"Badge of a Freemason" Book Featured in The New York Times

The Badge of a Freemason cover ResizedThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is pleased to share a recent article from The New York Times antiques section featuring our book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Click on this link to see the article.

The book makes a wonderful holiday gift.  To order, visit  The book is available for $39.95 plus shipping and tax (if applicable).

Author - and the Museum's Director of Collections - Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., will be offering an up-close look at a selection of aprons from our collection on April 9, 2016.  The fee is $15 for Museum members and $20 for non-members.  Space is limited.  Register by March 30, 2016, by emailing programs[@]  For more information on the workshop and on becoming a member, visit our website.


New Acquisition Sheds Light on a Mason and His Role in the Growth of Freemasonry in Pre-Civil War America

Recently, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library acquired a collection of documents related to the growth of Freemasonry in the state of Alabama, many addressed to the Grand Secretary for the State of Alabama, Amand P. Pfister.

Pfister, 32°, received the Scottish Rite degrees by a Deputy of the Southern Grand Consistory and served as the Grand Secretary for the Grand Chapter, the Grand Council, and the Grand Lodge of Alabama. Born in 1802 in the Bahamas, Pfister’s family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, when he was 12 years old, and he was educated at the now defunct Mount Airy College in Germantown, a neighborhood of Philadelphia.  At age 16, Pfister moved to Mobile, Alabama, where he was made a Mason. For many years, he partnered with Joel White, under the name White, Pfister and Company as retail book sellers.

In addition to his many contributions to the growth of Freemasonry, Pfister was active in the fields of education and music. In 1829, he served as instructor of Music and French at the Sims Female Academy, one of the state’s first schools for women. In 1839, Pfister, the “unofficial composer laureate” for the state of Alabama, wrote the “University March” for the University of Alabama, which was played at various University ceremonies for the "next hundred years.”
    Back cover

Amand P. Pfister died on January 28, 1857, and was buried at the Church Street Cemetery in Mobile, Alabama. An elegant monument was erected over his grave by the Grand Lodge of Alabama in acknowledgement of his “unyielding devotion to the best interests of the fraternity.” 

 Scan_2015-03-12_17-38-49A. B. Dawson to Amand P. Pfister, 26 October 1840

Wetumpka, 26th Oct. 1840

Know ye, that I Armistead B. Dawson Dept. [Deputy] Grand High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Alabama, Do hear authorize and delegate in my name, our worthy companion + [and] Brother Armand Pfister the Grand Secty [Secretary] to visit the city of Columbus in the state of Mississippi and organize the chapter in that city under the virtue of [authority] given them under charter under my hand + [and] Seal as O[ffice]. E. H[igh]. P[riest]. of the State of Alabama In [witness?] I here [indiscernible] set my hand The day above written.

A[rmistead]. B. Dawson, D[eputy]. G[rand]. H[igh]. P[riest]. T[uscaloosa?]. Alabama

 Your two letters were [duly?] recd [received] and owing to [sickness?] of which I have had [indiscernible] they were not answered. I shall be in Columbus myself in some 15 days and would be pleased to get there in time to aid and assist you. Start them to work. when I come “I can see how you have done it.” Give them instruction as to arranging room furniture +c [and charter?] + [and] see that they have it all prepared.

A[rmistead]. B. Dawson

Family yet sick



Blandin, I. M. E. (1909). History of Higher Education of Women in the South: Prior to 1860. New York: Neale Publishing Company. 13 March 2015.

Herndon, E., Wood, S. A. M., & Wiley, J. M. (1859). Report from Committee on the Pfister Monument. In Proceedings of the Annual Communications of the Grand Lodge of Alabama Held in The City of Montgomery, Commencing December 6, 1858, (pp. 172-173). Montgomery, Alabama: Barret & Wimbish.

Hughan, W. J. & Stillson, H. L. (1892). History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, and Concordant Orders. Boston: Fraternity Publishing Company. 13 March 2015.

Mitchell, J. W. S. (1859). History of Free Masonry and Masonic Digest. (Vol. 1). Marietta, Georgia: J. W. S. Mitchell. 13 March 2015.

Owen, T. M. (1921). Pfister, Armand P. In History of Alabama and Dictionary of Alabama Biography. (Vol. 4, pp. 1355). Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing. 13 March 2015.

Richardson, W. C. (1888). XIII. Tuscaloosa. In Northern Alabama: Historical and Biographical Illustrated, (pp. 513). Birmingham, Alabama: Smith & De Land. 13 March 2015.

Wiley, J. M. (1858). Annual Address of the Most Worshipful Grand Master. In Proceedings of the Annual Communications of the Grand Lodge of Alabama Held in The City of Montgomery, Commencing December 7th, 1857, (pp. 9-23). Montgomery, Alabama: Barret & Wimbish.


Cover and Letter from A. B. Dawson to Amand P. Pfister, October 26, 1840. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 001.440.

Masonic Books and Jewels. Advertisement. Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Alabama, at its Annual Convocation, in Montgomery, December 4, 1849, back cover. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 17.974 .A316.



New Book on Masonic Aprons!

The Badge of a Freemason cover

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is pleased to announce that its new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, will be available in June 2015.  We are now (March 2015) offering pre-order discount pricing for Museum & Library members and for Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction members.  The discount will be available until May 31, 2015.  See below for order instructions.

Soon after the Museum & Library was founded in 1975, the collection began to grow.  Masonic aprons were among the first donations.  Today, with more than 400 aprons, the Museum & Library has one of the largest collections in the world.  Examples date from the late eighteenth century to the present and come from the United States, England, China and other countries.

Called “the badge of a Freemason” in Masonic ritual, the fraternity’s apron was adapted from the protective aprons worn by working stonemasons during the 1600s and 1700s.  Still worn by members today, the apron remains one of the iconic symbols of Freemasonry.  Written by the Museum & Library’s Director of Collections Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., this catalogue presents more than 100 aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection with full-color photographs and new research.  The aprons are organized chronologically to help demonstrate their evolution in shape, style and materials from the eighteenth century through the twentieth century.

This lavishly illustrated volume offers stories to be enjoyed by Freemasons around the world, as well as new ways to understand these aprons for scholars, researchers and museum curators.  The Badge of a Freemason is the first in-depth study of American Masonic aprons published in recent decades and is a fascinating resource for collectors, enthusiasts and museums. Scottish Rite Apron Pages 194-95 2-12-15 Resized

Special Discount for Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction members and Museum & Library members - $33 (plus $9.95 shipping and handling and 6.25% sales tax of $2.06 for Massachusetts addresses).  Membership must be current – to become a Museum & Library member, click here.

Mail this form by May 31, 2015, along with your check payable to:

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Attn. Aimee E. Newell, 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA  02421

The book will be available June 2015 for $39.95 (plus shipping and tax, if applicable).  Order online at


Now Available: Book of Wisdom Compiled by Jean Doszedardski

Doszedardski Book CoverCompiled by Freemason Jean Doszedardski (b. 1770) during the early 1800s, the “Book of Wisdom” contains “statutes and general regulations” for Lodge le Choix des Hommes, located in Jacmel, San Domingo.  Now translated from the original French, the book provides an entrée into the lodges of the West Indies during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  In addition to details about how the lodge pursued its routine business, the end of the book includes a history of the development of Scottish Rite Freemasonry as it traveled from France to the West Indies and, eventually, to the United States.

The original manuscript is part of a collection of documents compiled by Doszedardski, now in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Kamel Oussayef, 33°, completed the translation over several years as a volunteer at the Museum & Library.  Director of Collections Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., provided an introduction and historical notes for the text.

Book of Wisdom: Freemasonry through the Veil of an Ancient French Manuscript is available now for $34.95 plus shipping from the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, at

The "John Brown Bell" in Marlborough, MA

MarlboroughBellOn Saturday, March 10 at 2 PM the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Inc. (National Heritage Museum) will be offering a free lecture with Tony Horwitz, author of Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil WarTo learn more about the talk, read our previous blog post about this public program.

The history and story of John Brown abolitionist and militant has captivated audiences for over 150 years. Not only is it a Virginia story but it has a Massachusetts connection. Perhaps the speaker or members of the audience already know about the “John Brown Bell” of Marlborough, Massachusetts.

In the summer of 1861, members of Company I, 13th Massachusetts Volunteers were camped by the Potomac River, near Harpers Ferry. Some of these enlisted men were members of the Marlborough Volunteer Fire Department.  The militia was ordered to cross the river and seize anything of value for the US Government, and diligently searched the arsenal for items that might be of use or profitable. Others had had already been there before and taken anything worth confiscating.

Not wishing to return completely empty-handed, the men entered the engine house at Harpers Ferry that had served as Brown’s headquarters during the raid.  The militia spotted the bell in the engine-house and decided to take it home to Marlborough.  The bell, it was reasoned, could be presented to the city’s Hook and Ladder Company, who found themselves bell-less at the time. 

Was the bell Federal property that should be handed over to the government or was it a war souvenir?

In 1862 the company  did not have sufficient funds to send it home and the on-going military conflicts also  prevented them from getting the bell to Marlborough.

From 1862 to 1892 the bell resided in Williamsport, Maryland. Mrs. George Snyder, a local resident, had kept the bell for the company. In 1892, former members of Company I, now organized in a Grand Army of the Republic chapter, returned to Williamsport and, after finding the bell still in Mrs. Snyder’s possession, raised the necessary money to have the bell shipped to Marlborough.

Over thirty years after its removal in 1861 from the engine-house in Harpers Ferry, the bell was eventually  placed in the “John Brown Bell Tower” in Union Common at the intersection of Main and Bolton Street in Marlborough, Massachusetts, where it resides to this day. To learn more, visit the Marlborough Historical Society website.

Should a bell of such historic importance be located in Harpers Ferry, Marlborough or elsewhere?  We look forward to hearing if Tony Horwitz has something to add on this subject.

Photo credits:

Courtesy of Claudia Roche


New England Cuisine at the Museum

Don't break out your lobster bibs quite yet! No, we are not offering a grand buffet of New England cooking classics. However, we have the next best thing in store for you.

Fitzgerald&Stavely On Saturday, May 28, at 2 PM there will be a really fun Lowell Lecture that you won't want to miss. Kathleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely will relate the tale of "Pressed Heads, Pottages, and Pippin Tarts: The Surprising Story Behind a Typical Diner Meal." Authors of Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England (2011) and America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking (2004), Stavely and Fitzgerald will treat us to a culinary tour that traces the precursors of franks and beans and apple pie, as well as other traditional New England foods. Their talk will be illustrated with images of some of the foods they have prepared and served in their home.

The author team has a wealth of experience as speakers, having presented at international conferences, at numerous historical societies, libraries, and museums, and to a variety of community and professional groups. Through lively presentations and sprightly give-and-take with their audiences, they bring the hidden history of New England foodways to light, along the way showing how a region's food practices can illuminate its broader social and cultural history.

Nothern-hospitality-210 Stavely is a writer and scholar whose interest in the Puritan influence on American and English culture has resulted in a number of critically-esteemed books and articles. He has been a Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Societies fellow and a winner of the Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars. Fitzgerald worked for five years as a college chaplain and for eight years as a coordinator of a soup kitchen. Except for one brief stint in an academic library in Ohio, she has worked for over twenty years as a public librarian in urban settings in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She is currently a librarian at the Newport Public Library.

This free public lecture is funded by the Lowell Institute and complements the exhibition Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf. After the lecture, please join us for a book signing. Copies of both Northern Hospitality and America’s Founding Food will be available for purchase, thanks to a collaboration with an independent bookshop in Winchester, Book Ends.

Please call the Museum at 781-861-6559 if you have questions about this public program.


Courtesy of Katheleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely

Courtesy of Katheleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely and the University of Massachusetts Press

The Adventures of Foxy Grandpa, Freemason. Or Is He?

77_36S1From 1900 to 1918, cartoonist Carl Edward Schultze (1867-1939) drew a popular comic strip about an old man and his young grandsons. Unlike “The Katzenjammer Kids” and other cartoons in which children get the better of their parents and grandparents, Schultze wanted the grandpa to be the smart one. Thus Foxy Grandpa was born. He plays practical jokes on the boys or makes their practical jokes on him backfire.

The comic strip’s popularity led to related products for sale, from toys and postcards to ornaments and doorstops. They also included the doll seen here. Made by Art Fabric Mills Company of New York, the dolls were sold in printed cloth sheets, meant to be cut out, sewn and stuffed. In a December 1904 issue of McCall’s magazine, the dolls were advertised for 25¢. Malted Cereal Company also promoted them. The Museum's doll is now featured in the exhibition "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection."

Carl Schultze signed the cartoons “Bunny”—his childhood nickname—along with a drawing of a rabbit. The doll holds a rabbit, Schultze’s alter-ego, under his arm.

The Museum purchased this doll in 1977 because of the watch fob he wears, which features a square and compasses, a common Masonic symbol. However, no one at the Museum has been able to identify a Masonic connection for the character. We haven't found any evidence that Schultze was a Mason, nor have we seen any references to Masonry in the cartoons.

Foxy_Grandpa_Rides_the_Goat_web Then a few weeks ago, I discovered a book entitled Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat for sale. As mentioned in an earlier post, some late 19th- and early 20th-century initiation rituals involved gags, such as “pushing a hoodwinked (blindfolded) candidate around a lodge room on a wobbly-wheeled fake mechanical goat,” one of which we have in the Museum's collection. I thought the book’s title might be a reference to Freemasonry, as did my colleagues in the various collections departments, so we purchased the book. And we were disappointed to find only one reference to Freemasonry in the book:

“Come and ride our goat, dear Grandpa,
     We see you’re a mason true,”
Said the boys as they glanced below
     At the mortar on his shoe.

Between the watch fob and the poem, it seems clear that Schultze was familiar with Freemasonry. Membership in Masonic lodges was at a peak in the early 1900s, so even the uninitiated likely learned about the fraternity through friends, colleagues, or family members who were Masons.

Schultze's references to Freemasonry are rather subtle, perhaps noticeable only to those who are looking for them. Especially since we have not been able to identify a lodge that Schultze belonged to, these clues seem like his wry joke, in the same vein as the cartoon itself.

If you know anything about Carl E. Schultze's Masonic membership or activities, please leave a comment on this post.


"Foxy Grandpa" Doll, 1903-1912. Art Fabric Mills Company, New York. National Heritage Museum Collection, 77.36. 

Foxy Grandpa Rides the Goat. (Chicago: M.A. Donohue & Co.), 1908. National Heritage Museum, Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives Collection

Lincolniana and other new and recommended books: March 2009

While some may think things have gotten too carried away for the Lincoln Bicentennial, there really are some new books, programs and exhibits worth knowing about.  We've added several titles on Abraham Lincoln to our collection and we've listed them along with all our other new Masonic and fraternal and general American history titles on our website's New Acquisitions page.  Please take a look.

If you're out and about in the Boston area (after having visited the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, of course!) and you're looking for Lincoln and Civil War related exhibits, you might check out the following:  The Medford Historical Society is home to one of the world's greatest collections of Civil War photographs and many are on display this month as part of their Of the People: Faces of the Civil War exhibit.  Some of their photographs, from the General Samuel Crocker Lawrence collection* also may be seen at the Brookline Public Library along with an exhibit, Abraham Lincoln: Self-Made in America.

Lots of other interesting exhibits and events are scheduled throughout the area and information on them is available at the Massachusetts Lincoln Bicentennial website.  National events and a state-by-state guide may be found at the Lincoln Bicentennial website.


*Landscapes of the Civil War, an exhibit of photographs from this same collection appeared at the National Heritage Museum in 1999 and an accompanying book (Landscapes of the Civil War: Newly Discovered Photographs from the Medford Historical Society. Edited by Constance Sullivan.  N.Y.: Knopf, 1995.  Call number E 468.7 .L25 1995)  is available in our collection along with other materials by and about the collector and Freemason, Samuel Crocker Lawrence.  More on Lawrence also is available in the library that bears his name at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

Abraham Lincoln signature from the Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division.




For map-lovers

Geog_us One of the recently announced American Library Association children's book award winners that particularly got my attention is Uri Shulevitz's How I Learned Geography.  The author-illustrator has included autobiographical details in previous books but never so poignantly.  His latest book tells of his Polish family, ravaged by war and forced to relocate.  Strangers in a new country, they are poor and hungry yet one night instead of food from the market his father brings home a large, colorful map and places it on their wall.  At first Uri and his mother are annoyed because there are so many other things they need.  In time he realizes the map nourishes him and his dreams as no food ever could.

It's a sentiment map-lovers of any age can appreciate.

And we are a museum of map-lovers.  Interesting, historic, beautiful and colorful maps both large and small may be found029-1779_T1 on many of our walls and often are exhibited or used in exhibits to illustrate the stories we tell.  Over thirty years ago when our Museum was new and the Library & Archives collection just being formed, maps were identified as a priority and a small but respectable collection acquired.  One of the early acquisitions, shown at right, Carte du Theatre de la Guerre dans L'Amerique...1775-1778 was drawn by Captaine de Chesnoy, an aide-de-camp to the Marquis de Lafayette and published in Paris. The three columns in the lower right list major campaigns of the Revolutionary War in chronological order so there's lots of visual and narrative interest all in one map.

Fortunately today it's easier than ever to find, study and even print or order reproductions of every imaginable kind of map.  New England has several wonderful map collections including the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library (BPL) and the Osher Map Collection at the University of Southern Maine (where the new map museum will open in September 2009).  Online resources about maps also are extensive.  It's hard to beat former British Library map librarian Tony Campbell's Map History site for an all around introduction to anything and everything having to do with maps.  The Library of Congress, University of Texas, New York Public Library and David Rumsay map sites also are comprehensive and, the Library of Congress along with the BPL site, provide the opportunity to buy reproductions from their collections.

And this post wouldn't be complete without mentioning Google and their many map products.  Several official and unofficial blogs are available to try to keep up with and make sense of their latest map offerings.

Sources listed and mentioned above: 

Chesnoy, Michel.  Carte du theatre de la Guerre... Paris: Chez Perrier graveur:  Chez Fortin, [1779].  Call number:  map 029-1779?

Shulevitz, Uri.  How I Learned Geography.  N.Y.: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.

Silvestro, Clement M.  A Decade of Collecting Maps.  Lexington, MA:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1985.  Call number:  GA 190 .S54 1985




Now you see it, now you don't: fore-edge painting

If you happened on Truths Illustrated by Great Authors: A Dictionary of Nearly Four Thousand Aids to our library you might notice the handsome binding and gilt fore-edge or outer edge of the book:


However, if you fanned through the book, glancing at some of the interesting quotations from Shakespeare and other authors, you would see the gilt edge above transform into a picture (thought to be from Stratford-upon-Avon) if you held it just right:


Fore-edge painting is the process of decorating the longer outer edge of a book then, usually, when dry, concealing it with gilt.  It's a hidden treasure in a book and while some describe it as a lost art, others consider it 'pretty but petty.'  The earliest examples date back to the 16th century but it wasn't until the mid-18th century that it gained more prominence.  London bookseller and binder James Edwards (1756-1816) indicated he had a "method of binding books in vellum with drawings which will not rub out" in a 1785 patent application and even though he hadn't invented the process he became one of its greatest practitioners. The technique quickly moved from England to the rest of Europe (though several earlier examples may be found on the continent) and then onto North America in the 19th century.  Fore-edge painting enjoyed a brisk revival in the 20th century.

Most of what is now known about the history and practice of fore-edge painting is thanks to a former Colby College Professor of English and Rare Book Librarian, Carl J. Weber (1894-1966).  He received a donation of books with fore-edged paintings and began his research after finding very little general or scholarly work on the subject.  Weber published A Thousand and One Fore-edge Paintings: with Notes on the Artists, Bookbinders, Publishers, and Other Men and Women Connected with the History of a Curious Art in 1949 and included a detailed list of fore-edge paintings in some 56 American libraries and private collections.  He revised the work as Fore-edge Painting: A Historical Survey of a Curious Art in Book Decoration in 1966.  Fore-edge painting became a family interest after that: a new book, The Fore-edge Paintings of John T. Beer is the latest by his grandson, Jeff Weber.

Which books did and didn't get decorated edges?  There's no particular rhyme or reason to it, though if you look at the 1001 listings in Carl Weber's 1949 book, you do see multiple entries for the bible, Book of Common Prayer, books of poetry, and various classics.  Where can you find examples of fore-edge painting?  Again, Weber notes that while most libraries have no examples of fore-edge painting, there are many important collections around the world.  The larger American collections may be found at the College of William and Mary, the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City and the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA.  Boston Public Library also has a significant number of rare books with fore-edge paintings and has made them easily accessible on their website and on Flickr, the photo management and sharing program.  In fact the wonderful thing about BPL's Art of the Book collection on Flickr is that you can see, at a glance, that the painting and the subject of the book are sometimes, but not always, in concert.  For example,  A view of Hampton Court Palace adorns this copy of the Iliad by Homer:




while other works by Homer have castles in Wales, scenes from Bath, England, and the Eton College Chapel.  On the other hand, the Memoirs of the life and travels of John Ledyard contains this very appropriate scene (as Ledyard was a member of Captain Cook's expedition):



I was interested to find only one Masonic title on Weber's 1949 list, William Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, published in 1792.  The copy listed, held in a private collection, had 2 fore-edge scenes painted, St. Paul's Churchyard and the Goose and Gridiron Ale House, noteworthy as the place the Grand Lodge of London began in 1717.  Alas, our own copy of the same edition doesn't have any fore-edge paintings.  I would be interested to hear from anyone who knows of other Masonic titles with this type of decoration.  Given the amount of material published in the 18th and 19th centuries, the propensity toward decoration, and the interest in secrecy, fore-edge painting and Freemasonry would seem ideally suited!

Meanwhile, next time you pick up a book, particularly if it is old and has a beautiful binding, try fanning the pages.  You may just get a nice surprise.

Sources consulted and mentioned above:

Carter, John.  ABC for Book Collectors.  8th ed.  New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2006.

Weber, Carl J.  A Thousand and One Fore-edge Paintings: with Notes on the Artists, Bookbinders, Publishers, and other Men and Women connected with the History of a Curious Art.  Waterville, ME: Colby College Press, 1949. Online copy here

Weber, Carl J.  Fore-edge Painting: a Historical Survey of a Curious Art in Book Decoration.  Irvington-on-Hudson: Harvey House, 1966.

Weber, Jeff.  The Fore-edge Paintings of John T. Beer. Los Angeles: Jeff Weber Rare Books. Limited to 210 copies printed by the Castle Press, Pasadena, 2006.

White, William M.  Truths Illustrated by Great Authors.  London:  W. White, 1852.  Call number:  RARE PN 6081 .W48 1852.  Fore-edge painting of Stratford-upon-Avon.