Costume

Bicorne Hats and Beavers

Hat with Box, 1830-1840Hat with Box, 1830-1840. Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.0138a-c.

Continuing along the lines of last week’s post, here we’ll look at another meticulously crafted hat at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library: a folding bicorne-style hat, pictured to the left. Stylistically related to the tricorne hat and an antecedent to the formal top hat popular in the 1900s, the bicorne could be conveniently folded and tucked between the arm and body when removed. For this reason it was also known as a chapeau-bras or “under the arm” hat.

This extraordinary example, with its own hand-made case, is from the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, cared for at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Thought to date to the 1830s, this hat was owned by William Pierce, Jr. A member of the Boston Commandery, No. 2, Pierce may have worn this headgear as part of his regalia. If so, it would be one of the earliest known items of Knights Templar regalia in New England. In the image below, you can see one example of the full regalia of this Masonic order as it would have appeared slightly later, in the 1850s-1860s (although the hat pictured in this image was not a folding type). While Knights Templar regalia has changed over time, the bicorne hat, or chapeau, often adorned with an ostrich feather, remains a distinctive element of it.

Isiah Frazier in Knights Templar Uniform, 1855-1860.Isiah Frazier in Knights Templar Uniform, 1855-1860. Isaac Rehn. Possibly Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Museum Purchase, 97.017.

Like many fine hats manufactured in the early 1800s, the one shown above was made from beaver pelt instead of the more affordable (and less water-repellent) wool felt. Beaver hats, as all styles of hat from this pelt were known, were labor intensive to create. To felt (or mat down) the fur of the pelt, hatmakers first had to remove its longer, coarser hairs. Then they brushed it with a solution of mercuric nitrate and washed, dried, and shaped it. The phrase “mad as a hatter,” incidentally, arose from a very real phenomenon, as the fumes created during this process gave workers terrible symptoms of mercury poisoning such as tremors, confused speech, and vision disturbances. Luckily for both beavers and hatters, by the mid-1800s silk plush and other materials began to supplant beaver pelt in hat fashions.

To keep in touch while the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is closed due to the stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts, please join us on Facebook, and check out our online exhibitions and our digital collections. And, as always, we welcome your comments below.

 

Reference:

Tabbert, Mark A., 32º. "Sifting through the Past: Gems from the Massachusetts Grand Lodge Collection." The Northern Light, Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA. Nov. 2005. 9. Accessed April 2, 2020 at https://scottishrite.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/downloads/The-Northern-Light/2005/TNL-November2005.pdf?mtime=20191205111233

 


Top-Quality Toppers

Worshipful Master's Top Hat, ca. 1900
Worshipful Master's Top Hat, ca. 1900. Collins & Fairbanks, retailer. Boston, Massachusetts. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 98.011. Photograph by David Bohl.

Top hats, now mostly regarded as relics of a bygone era, nonetheless reigned as the be-all, end-all in formal headgear from the late 1700s through the early 1900s—an impressively long time in the fickle realm of fashion. While thanks in part to their iconic shape these hats may appear simple, their construction was anything but, demanding the highly practiced handiwork of experienced tradespeople.

Take, for example, the hat pictured here, from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This particular topper was likely produced in Europe around 1900, and offered to American consumers by Boston retailer Collins & Fairbanks. The manufacturing process for such a hat started with the creation of an inner form made from cambric, a cheesecloth-like textile, which was bathed in shellac and then dried on racks in a heated room. Stiff but still moldable, the resulting material was shaped on a hat block and covered with silk plush, a material so expensive that only the most skilled artisan in the shop was allowed to cut it. Next the brim was cut, and curled just so, using a specialized tool and a few well-practiced flicks of the wrist. There was no room for error in this process: the final product had to have perfectly straight lines and, most magically of all, no visible seams. You can see step-by-step photos in this 1899 issue of the English Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine.

In the Masonic lodge, the Master wears a top hat to signify the authority of his office and to command respect. The height of a top hat’s crown, the curl of the brim, and the material used to form the hat have all changed repeatedly over the years to reflect prevailing fashion, but the meaning of this symbol in Freemasonry has stayed the same, as illustrated by the photograph below.

Members of Union Lodge No. 5, 1964.
Members of Union Lodge No. 5, Dec. 16, 1964. Hamilton Photo Co. Stamford, Connecticut. Gift of George Talisse, 2015.062.6.

The hat featured here is one of many objects that will be displayed in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s upcoming exhibition “What’s in a Portrait?” This exhibition of paintings, prints, and photographs from the collection explores portraits and some of the signs, symbols, and objects in them that tell the viewer the subject belonged to a Masonic or fraternal group.

To keep in touch while the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is closed due to the stay-at-home advisory in Massachusetts, please join us on Facebook, and check out our virtual exhibitions and our online collections. And, as always, we welcome your observations and ideas in the comments section below.

References:

Gavin Macdonald,“How A Silk Hat Is Made.” The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine, 1899, Vol. 2. 235-238. Retrieved from this Google Books page.


New to the Collection: A Masonic Apron by William Laughton

2014_070_7DP1DB
Master Mason Apron, 1819-1824, William Laughton (poss. 1794-1870), Hartford, Connecticut, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2014.070.7. Photograph by David Bohl.

As regular readers of our blog will know, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has one of the best collections of Masonic aprons in the world.  We are always looking to add new examples with designs or makers that we are not familiar with.  This apron, a recent purchase at auction, has both a design AND a maker that were new to us. 

This Master Mason apron shows a typical all-seeing eye symbol on the flap, signifying watchfulness.  The body features an arrangement of Masonic symbols with celestial and terrestrial columns on a mosaic pavement at the top of three stairs.  Between the columns are a sun, moon, shooting star, seven stars, clasped hands, three candlestands and an altar with an open Bible.  Rough and smooth ashlars appear to the sides and at bottom center is a coffin.

Applied on the back is a printed label for the apron’s maker – “Hartford / W. Laughton / Painter.”  Unfortunately, little is known about William Laughton (possibly 1794-1870), despite the inclusion of his label on this apron.  The best source of information about his activities is a series of newspaper advertisements in the Hartford papers between 1819 and 1824.  In August 1819, he begged “leave to inform his friends and the public, that he has taken a room a few doors east of the Court House…where he will do all kinds of ornamental painting, in the neatest manner, and at the shortest notice.”  By September 1819, he was advertising as a “delineator, ornamental, and sign painter,” and that he would “execute Masonic paintings and Signs of every description.”

In June 1820, he used his ad to “[tender] his sincere thanks to his friends and the public, for the encouragement they have given him in his profession for a year past.”  In this same advertisement he specifically noted that he would do “Masonic paintings, such as carpets, aprons, etc., etc.”  And, at the end, he noted “W.L. has on hand a few Masonic Aprons, which he offers very low.”  In addition to his newspaper advertisements, Laughton marketed himself by entering a painting in the local cattle show in October 1822.  According to a published account of the fair, “Mr. Laughton…offered for inspection, a fruit piece painted by himself.  This was considered by judges, to indicate a talent in the art which deserves particular encouragement.”  In 1823, his advertisements focused specifically on Masonic aprons, such as the one in the Connecticut Mirror on June 30, 1823, which was headed “Masonic Aprons,” and included an illustration of an apron.  “William Laughton,” the advertisement read, “has now on hand, a handsome assortment of Masonic Aprons, plain and gilt, very cheap by the dozen or single.”

After 1824, Laughton disappears from the newspapers.  He may have headed out of town to work as an itinerant painter.  In an 1898 biography of Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) (Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1778), a portrait of Hopkins is mentioned.  It was “taken from North Providence to Brookline, and in 1825, as it had become somewhat defaced, was turned over to a man by the name of Laughton, a carriage and sign painter, of Brookline, to be repaired.”  We do not know for sure if this “Laughton” and the William Laughton who made this apron are one and the same, but it is possible.  The 1838 Hartford City Directory lists Laughton back in the city as a “fancy painter.”  Few other details remain to tell us about the latter part of his life.  A “William W. Laughton” is listed in the records of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.  He joined Bridgeport’s St. John’s Lodge No. 3 in 1862, but there is no birth date given, so this is an inconclusive match, especially since it seems strange that Laughton would have joined so late in life after making and selling aprons in the 1810s and 1820s.

Perhaps further information about William Laughton will come to light over time.  If you know of other aprons by Laughton, please let us know in a comment below!

To learn more about our apron collection, see our new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, available June 2015 at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.

References:

Connecticut Mirror, The Times, Connecticut Courant, 1819-1824.

Edward Field, Esek Hopkins, Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolution 1775 to 1778 (Providence: The Preston & Rounds Co., 1898).

Susan P. Schoelwer, ed., Lions & Eagles & Bulls: Early American Tavern & Inn Signs (Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 2000).

I am indebted to Robert Fitzgerald, Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Connecticut, for sharing the Laughton Masonic membership information with me.


Who Wore the Crown? Collecting Order of the Amaranth Materials

2013_049_22aDP1DBTo properly manage the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s collection, the curatorial staff periodically reviews the strengths and weaknesses of the collection so that, as we evaluate new gifts and purchases, we can fill gaps and avoid duplications.  One of the gaps that we are seeking to fill is material (2-d, 3-d, records and papers) associated with fraternal groups for women and children.  So, when a donor generously offered several gifts of Order of the Amaranth material over the past few years, we jumped at the opportunity (see these other posts about the organization).

The Order of the Amaranth, like Order of the Eastern Star, with which it was initially affiliated, is open to the female relatives of Master Masons, and to Master Masons themselves.  In the United States in 1873, Robert Macoy (1816-1895), who was active in Order of the Eastern Star, formed the “Rite of Adoption,” which included an Order of the Amaranth degree.  From 1873 to 1921, all members of Amaranth Courts (analogous to Eastern Star Chapters), had to join Order of the Eastern Star first.  In 1921, the two groups split, becoming the separate organizations that they remain today. 2013_049_26aDP1DB

Among the large group of Amaranth items now in our collection, ranging from props that were used in rituals to records for several courts, and souvenirs from Amaranth events to regalia, are the two crowns shown here.  Both were worn by Elsie Haynes (1915-2006) when she was active in Amaranth activities in Connecticut.  Haynes probably wore the crown in the top photo when she was Royal Matron of Charity Court No. 17, which met in Windsor, Connecticut, and later in Suffield, Connecticut.  Haynes used the crown in the lower photo when she served as Supreme Royal Matron, head of the national organization, in 1977 and 1978.

We are very pleased to have Order of the Amaranth represented in our collection.  If you have an Amaranth memory to share or a question to ask, please leave us a comment!

Order of the Amaranth Crowns, 1960-1970 (top), ca. 1977 (bottom), Unidentified makers, United States, gift of Barbara F. Lott, 2013.049.22a and .26a.  Photographs by David Bohl.

 

 


A Salute to the American Military

Jacket in caseThis summer (2013), the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is pleased to be one of 1,800 museums across America to welcome military personnel and their families in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense, as part of the Blue Star Museums program.

The program runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day and identifies museums that offer free admission to active-duty military personnel and their family members. The Museum & Library is included on the Blue Star Museums website. “Blue Star Museums is something that service members and their families look forward to every year and we are thrilled with the continued growth of the program,” said Blue Star Families CEO Kathy Roth-Douquet. “Through this distinctive collaboration…service members and their families can connect with our national treasures.” The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is proud to participate in this program and to support our military families. BlueStarLogo1800

The Museum’s collection includes numerous objects and documents associated with the American military and its soldiers, dating from the Revolution to the Iraq War. The leather jacket shown here is currently on view in our exhibition, “Journeys and Discoveries: The Stories Maps Tell.” It was originally worn by Technical Sergeant Ronald W. Hirtle (1924-1986) during World War II. A radio operator and gunner, Hirtle belonged to the 491st “Ringer” Bomb Squadron of the 14th Air Force – also known as the “Flying Tigers” – and logged over 200 combat hours on almost 50 bombing missions in the China-Burma-India Theater.

Jacket2The exhibition also features an Escape and Evasion Map of Burma and Siam and the Far East and a selection of Asian currencies that the Air Force provided to Hirtle. An airman like Hirtle could be shot down in unfamiliar territory. To prepare for this possibility, the Air Force equipped its flyers with lightweight escape kits. Hirtle’s map is printed on silk making it quiet to use, more impervious to water than paper and easy to hide. The currency would allow him to buy food and water, or pay a local resident to help him return to American forces.

Air Force Type A-2 Flight Jacket, 1942-1945, Aero Leather Clothing Co., Beacon, NY; Escape and Evasion Map of Burma and Siam and the Far East, 1942-1945; Currency, 1942-1945; all gifts of the Family of Ronald W. Hirtle, 96.041.1, .2 and .3a-f.


Are you a fan of Pilgrims?

Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims_Fan_75.69.99Before the advent of air conditioning, men and women carried fans to help them keep cool.  As one scholar has described, “decorative hand-held fans brought relief to an overdressed, overheated society.”  These dress accessories also added color, movement and glamour to the indoor landscape for centuries.  Among the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s collection of fans from the 1800s and the early 1900s is this example:  a paper folding fan with bamboo sticks that bears a photogravure of a famous American painting, Robert W. Weir’s Embarkation of the Pilgrims. 

Robert Weir (1803-1889) first painted this work in 1843 for the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol.  There it is joined by other depictions of pivotal events drawn from American history, such as Columbus’s landing in the New World and De Soto’s discovery of the Mississippi.  Decades later, Weir created a smaller version of the work that fair organizers exhibited at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia.  Americans also became familiar with Weir’s version of the Pilgrims' departure from Holland through printed versions.  As well, from 1863 through the early 1900s, a version of Weir’s painting decorated $50 bank notes.  Fan_Detail_75.69.99

Makers likely crafted this fan in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The Photo Gravure Company of New York printed the image on the center of the fan.  Craftsmen assembled the fan, affixed metal brilliants to its surface and embellished the fan with painted flowers.   Underneath the photogravure of Weir’s painting, the printer featured a quote, “Truly dolful was ye sight of that sad and mournfull parting.”  William Bradford (1590-1657), the chronicler of the Pilgrims' settlement, penned those words to describe the travelers’ feelings as they left friends and family behind and started on their journey to Massachusetts.

For a description of the museum's painting, "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in America, a.d., 1620," by Charles Lucy (1814-1873), see this past post.  If you have any information or questions about this fan, please leave us a comment below!

Reference:

Anna Gray Bennet, Unfolding Beauty:  The Art of the Fan, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1988, p. 12.

Object credit:

Fan, 1875-1900.  Printed by Photo Gravure Co., A. C. Bosselman, New York, New York.  Gift of The Estate of Russell J. and Vera L. Wilder, 75.69.99.

 

 


Caliphs of Bagdad

Caliphs of Bagdad CardRegular readers of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library blog may remember my previous post about the mystery of the green Caliphs of Bagdad fez (read it here and see one of the fezzes below).  I couldn't find any information about the group's history or location.  But, recently, another clue came my way.  A friend of the Museum called my attention to the membership card (pictured at left), which was offered for sale on ebay.  Imagine my surprise and delight to see that it seems to have a direct relationship to the same group as the two green fezzes now in our collection!  I was very excited to be able to add the card to our Archives collection.

I still have many questions about the Caliphs of Bagdad, but I'm pretty firmly convinced that the group was active in Pennsylvania in the early to mid-1920s.  Both of the fezzes donated to the Museum came from Pennsylvania and this card originated from Court No. 1 in New Castle, Pennsylvania.  I find it intriguing that the Caliphs may have been open to both men and women.  The card is for a James A. McKnight, but the "Chief M.C." at the bottom was a Judy Sypher.2009_022DP1

What do you think?  Does this jog anyone's memory about the Caliphs of Bagdad?  Did you know James McKnight or Judy Sypher?  Have you seen any other documents or objects associated with this group?  Leave us a comment below.

Membership Card, 1910-1950, unidentified maker, Pennsylvania, gift of Ron and Judy McKnight, 2012.

Fez, early 1900s, gift of Stanley A. McCollough, 2009.022.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Don't Miss "Inspired By Fashion" - Closing March 24!

78_47T1Don’t miss your chance to see “Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia” at the National Heritage Museum! The exhibition closes March 24, 2012 (visit our website for hours and directions). Here are a few objects from the exhibition to whet your interest.

Freemason J. Hull sat for this portrait in the early 1800s wearing his Masonic apron, sash and medal. Hull’s apron resembles the one designed by Abner Reed of Connecticut, which you can see below (and check out our previous post about Reed). It is difficult to make out the details on Hull’s medal, but it may be a mark medal. In the Mark Master degree, members chose an individual symbol to represent themselves. The mark medal shown here was made for H. Gardiner around 1800. He chose a crossed keys symbol for his mark, which also represents the treasurer’s office in the lodge.80_14DI1

During the early 1700s, Freemasonry offered a way for upper-class men to socialize and share views. Soon after, the fraternity experienced a tremendous upsurge in popularity among many classes of men, in part because its values of parity and brotherhood resonated with supporters of American independence. Lodge clothing also mirrored these Masonic principles of equality and brotherhood.

89_17S1From the 1700s on, Masons had a public presence, wearing their regalia and participating in parades on special occasions. In this way, men associated themselves with Freemasonry, while also creating an identity for the lodge itself. In part, members communicated this message by moving within contemporary fashion conventions. Specific items of clothing made from special materials conveyed the fraternity’s values as well as identifying the wearers of men striving for character and class.

If you are interested in learning more about the intersection of men's fashion and Masonic regalia, we hope you will come see "Inspired by Fashion"!

Mr. and Mrs. J. Hull, ca. 1800, Unidentified Artist, American. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 78.47a. Photograph by David Bohl.

Masonic Apron, ca. 1800, Abner Reed (1771-1866), East Windsor, Connecticut. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Museum Purchase, 80.14.

Mark Medal, ca. 1800, probably New York. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 89.17.

 


Funny Fashions

90_6_3DP1DB.tif For decades, popular television programs and movies have often poked fun at fraternal groups by featuring characters that belong to made-up fraternities with goofy names and even funnier hats and costumes. In the real world, members and non-members alike have often perceived Masonic costume as weird, silly, or outlandish.

Most fraternal groups—both real and imagined—took their cues for rituals, symbols, and special clothing from Freemasonry. Masonic regalia—the symbolic clothing that members wear, including aprons, fez, and character costumes—does have an element of wackiness. Yet, we often think the same thing about the clothing we see in fashion magazines. Fashion itself is as wacky, if not more so, than the regalia that Masonic groups wear, and this has been true since the 1700s. When we start to look closely, by comparing Masonic costumes with everyday clothing from the same time periods, we can see that regalia manufacturers often took their cue from popular fashions.

This idea is one of the main themes behind the National Heritage Museum’s current exhibition, Inspired by Regalia: American Masonic Regalia, which runs through March 10, 2012. And, to help make this point, the jumpsuit shown here is prominently placed at the beginning of the exhibition to illustrate how yesterday's fashions can prompt a reaction when viewed out of context. It was made in the early 1960s by clothing manufacturer Bobbie Brooks when this style and the color palette were popular. Today, it makes many of our visitors giggle!

Jumpsuit, 1960-1965, Bobbie Brooks, Cleveland, Ohio, Collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Helen Chase Kimball-Brooke, E. Lee Byron and Mary Eliza Kimball, 90.6.3. Photograph by David Bohl.


Miss Rose Lipp: Masonic Authority

SC79_12_6aDP2 In March 1912, the New England Craftsman, a monthly Masonic magazine published in Boston, Massachusetts, noted that one of the city’s regalia makers had recently changed storefronts and reminded readers that the owner “is recognized as an authority on correctness of design for the costumes of every period.” Rather than a brother Freemason, this notice referred to Miss Rose Lipp, a female manufacturer and dealer in “Masonic Supplies,” who maintained her business over at least thirty years, providing the aprons, jewels and uniforms essential to Masonic meetings and rituals.

94_012_5aDI1 The 44 items with Rose Lipp’s label in the collection of the National Heritage Museum attest to the variety available from her shop, as well as to her facility with regalia from all Masonic groups. We have 28 aprons, most for local lodges, but a few were sewn for Royal Arch chapters. For example, in 1924, she made a set of officer’s aprons for the newly-constituted Russell Lodge in Arlington, Massachusetts. The 14-apron set is now in the Museum’s collection and the Master’s apron is seen here. These aprons were a gift to the lodge from the other lodges in the district.

In addition to the aprons, we have two turbans, two robes, one sword, one sword belt, one hat, one fez, one badge, one collar, two miniature souvenir aprons, and four Scottish Rite sashes with Lipp’s label. One of those sashes is shown here; it was originally presented to Josiah T. Dyer when he received his 33rd degree from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. SC79_12_6aDP1 All of these objects help us to better understand the role that a female entrepreneur like Rose Lipp played in Boston Freemasonry.

Label Detail from Scottish Rite 33rd-degree sash (see below).

Masonic Apron, 1924, Rose Lipp Regalia Co., Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Russell Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Arlington, Massachusetts, 94.012.5a.

Scottish Rite 33° Sash, 1910-1930, Miss Rose Lipp, Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., SC79.12.6a. Photograph by David Bohl.