From Insurance Executive to Masonic Apron Designer?
June 11, 2009
Edward Horsman (1775-1819), a Boston engraver, created a particularly popular Masonic apron design around 1814. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts recommended Horsman’s design “as a judicious selection of the emblems of the Order, arranged with taste and propriety.” Horsman became a Mason in 1802 in Boston’s Mount Lebanon Lodge. He can be documented as Grand Secretary of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Massachusetts from 1804 to 1806. Newspaper advertisements and Boston directories from 1807 through 1813 list him as the secretary of the Massachusetts Fire and Marine Insurance Company. But his prominent signature on the plate that he engraved around 1814, which reads “Master Masons apron or flooring Copy Right Secured E. Horsman Pinx,” suggests that he might have changed careers at that time. An 1817 newspaper ad “respectfully informs the fraternity that a fresh supply of Masonic aprons and sashes for the several degrees, are for sale at the Picture and Looking Glass Store…He likewise informs the public, that he Paints 'Coats of Arms,' plain, and in superb style…” The ad closes with a mention of “his store” and his house located on Carver Street in Boston. Horsman’s apron design was apparently still in demand after his death in 1819, as newspaper advertisements directed prospective customers to “the shop of Mr. Wm. Bittle” in the early 1820s for aprons “from the plate of the late Edward Horsman.”
That copper plate is now in the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, at the National Heritage Museum. In addition, the Grand Lodge and the Museum hold a combined total of fifteen Horsman aprons.
Engraving Plate, ca. 1814, Edward Horsman (1775-1819), Boston, Massachusetts, Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.0139, photograph by David Bohl.
Masonic Apron, ca. 1814, Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 89.66.