In 1842, British scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) invented the cyanotype process—a photographic printing method that produces a cyan-blue print, commonly known as a blueprint. Engineers, scientists and photographers used the process as a simple and low-cost way to produce copies of drawings, photographs, and technical and architectural plans, from the 1870s through the 1950s.
Some cyanotype examples are in the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts collection at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. These particular cyanotypes are photographs of Masonic jewels and likely belonged to Otis Everett Weld, 33°(1840-1897). They are part of a larger group that appear to be documenting jewels owned by Weld. Weld, born in Boston, was head of the Otis E. Weld & Co, wine merchants and director of the Third National Bank and Bolyston Insurance Company.
Initiated in 1866 in the Lodge of Eleusis, he served as Junior Grand Warden and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1880 and 1894, respectively. Weld was also a member of St. Bernard Commandery and St. Andrew’s Chapter, both in Boston, and a trustee and financial benefactor for Masonic organizations.
In the June 1897 Grand Lodge of Massachusetts proceedings Thomas W. Davis (1844-1914) offered these kind words in his memorial, "His advancement in our Order was due not alone to his gifts of popularity, boundless though they seemed; not because he was an appreciative student of the ritual, but because the teachings of the Institution permeated his very being...".
These photographs show the varied ways the cyanotype process could be utilized beyond architectural plans. Have you encountered images using this photographic process? Have you seen jewels similar to Otis E. Welds's? Let us know in the comments section below.
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, (Boston, Massachusetts: Rockwell & Churchill, 1897) 101.
Cyanotypes, The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes The Getty Conservation Institute,https://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/pdf/atlas_cyanotype.pdf, accessed June 2019.