Forty years ago, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library published the book Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts to accompany an exhibition on the topic. The book, written in 1976 by former museum curator Barbara Franco, highlighted and contextualized 146 American decorative arts objects with Masonic symbols. Decorative arts, often defined as the design and decoration of functional objects, include glassware, furniture, ceramics, textiles, basketry, and clocks. Artist's and craftsmen commonly incorporated Masonic symbols into their designs in the 1700s and 1800s; a period of rapid growth for American Masonic and fraternal organizations.
The Museum has acquired more Masonic decorative arts objects since 1976. Many of the artifacts featured in Franco's publication have been re-photographed and continue to be a part of our exhibitions. Two of these items are highlighted below and have recently been exhibited at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.
This pocket watch is featured in our current exhibition “Keeping Time: Clockmakers and Collectors" open through 2017. The watch, designed and manufactured by the Dudley and Hamilton Watch Companies, was made in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, around 1925. William Wallace Dudley's (1851–1938) company produced distinctive watches with movement parts shaped like Masonic symbols. This particular watch includes a trowel, square and compasses, level, bible, and shoe.
This Worshipful Master’s Chair made around 1870 and marked by maker John Luker (b. 1838) was featured in the exhibition "‘Every Variety of Paintings for Lodges’: Decorated Furniture, Paintings and Ritual Objects from the Collection." You can find out more about the chair in this 2008 blog post.The chair is also currently included in the online exhibition of the same name, available here.
Pocket Watch, ca. 1925, Dudley Watch Co. and Hamilton Watch Company, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Gift of Hazel D. Hubley in memory of Bert H. Hubley, 86.32a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.
Masonic Worshipful Master's Chair, ca. 1870, John Luker, Vinton County, Ohio, Gift of the Estate of Charles V. Hagler, 188.8.131.52. Photograph by David Bohl.
Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts, Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Inc., 1976.