Freemasonry

Digital Collections Highlight: WWI Masonic Roll of Honor

A2013_010_1DS1_webThis Veterans Day, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is highlighting how one local Masonic lodge honored its members who served during World War I. We recently digitized the item seen here and added it to our Digital Collections website.

Both during and after World War I, a number of Masonic and fraternal organizations assembled rolls of honor to recognize the service of their members. Constellation Lodge, which was located in Dedham, Massachusetts, issued this Roll of Honor, which listed the names of twenty-nine of its members who served during World War I.

The location of each man's wartime service varied widely. Those who served stateside included Masons like Edward J. Ziegler, who served as a Yeoman at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in New Hampshire, and Edward S. Colburn, who served in the Gas Mask Department in Philadelphia. Many on the list served overseas, including a number of men whose location is simply listed as "Somewhere in France."

Constellation Lodge mailed this particular copy of the Roll of Honor to one of the Masons honored. William Crawford, Jr. (1896-1987) received the Roll of Honor while he was still serving at the Aerial Station in Chatham, Massachusetts, a town located on the elbow of Cape Cod. The Chatham Naval Air Station was only in existence from 1917 until 1922 and served an important role during the war, by patrolling for German U-boats off the coast of the United States. The air station was also involved in defending against the only attack on U.S. soil during WWI. The Chatham Historical Society has a number of images related to the Chatham Naval Air Station digitized and available on their website.

The Roll of Honor pictured here is one of nearly 900 digitized items that can be found at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Digital Collections website. Also, be sure to check out our previous blog posts related to WWI.

Caption:
Constellation Lodge Roll of Honor, 1918. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Gift of William Douglas Crawford, A2013/010/1.


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.


Digital Collections Highlight: An 1847 Scottish Rite Meeting Summons

A2019_178_0001DS1_webPictured here is a recently digitized handwritten summons from Sovereign Grand Commander John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865) to Edward A. Raymond (1791-1864), dated November 22, 1847. It is among a number of recently digitized nineteenth-century Scottish Rite documents that we have added to the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. By taking a closer look at the events surrounding the creation of this summons, we can gain insight into the difficult reorganization of the Scottish Rite that took place in the 1840s.

The Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was small and geographically dispersed in 1847. Of its nine members, seven had joined the Supreme Council within the past two years. The Council was still rebuilding itself after the anti-Masonic period had brought most Masonic activity to a halt in the late 1820s and through the 1830s. In 1847, the Council was dispersed throughout two states, with four members living in the Boston area and five living in New York State. At the time, the Council was headed by J.J.J. Gourgas and his Lieutenant Grand Commander Giles Fonda Yates (1798-1859). Gourgas, who lived in New York City, and Yates, who lived in Schenectady, had kept the Supreme Council's records together during the dormant period of the anti-Masonic period and were responsible for the reorganization of the Supreme Council in 1844 and 1845, during which time they admitted the seven new members to the Supreme Council.

This 1847 summons gives us a glimpse into this period of rebirth. Written in Gourgas's unmistakable handwriting, and addressed to Edward A. Raymond in Boston, the summons directs Boston-based members Raymond, Charles W. Moore, and Reuel Baker to attend the "Stated Constitutional Meeting of the Grand and Supreme Council" to be held on December 7, 1847. The record of that meeting shows how difficult it was for Gourgas to rebuild the Council. The December 7, 1847 meeting was attended by only three people: Gourgas, Yates, and Van Rensselaer. In the published Proceedings, Gourgas notes that Raymond, Moore, and Baker provided an official excuse for non-attendance, which was accepted. Showing his frustration with members who did not attend meetings, Gourgas mentions that two members - John Christie and Archibald Bull - had not made an appearance at any meetings since they had been admitted and, in strong language, declared them "useless members, unless they come forward with admissable excuses..." In a letter, dated January 20, 1848, written in response to Gourgas's wish to hear from Bull and Christie, Bull explains to Gourgas that his absences occurred because of his poor health.

As the events surrounding this summons demonstrate, the robust Supreme Council that eventually emerged from the work of Gourgas and Yates was not easily accomplished.

Interested in reading more primary sources related to the history of the Scottish Rite? Be sure to check out the growing collection on our Digital Collections website.

Caption:
Handwritten summons from Sovereign Grand Commander John James Joseph Gourgas to Edward A. Raymond, 1847. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A2019/178/0001.


Newly added to Digital Collections: Harry S. Truman Letters

A2019_001_016DS_webDid you know that President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972) was in correspondence with Melvin Maynard Johnson (1871-1957), the head of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Supreme Council during the 1940s and 1950s? A number of recently digitized letters, written from Truman to Johnson on White House stationery are available through the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. They reveal a friendly relationship, with President Truman beginning his letters to Johnson by addressing him "Dear Mel."

Truman became a Freemason in 1909. By 1940, he was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. In 1945, Truman was created a 33rd degree Sovereign Grand Inspector General in the Scottish Rite's Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction. That same year, the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, awarded Truman its first Gourgas Medal, the Supreme Council's highest honor.

The letters in this collection include both those from Harry Truman as well as one written by his wife, Bess Truman (1885-1982). The majority of the correspondence in this collection consists of letters written by President Harry S. Truman to his friend and fellow Freemason, Melvin Maynard Johnson (1871-1957). Johnson served as the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Sovereign Grand Commander from 1933 to 1953.

For more about the friendship between Truman and Johnson, have a look at one of our earlier blog posts, A Mason Answers His Country's Call and Receives the Scottish Rite's Highest Award.

There are now over 750 items in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. Be sure to visit and check them all out!

Caption:
Letter from President Harry S. Truman to Melvin M. Johnson, 1948 August 3. Collection of Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts. SC069.


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.

 


"What's in a Portrait?"

Portrait
Members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Patriarchs Militant, 1870-1900 United States Gift of Jacques Noel Jacobson Jr., 86.60.4.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “What’s in a Portrait?,” now available on our website. This exhibition includes paintings, prints, and photographs from the gallery exhibition, "What's in a Portrait?," which will be opening at the Museum & Library in the coming months.

Since the formation of organized Freemasonry in the early 1700s, many men have taken pride in their association with it and other fraternal groups. In the 1800s and 1900s, many Masons commissioned portraits of themselves and, in them, chose to be presented as members of the fraternity, wearing jewelry or regalia that identified them as Masons. Some of these portraits marked personal achievements, such as election or appointment to a lodge office. Other images celebrated lodge events, like a new slate of officers or a summer excursion. "What's in a Portrait?" features portraits from the collection that help tell the story of the many people who participated in and shaped Masonic and fraternal organizations in the United States for over two hundred years.

The Museum & Library is currently closed to the public due to a state mandated stay-at-home advisory. We will keep you posted about Museum re-opening dates via our website, Facebook, and Instagram. In the meantime, visit our website to see more online exhibitions and collections.  If you have any questions or comments about "What's in a Portrait?," let us know in the comment box below or email us at [info@srmml.org]--we would love to hear from you!


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!

 


A Supreme Council, and a Nation, Mourns the Death of a President

In commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln's life and the impact that his assassination in April 1865 had upon the nation and the fraternity, the staff of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library wish to present this highlight from the collection, Supreme Council member Benjamin Dean's hand-written preamble and resolutions regarding the death of President Lincoln. This document demonstrates how, as Freemasons, one of the fraternity’s governing bodies, the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, expressed not only their sorrow for the President's death, but how the Lincoln assassination was an affront to what Freemasonry embodied.  

A2019_097_003DS1Handwritten preamble and resolution of Benjamin Dean, 1865 May 17.
 

In the Supreme Council of Sovereign Inspectors General 33º for the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States,

May 17, 1865.

Since the last annual meeting of this Supreme Council the nation has been deprived of its chief magistrate by the hand of an assassin.

It is peculiarly fit + proper that a body assembled from all the States of our Jurisdiction, and representing so largely our numerous + influencial [sic] brotherhood, a brotherhood whose ancient charges inculcate among its first duties – “to be peaceable citizens + cheerfully to conform to the laws of the country in which we reside – to avoid being concerned in plots and conspiracies against government + cheerfully to submit to the decisions of the Supreme Legislature; it is fit + proper that such an assemblage – true to its teachings – should give some expression to the family of our deceased + honored President, of our sympathy with their misfortunes, + pray for the restoration of peace to their troubled minds.

Therefore, resolved – that we deplore the untimely end of our late honored President Abraham Lincoln – cut off by horrid violence – in the midst of the high dignities imposed upon him by this people.

Resolved – that we sympathize with the nation + with his distressed family in their unparallelled [sic] affliction.

Resolved, that this expression of our sympathy be spread upon our records, + a copy thereof be sent by our Secretary General to the family of our deceased President.

Unanimously passed by the Supreme Council, Dean’s measure was only one of many tributes paid by Freemasons to the martyred President throughout the summer of 1865. And although the President was not a Freemason, in an interview in October 1860 with the American poet and Freemason Rob Morris, presidential candidate Lincoln intimated his “great respect” for the fraternity, and it was widely speculated and reported that Lincoln had only “postpone[d] his application for the honors of Masonry” until after his second term as President and the great burden of office had passed.


Captions

Handwritten preamble and resolution of Benjamin Dean, 1865 May 17. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.

References

“A Conversation with Mr. Lincoln.” Voice of Masonry and Tidings from the Craft 3, no. 6 (June 1865): 248.

 


Astronaut Buzz Aldrin in Action

2019_015a-cDP1JF
G.I. Joe Classic Collection Colonel Buzz Aldrin Astronaut in NASA Space Suit, 1999. Hasbro, China. Gift of Robert V. Monacelli, 2019.015. Julia Featheringill Photography.

Astronaut and Freemason Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., was born in 1930 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Aldrin, the lunar pilot for the 1969 Apollo 11 space mission was, with fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), one of the first humans—and one of the first Freemasons—to walk on the moon. American manufacturers made a number of wonderful commemorative items, including posters, plates, and toys, memorializing this historic event.  

In 1999 the Hasbro Toy Company released a special edition Buzz Aldrin action figure celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the moon landing. The Aldrin figure was part of the G.I. Joe: Classic Collection set produced by Hasbro in the late 1990s. 

Buzz Aldrin was initiated into Oak Park Lodge No. 864 in Alabama in 1955 and raised in Lawrence N. Greenleaf Lodge, No. 169 in Colorado in 1956. He is also a member of Clear Lake Lodge No. 1417 in Texas. 

This action figure complements the many other items we have related to Buzz Aldrin in the Library and Archives Buzz Aldrin ephemera collection.  

Buzz
Buzz Aldrin Masonic Ephemera Collection, 1969-1975. Gift of Ben B. Lipset. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MM 001.012.

This collection includes a photograph fraternally inscribed to Ben B. Lipset, and a photograph of Aldrin walking on the moon addressed to former Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, George Newbury (1895-1904).

Do you have any ephemera related to Freemasonry and NASA? Let us know in the comments below!