Belmont, Massachusetts

The Rainbow Apron, “. . . a sacred symbol that binds”

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Miniature Rainbow Apron. 1922-1931. Gift of Audrey E. Martin, 2008.026.1.

Freemasons wear aprons – some simple in design, some very ornate – as a symbol of connection to the practical origins of the order and a visual emblem of membership. The collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library contains more than four hundred aprons, one of the largest collections of aprons in the United States.

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls was founded in Macalester, Oklahoma one hundred years ago, in 1922. As an auxiliary body of Freemasonry, the organization draws much of its symbolism and ritual from Masonic sources. A perfect example of this is the miniature apron that a Rainbow girl is given at her initiation and wears on her wrist for certain organizational events. The connection is made explicit in the initiation ceremony, where the new Rainbow Girl is told, “It is a sacred symbol that binds. To your father, if he were a Mason, the lambskin apron was sacred, and though you may never fully know its meaning, it will be dear to you because he loved it, and to him it was priceless.”

These scaled-down versions of Masonic aprons retain the same shape, flap, and ties as their inspiration. They are made of white lambskin, as with Masonic aprons. Like many Master Mason aprons produced in the twentieth century, these miniature aprons featured blank lines under the flap where the owner could, as on this example, write her name, address, and the assembly to which she belonged.

The apron shown here once belonged to Ruby Vandergrift Duncan Kramer (1911-2007). Ruby was born in Belmont, Massachusetts on April 28, 1911. Her parents, Oscar and Gertrude, were from Nova Scotia. Ruby was named after a Canadian aunt who died of illness at age 22. Her parents also had another daughter, named Pearl.

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Miniature Rainbow Apron. 1922-1931.  Gift of Audrey E. Martin, 2008.026.1.

Ruby was a member of Waltham Assembly No. 2 when she owned this miniature apron. Other examples of Rainbow aprons in the collection are from Massachusetts and Ohio and date from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s. Ruby’s apron dates from the early days of the Rainbow Girls in the 1920s.

Ruby lived at 34 Davis Road in Belmont for most of her life. She attended Boston University and graduated with a teaching degree in 1932. After teaching for one year, Ruby moved to a role as a clerk for the Belmont Electric Light Department, where she worked for forty-one years. She later married Howard Kramer, a Mason in Belmont Lodge from 1940 through 1970.

Ruby died in Belmont on October 11, 2007 at age 96. Her miniature apron survives as a tangible connection to her time in the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in Massachusetts and to the Masonic fraternity.

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Further Reading:

 


Busy Beaver Lodge

2014_099_6DS1One of my favorite things about being a curator is connecting objects to each other. Recently, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library received a photograph of the officers of Beaver Lodge in Belmont, Massachusetts, in 1932. Two rows of men are arranged in their Masonic best in the lodge room with the Master’s chair and two columns visible behind them. They wear aprons, collars and jewels. The Deacon and Steward each hold their respective rods. Accompanying the photo in the gift to the Museum & Library were these rods – a wonderful opportunity to connect the objects to the photograph to help visitors and researchers to visualize how the lodge room looked in the early 1930s and the scale of the rituals that these men performed. 2014_099_9DP1DB

Beaver Lodge was chartered in Belmont in 1922. The population of the town had doubled between 1910 and 1920 and would do so again between 1920 and 1930. Members of the existing lodge, Belmont Lodge, numbered more than 500 and the officers realized that the time had come to form a second lodge in town. The name “Beaver Lodge” was chosen due to the location of Beaver Brook and the beaver ponds and dams nearby, as well as the inclusion of the beaver on the official seal of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. 2014_099_8DP2DB

The lodge’s history recounts that “most of the Lodge equipment was donated by various Brethren, and the aprons, jewels, collars and other articles of equipment procured as soon as they could be made.” Presumably, this included the two rods shown here. Both are decorated with silver depictions of the lodge seal and the top of each is engraved “Beaver Lodge.” The Deacon’s rod is also marked “Presented to Thomas Stewart,” suggesting that he served the lodge in this office at some point. Stewart (1885-1968), who was born in Scotland, worked as an electrician and joined Belmont Lodge in 1917. He became a charter member of Beaver Lodge when it formed.

Reference:

Amos L. Taylor, “History of Beaver Lodge,” Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the Year 1947 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Cosmos Press, Inc., 1948), 330-341.

Beaver Lodge Officers, 1932, Fairfield Studio, Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of Keith C. MacKinnon, 2014.099.6.

Beaver Lodge Deacon’s Rod and Steward’s Rod, circa 1922, United States. Gift of Keith C. MacKinnon, 2014.099.8 and .9. Photographs by David Bohl.