Digital Collections

Newly added to Digital Collections: Scottish Rite Documents

A2019_178_0262_webDo you want to take a closer look at how the Scottish Rite developed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added a selection of new documents related to Scottish Rite history to its Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. There are now over fifty primary source documents related to the history of the Scottish Rite available through our digital collections website. Viewing the documents is easy - clicking on an image will open a high-res image of the document or, in the case of some multi-page documents, a PDF.

The digitized Scottish Rite material includes some of the founding documents of both the Northern Masonic and Southern Jurisdictions, as well as official documents that show the various schisms within the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in the nineteenth century, especially with regard to groups founded by or inspired by Joseph Cerneau.

Do you have a question about Scottish Rite history? We'd love to hear from you. Head over to the Library & Archives page on the museum's website to get in touch with us.

Caption:
Announcement of the Union of the Hays and Raymond Supreme Councils, 1863. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A2019/178/0262.


Newly added to Digital Collections - Jacob Norton letters

A2011_017_717_webThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added a selection of letters to its Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. The digitized letters are selected from the over 700 that are in the Jacob Norton Papers collection, which consists of Norton's incoming correspondence from well-known nineteenth-century Freemasons, such as Rob Morris (1818-1888) and Enoch Terry Carson (1822-1899).

Jacob Norton (1814-1897), of Polish ancestry and Jewish faith, was born in Middlesex, England. He was a furrier by trade. He was raised to the degree of Master Mason in Joppa Lodge (London, England) on August 5th, 1839.

Norton took his business to the United States, and in 1842, demitted from Joppa Lodge. In 1844, after taking up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, Norton joined St. Andrew’s Lodge, and was made a member on November 14th. He remained a member of this lodge for almost eight years until his petition to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for the revision of its ritual and removal of overt Christian allusions was denied in June 1852. The committee members who denied this petition also recommended that he and the other petitioners had to withdraw from St. Andrew’s. He subsequently resigned from St. Andrew’s Lodge and became increasingly discontent with American Freemasonry, writing critical articles until his death. Due to this, Norton was considered to be argumentative and opinionated by the Masons of the Massachusetts jurisdiction, and beyond. He collected some of these articles and new writings in a book called Masonic Fiction Exploded: Including the Pretended Grand Mastership of Henry Price, published in 1896.

Norton did not remove himself from Freemasonry altogether, however, as he continued to attend the meetings of Joppa Lodge in England when his trade took him there and also corresponded with Masons until his death. Additionally, he joined the Correspondence Circle of Quatuor Coronati Lodge in London in November 1887.

In his personal life, Norton was married to Miriam Norton (born 1829), and had three children, Edward, Rachel, and George. Sometime between 1852 and his death he renounced his Jewish faith and considered himself an atheist. He lived in Boston until his death in March 1897, aged 83.

In addition to the letters in the Jacob Norton Papers, the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website includes a number of different collections of letters and correspondence, including the Armand P. Pfister Masonic Papers, 1840-1846 and the G. Edward Elwell, Jr., Autograph Collection.

Caption:
Letter from William P. Mellen to Jacob Norton, 1856. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Museum Purchase, A2011/017/717.

 


Experience Some of Patriots' Day Online

Lexington alarm letterThis year marks the 245th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington. During any other year, you can usually visit us in person at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library around Patriots’ Day, when we normally exhibit one of the highlights from our collection: an original copy of the Lexington Alarm letter. Our letter is one of several created by colonists to inform other colonies about the Battle of Lexington and the outbreak of war with England. It is as close as contemporary viewers can get to the beginning of the American Revolution. While all of the Patriots' Day activities and events around Lexington and the rest of Massachusetts have been canceled this year, we wanted to remind you that you can still get an up close look at the Lexington Alarm letter through the high resolution images of it that are available to everyone through our Digital Collections website

The original alarm letter was written by Joseph Palmer just hours after the Battle of Lexington which took place around daybreak on April 19, 1775. Palmer, a member of the Committee of Safety in Watertown, Massachusetts, a town near Lexington, had his letter copied by recipients along the Committee of Safety's network so that the message was distributed far and wide. While the original alarm letter written by Palmer is thought to be lost, the Museum & Library has in its collection this copy of his famous warning, which was written the day after the Battle of Lexington by Daniel Tyler, Jr., of Connecticut.

If you want to do a little more armchair traveling, be sure to check out a blog post we published over a decade ago, which traces the route that the alarm letter took from Watertown, Massachusetts down to New York City.

And we hope to see you in person in April of next year for the 246th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, when you can once again see this exciting piece of American history in person.

Caption:
Lexington Alarm Letter, [April 20, 1775], Daniel Tyler, Jr. (about 1750–1832), copyist, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Museum purchase, A1995/011/1.


More Content Added to Digital Collections Sites!

A2018_127_001_DSwebIf you haven't visited the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's digital collections sites before, or if it's been awhile, now is the perfect time to explore them.

Museum & Library staff are currently working from home and are using this closure period to add digitized materials to our online sites, making more of our unique collections available to you. Be sure to check out all of the places where you can access our collections and virtual exhibitions online: the Museum's online collections, the Library & Archives' online collections, the Museum's online exhibitions, and the Museum & Library's Flickr page.

Among the many interesting items that the Library & Archives has added during this period is the 16th degree "Prince of Jerusalem" Scottish Rite certificate pictured here. Historically, the Scottish Rite has issued 32nd, 33rd, and occasionally 18th degree certificates, but this 1842 certificate issued by the Grand Council of Princes of Jerusalem in Albany, NY, to John Christie is highly unusual. Christie's certificate is just one of over two hundred Masonic certificates that can be viewed on the Library & Archives' Digital Collections website.

John Christie (1804-1890) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and spent most of his life there. He became a Mason in St. John's Lodge No. 1 in Portsmouth in 1826 and later served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire from 1847 to 1850. This certificate marks Christie's entry into the Scottish Rite, which began in 1842 and lasted over half a century, until his death in 1890. In addition to this certificate, we have also digitized two other certificates that document Christie's participation in the Scottish Rite. The first is a beautifully engrossed 1845 certificate declaring John Christie an Active Member of the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. The second is an 1852 certificate appointing Christie as the Supreme Council's Deputy for New Hampshire, an office he held from 1851 to 1864, and again from 1878 to 1882. The Valley of Portsmouth-Dover today still honors Christie's service to Scottish Rite Freemasonry in New Hampshire; one of its three subordinate bodies is named John Christie Council, Princes of Jerusalem.

Be well, be safe, and happy online exploring from all of us at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library!

 


Digital Collections Highlight: Frederick P. Wahlgren's life-long Masonic membership

A1996_041_9aDS1_webBetween 1902 and 1909, Frederick Peter Wahlgren (1859-1935) made a lifetime commitment to Freemasonry by paying for lifetime memberships in the eight different Masonic bodies of which he was a member. Wahlgren was a 24-year-old Swedish immigrant when he arrived in the United States in 1883. He owned a house painting business and lived in the Roslindale neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1899, at age 40, he became a Master Mason in Prospect Lodge in Roslindale. A few years later he joined all four Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Boston, as well as Boston's York Rite bodies.

A1996_041_6aDS1_webA small collection of certificates and receipts in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection show evidence of Wahlgren's decision to become a lifetime member of his Blue Lodge, all four subordinate bodies in the Scottish Rite, as well as all three subordinate bodies of the York Rite. By becoming a lifetime member in these organizations, Wahlgren paid a larger membership fee up front, with the guarantee that he would not have to pay any other membership fees for the rest of his life. One receipt in the collection shows that in 1902 Wahlgren paid $180 to become a lifetime member of all four subordinate bodies in the Valley of Boston: Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, Mount Olivet Chapter Rose Croix, Giles F. Yates Council Princes of Jerusalem, and Massachusetts Consistory. Wahlgren received attractive lifetime membership certificates for each of the four bodies, two of which are shown here. In 1904, he became a life member of the York Rite bodies and, finally, in 1909, he became a life member of Prospect Lodge.

How were the life membership fees calculated? In 1900, the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation unanimously adopting a resolution which stated that

the minimum fee for life membership in any of the subordinate bodies shall be fifteen times the annual fee of that body, and shall in no case be less than thirty dollars in a Lodge of Perfection, a Council of Princes of Jerusalem, and a Chapter of Rose Croix; nor less than forty-five dollars in Massachusetts Consistory, provided, however, that in the Consistory, the fee for the life membership of a member who resides more than ten miles from Boston shall be ten dollars less than the fee herein established.

The 1900 resolution further mandated that the total fee to belong to all four Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Boston should be no less than $135. Two years later, Wahlgren paid $180. Nonetheless, it still would have made financial sense for Wahlgren to pay the fee, as he lived for another 33 years. Wahlgren died on April 30, 1935, just four days after his wife, Ida S. (Dufva) Wahlgren (1855-1935). His lifetime commitment to Freemasonry is evidenced by the life member certificates he was issued. We have digitized and made available most of the Frederick Peter Wahlgren certificates in our collection. You can view them at our Digital Collections website, along with hundreds of other documents that we have digitized and made available.

Captions:

Life membership certificate issued by Massachusetts Consistory to Fredrick Peter Wahlgren, 1903. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Mrs. Lucian D. Warner, A1996/041/009a.

Life membership certificate issued by Boston Lafayette Lodge of Perfection to Fredrick Peter Wahlgren, 1903. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Mrs. Lucian D. Warner, A1996/041/006a.


Digital Collections Highlight: 1855 Masonic Festival Notice

A2010_015_1dDS_webThe Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives' Digital Collections website features a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This week, we highlight a Masonic festival notice from 1855.

Montgomery Lodge, located in Milford, Massachusetts, sent this invitation out to a number of Masonic lodges, inviting them to a St. John's Day celebration that they were planning for Saturday, June 23, 1855. This particular notice was sent to Richard Colton, Master of Harmony Lodge, inviting him, the officers and members of the lodge to the Masonic festival hosted by Montgomery Lodge. A handwritten notice at the bottom of the invitation reads "Fare on B.W.R.R. reduced one half. Please send date of your charter." While it is not clear why Montgomery Lodge was requesting the charter date for lodges that it invited, it is clear that they had arranged for half-fare tickets for those invitees traveling on the Boston & Worcester railroad line.

detailed, 8-page account of the day's events was published in the August 1855 issue of Freemason's Monthly Magazine. The event was large - "probably between four and five hundred Brethren in the procession" - and the food and drink clearly left a lot to be desired. The article was hardly without editorial comments. While praising the day's events - "We heard but one expression among the audience, — that of hearty approval and gratification" - the writer also had a few choice words about the meal that was served after the church services, while also making it clear that he doesn't usually expect much in the way of good food on "such occasions":

After the Benediction the procession was again formed and marched to the new Town Hall, where the tables were spread with the worst dinner we ever sat down to; and we have often been severely tried in this interesting particular, — albeit we are not usually very fastidious on such occasions. Experience has pretty effectually cured us of all such nonsense; but there is a point at which the gastronomic organs revolt! We give the caterer for this occasion, the credit of having reached that point of physical sufferance!

Making dinner speeches on empty stomachs, and drinking toasts in turpentine water, is a rather hazardous experiment! Nevertheless, some of the Brethren present had the courage to attempt it, and under the able presidency of Col. Thompson, succeeded to great satisfaction, and, probably, to their own astonishment! Among the number was the M. W. Grand Master, Dr. [Winslow] Lewis [Jr.], who, in response to a complimentary toast to the Grand Lodge, spoke substantially as follows...[Curious readers may read Lewis's speech here.]

St. John's Day, the June celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist, has a long tradition in Freemasonry. As early as 1739, the day was well-known enough that Joseph Green (1706-1780) published a satirical anti-Masonic poem about it. A broadside publication of that poem can also be found on our Digital Collections website.

 

Caption:

Masonic Festival Notice, 1855. Milford, Massachusetts. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Maria Rogers, MA 001.392.


Digitized items from Library & Archives added to Digital Commonwealth

Digital Commonwealth logoThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is pleased to announce that it has contributed over 500 digitized items from its Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives to Digital Commonwealth. Digital Commonwealth is a non-profit collaborative organization, founded in 2006, that provides resources and services to support the creation, management, and dissemination of cultural heritage materials held by Massachusetts libraries, museums, historical societies, and archives. The Museum & Library joins nearly 200 institutions from across Massachusetts who have contributed historical materials to the site. By participating in Digital Commonwealth, the Museum increases the awareness and findability of the Library & Archives collections. The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website remains the primary site for accessing our digital collections and is the only place where high resolution images of these digitized items are available.

Questions or comments may be directed to library@srmml.org.


Digital Collections Highlight: Civil War Discharge Certificate

A2011_006_1DS1_webThe Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives' Digital Collections website features a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

This week, in commemoration of Veterans’ Day, we highlight this Civil War discharge certificate, issued to James Foran in September 1864 at Philadelphia.

Foran (1840-1906), pictured below in a tintype portrait from the museum's collection, was born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1859. Foran entered the service as a Private of Company G, 8th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry on September 2, 1861. He was wounded by a gunshot in the left side at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863. James Foran tintypeOne of the major battles of the American Civil War, the Battle of Chancellorsville took place near the village of Chancellorsville, Virginia, from April 30 to May 6, 1863. Foran was wounded on May 3, the fiercest day of fighting of the battle—a day that was also the second bloodiest day of the Civil War. The Battle of Chancellorsville resulted in heavy losses on both the Union and Confederate sides.

Nearly a year later, on May 1, 1864, Foran was transferred to the 162nd Company, 2nd Battalion, Veteran Reserve Corps where he served at Cuyler General Hospital at Germantown, Pennsylvania. Originally organized as the Invalid Corps in 1863, the renamed Veteran Reserve Corps was organized at Cuyler General Hospital on March 20, 1864. The Corps was a military reserve organization created within the Union Army during the Civil War. In existence until 1869, its purpose was to allow partially disabled or otherwise infirm soldiers – or former soldiers – to perform light duty. Foran served with the Veteran Reserve Corps for four months, mustering out on September 3, 1864 at the expiration of his term of service.

In 1870, he married Mary Connell (1847-1913), with whom he had three children. Foran died in 1906 at the age of 65 and is buried in Lambertville, New Jersey.

You can check out other tintypes from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection here and other digitized Civil War-related Library & Archives items here.

 

Captions:

Civil War Discharge Certificate, 1864. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of George Sommer, USM 001.336.

James Foran, ca. 1861. United States. Gift of George Sommer, 2011.004.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 

 

 


Digital Collections Highlight: Hand-lettered Scottish Rite Certificate of Appreciation

A2016_018_DS_webThe Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives' Digital Collections website features a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Among these items is this hand-drawn certificate of appreciation issued by the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, to Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, the Mayor of Boston and an Active Member of the Supreme Council. The certificate, dated June 19, 1869, was given to Shurtleff in recognition of the Supreme Council's "high appreciation of the most cordial and fraternal welcome extended" to the Council during the Annual Meeting held in Boston, June 16-19, 1869. (A high-res image of the certificate may be viewed here.)

The 1869 Annual Meeting was held at the Masonic Temple in Boston. According to the 1869 Supreme Council Proceedings, on the second day of these meetings, Friday, June 18, the Supreme Council voted on "an invitation to accept the hospitalities of the Mayor of the City of Boston, the Hon. and Ill. Bro. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, at Young's Hotel, at 7 1/2 o'clock, this evening." On motion, the Mayor's party invitation was unanimously accepted. Young's Hotel, which had opened in 1860 and would eventually close in 1927, was located in Court Street in Boston.

While the 1869 Proceedings provide no details about the celebration held at Young's Hotel, an article published in the July 1, 1869, issue of The Freemasons' Monthly Magazine gives a brief account of the dinner. It records that the tables for the reception "were furnished with such luxuries as the markets at this season of the year can afford, and were in great abundance." The celebration continued "until late in the evening, when it was increased by the addition of music, by an excellent band from the City of Troy, New York, who had previously been contributing of their skill to the success of the Peace Jubilee."

The National Peace Jubilee, which happened to coincide with the 1869 Annual Meeting, was a five day music festival held in Boston. It began on June 15, 1869, and celebrated the end of the American Civil War four years earlier. Thousands of people attended the Jubilee, and a huge temporary coliseum which could seat 50,000 people was constructed for the musical performances. The event was so attractive that The Freemasons' Monthly Magazine reported that the Jubilee actually delayed the start of the Annual Meeting: 

The session [i.e. the Annual Meeting] was informally opened on Wednesday, at 12 o'clock, noon; but, in consequence of the interest which the members manifested in the festivities of the opening of the Peace Musical Jubilee, the Council was called off until the following morning at 10 o'clock, and no business was transacted.

The celebration hosted by Mayor Shurtleff at Young's Hotel made a great impression upon his guests. The following day, at the Supreme Council's Annual Meeting, Henry L. Palmer, a future Sovereign Grand Commander for the Supreme Council, offered a resolution, the text of which was incorporated into the certificate by its artist, Charles E. Sickels (1841-1927).

In 1869 Sickels was a 28-year-old artist and engraver who executed this certificate entirely by hand. He had only been a Mason for two years. His father, Daniel Sickels, 33°, Grand Secretary General for the Supreme Council, signed and sealed the certificate in the lower left-hand corner. Charles Sickels would later go on to become the head of the Art Department of the American Bank Note Company, which printed currency and stamps for the federal government, as well as stock certificates. By 1875, the American Bank Note Company printed membership certificates, such as this one, for the Scottish Rite.

You can explore more historic Scottish Rite documents at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.


Digital Collections Highlight: 1760 Masonic Lodge Summons

A1993_076_DS_webThe Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website contains a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Among these items is an engraved lodge summons (pictured at left), printed in 1760. Henry Dawkins (c. 1735-c.1790) engraved this summons, which was sent to members of Philadelphia's Lodge No. 2, Ancient York Masons. This summons, or invitation, was circulated on May 13, 1760, to inform members of the lodge that a meeting was to take place at the house of Brother James Bell. Richard McNeall, who had been appointed Secretary of the lodge at its March 11, 1760 meeting, signed the summons in the lower left hand corner.

Dawkins, who engraved the summons, was a Freemason who was raised in Philadelphia's Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, on September 11, 1759. The following year, Lodge No. 1 was renumbered to Lodge No. 2 and, at the time of this summons, Dawkins was still a member of the lodge. James Bell, at whose house the May 1760 took place, was raised a Master Mason in Lodge No. 2 in January 1760.

Interested in viewing more early printed Masonic documents or taking a closer look at this 1760 summons? Visit the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website, which provides access to images of a diverse selection of documents in the collection, including a 1768 summons engraved by Paul Revere.