated the Hill Family Masonic Collection, 1817-2019, to the museum’s archives.

2022_232_019DS1Royal Arch certificate issued to Stephen Baker, 1817 May 23.
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Handwritten petition of John B. Hill to Liberty Lodge, 1848 November 6.
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Letter from John E. Giddings and H. L. Foster, 1858 April 9.
 

Amongst the nearly 400 documents found in this collection is this 1817 Royal Arch certificate issued by Concord Chapter, No. 1, of Wilmington, North Carolina, to Stephen Baker; this 1848 petition of John Beckford Hill, great grandfather of Jon Gregory Adams Hill, to Liberty Lodge of Beverly, Massachusetts; and this 1858 letter from John E. Gidding and H. L. Foster to Liberty Lodge in which they pledge to “abstain from the use of spirituous and intoxicating liquors” for a period of five years on penalty of a $100 fine.

These items, which will be added to the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives’ digital collections website in the upcoming months, represent only a small fraction of the many items added to the museum’s collection, built in part by the generosity of our supporters. The museum staff is extremely grateful for the continued support of our donors in helping us ito preserve and provide access to the history of American Freemasonry and fraternalism for future generations.

Would you like to donate an item to the Museum and Library’s collection? Please click on this link for more information.

 


Captions

Royal Arch certificate issued to Stephen Baker, 1817 May 23. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 006.

Handwritten petition of John B. Hill to Liberty Lodge, 1848 November 6. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 300.043

Letter from John E. Giddings and H. L. Foster, 1858 April 9. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 300.043

 

 

 

 



Mysteries in Clay: Pisgah Forest Masonic Pottery

New to the museum’s collection this spring are three pieces of North Carolina pottery bearing Masonic decoration. These items – a small bowl, a vase, and a cup or pencil holder – were created by Pisgah Forest Pottery in western North Carolina in the 1940s and 1950s. They join two previously-purchased bowls in the collection that match the new bowl nearly exactly. Our now-five-piece collection of Pisgah Forest Pottery inspires some interesting questions about their purpose, use, and Masonic connection.

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Pisgah Forest Masonic vase (1959), cup (circa 1948), bowl (1942). Pisgah Forest Pottery, Arden, North Carolina. 2022.023.1-3.

Pisgah Forest Pottery was founded in 1926 by Walter Benjamin Stephen (1876-1961) in rural western North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. He was a member, trustee, and Past Master (1945) of West Asheville Lodge No. 665, which merged with another Asheville Lodge in 2002. After Stephen’s death at the age of 85 in 1961, his step-grandson Thomas Case kept Pisgah Forest Pottery going with the help of another employee, Grady Ledbetter. Case died in 2014, and is buried in the same location as his grandfather, New Salem Baptist Church Cemetery. Nichols-West Asheville Lodge No. 650 performed the funeral ritual for Case.

Pisgah Forest Pottery officially closed in 2014, following Case’s death. Its historic pottery-making tools and equipment were donated to the North Carolina Museum of History. Examples of work from this important pottery are held and exhibited at other museums, such as the Smithsonian, the Asheville Art Museum, and the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum. Popular with collectors, pieces of Pisgah Forest Pottery frequently come up for auction.

All three of the Scottish Rite Museum’s bowls are cobalt blue with a pink glaze inside. The bottom of each bowl bears the company’s mark (a potter sitting at a wheel) and the words "Pisgah Forest / 1942”. They have a raised, unglazed emblem on the exterior which bears a double-headed eagle gripping a sword in its talons with a square and compass on its breast and a "32" glazed in blue above. On the two pieces purchased in 2019, the raised text "Asheville" appears below the emblem. However, on the piece purchased in 2022, the text reads: “Asheville Scottish Rite”. Given that all three bowls bear the same year and were clearly following a set design, it is interesting that our newest acquisition also has the words “Scottish Rite” added to it. For whom were these Scottish Rite Masonic bowls made? Much of Stephen’s usual work was sold to tourists in the region. Were these items produced as custom orders for the local Scottish Rite Valley? Were they given as gifts to Masons? More research is needed in order to determine the context and purpose of these bowls.

The inscriptions on the newly-acquired vase and cup give us a little more information about who likely owned and use them. The light blue vase has the words “To my Good Friend and Brother Dr. S. S. Fay 33° / Stephen - 1959" painted neatly in white glaze, along with a white cross with two bars and a double-headed eagle bearing a “33” on the neck of the vase. Walter Stephen was semi-retired from the pottery by about 1949, but he still created new pieces on his own in a small studio he built on his property that he called “Lone Pine Studio”. The vase inscription and date seem to indicate that he made this vase as a gift for a friend who was a 33° Mason. With help from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, we’ve identified “S. S. Fay” as Scott Stuart Fay, who was a member and Past Master of John A. Nichols Lodge No. 650, the lodge that later merged with Stephen’s West Asheville No. 665 in 2002. Fay was a West Asheville doctor who was born in 1882 and died in 1980.

The cup has a light blue glaze that matches the vase and is personalized with a white clay emblem on the exterior which bears a keystone and the words "C. C. Ricker / G. H. P. / 1947-48". The “G. H .P.” here helped identify the owner. These letters stand for “Grand High Priest” and paired with the keystone on the cup, suggests that “C. C. Ricker” was elected a Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of North Carolina in 1947. With this information, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina helped us confirm the likely recipient of the cup as Charles Carpenter Ricker. Ricker, an active Mason, served as Grand High Priest, Grand Master (1962), and Grand Commander of North Carolina.

As many members know, one of the benefits of Freemasonry is the chance to convene and form friendships with fellow Masons. We don’t know if Walter Stephen met Scott Fay and Charles Ricker through business dealings in Asheville or if they met as brethren, but these personalized pots underscore their Masonic connection.

Reference and Further Reading:

Our thanks to Eric Greene at the Grand Lodge of North Carolina for his research assistance on this post.


Digital Collections Highlight: African American Freemasonry & Fraternalism

A2018_006_001 PH GLNY 1962 Masonic certThe Van Gorden-Williams Digital Collections website features nearly a thousand documents in twelve different collections. This February, we’re highlighting the African American Freemasonry & Fraternalism collection.

This collection brings together a number of documents related to historically Black fraternal organizations, including many related to Prince Hall Freemasonry.

A leading citizen in Boston’s eighteenth-century Black community, Prince Hall (1738-1807) was an abolitionist who petitioned the Massachusetts’ legislature to end slavery, and a Methodist who campaigned for schools to educate the African-American children of Boston. Hall was a leather dresser by trade who, in 1777, supplied drum heads to the Boston Regiment of Artillery. Drawn to Freemasonry’s values and opportunities, Hall, a former slave, tried to join Boston’s Masonic lodges in the early 1770s, but was denied membership.

African American men’s participation in Freemasonry is generally traced back to the March 6, 1775 initiation of Prince Hall and fourteen other Black men in Lodge No. 441, a British military lodge attached to the 38th Regiment of Foot. A year later, as the Siege of Boston was ending, the military lodge that had initiated Hall was evacuating Boston, but before they left, the lodge granted Prince Hall and his brethren authority to meet as a lodge, bury their dead, and march in processions for St. John’s Day. However, they were not given authority to confer degrees or perform any other “work.” With this authority granted to them, Prince Hall and his brethren organized as African Lodge No. 1 on July 3, 1775, with Hall as Master.

In order to become a fully functioning lodge that could confer degrees, African Lodge No. 1 needed to be chartered. Unable to obtain a charter from a Grand Lodge in the United States, they appealed to the Grand Lodge of England and were granted a charter on September 29, 1784 as African Lodge No. 459. Hall then founded lodges in Philadelphia and Providence. These three lodges eventually joined to form African Grand Lodge. It wasn’t until 1847, forty years after Prince Hall's death, that members of African Grand Lodge changed their name to Prince Hall Grand Lodge, in honor of their founder. Nearly 250 years after Prince Hall was initiated, Prince Hall Freemasonry continues to thrive today.

Be sure to check out previous blog posts which highlight documents from this collection.

Freemasonry and the First Black-Owned TV Station in the United States

Digital Collections Highlight: Theodore Gleghorn's 1921 Master Mason certificate

Pictured above:

Prince Hall Master Mason certificate issued to Russell L. Randolph, 1962. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts. MA 007. Museum Purchase.