Exhibitions

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:


Now on View: Scottish Rite Reunion Programs

Valley of Grand Rapids 1936 program for webCurrently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room through January 27, 2023, are fifteen Scottish Rite programs, dating from 1880 to 1980. These programs are from a large collection of printed Masonic programs that are part of the Museum's Library & Archives collection. These programs, created for members attending an event, help document a long tradition of Scottish Rite activities known as Reunions.

Founded in 1813 in New York City, the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, is the governing organization for Scottish Rite Freemasonry in fifteen states in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States. These states are divided into smaller jurisdictions known as “Valleys.” Similar to a Masonic lodge, Valleys are local groups of Scottish Rite Masons, but typically draw members from a region considerably larger than a city or a town. Each Valley is composed of up to four Scottish Rite bodies, and each body confers a set of staged ritual initiation degrees. In the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, the bodies are the Lodge of Perfection, Council of Princes of Jerusalem, Chapter of Rose Croix, and Consistory.  

Valley of the Genesee 1880 program for webReunions

In Scottish Rite Freemasonry, a “Reunion” is a gathering most Valleys hold for members once or twice a year, typically in the spring or fall. At the Reunion, some of the degrees of the Lodge of Perfection, Princes of Jerusalem, Chapter of Rose Croix, or Consistory are conferred on a class of candidates. The reunion also provides the opportunity for social fellowship. A typical Scottish Rite Reunion today occurs on one or two days over a weekend. At the event, candidates and members witness eight to ten degrees. Reunions in the 1880s could last as long as five days, with all 29 Scottish Rite degrees being conferred.

A Long Tradition

The many printed programs, which are on view in the reading room July 11, 2022 - January 27, 2023, are from the collection of the Library & Archives. They were originally distributed to members attending Scottish Rite Reunions. While the text of the pamphlets help document a long tradition of Scottish Rite activity, their various covers attract the eye and often reflect the time in which they were made.

Captions:

Valley of Grand Rapids Program, Fall Reunion and Business Meetings, 1936. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Scottish Rite Programs Collection, SC 088.

Valley of the Genesee Program, Fourteenth Annual Grand Reunion, 1880. Rochester, New York. Scottish Rite Programs Collection, SC 088.

 

 

 


The Lexington Alarm letter - on view and online in 2022!

A1995_011_DS1_webEach year during the celebration of Patriots’ Day, a Massachusetts state holiday, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library proudly displays an original copy of the Lexington Alarm letter—one of several letters created by the colonists to inform other colonies about the Battle of Lexington and the outbreak of war with England. It gives contemporary viewers a close-up look at the beginning of the American Revolution.

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, near Lexington, had his letter copied by recipients along the Committee of Safety's network. Using this system, 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 version of his famous description of what happened, which was copied the day after the Battle of Lexington by Daniel Tyler, Jr., of Connecticut.

In addition to seeing the letter in person, you can also view our online exhibition, “'To all the Friends of American Liberty': The 1775 Lexington Alarm Letter,” which is now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. This exhibition takes a close look at the Lexington Alarm letter that is in the Museum & Library's collection.

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


The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History

Collage left 10-6-01The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library presents “The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History,” a new exhibition that showcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition opens to the public on November 1, 2021 and runs through October 2024. 

Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours. Ten Hall of Fame inductees will be featured this year. More will be added in 2022 and 2023. This year’s inductees are:

  • Benjamin Franklin
  • George Washington
  • Prince Hall
  • Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
  • Mark Twain
  • Harry Truman
  • John Lejeune
  • Irving Berlin
  • John Glenn
  • John Lewis

Drawing on images and objects from the Museum & Library’s collection, the exhibition also looks at the history of Freemasonry in the United States from its beginnings in the 1700s to the present day. “The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History” illuminates some of the ways that the United States and Freemasonry have grown, thrived, and changed together.

Throughout the exhibition visitors will encounter both remarkable and everyday Freemasons who helped to build communities, establish charitable institutions, and shape American society.

The Museum & Library is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 to 4:00pm. Have questions or comments? Leave a comment below or email info@srmml.org. 


Celebrate Patriots' Day With Our New Online Exhibition

Lexington Alarm letter exhibition imagePatriots' Day, a holiday well-known in Massachusetts and celebrated in other U.S. states as well, commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This year's holiday marks the 246th anniversary of the events that signaled the beginning of the American Revolution.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “'To all the Friends of American Liberty': The 1775 Lexington Alarm Letter” now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. This exhibition takes a close look at an original copy of the Lexington Alarm letter that is in the Museum & Library's collection. Written on April 20, 1775, the letter's urgent news that war had broken out brings today's viewers to the beginning of the American Revolution.

The Museum's copy of the letter, written in the late morning of April 20, 1775, is one of several created by colonists to inform distant communities and colonies about the Battle of Lexington and the outbreak of war with England.

Interested in more online exhibitions? You can check out all of the Library & Archives online exhibitions here. Also be sure to check out the seven online exhibitions that are available at the Museum's online exhibitions website.


New Online Exhibition - Signed & Sealed: Masonic Certificates

A1990_036_1DS1_webThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “Signed & Sealed: Masonic Certificates” now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. The twenty-one Masonic certificates featured in the exhibition are drawn from the Library & Archives' collection of hundreds of Masonic and fraternal membership certificates.

Included in the exhibition is the 1756 certificate pictured here, which one Masonic historian, writing in 1912, stated was "believed to the be the oldest American Masonic certificate." William Shute, Worshipful Master of Philadelphia Lodge No. 2, signed this hand-written certificate, which identifies James Harding as a Master Mason. You can learn more about this certificate and others by visiting the online exhibition.

If you haven't already, also be sure to visit the Museum's online exhibition website for more online exhibitions.

 

Caption:
Master Mason certificate issued by Philadelphia Lodge, No. 2, to James Harding, 1756. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A1990/036/001.


Online Exhibition - Illustrated Patriotic Envelopes of the American Civil War

A1985_012_0733The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “Illustrated Patriotic Envelopes of the American Civil War” now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. The objects in the exhibition are from a collection of over 1,000 Illustrated patriotic envelopes of the American Civil War that were donated to the museum by William Caleb Loring, 33° (1925-2011).

Following the November 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) as President of the United States, seven states in which slavery was legal individually seceded from the Union. They did so because of Lincoln’s opposition to the expansion of slavery in the western United States. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas declared themselves the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.), and established a capital first in Montgomery, Alabama and then in Richmond, Virginia. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861, four more slave-holding states joined the Confederacy. The C.S.A. was never officially recognized by the United States or any foreign government. The American Civil War, fought between the Union and the Confederate South, lasted until 1865. Casualties on both sides, from death, disease, and wounds, totaled over one million.

Shortly after the war began, publishers began printing illustrated envelopes (also known as covers) related to the war. The designs treated a variety of subjects, such as soldiers, battles, and patriotism. Publishers released 3,000-4,000 individual Union designs and no more than 160 individual Confederate designs of this form of wartime propaganda. Americans quickly began collecting these envelopes and, as early as 1861, manufacturers marketed albums that consumers could fill with examples that they had acquired. Soldiers also put these envelopes to practical use, using them to mail letters home to their families. These envelopes offer an immediate view on the bold rhetoric and political passions of the American Civil War.

If you haven't already, be sure to visit the Museum's online exhibition website for more online exhibitions.

 


Illustrated Patriotic Envelopes of the American Civil War - now on view

A1985_012_1020DSNow on view in the reading room of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library are a selection of 32 illustrated patriotic envelopes of the American Civil War. Nearly all of the envelopes on exhibition are from a collection of over 1,000 illustrated patriotic envelopes of the American Civil War that were donated to the museum by William Caleb Loring, 33° (1925-2011). 

Following the November 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) as President of the United States, seven states in which slavery was legal individually seceded from the Union. They did so because of Lincoln’s opposition to the expansion of slavery in the western United States. A1985_012_0111DSSouth Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas declared themselves the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.), and established a capital first in Montgomery, Alabama and then in Richmond, Virginia. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861, four more slave-holding states joined the Confederacy. The C.S.A. was never officially recognized by the United States or any foreign government. The American Civil War, fought between the Union and the Confederate South, lasted until 1865. Casualties on both sides, from death, disease, and wounds, totaled over one million.

A1985_012_0563DSShortly after the war began, publishers began printing illustrated envelopes (also known as covers) related to the war. The designs treated a variety of subjects, such as soldiers, battles, and patriotism. Publishers released 3,000-4,000 individual Union designs and no more than 160 individual Confederate designs of this form of wartime propaganda.  Americans quickly began collecting these envelopes and, as early as 1861, manufacturers marketed albums that consumers could fill with examples that they had acquired. A1985_012_0297DSSoldiers also put these envelopes to practical use, using them to mail letters home to their families. These envelopes offer an immediate view on the bold rhetoric and political passions of the American Civil War.

Illustrated Patriotic Envelopes of the American Civil War is on view in the reading room through December 1, 2018.

Captions:

Top left:
“USA,” 1861-1865
Published by Car Bell
Hartford, Connecticut
A85/012/1020

Top right:
“Remember Fort Sumter!,” 1861-1865
A85/012/0111

Bottom left:
“Traitor. Patriot,” 1861-1865
Engraved by Carpenter & Allen
Boston, Massachusetts
A85/012/0563

Bottom right:
“Haines’ Envelope Holder,” 1861
Published by J.M. Whittemore & Co.
Boston, Massachusetts
A85/012/0297

 

 


Drawing a Fraternal Identity

82_3_1DI1

While “Masonic” is in our name and we often focus on American Masonic history, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library also actively collects, studies and presents fraternal history – stories, objects and people associated with the history of non-Masonic fraternal organizations, like the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

At its center, this drawing shows an arrangement of symbols used in Odd Fellows rituals.  Unfortunately, we do not know who the artist or original owner of the drawing was.  “Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681” is written along the top, so presumably the drawing was produced by or for a member of the lodge, or for the lodge itself.  Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681 met in Wadhams, New York, a hamlet, or unincorporated settlement, located along the Boquet River in the Adirondack Mountains, near Westport.  By the end of 1920, Boquet Valley Lodge counted 73 members, although other details about its history and activities are proving elusive.

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share a three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  They also share some symbols, like the all-seeing eye, winged hourglass and the scales of justice on the drawing.  However, the three-link chain with the initials “FLT” (for Friendship, Love and Truth), also seen on the drawing, is a symbol unique to the Odd Fellows.

This drawing could have been framed and hung on the wall at the lodge or in a member’s home.  In a home, it would serve to identify the owner as a member, and in a home or a lodge, it would help members to learn and remember the lessons taught during ritual work.  To see examples of similar Masonic drawings, visit our current [December 2014] exhibition, “Every Variety of Painting for Lodges”: Decorated Furniture, Paintings and Ritual Objects from the Collection, which features over fifty paintings, aprons, furniture and other decorative and illustrated items, exploring the ways that Freemasons have expressed their involvement with the fraternity.  Visit our website for more information and leave us a comment below if you have seen similar drawings or know more about Boquet Lodge No. 681!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Drawing, 1875-1900, Wadhams, New York, Special Acquisitions Fund, 82.3.1


Happy 201st Birthday to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction!

2013_030DI1Today, August 5, 2014, marks the 201st anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which founded the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1975). A year ago today, we celebrated the momentous occasion of the fraternity’s 200th anniversary – see our posts from last year - here and here. This year, the day is passing more quietly. However, our exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” which opened last year, is still on view – for a few more weeks. The exhibition will close on September 27, 2014, so if you haven’t visited, it’s time to plan a trip to the museum. We have one more gallery talk planned in the exhibit. The Museum’s Director of Collections and curator of the exhibition, Aimee E. Newell, will offer a free gallery talk on Saturday, September 27, at 2 p.m.

During the official anniversary ceremony last August, in New York City, Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton welcomed his counterpart from the Southern Jurisdiction, Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale. At the festivities, Commander Seale presented Commander McNaughton with a reproduction of the 1813 charter that officially created the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Commander Seale also presented a commemorative glass vase to celebrate the occasion (see above). The vase is currently on view in our lobby as part of our display of recent acquisitions. Engraved on the front is the double-headed eagle emblem of the Scottish Rite with an inscription, “Presented to the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, in honor of its Bicentennial Anniversary 1813-2013 by the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, USA.”

To order a copy of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's recent published history, which the exhibition is based on, visit the NMJ online store.

Vase, 2013, United States, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 2013.030. Photograph by David Bohl.