Decorative Arts

A Maine Mason at Sea

In 1852, shipbuilders in Calais, Maine, near the American border with Canada, launched a ship named the Lincoln. The following year, the Lincoln would commemorate American Independence Day many miles from Maine, in the Aegean port of Smyrna, Greece (now İzmir, Turkey). Like the Lincoln, her captain that day left his Maine home to make a living in the maritime world of the nineteenth century.

PXL_20220829_152030006 (1)
Bark Lincoln, W.H. Polleys Master Laying at Anchor in Smyrna July 4th 1853. Raffaele Corsini, Smyrna, Greece. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 85.9.

In this watercolor, acquired by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1985, the Lincoln is shown lying at anchor in the foreground, with the city, its castle, and surrounding hills in the background. The ship bears four flags: from bow to stern, the “Union Jack” or Navy Jack, a blue flag with a Masonic square and compasses, a masthead pennant, and an American flag. The Lincoln’s Union Jack, a blue flag with white stars flown on American ships, appears to have twenty-six stars and her American flag twenty-one stars. Given that the United States had thirty-one states by 1853, perhaps the ship’s owners or captain had not updated her flags or, more likely, the painter took artistic license with these details.

It is believed that ship’s captains sometimes raised a flag bearing a square and compasses to invite Masons in the area aboard their vessel. To local residents and other mariners, this signaled his fraternal affiliation and served as an invitation for conversation, informal meetings, and trade. The Lincoln was in Smyrna in July 1853 to purchase opium, a common ingredient in American patent medicines at the time.

The Lincoln’s captain and 1/16 share owner for her first five years was Woodbury H. Polleys. Polleys was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine in 1817 and raised in Portland Lodge No. 1 in 1844. When he took command of the ship, he had been, as he later wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, “at sea as Master of a Ship since June 1848, principally trading between Europe & southern ports . . .”

After the Lincoln, Polleys went on to captain other vessels, including at least three Union ships during the Civil War. These included the USS Katahdin, USS Oleander, and USS Madgie. The latter two ships were part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, preventing Confederate vessels from eluding the Union trade blockade. After the Madgie sank off North Carolina in 1863, Polleys traveled north to Maine for a month’s leave “to procure a new outfit and visit my family.”

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Polleys used his knowledge of international trade to serve the new United States as Consul to Barbados and Commercial Agent to Cuba. Woodbury H. Polleys died of suicide in 1885 and is buried in Portland’s Pine Grove Cemetery. His headstone bears a Masonic square and compasses, as his ship’s flag did that day in 1853, many miles from Maine.

If you want to dive into this piece of artwork further, you can visit it and many others in our exhibition, “What’s in a Portrait?,” now on view at the Museum & Library. You can also visit the online version of the exhibition.

Further Reading:


Mysteries in Clay: Pisgah Forest Masonic Pottery

New to the museum’s collection this spring are three pieces of North Carolina pottery bearing Masonic decoration. These items – a small bowl, a vase, and a cup or pencil holder – were created by Pisgah Forest Pottery in western North Carolina in the 1940s and 1950s. They join two previously-purchased bowls in the collection that match the new bowl nearly exactly. Our now-five-piece collection of Pisgah Forest Pottery inspires some interesting questions about their purpose, use, and Masonic connection.

Pisgah pottery - 2022.023.1-3 - small
Pisgah Forest Masonic vase (1959), cup (circa 1948), bowl (1942). Pisgah Forest Pottery, Arden, North Carolina. Museum purchase, 2022.023.1-3.

Pisgah Forest Pottery was founded in 1926 by Walter Benjamin Stephen (1876-1961) in rural western North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. He was a member, trustee, and Past Master (1945) of West Asheville Lodge No. 665, which merged with another Asheville Lodge in 2002. After Stephen’s death at the age of 85 in 1961, his step-grandson Thomas Case kept Pisgah Forest Pottery going with the help of another employee, Grady Ledbetter. Case died in 2014, and is buried in the same location as his grandfather, New Salem Baptist Church Cemetery. Nichols-West Asheville Lodge No. 650 performed the funeral ritual for Case.

Pisgah Forest Pottery officially closed in 2014, following Case’s death. Its historic pottery-making tools and equipment were donated to the North Carolina Museum of History. Examples of work from this important pottery are held and exhibited at other museums, such as the Smithsonian, the Asheville Art Museum, and the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum. Popular with collectors, pieces of Pisgah Forest Pottery frequently come up for auction.

All three of the Scottish Rite Museum’s bowls are cobalt blue with a pink glaze inside. The bottom of each bowl bears the company’s mark (a potter sitting at a wheel) and the words "Pisgah Forest / 1942”. They have a raised, unglazed emblem on the exterior which bears a double-headed eagle gripping a sword in its talons with a square and compass on its breast and a "32" glazed in blue above. On the two pieces purchased in 2019, the raised text "Asheville" appears below the emblem. However, on the piece purchased in 2022, the text reads: “Asheville Scottish Rite”. Given that all three bowls bear the same year and were clearly following a set design, it is interesting that our newest acquisition also has the words “Scottish Rite” added to it. For whom were these Scottish Rite Masonic bowls made? Much of Stephen’s usual work was sold to tourists in the region. Were these items produced as custom orders for the local Scottish Rite Valley? Were they given as gifts to Masons? More research is needed in order to determine the context and purpose of these bowls.

The inscriptions on the newly-acquired vase and cup give us a little more information about who likely owned and use them. The light blue vase has the words “To my Good Friend and Brother Dr. S. S. Fay 33° / Stephen - 1959" painted neatly in white glaze, along with a white cross with two bars and a double-headed eagle bearing a “33” on the neck of the vase. Walter Stephen was semi-retired from the pottery by about 1949, but he still created new pieces on his own in a small studio he built on his property that he called “Lone Pine Studio”. The vase inscription and date seem to indicate that he made this vase as a gift for a friend who was a 33° Mason. With help from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, we’ve identified “S. S. Fay” as Scott Stuart Fay, who was a member and Past Master of John A. Nichols Lodge No. 650, the lodge that later merged with Stephen’s West Asheville No. 665 in 2002. Fay was a West Asheville doctor who was born in 1882 and died in 1980.

The cup has a light blue glaze that matches the vase and is personalized with a white clay emblem on the exterior which bears a keystone and the words "C. C. Ricker / G. H. P. / 1947-48". The “G. H .P.” here helped identify the owner. These letters stand for “Grand High Priest” and paired with the keystone on the cup, suggests that “C. C. Ricker” was elected a Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of North Carolina in 1947. With this information, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina helped us confirm the likely recipient of the cup as Charles Carpenter Ricker. Ricker, an active Mason, served as Grand High Priest, Grand Master (1962), and Grand Commander of North Carolina.

As many members know, one of the benefits of Freemasonry is the chance to convene and form friendships with fellow Masons. We don’t know if Walter Stephen met Scott Fay and Charles Ricker through business dealings in Asheville or if they met as brethren, but these personalized pots underscore their Masonic connection.

Reference and Further Reading:

Our thanks to Eric Greene at the Grand Lodge of North Carolina for his research assistance on this post.


Rooted in Tradition: Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library

Rooted in Tradition landing pageThe Museum and Library invites you to explore our newest online exhibition, Rooted in Tradition: Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. Since Freemasonry’s early days in England, the apron has been a part of the group’s distinctive symbols and rituals.

Aprons evoke the symbolic association of Freemasonry with working stonemasons—craftsmen who wore aprons to protect their clothing from wear and dust. Decorated aprons may have emerged as a way for non-working, or symbolic, Freemasons to distinguish themselves from working, also called operative, stonemasons and other artisans.  

Rooted in tradition, but also a product of their time and place, Masonic aprons show the influence of the larger society and culture as well as trends within Freemasonry. Apron shape, size, decoration, and method of manufacture reflect the era in which an apron was made. Apron designs also have a close relationship with fashion and decorative arts. The aprons and other objects highlighted in this exhibition explore these ideas and help tell the story of the history, symbolism, and workmanship behind Masonic aprons. Most importantly, they shine a light on the people who made and wore them.

This online exhibition is based on an exhibition that was on view at the Museum and Library in 2016 and 2017.  You can learn more about many of the aprons in this exhibition in the 2016 publication Badge of a Freemason: Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. 

Caption

A Meeting of Free Masons for the Admission of Masters – The Master on raising the Candidate gives the Grasp, Embrace, Etc. and declares him duly Elected a Master Mason, 1812. Thomas Palser (active 1799-1843), London, England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 77.10.1f.


An Elaborate Royal Arch Jewel Owned by Lambert Keatting

GL2004_6656DP1DB
Front, Royal Arch Jewel, 1810. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.6656.

This elaborate gilded Royal Arch jewel belonged to Lambert Keatting (1773-1847), a member of Harmony Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 52 in Philadelphia. Founded in 1794, the chapter—like others in Pennsylvania at the time—worked under the authority of a craft lodge warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and took its name from that lodge, Harmony Lodge No. 52. In spite of its connection with Harmony Lodge No. 52, the chapter drew its membership from several different craft lodges in Philadelphia. Lambert Keatting belonged to Lodge No. 67, where he was elected Master in 1811 and 1812. Later, in 1820, he became a member of Lodge No. 2, also in Philadelphia.

A boot and shoemaker, Keatting joined the Harmony Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 52 in 1810. A few years later, in 1816 and 1817, he served as the presiding officer, or High Priest, of the chapter. Around the same time, he was appointed to be the Senior Grand Deacon at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Keatting had a life-long connection to Freemasonry. When he died, in 1847, his friends and acquaintances were requested to attend his funeral. The notice of this event in the newspaper invited specifically, “The Brethren of the Masonic Order generally, and particularly Lodge No. 2….”  

Keatting’s intriguing jewel, part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, appears to have been made from two separate jewels(at left). The inner jewel—the round element topped with a bow at the top a banner at the bottom—is a Royal Arch jewel . This style of jewel—in the shape of a circle containing two interlaced triangles—was first worn by English Royal Arch Masons in the mid-1700s. On this jewel, at the center of the star, is a triangle that, on one side, has an engraving of a compasses surrounding a globe, and, on the other side, a circle with the letters of the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master Degree (below, at left). The space within the circle is left blank, suggesting that Keatting may have not taken the degree. Or, if he did, he did not have his personal mark or emblem engraved on this jewel. The banner at the base of the jewel threads beneath an oval with the letter G (a symbol for God or geometry) engraved on it. On the circle and on the arms of the triangle, on both sides of the jewel, an engraver cut phrases in Latin, English, and Greek that relate to the Royal Arch Degree (you can read about these inscriptions here, as they appear on another Royal Arch jewel made in England around 1791). On the back of the jewel, the engraver added Keatting’s name on one of the horizontal arms of the triangle, as well as a Latin phrase and the date (1810) on the circle. On the back of the jewel, the banner at the bottom bears the name of Keatting’s chapter, Harmony Royal Arch Chapter.

The outer element of the jewel is in the shape of an arch supported by two columns, spanned by four steps at the base. At the peak of the arch, above a keystone engraved with an all-seeing eye, is a hanging loop. A ladder (representing Jacob’s Ladder) connects the arch to the bow at the top of the round jewel. To join the arch to the round jewel, a craftsman cut away part of the bow. The round jewel is also connected to the inner sides of the columns and the top of the stairs. On the back side of the jewel, at the base, an engraver cut the initials of the name of the chapter and its number, “H. H. R  A. C. N[o] 52.” This inscription suggests that the arch and columns surrounding Keatting’s jewel may have come from a jewel owned by the chapter. Why Keatting’s jewel and another were joined together is unknown. If you have an idea or theory, we would love to hear  it. Please share it in the comments section below.

GL2004_6656DP2DB-1
Back, Royal Arch Jewel, 1810. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.6656.

References:

John Curtis, Centennial Celebration and History of Harmony Chapter No. 52 (Philadelphia, PA: Dunlap Printing Co., 1894).

Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London, England: George G. Harrap & Company Ltd), 1969,258-271.

Joshua L. Lyte, Reprint of the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA: The Grand Lodge, 1897).

Public Ledger, (Philadelphia, PA) August 6, 1847), [2].


New to the Collection: A Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling

2018_017aDP1DB name side  for blog
Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added an elegant and distinctive mark medal to its collection. In 1817, the owner of this medal, Thomas Colling (d. 1859) received the first three degrees at the newly founded Utica Lodge No. 270, in Utica, New York. The same year, the Grand Chapter of New York gave area Freemasons permission to establish Oneida Royal Arch Chapter No. 57. Thomas Colling joined this organization as well. Sometime after he received the Mark degree at the chapter, he commissioned this sophisticated mark jewel (at left).

Colling’s jewel is a shield-shaped. One side bears the motto of the Royal Arch, “Holiness to the Lord” at the top. At the point of the shield, the engraver cut block and script letters spelling out Colling’s name and chapter within an oval. The center of the medal features a female figure holding a ball and a plumb line, leaning against a plain block with a triangle within a circle drawn on it that supports an urn. A group of Masonic tools, a book (likely a Bible), a compasses, a mallet, and a level, are at the bottom of the block. The figure on Colling’s jewel, dressed in robes and sandals in a classical style, could possibly represent Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune, chance, and luck.  She was usually identified by the attributes of a ball, wheel, or cornucopia.

In the early 1800s, the Masonic virtues of faith, hope, and charity, were sometimes represented by female figures shown with particular attributes. Faith carried a cross or Bible, Hope held an anchor, and Charity nursed or carried children. For his mark, engraved on the other side of the medal, Colling selected the virtue of hope (at left, below). The craftsman who engraved Colling’s jewel depicted hope as a woman on the shore, with a ship in the distance, gesturing upward and stepping on a large anchor half obscured by her skirt. At the top of the jewel, the craftsman engraved a square, compasses, and Bible. At the tip of the shield, he depicted a shovel, pick, and rod, the working tools of the Royal Arch degree.

An adept engraver decorated Colling’s medal using a number of techniques such as, line engraving, roulette work, and stipple. Although the name of this engraver is unknown, we hope further research will help uncover more about the craftsman who ornamented this jewel. If you have any suggestions or ideas about this medal, please leave them in the comment section below.

Many thanks to Joseph Patzner of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York.

 

2018_017aDP2DB mark side for blog
Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, mark side, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

A Jewel Made for Nathaniel Rogers Hill

GL2004_9174DP1DB
Jewel Made for Nathaniel R. Hill, 1827. Probably New Hampshire. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.9174.

An inscription (see below) on the back of this engraved jewel shows that it belonged to “Nath’l R. Hill" who was "Exalted in Belknap Chapter on Jany 30th 1827.” Founders received a charter for Belknap Chapter (which became No. 8) just a few weeks before, on January 11, 1827.  Returns sent to the Grand Chapter of New Hampshire that same year record that Nathaniel R. Hill of Dover, New Hampshire, was among the first group of fifteen men who received degrees at the new chapter.  The jewel’s owner, Nathaniel Rogers Hill (1796-1878), also belonged to Strafford Lodge No. 29 in Dover.

This medal is in an unusual shape that incorporates symbols associated with some of the different degrees that were part of the Royal Arch. At the center is a keystone that bears Hill’s mark and the mnemonic associated with the Mark Degree, HTWSSTKS. The overall shape of the jewel--compasses connected to a quadrant, surrounded by a circle--reflect the Past Master Degree. For his mark at the middle of the jewel, Hill selected a rendition of a distinctive Masonic symbol, the Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid (at left).  This symbol is a visual representation of the Pythagorean Theorem.  In Freemasonry, this emblem reminds Masons to be lovers of the arts and sciences. The engraver who decorated Hill's jewel used a combination of a burin--to make straight lines and cuts, and a roulette, a texturing tool with a patterned roller, to make the zig-zagging lines that define the circle and compasses on Hill's jewel. 

Hill was a steadfast Mason for many years.  Strafford Lodge No. 29 went dark around 1833 and Belknap Chapter closed around 1835, in response to a political movement which sought to diminish Freemasonry--the Anti-Masonic movement--that flourished from the mid-1820s through the mid-1830s.  In 1848 former members of Strafford Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire to revive their lodge, and Hill was among their number. 

 

References

Harry Morrison Cheney, Chapters, Councils Commanderies and Scottish Rite in New Hampshire, (Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1935), 28-29.

William Richard Cutter, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol IV., (New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908), 1750.

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons, (Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994), 137.

Hamilton Hurd, History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties, New Hampshire, (Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1882), 842.

GL2004_9174DP2DB reverse
Reverse of Jewel Made for Nathaniel R. Hill, 1827. Probably New Hampshire. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.9174.

Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Hampshire, Vol. 1, (Manchester, NH: W. E. Moore, 1896).

 

 


Who were the Independent Odd Ladies?

Untitled_Panorama1
Quilt, ca. 1915. Probably Massachusetts. Gift of Jean Burditt. 2016.066. Photograph by David Bohl.

Perhaps you have heard of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows or the Daughters of Rebekah, but are you familiar with the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies?

In 1845, a group of women in Boston, Massachusetts, founded the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies, a mutual aid and benefit society.  The women were interested in the laws and principles of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows but were unable to join as equals. They created their own order, six years before the Odd Fellows female auxiliary group, the Daughters of Rebekah, was formed. The Museum recently acquired a "redwork”  cotton album quilt embroidered with emblems and names related to the Independent Odd Ladies. "Redwork" describes a a quilting style with red embroidery on a white back ground, popular in the 1910s.The quilt includes over fifty lodge names from throughout the state of Massachusetts. Some of the symbols on the quilt squares, including a cross and crown, scales, a hand and heart, and sheaves of wheat, are similar to emblems in Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows. Several of the lodge names feature establishment dates and the years 1914 or 1915, helping to date the quilt to about 1915.

According to a 1922 Boston directory, the Independent Odd ladies held their annual and semi-annual meetings at the local Elks and Odd Fellows lodges in town. Officer titles and roles included Supreme Lady, Supreme Secretary, Lady Governess, and Vice Lady Governess. 

It is currently unclear when the order stopped meeting, when the lodges closed, or if the IOL spread beyond Massachusetts and New Hampshire.The IOL is mentioned in local newspaper articles and directories through the 1950s. Read our previous blog post about Independent Odd Ladies ritual guides and minute books in the Library & Archives collection.

Do you have any items or information related to this intriguing but relatively unknown group? Let us know in the comments section below.

2016_066DP4DB

2016_066DP3DB
Quilt, ca. 1915. Probably Massachusetts.Gift of Jean Burditt. 2016.066. Photograph by David Bohl.

 


New to the Collection: Masonic Pitcher Owned by Charles Copeland

2016_061_1DP2DB
Pitcher, 1807-1809. Herculaneum Pottery, Liverpool, England. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s English pottery manufacturers sold great quantities of light colored earthenware, called creamware, to the American market.  Much of it was plain tableware, but consumers who wanted something special could select pitchers, punch bowls or other forms decorated with transfer-printed designs.  Many pottery manufacturers commissioned engravers to make transfer-prints for their wares that would be attractive particularly to Americans.  These designs related to current events or national heroes—George Washington was a favorite.  Along with prints that treated issues of the day, manufacturers created designs to appeal to Freemasons

This pitcher, marked as the product of the Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool, England, features two of the most common Masonic-themed designs found on transfer-print pitchers of the era. One is a verse of the “Entered Apprentice Song” in a surround ornamented with Masonic symbols (illustrated at left); the other design displays a raft of Masonic symbols flanked by two columns, topped by figures representing the virtues Faith, Hope and Charity (illustrated at right).  The pitcher was also personalized with the name of its owner— “Charles Copland” and his profession— “Housewright”—painted in gilding under the spout (illustrated below). 

Family history relates that this pitcher belonged to Charles Copeland, who lived from 1782 to 1809.  City directories and other records show that a man

2016_061_1DP1DB
Pitcher, 1807-1809. Herculaneum Pottery, Liverpool, England. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

named Charles Copeland made his home on Orange Street in Boston and worked as a housewright, or builder, in the early 1800s.  Records at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts note that Charles Copeland, most likely the owner of this pitcher, took the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees in St. Andrew’s Lodge of Boston in 1807.  Copeland, or a well-wisher, may have ordered this pitcher to commemorate his becoming a Freemason.  With its Masonic-themed designs, along with Copeland’s name and occupation, this pitcher represented several elements of its owner’s identity.  Copeland died young, at just 27 years old, leaving his wife Sally with three small children.  For his family, who preserved this vessel for several generations, this pitcher may have also served as a memorial to its first owner.      

 

 

References

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons. Lexington, Massachusetts:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994.

Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling and Catherine Compton Swanson, Curiosities of the Craft:  Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection, Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts:  Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 2013

Robert Teitelman, Patricia A. Halfpenny and Ronald W. Fuchs II, Success to America:  Creamware for the American Market. Woodbridge, Suffolk:  Antiques Collectors’ Club, 2010.

2016_061_1DP3DB
Pitcher, 1807-1809. Herculaneum Pottery, Liverpool, England. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

 


New to the Collection: Masonic Collar Box

2017_012a-dDP2DB
Collar Box, late 1800s-early 1900s. Museum Purchase, 2017.012. Photograph by David Bohl.

Recently the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchased a wooden box decorated with inlay for the collection (illustrated at the left).  This three-part round box was designed for a particular purpose—storing collars and collar studs.

Householders favored round and oval boxes made of wood for storing kitchen and pantry items throughout the 1800s.  Makers designed boxes in different sizes for all kinds of supplies including meal, sugar, cheese, butter and herbs. This box probably dates from the late 1800s.  Its manufacturer employed the same materials and techniques utilized in making round household boxes in earlier decades.  These boxes typically had sturdy wooden tops and bottoms with sides constructed out of thin pieces of strong, pliable wood shaped on a mold.  Box tops sometimes bore labels or were decorated with paint or carving.

In the mid-1800s, a new style of men’s shirt began to take hold—shirts worn with detachable white collars.  This innovation allowed men to wear a fresh, starched collar without the expense or labor of someone laundering an entire shirt.  By the 1890s specialized manufacturers produced millions of linen and cotton collars, as well as celluloid and disposable paper collars for men.  Manufacturers often sold collars in decorated cardboard boxes advertising their brand.    

This small round box (just over 5 inches high and 7 inches in diameter) was designed to store collars.  Two interlocking trays allowed the owner to separate different kinds of collars.  A small drawer cleverly fit into the side of

2017_012a-dDP1DB
Collar Box, late 1800s-early 1900s. Museum Purchase, 2017.012. Photograph by David Bohl.

the box (illustrated at the right) provided a convenient place for keeping track of the small collar studs which secured collars to shirts.   An inlay design on the top of the box featured a square and compasses with the letter G—a symbol of Freemasonry—which suggests that this box once belonged to a well-dressed Mason.   

 

 

Reference:

Nina Fletcher Little, Neat and Tidy:  Boxes and Their Contents Used in Early American Households (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1980), 150-161.


New to the Collection: D. Eames' Mark Medal

2016_009_2DP1DB
Mark Medal, 1811. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.009.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

In 1811 a Freemason named D. Eames commissioned an engraver or silversmith to create a silver mark medal.  This medal (at left) is a recent addition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

On one side Eames had the craftsman depict different Masonic symbols; on the other he requested the letters of the mnemonic associated with the mark degree and his own personal symbol be engraved.  Many mark medals produced between 1790 and 1830 feature, not only the owner’s name and personal emblem, but also the name of his mark lodge or chapter and its location.  Without this information or a history of ownership associated with the medal, it is difficult to learn more about D. Eames or where his medal was made.  Mark medals in this form—the shape of a shield topped with an open Bible and a square and compasses—often come from New York.  We’ve recently posted about shield-shaped medals examples from Middleburgh and Elmira, New York.  Though the majority of shield-shaped mark medals in the Museum’s collection are from New York, Mark Master Masons from other areas commissioned medals in this shape.  Our collection includes examples from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. 

For his own personal symbol (see below, at right) Eames selected two agricultural tools, a scythe and a sickle.  Farmers used both tools for harvesting crops—long-handled scythes for cutting fields of crops like hay or grain; short-handled sickles for working in small areas.  In terms of Masonic symbols, Eames’ medal features several.  They include a square and compasses with an open Bible symbolizing the Great Lights of the Lodge, along with a sun, moon, an ark and an altar.  As well, the engraver delineated seven stars, the number required for a perfect lodge; an arch with a keystone, a symbol of Royal Arch Masonry; a beehive, standing for industry; the letter G, symbolizing God or geometry; and a floor comprised of light and dark tiles, representing the good and evil in life.  In incising the letters and symbols onto the medal, the engraver used different tools and techniques to mark its smooth surface.  With a graver, or engraving tool, with a point shaped like a letter “v,” the craftsman cut lines into the silver.  The force he used helped determine the depth and width of the line. To suggest the slightly uneven lines of the Bible’s printed text, the engraver may have wielded a rolling tool, or roulette, to form a line made out of little dots cut into the metal.  On the side of the medal that bears the mark degree mnemonic, the craftsman rocked a graver with a flat or slightly rounded point back and forth to make the wavy circle that surrounds Eames’ mark.  He used a similar graver with a flat point to cut the decorative border on the side of the medal that bears Eames’ name.  Drawing on his experience, the craftsman who made this medal created a distinct badge that suited D. Eames’ needs and wishes.

2016_009_2DP2DB
Mark Medal, 1811. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.009.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

   

References:

Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1976) 47-52.