Freemasonry

Now on View: 300 Years of Anderson's Constitutions

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The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, 1723. London, England. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, RARE 31 .A547 1723, c.2

This year, 2023, marks the three hundredth anniversary of the printing of The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, a book that codified the earliest rules and regulations of organized Freemasonry. To mark the occasion, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has brought together seven editions of the Constitutions in a reading room exhibition, "300 Years of Anderson's Constitutions."

The Grand Lodge system of organized Freemasonry can be traced back to the 1717 founding of the Grand Lodge of England in London. The group published its first Constitutions in 1723. This work contained a mythologized history of Freemasonry, as well as the group’s Charges and Regulations, a set of rules governing lodges and the expected behavior of Masons. Although often referred to as “Anderson’s Constitutions,” after one of its authors, today, the 1723 Constitutions is viewed as the work of three people—the Reverend James Anderson (1679-1739), the Reverend Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers (1683-1744), and George Payne (ca. 1685-1757).

The 1723 Constitutions begins with a “traditional history” of Freemasonry, written by Anderson. This narrative fancifully traces Freemasonry back to the biblical Adam in the Garden of Eden. Anderson’s history was intended—and should be read—as literary hyperbole, created to burnish the young organization by giving it a place within a well-known narrative. Following this is a section setting out rules and regulations governing who could join, as well as the Enlightenment principles of meritocracy and egalitarianism governing Freemasons. The ideas behind these rules and regulations still guide Masons today. They include civic responsibility, emphasis on personal merit above wealth or social standing, civility and morality, as well as a belief in a Supreme Being. Payne, who served as the Grand Lodge’s Grand Master in 1718 and 1720, wrote the General Regulations, which laid out the governance and operation of the Grand Lodge and its subordinate lodges.

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Constitutions of the Antient Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, 1784. London, England. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, RARE 31.A547 1784

The Constitutions were not a static document. They have been revised and reprinted many times. On view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room are three editions that were printed during the 1700s, along with two reprints of the 1723 edition published during the 1800s. The most recent copy on view is a century old—a reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions published in 1923, to mark the two hundredth anniversary of its publication.

Three centuries after its publication, the Constitutions still contain ideals and sentiments that Masons look to today. Although the United Grand Lodge of England’s Constitutions have undergone extensive revisions over the years, its Constitutions, as well as those that help govern Grand Lodges throughout the world, can still be traced back to Anderson’s 1723 Constitutions

300 Years of Anderson's Constitutions is on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives through March 8, 2024.


Walter Weitzman: American Soldier and Freemason in the Panama Canal Zone

A2023_114_001DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired a group of Masonic membership cards and certificates that help tell the story of American Freemasonry in the Panama Canal Zone during the era of American imperialism in the early twentieth century.

After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States became a global empire claiming dominion over Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines, and continued to conquer additional territories into the early twentieth century. U.S. soldiers were shipped to these territories to maintain control and with them spread American Freemasonry. Walter Weitzman (1892-1989) was one of these soldiers, stationed in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone in 1914, to protect the newly opened Panama Canal which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Weitzman, a Polish Jew who immigrated to the U.S. in 1909 or 1910, joined the U.S. Army at age twenty-two—several months before the start of World War I. He served in the Coastal Artillery Corps at Fort Randolph in the Panama Canal Zone until 1920.

Freemasonry was a part of the social lives of both the workers constructing the Panama Canal, as well as American soldiers stationed there. Masons in Panama saw Freemasonry as an integral part of life in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1910, the Masonic Advisory Board of the Isthmus of Panama declared that Masonic membership “permeates the entire personnel of this vast enterprise and beneath the sod of the Isthmus, many of our Brothers who have died in the service, are resting. The brethren meet one another from every clime, and as the great work continues, so let Brotherly [work] continue.”

Initially Masonic clubs flourished as it was difficult to form lodges because Masons in Panama continued to belong to lodges on the mainland during their temporary stay.  The first lodge, Sojourners Lodge, no. 874, was founded in 1874, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. When the United States took over the Panama Canal, the membership became predominantly American and in 1912, a new Sojourners Lodge was chartered under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

In 1917, the District Grand Lodge of Panama recorded membership at 902 with 141 new initiates and 78 applicants were rejected. Walter Weitzman, an American soldier, a Polish Jew newly immigrated to the United States, standing 5 feet and 4 ½ inches tall, with dark gray eyes and dark hair, was one of the new applicants. He was initiated into Sojourners Lodge on December 15, 1917. Weitzman paid an application fee of ten dollars in October and a forty-five dollar initiation fee in December—a significant amount, considering that his salary was around thirty dollars a month. Weitzman was raised a Master Mason on February 23, 1918.

After joining Sojourners Lodge, Weitzman became a Scottish Rite Mason in the Panama Canal Consistory No. 1 in the Valley of Cristobal in the Canal Zone. His dues were six dollars a year. Weitzman also became a Noble of the Mystic Shrine of the Abou Saad Temple on November 30, 1918. He was one of the first members as the Abou Saad Temple in Panama was established in 1918 and still exists today. A2023_114_001DS8

Weitzman was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1920 after his regiment was disbanded. He continued to be a member of Sojourners Lodge and a part of the Panama Canal Consistory No. 1 until 1925. In New York, Weitzman became involved in other fraternal organizations such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows where he was elected Noble Grand of the Norman A. Manning Lodge, No. 415, in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. His association with Freemasonry appears to have ended about a decade after he was discharged from the Army. According to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts records, Weitzman was suspended on September 1, 1931, likely for not paying dues.

Weitzman lived in the Bronx, New York for several decades with his wife, Anna Lerman, and their two sons until his death on January 30, 1989. The Walter Weitzman Panama Canal Zone Masonic collection, 1917-1925, (A2023-114-001; MA 760.001) now resides at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Photo captions:

Master Mason certificate issued to Walter Weitzman by Sojourners Lodge, 1918, Walter Weitzman Panama Canal Zone Masonic collection, 1917-1925, Museum Purchase, A2023-114-001.

Member card issued to Walter Weitzman by Abou Saad Temple, 1919, Walter Weitzman Panama Canal Zone Masonic collection, 1917-1925, Museum Purchase, A2023-114-001.

References:

W. Norman Benjamin Davison, The First Fifty Years of the District Grand Lodge of the Canal Zone A. F. & A. M., 1917-1967, (Balboa, Canal Zone: District Grand Lodge of the Canal Zone, 1967).

Masonic Advisory Board of the Isthmus of Panama, Master Masons Sojourning on Isthmus of Panama during American Occupation, 1910.

Irvin Beam Walter and John Layard Caldwell, Masons and Masonry on the Panama Canal: 1904-1914, (Philadelphia, PA: Thomson Printing Company).

L.L. Anchel, “In the Odd Fellows’ Corner,” Times Union, July 3, 1927.


Chattanooga Communication Souvenir

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Prince Hall Temple Souvenir Pin, 1914. Chattanooga Button & Badge Manufacturing Company, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gift of Valley of Columbus, Ohio, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 99.013.29.

On August 2-7, 1914, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee celebrated its forty-fourth annual meeting, or Communication, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This souvenir badge in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library was created to commemorate that meeting and connects the stories of emancipation and African American Freemasonry.

The annual Communication was a chance for African American Masons from all over Tennessee to meet and visit. The larger Chattanooga African American community found other ways to convene. On January 1, 1914, leaders in the city hosted an “emancipation celebration.” As reported by the Chattanooga Daily Times, “the fifty-first anniversary of emancipation was celebrated yesterday by the colored population of Chattanooga under the auspices of the Colored Boosters' Club of this city.” The observance included speeches, banquets, musical performances, and a parade “nearly a quarter of a mile long.”

This anniversary celebration seems to have been tied to the original Emancipation Proclamation, which took effect on January 1, 1863. However, Lincoln’s Proclamation depended on the Union winning the Civil War to take effect in the South. Hence June 19, 1865–the day when news of the war’s end and the resulting emancipation of enslaved people reached the African American community in Galveston, Texas–is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. Five years after that momentous date, on August 31, 1870, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee was founded.

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Prince Hall Temple Souvenir Pin, 1914. Chattanooga Button & Badge Manufacturing Company, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gift of Valley of Columbus, Ohio, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 99.013.29.

The pin at the top of this commemorative item shows the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge building in Chattanooga. This three-story brick building was built in the 1800s as a commercial building and renovated by the local Masonic community between 1903 and 1908 to house seven Prince Hall Affiliated Masonic lodges, three women’s auxiliaries, and one Knights Templar commandery. The building was located on East 9th Street, the same street as the City Auditorium where many events that were part of the 1914 Communication were held. The use of the Masonic Temple on the Annual Communication pin reflects the pride of Chattanooga Masons and celebrates the progress of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

The ribbon is marked on the back with the name of the maker, Chattanooga Button & Badge Mfg. Co. This company was founded around 1911 and located on East 4th Street in Chattanooga, a few blocks from East 9th Street where the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge was.

In preparation for inclusion in The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History, this souvenir badge was conserved in 2021. This souvenir, a compelling symbol of African American identity in the South after emancipation, will be on view at the Museum & Library until October 2024.

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Similar examples at Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture:


The Blog Turns 15! (And Yet Another Masonic Impostor)

John J. McGettigan June 1924The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's blog started fifteen years ago this month, with a post about Masonic impostors. Nearly every May since then, we have returned to the topic of Masonic impostors. This year is no exception. Pictured here is a detail from the June 1924 issue of the Official Warning Circular of The Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada.

The Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada began publishing the Official Warning Circular in 1886. The primary function of the circular was to try to prevent non-Masons from imposing on the charity of Masonic organizations and defrauding them out of their money. This was accomplished by a type of crowdsourcing: local Masonic organizations would share information about known imposters with the Masonic Relief Association who then, in turn, would share that information in their circulars throughout the U.S. and Canada, in an attempt to stay one step ahead of those who would travel from state to state, presenting themselves as Masons in need.

Chicago Police Take 5 Alleged Confidence MenIn some cases, these Masonic impostors appear to have fallen on hard times and were defrauding Masons out of desperation. In other cases, the impostors appear to be well-practiced con artists who presented themselves as Masons and told a convincing story in each new town and city.

This is quite evident with case number 7413, John J. McGettigan, pictured above. The description of McGettigan notes that he had used at least three different aliases and had been published in the circular before under different case numbers which cast light on earlier successful swindles. The description also contains details of some of McGettigan's previous brushes with the law, and that he was, at the time that the circular was published, wanted by the Solicitor General of Atlanta, Georgia.

McGettigan, it turns out, may have been part of a larger confidence game - that is, an attempt to defraud people after first gaining their trust. In 1925, McGettigan's capture was front page news in the June 4, 1925 edition of the Sioux City Journal. In the article, pictured above, McGettigan is described as having been one of five "leaders in confidence games of national scope" who was captured as part of a coordinated effort in Chicago, Illinois.

If you want to learn more about Masonic impostors, be sure to check out all of our previous posts on the topic.


Masonic Mathematics: The 47th Problem of Euclid

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Past Master's Jewel, 1823. Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832). London. 2017.018.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

Do you remember the Pythagorean Theorem? This geometric figure, also known as the 47th Problem of Euclid, represents the idea that the area of the two smaller squares created by using the lines of a right-angle triangle as bases is equal to the area of the largest square created in the same way. It is stated mathematically as c2 = a2 + b2 in which “c” is the hypotenuse (longest side) and “a” and “b” are the other two sides. Like many geometric expressions, it’s difficult to describe with words, but its meaning is fairly comprehensible visually.

Luckily, then, this symbol appears on Masonic aprons, jewels, pitchers, quilts, lantern slides, mark medals, tracing boards, and other decorative and ritual material in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. Freemasonry draws symbols from a variety of sources, including geometry, to teach instructive lessons to its members.

This geometric figure has two names associated with some of mathematics’ historic giants: Pythagoras (ca. 570 B.C.E. – ca. 495 B.C.E.) and Euclid (ca. 300 B.C.E.). However, its roots reach back further. Babylonians (ca. 1900 - 1600 B.C.E) used it to solve geometric problems that involved right triangles. In Freemasonry, it is often called the 47th Problem of Euclid. This symbol is introduced in the 3rd or Master Mason degree.

The object shown here, an engraved Past Master’s jewel, bears a particularly compelling visual representation of this noteworthy geometric figure. English silversmith Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832) crafted this jewel, marking it with his initials and British silver hallmarks. The “leopard’s head” mark indicates that the silver was hallmarked in London after 1822. The lowercase “h” indicates Harper made the item in 1823, according to the “date letters” that were used in British silver.

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Past Master's Jewel, 1823. Thomas Harper (ca. 1735-1832). London. 2017.018.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

This form of a Past Master’s jewel featuring a right-angle square with a rectangle engraved with a depiction of the 47th Problem of Euclid, was popular in English lodges in the early decades of the 1800s. This style of jewel inspired Past Master’s jewels in Pennsylvania, which often have a right-angle square bearing a suspended rectangle with the geometric figure engraved on it.

This fascinating Past Master’s jewel is currently on view at the museum in "What's in a Portrait?" and in our online exhibition. You can see other items in the museum’s collection that bear the 47th Problem of Euclid on our searchable online collections database.


Digital Collections Highlight: 1768 Lodge Summons Printed & Signed by Paul Revere

Revere summons for webPerhaps best remembered today as the messenger who brought word to his fellow colonists that the British Army had left Boston and were headed west toward Lexington and Concord, Paul Revere (1734-1818) was much more than that. He was a talented silversmith and engraver, a political organizer, a forward-thinking entrepreneur, and a Freemason. This document from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Digital Collections website helps illustrate many of these roles. It is a lodge summons, a notice which was sent from the Lodge of St. Andrew to its members to inform them of an upcoming meeting.

Raised a Master Mason in 1761 in the Lodge of St. Andrew, Revere held a number of offices between 1762 and 1765 - first as Junior Deacon, then Junior Warden, and Senior Warden. From 1767 to 1769, Revere served as Secretary of the lodge. His duties would have included sending out notices summoning members to the lodge's next meeting. This particular summons has many interesting connections to Revere.

The bottom right hand corner of the lodge summons makes it clear that it was "Engrav'd, Printed, & Sold by Paul Revere. Boston." Yet what makes this particular copy of the summons special is that it is also signed by Revere in his capacity as Secretary of the lodge. This summons is dated February 10, 1768, during the time that Revere held that office. The summons directs the member to a meeting at "Freemason's Hall," which is the how the lodge referred to their meeting place - the famous Green Dragon Tavern - beginning in 1764.

This summons was produced quite early in Revere's time as a Mason. In 1794, over twenty-five years after this summons was issued, Revere was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. During Revere's three years in office as Grand Master, he chartered 23 new lodges, almost doubling the number of lodges in the state, which left a lasting mark on Freemasonry in Massachusetts.

If you’d like to take a closer look at this summons, visit the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections site.

Caption:
Paul Revere. Masonic Summons issued by the Lodge of St. Andrew, 1768. Museum Purchase with the assistance of the Lodge of St. Andrew and the Kane Lodge Foundation, MA 001.243.


New to the Collection: Blood Donor Recognition Pin

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Blood Donation Lapel Pin. ca. 1983. Gift of Kamel Oussayef, 2022.049a-b.

New to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection this month is a small gold-colored lapel pin bearing a square and compasses and a “G” in blue enamel. Masonic lapel pins are abundant in both members’ homes and the Museum’s collection. This, however, is the first pin in the collection in the shape of a drop of blood.

Throughout the United States, more than ten state Grand Lodges sponsor a Masonic blood donation program of some kind. The model for many programs involves a coordinator at each local lodge who schedules blood drives on location and encourages brethren to donate. Each unit of blood donated by individual lodge members is counted towards the total for the whole lodge.

Lapel pins are given to individual members who achieve certain blood donation milestones. Some, like this one, are awarded for an initial donation of one unit. Others are given when the Mason reaches a certain volume of blood donated. For example, the Virginia Grand Lodge Blood Program specifies that new donors and donations under two gallons receive the pin type shown here, with a “G” in the center of the Masonic square and compasses. When an individual donates more than two gallons, each subsequent pin bears the number of gallons, increasing by increments of two.

Some Masons donate impressive volumes of blood throughout their lives, such as Scottish Rite Mason Steven Fishman of Georgia, who has donated over thirty-seven gallons since the 1970s. Given that one gallon is equal to eight one-pint donations and that donors can only give once every eight weeks, achieving that volume would take a minimum of forty-five years.

As mentioned above, individual donations by members are counted towards the one lodge’s contribution to the blood program. In Rhode Island, for example, lodges who seek to earn the Grand Master’s Award are advised to participate in local blood drives and ensure at least ten percent of their eligible members give blood.

This new addition to the collection helps us tell the story of how Masons, as the Virginia Blood Program Manual says, “. . . facilitate donations in an organized and craftsman-like fashion . . .”

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Reference and Further Reading:


Hurricane Gavel

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Gavel, ca. 1939. Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2657.

High in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, there is a grove of Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). In the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection cared for at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, there is a gavel made from the wood of one of these trees. The story of this gavel – from seeds to storage – brings together natural science and Masonic ingenuity.

In the early 1900s, Charles Sargent (1841-1927), the first Director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, wanted to add examples of Cedrus libani to the collection of trees and shrubs at the site. However, these trees – which are mentioned in the Bible – grew primarily in the warmer climate of Lebanon and did not seem suited for New England weather. With the help of German naturalist Walter Siehe (1859-1928), Sargent was able to locate a forest of Cedars of Lebanon in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. These trees grew further north and at higher altitudes and the two men thought they might also grow in Massachusetts.

In early 1902, Siehe shipped a number of cedar cones to Sargent and the trees were propagated in the greenhouses at the Arboretum. They started well and were planted on the grounds. By 1930, the Turkish Cedars of Lebanon were growing well and producing their own seed cones. The experiment was a success.

Then came the Hurricane of 1938, one of the most severe storms in New England history. The storm devastated the forests of the Northeast, destroying an estimated two billion trees in New York and New England. In the Arboretum, at least five of the Turkish cedars fell victim to the storm. (Happily, in 2022, eight of the original trees still survive on site.) As for the hurricane-damaged ones, a group of local Masons “grasped the opportunity to perpetuate these trees Masonically,” as one of them later said.

William Judd (1888-1946) was a member of Eliot Lodge in Dorchester and a gardener at Arnold Arboretum. During the clean-up after the hurricane, he and Welby McCollum (1887-1952) of West Roxbury Lodge decided to use some of the cedar wood to make a gavel. Given that McCollum worked as a builder, he may have crafted the piece.

After the gavel was completed, it was given to West Roxbury Lodge’s Past Master, Alexander McKechnie (1887-1965). He wrote out the story of the gavel on two typewritten pages – kept with the item – as a draft of his planned speech for a January 1940 presentation to West Roxbury Lodge. McKechnie mentioned in a handwritten addendum that he intended to present the gavel to the lodge and thence to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts if desired. His note is addressed to Joseph Earl Perry (1884-1983), then-Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, and ends, “If you decide to put this gavel in the Museum you can pick out the important points in the above for a small card.” This small piece of material culture made of wood more than one-hundred-twenty years old still has a big story to tell.

Reference and Further Reading:

Anthony S. Aiello and Michael S. Dosmann. “The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon,” Arnoldia, Volume 65, Issue 1 (2007). https://arboretum.harvard.edu/stories/the-quest-for-the-hardy-cedar-of-lebanon/


Digital Collections Highlight: Killian H. Van Rensselaer’s 1845 Petition

KVR Petition A2019_178_0002DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Digital Collections website features nearly a thousand documents in twelve different collections. This week we’re highlighting a 177-year-old document from the Scottish Rite Documents collection.

"I most humbly beg leave to offer myself as a candidate for admission into your Illustrious and Puissant Council..." reads this petition addressed to the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, and signed by Killian Henry Van Rensselaer (1800-1881), a 44-year-old Mason from New York, in 1845. This petition was the first step toward Van Rensselaer becoming an Active Member of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council. In less than twenty years, Van Rensselaer would become its sixth Sovereign Grand Commander, serving from 1861-67. The process by which Van Rensselaer received the 33rd degree is very different from how it works today.

Portrait of Killian Van Rensselaer for webVan Rensselaer’s petition documents the activities of the Supreme Council at the time. Viewed in a broader context, this slip of paper shows the work of John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865), the NMJ’s Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 through 1851, and helps tell the story of the rebirth of the NMJ in the 1840s.

Gourgas, living in New York City, along with Schenectady-based Giles Fonda Yates (1798-1859), had essentially kept the Scottish Rite’s NMJ alive from 1826 through the early 1840s. During this time, a social and political movement, now known as the Anti-Masonic Movement, curtailed much Masonic activity in the Northeast of the United States and brought the Supreme Council’s official activities to a standstill. During these years, Gourgas and Yates were effectively a Supreme Council of two people, preserving the organization’s records and corresponding with one another about the plight of American Freemasonry from the late 1820s through the early 1840s. When the social climate changed and members began to rebuild Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the early 1840s, Gourgas and Yates sought to find brothers, like Van Rensselaer, who could help revive the Council, starting in 1844. Van Rensselaer’s petition is part of that story. With the exception of Van Rensselaer’s signature, the petition is entirely in the handwriting of John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865). Gourgas wrote out this petition—Van Rensselaer needed only to sign it.

Becoming a 33° Member

Today, no one petitions to become a 33° Member or to join the Supreme Council. Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret (i.e., 32° Members) are nominated, elected, and then created Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the 33rd degree. Most 33° Scottish Rite Members are non-voting Honorary Members, a rank of 33° that the Supreme Council created in 1865. The Supreme Council itself is comprised of Active Members who serve on various committees and have voting privileges within the Council. When a seat opens on the Supreme Council, an Honorary Member is elevated to the rank of Active Member to fill it.

In 1845, the category of 33° Honorary Member did not exist, so any Sublime Prince who was crowned a 33° was automatically an Active Member of the Supreme Council. Van Rensselaer was among the seven new members who Gourgas and Yates selected to expand the Supreme Council in 1844 and 1845. These additions turned the Supreme Council into a nine-member group, as prescribed by the Constitutions. If not for Gourgas and Yates, it is unlikely that the NMJ’s Supreme Council would have survived. Not only did they keep safe the documents of the Supreme Council, NMJ, during the Council’s inactivity, but, when Freemasonry came back to life in the 1840s, they recruited enthusiastic Masons like Van Rensselaer to help rebuild the Scottish Rite fraternity in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

If you’d like to take a closer look at Van Rensselaer’s petition, visit the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections site.

Captions:

Handwritten petition for Killian H. Van Rensselaer, 1845. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, SC 300.002.

Killian H. Van Rensselaer in Proceedings of the Supreme Council, 1883. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 17.9735 Un58 1882. Photograph by David Bohl.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of The Northern Light.


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.