Freemasonry and Women

Solomon's Temple Samplers

SANQ CoverOne of the National Heritage Museum’s Solomon’s Temple samplers is the cover star for the new issue (Winter 2011) of Sampler and Antique Needlework Quarterly magazine! Pictured below, the sampler was stitched by Margaret Jane Leadbitter in 1846 in Sandoe, England.

My interest in Solomon’s Temple samplers began when I started working at the museum in 2006 and quickly came across three samplers in the collection that depict the temple. Leadbitter’s depiction of the temple is prominently placed at the center of her sampler and is clearly identified by her stitched inscription “South View of Solomons Temple.”80_49_1T1

Established in 1975, as a gift to the American people from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., the museum collects objects and documents to support the interpretation of the historical, social and cultural role of Freemasonry, fraternal organizations and voluntary associations in America. The sampler was donated to the Museum in 1980 by Mr. and Mrs. James S. Demond in honor of Gertrude and John D. Lombard (1906-1985). They made the gift around the time that the Museum purchased a second Solomon’s Temple sampler made by Mary Sandiford in 1840 (see below at left). A history of the Museum’s early years explains that building the collection was a priority at that time, “as often as possible we purchased Masonic items that came on the market, and solicited gifts from known owners of fine Masonic material.” An anonymous donor gave a third Solomon’s Temple sampler to the Museum.80_27_1S1

These three samplers were added to the collection undoubtedly because they were considered to be “Masonic” through their inclusion of the Temple, so central to Masonic ritual and teachings. Indeed, in the case of the Leadbitter sampler, the donor and his honoree were both Freemasons who received the Scottish Rite’s 33rd degree. However, as I started to study the samplers, I began to question whether they were “Masonic” and whether they were even American. Today, I would not classify them as “Masonic samplers.” Instead, I think that the makers included the Temple on the samplers as a symbol of virtue. To date, I have located descriptions of over 60 of these samplers, with none that can be conclusively documented as having been made in the United States.

The results of my research on these samplers are detailed in the magazine, based on a scholarly paper I presented in 2008 at the “Expressions of Freemasonry” conference in The Hague, The Netherlands. In addition, by working with magazine staff, a chart of the Leadbitter sampler is included in the magazine, so that stitchers can make their own reproduction, approximating the size and colors of the original. To order a copy of the magazine, visit its website.

Freemasonry was not formed in a vacuum - instead, it drew from values and ideas espoused by the surrounding society and culture - as it formed in England during the 1710s and 1720s and throughout the next 150 years.  By analyzing the samplers as a representation of shared ideals between Freemasonry and the larger culture of 19th-century Britain and America, we can see that the expression of Masonic ideology was spreading out into the communities where it was practiced.

Sampler, 1846, Margaret Jane Leadbitter, Sandoe, England. Collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James DeMond in honor of Gertrude and John D. Lombard, 80.49.1. Photograph by John M. Miller.

Sampler, 1840, Mary Sandiford, England. Collection of the National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisitions Fund, 80.27.1.

Miss Rose Lipp: Masonic Authority

SC79_12_6aDP2 In March 1912, the New England Craftsman, a monthly Masonic magazine published in Boston, Massachusetts, noted that one of the city’s regalia makers had recently changed storefronts and reminded readers that the owner “is recognized as an authority on correctness of design for the costumes of every period.” Rather than a brother Freemason, this notice referred to Miss Rose Lipp, a female manufacturer and dealer in “Masonic Supplies,” who maintained her business over at least thirty years, providing the aprons, jewels and uniforms essential to Masonic meetings and rituals.

94_012_5aDI1 The 44 items with Rose Lipp’s label in the collection of the National Heritage Museum attest to the variety available from her shop, as well as to her facility with regalia from all Masonic groups. We have 28 aprons, most for local lodges, but a few were sewn for Royal Arch chapters. For example, in 1924, she made a set of officer’s aprons for the newly-constituted Russell Lodge in Arlington, Massachusetts. The 14-apron set is now in the Museum’s collection and the Master’s apron is seen here. These aprons were a gift to the lodge from the other lodges in the district.

In addition to the aprons, we have two turbans, two robes, one sword, one sword belt, one hat, one fez, one badge, one collar, two miniature souvenir aprons, and four Scottish Rite sashes with Lipp’s label. One of those sashes is shown here; it was originally presented to Josiah T. Dyer when he received his 33rd degree from the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. SC79_12_6aDP1 All of these objects help us to better understand the role that a female entrepreneur like Rose Lipp played in Boston Freemasonry.

Label Detail from Scottish Rite 33rd-degree sash (see below).

Masonic Apron, 1924, Rose Lipp Regalia Co., Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Russell Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Arlington, Massachusetts, 94.012.5a.

Scottish Rite 33° Sash, 1910-1930, Miss Rose Lipp, Boston, Massachusetts, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., SC79.12.6a. Photograph by David Bohl.

Another mystery in need of solving: "Tadmore 77"

1994_079_Tadmore_postcard_web_larger Once again, we're calling on our readers to help us out. Most of the time, we're pretty good at identifying even the most challenging items in our collection, but sometimes we're just plain stumped. That's the case with the postcard shown here. So, we're asking our readers whether they might have any leads - or, even better, outright identification - on what group the three women shown on this real photo postcard are affiliated with.

Here's the visual evidence (for a better look, click on the image above and a larger version will open in another window):

All the women are wearing fezzes. The fez on the woman in the center reads "Tadmore 77."

All three are holding banners in their laps. The banner on the left is different from the other two and appears to have the letters P and B as part of an intricate circle surrounding the number 77. The other two banners are identical to each other - on the banner held by the woman in the center, one can read the word "Picnic" as well a possible date - 191?. The last number in the date is obscured by the stick that the banner is attached to.

All three women are also wearing ribbons which may commemorate the event that they are attending. Unfortunately, the text of the ribbons can't be read, even under magnification.

The final visual clue is the pendant hanging around the neck of the woman seated in the middle. The pendant appears to be in the shape of a keystone, a symbol traditionally, though by no means exclusively, associated with the Royal Arch in Freemasonry - but also, of course, associated with Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State, so the keystone might be related to where this photo was taken and this postcard most likely comes from Pennsylvania (see next paragraph).

Another lead appears on the reverse of the card, which includes the stamp of the photographer presumably responsible for this real photo postcard. It reads "W.D. Rishel, Photo, 319 N. 9th St. Reading, PA."

Here's what we're thinking so far, based on the evidence: These women were possibly at an annual picnic, somewhere in the Reading, Pennsylvania area, sometime in the nineteen teens. But what group were they with? Were these women members of an auxiliary Masonic group? A sorority? A woman's club? A coed fraternal group?

If you have a lead, no matter how slim, please let us know. We'll give credit where it's due if someone helps us identify what group these women belonged to.

Photo caption:
[Three women wearing fezzes, sitting on bench, for “Tadmore 77” event], 1910-1919
Real photo postcard
Museum purchase, 1994/079

New to the Collection: A Masonic Quilt

2008_002_1T1 Quilt Overall So often quilts saved from the 1800s are ones that were only used on special occasions – quilts that were made not as warm bedcoverings, but as family keepsakes or gifts, or that held special meaning for the maker.  This quilt, a recent acquisition by the National Heritage Museum, presents a more utilitarian example.

While in good condition, the style chosen and fabrics employed in the quilt suggest that it would have kept a family warm, while hiding the dirt that was sure to accumulate over time.  The shape of the quilt, known as the “T-shape” due to its cut-out corners, is a distinctive New England trait.  Although some quilts from the 1800s with cut-out corners were made in other regions of the United States, studies have documented far more examples of this shape in New England.

The brown floral print in the center section was probably sold as dress goods.  The side and bottom borders are made from an indigo fabric with an overall white dot and periodic leaf motif.  The quilt is serviceably backed with coarsely woven cream linen.  The quilting is done with brown and blue thread, depending on the area, so that the stitches would blend into the fabrics.  The blue borders show a chevron quilting pattern, while the brown section is quilted in squares with parallel lines.

2008_002_1T3 Handkerchief Detail An unusual feature of this quilt, the Masonic handkerchief applied to the center, dates to about 1817.  The blue and brown fabrics also appear to date from the late 1810s, suggesting that the quilt was made between 1815 and 1820.  Printed in red, the handkerchief depicts an arrangement of many Masonic symbols with verses at the top and bottom.  Unfortunately, the maker’s motivation for including the handkerchief on the quilt has been lost, as has her name.  While it seems fairly safe to imagine that the original owner was a Freemason, or related to a Freemason, the handkerchief is also an interesting choice based on prevailing quilt style of the period.  Medallion quilts – those with a central design, often pieced or appliquéd – were popular during the 1810s and 1820s.  The addition of the handkerchief in the center of the quilt may reflect the maker’s desire to replicate that fashion in a time-saving and cost-effective manner.  Although women could not become Freemasons themselves, those who were married or related to Freemasons often expressed familiarity with Masonic symbols in their quilts or other creative endeavors (see our previous post on the quilt by Jane Haight Webster).

T-Shaped Quilt with Masonic Handkerchief Medallion, ca. 1817, probably New England.  National Heritage Museum, Special Projects Fund, Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, 2008.002.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Detail of Handkerchief.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Calling All Masonic and Fraternal Scholars!

91_033T1 The National Heritage Museum announces its first symposium, to be held at the Museum on Friday, April 9, 2010 - New Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

We are now seeking proposals for papers to be presented at the symposium.  As one of the largest repositories of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources.

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American Masonic and fraternal groups from the past through the present day.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.  Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods are welcome.

Possible topics include:

• Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of  fraternalism
• Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups
• Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups
• Fraternal groups for women or teens
• Role of fraternal groups in social movements
• The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism
• Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups
• Fraternal symbolism and ritual
• The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature
• Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives;  the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism

Proposals should be for 30 minute research papers; the day’s schedule will allow for audience questions and feedback.

To submit a proposal: Send an abstract of 400 words or less with a resume or c.v. that is no more than two pages.  Be sure to include full contact information (name, address, email, phone, affiliation).

Send proposals to: Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections, National Heritage Museum, by email at anewell[at] or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA  02421. 

Deadline for proposals to be received is August 15, 2009.  For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.

Masonic checkerboard, ca. 1890, Collection of National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisition Fund, 91.033.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Exciting Discovery - Artist of Mark Book Identified!

A92_001_1T1Tabbot One of the staff’s favorite objects in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection at the National Heritage Museum is the mark book for King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter (see Archivist Catherine Swanson’s previous post about the book).  For several years, we theorized that the artist of the book, an “M.S. Harding” who signed several pages, might be a young woman.  The technique exemplified in the drawings and the use of watercolors to create them suggest the kind of work taught in numerous New England academies for young ladies during the early 1800s (see an image of one page on the left).

New research has led to the exciting discovery that “M.S. Harding” was indeed a young woman, Martha S. Harding of New Salem, Massachusetts.  Born in 1813, Martha was the daughter of Alpheus Harding (1780-1869) and Sarah Bridge (b. circa 1788).  Her father belonged to King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter, which was established in nearby Greenwich, Massachusetts in 1815.  Massachusetts history buffs will recognize Greenwich as one of the towns submerged in the 1930s to create the Quabbin Reservoir.  Alpheus Harding, the pastor of New Salem Congregational Church, chose a mark that reflects his vocation.  It shows a lamb holding a Christian cross.  Two other pages from the book are shown here; the one on the right depicts the mark chosen by Thomas Thwing and shows Martha’s signature at the bottom.A92_001_1Thwing

Alpheus also served as a preceptor at New Salem Academy.  School records show that his children - including Martha, who was a pupil from 1822 to 1829 - attended.  It is possible that she learned to draw and paint while at the Academy, perhaps even making the mark book while she was a student.  When she was 25, in 1838, Martha married Asarelah M. Bridge (1810-1865), who was a student at New Salem Academy in 1830.  Sadly, Martha contracted consumption soon after her marriage and died in 1841 at the young age of 27.  But her drawings live on in the King Hiram Chapter mark book, allowing us to admire her artistic skill and teaching us that the families of 19th-century Freemasons were familiar with the symbols and values of the fraternity.

Left: Mark of William K. Talbot, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Mark of Thomas Thwing, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Does the Order of Eastern Star exist in Lexington today?

A2008_13_1_OES_LexingtonThe Library & Archives recently acquired a collection of material from the Lexington Chapter, No. 183, Order of Eastern Star (MA 051) donated by John M. Murray, Jr. The donor's parents, Florence M. Murray and John M. Murray, Sr., were active in the organization in the 1940s and the 1950s at the local and state level.

Much of this new acquisition consists of meeting notices of Lexington Chapter No. 183 and quite a bit of material about the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Order of Eastern Star (OES).  The meeting notices span the time period 1938 through 1975.   On the left you can view an example of one these notices from  January 1950.  From 1949-1950, Florence M. Murray was Worthy Matron (or president) of the chapter and her husband John M. Murray, Sr. was Worthy Patron.                                  

Other material in the new acqusition includes the Diamond Jubilee Program of the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Order of the Eastern Star.  By 1951, Order of the Eastern Star had been active for 75 years in Massachusetts (1876-1951).  You can see the cover of this program on the right.            A2008_13_1_OES_GrandChapterMA

The Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Order of Eastern Star is alive and well with chapters existing in many communities.  In searching the Grand Chapter's chart of existing chapters, however, I did not find Lexington Chapter, No. 183.  Noting its absence, I wondered: does the Order of Eastern Star exist in Lexington today? 

Lexington Chapter No. 183 was constituted (chartered) in 1922.   Following the close of World War I, there was an increased interest in fraternal organizations.  In 1922, there were 12 new chapters instituted and 10 new chapters constituted in Massachusetts. This was the largest number of new chapters organized in one year in the Grand Chapter's history. 

The Lexington Chapter was active for 82 years – until 2004 – when it merged with Mount Carmel Chapter No. 230, in North Reading.

Among the meeting notices, programs, and calendars in the gift we received were a group of photographs.  One photograph in particular stands out in the collection, and can be seen here.  What ceremony are they performing?  What significance does it have? I was curious to know.

A2008_13_1_OES_Lexington_Chapter_heart From further inquiry, I discovered that this is not a photo of a Lexington Chapter ceremony, but instead a ceremony that took place at a Grand Chapter of Massachusetts meeting of Order of Eastern Star.  It was a public ceremony, not a private ritual ceremony.

According to Dianna M. Gillard, of the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, the photo shows Eastern Star women standing in the formation of a heart – the emblem of the year of this ceremony – with the OES symbol inside.   The watchwords that year were “Loving Kindness...Thoughtful Understanding.”  The public ceremony shown in the photo is a Confirmation of the Deputies for the Flor-del-es year 1958-1959, held in Worcester Memorial Auditorium. Florence Waldron was Worthy Grand Matron and Ernest Pearson was Worthy Grand Patron.


New to the Collection: A Masonic Sampler

Notherman, CarolineThe National Heritage Museum recently acquired this fascinating needlework sampler, which shows the Baltimore Masonic Hall. 

Samplers depicting buildings are not rare – many schoolgirls stitched a house on their sampler, and some depicted local public buildings like churches, hospitals or monuments.  However, this is the first sampler I’ve seen that features a Masonic building.

The sampler’s maker, Caroline Notherman, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, around 1816.  Her father, George Notherman, made and sold shoes and boots in the city between 1814 and 1837.  George Notherman was raised a Master Mason in Union Lodge No. 60 in 1824, but demitted, or resigned his membership, in 1829.  Caroline Notherman married William Jones Jr. in Baltimore on January 5, 1837.  By 1860, the couple had moved to Brooklyn, New York, where William worked as a merchant.  According to the U.S. Census that year, their household included thirteen people – their children, a servant and some of Caroline’s relatives.

Caroline stitched the sampler in 1827, when she was about eleven years old.  Historic photographs of the Baltimore Masonic Hall show that Caroline’s likeness is recognizable.  The building was begun in 1814 and used by the city’s Masons from 1822 to 1868.  During that same time, the Federal Court of Baltimore worked on the lower floor.  The building was demolished in 1895.

In addition to teaching us about the maker, her family and the Baltimore Masonic Hall, the sampler also illustrates how Freemasonry was understood beyond its male members.  Appreciated by families and communities alike, Freemasonry's values made its meeting places and symbols touchstones for all who recognized them.

Do you have a sampler with a Masonic symbol or building?  Have you seen any samplers similar to this one?  Please let me know by commenting below, or by sending an email to

Special gratitude to Jason Sentz, Office of the Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Maryland, and to Amy Finkel, for sharing information about the sampler, its maker and her family.

Sampler by Caroline Notherman  (b. circa 1816), 1827, Baltimore, Maryland, National Heritage Museum, purchased with the assistance of the Kane Lodge Foundation, 2008.008.  Photograph courtesy of M. Finkel & Daughter, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Spiritualist Jane Haight Webster's Masonic Quilt

86_69t1_webster_quilt An unusual quilt made by Jane D. Haight Webster (1808-1877) during the mid-1800s shows how quilts functioned as educational tools for their makers, well beyond just teaching sewing skills.  Webster’s quilt, and others that incorporated fraternal symbols, provided a means for women to share their interpretation and knowledge of exclusive male groups like Freemasonry.  This quilt shows us that women did have familiarity with the symbols of a closed organization like Freemasonry.  It also offers a telling example of how women used quilts to push against the gender boundaries of their era.

Jane D. Haight was born on April 28, 1808 in Westchester County, New York, the daughter of John Haight (b. 1773) and Phebe Williamson (b. 1776).  Her parents were Quakers and she also joined the Society of Friends.  Her family moved to the Rochester, New York area in 1824.  On September 7, 1825 she married Harry Croswell Webster (1804-1885) in Pittsford, New York.  The pioneering couple moved to Indiana in 1835, near South Bend, in the northern part of the state.  Together, they had thirteen children, five sons and eight daughters. 

Around 1850, undoubtedly in response to the Spiritualism movement that started in the Rochester, New York area, Jane became a convert to spiritualism, eventually becoming a “writing medium.”  Spiritualism was a religious movement aimed at proving the immortality of the soul by establishing communication with the spirits of the dead.  Scholars have suggested that Spiritualism’s popularity was a response to the widespread economic, social and cultural changes taking place in America in the mid-1800s.  It offered a sense of order for believers, at a time when their daily lives were increasingly fragmented.

At some point in the 1850s or 1860s, Jane Webster made this quilt.  The quilt is pieced and appliquéd by hand, using plain weave cotton fabrics.  The quilting is extremely well done; quilters out there will admire Webster’s thirteen stitches to the inch!  Quilting designs vary across the top with motifs including cables, feathers, florals, parallel lines and outline stitching.  The single border is an appliquéd floral vine.  The quilt is finished with a thin cotton batting and straight-applied binding.  It is in very good condition and shows few signs of regular use.   

The design of Webster's quilt is linked with her ability as a medium.  Spiritualists considered the trance to be an elevated state that provided access to spirits and to knowledge of the world beyond that was inaccessible to conscious human beings.  According to family history, Jane designed her quilt by going into a trance; she would see an arrangement of symbols, and then stitch that arrangement into her quilt.  Indeed, the quilt is put together with appliqué and embroidery added to the blocks after they were joined, supporting the family story of the quilt’s construction. Picture1

While family history holds that the quilt was a creation aided by Webster’s Spiritualist leanings, visual examination suggests that she may also have been influenced by the various depictions of Masonic symbols that she saw around her.  Jane’s husband, Harry Croswell Webster, was a Mason and belonged to St. Joseph Lodge No. 45 in South Bend.   

The central image on her quilt shows an archway supported by two columns or pillars with a checkered floor and a series of steps at the bottom.  The pillars are known as “Jachin and Boaz” after the Biblical reference to Solomon’s Temple.  Symbolically, they represent strength and stability.  The checkered floor (or mosaic pavement) is usually seen rendered in black and white; it represents good and evil in life.  Under the archway (which represents the “arch of heaven”), the symbols include: the all-seeing eye, a symbol of watchfulness; the letter “G,” signifying geometry or God; a square and compasses, symbolizing reason and faith; and an altar, signaling a place of refuge.  Along the bottom are a coffin and a scythe, symbolizing death.  And, on the sides, there are more easily identified symbols: the 47th problem of Euclid that teaches Masons to be lovers of the arts and sciences; Jacob’s ladder with three rungs, signifying either the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, or the three stages of life (youth, manhood and age); and an anchor signifying hope.  Numerous other symbols are also appliquéd, although some remain a mystery as to what they are and what they symbolize. 

After a brief illness, with “congestion of the lungs,” Jane D. Haight Webster died on March 26, 1877.  Her husband, Harry Webster, died on January 23, 1885.  Both are buried in Bowman Cemetery in South Bend.  When Jane Webster died, Spiritualism had started to wane; it lost strength during the 1870s and 1880s as smaller groups splintered off and as many mediums were exposed as frauds.  In the end, Jane Webster’s arrangement of symbols on her quilt seems to have been influenced by more earthly sources, in addition to her spirit communications.  Her quilt brings together an illuminating combination of personal knowledge and cultural experiences, helping us to learn from it, just as it taught her.  The quilt was treasured in Jane’s family and was passed down until it was presented to the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts in 1986.

To see a selection of quilts in the Museum’s collection visit the Treasures section of our website.

Quilt by Jane Haight Webster, 1850-1870, Indiana, National Heritage Museum, gift of Donald E. Mohn, 86.69, photograph by John M. Miller.

Photograph of Jane Haight Webster, ca. 1870, National Heritage Museum curatorial files.

Masonic Aprons - Made with Love

Tarbell_apron_96014t While Freemasonry is an exclusive society, limiting its membership to men, female relatives of Masons were familiar with many of the fraternity’s activities and symbols.  Wives and daughters of Freemasons made aprons that the men wore at lodge rituals and meetings.  From the aprons, as well as from household objects decorated with Masonic symbols, women could recognize and understand Masonic motifs.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, three techniques were used to decorate Masonic aprons: printing, painting and embroidery.  Using skills they learned at the local academy, girls and women painted or embroidered some of the aprons in the National Heritage Museum’s collection, while professional artists painted others.  Local engravers and printers often provided designs printed on silk, which could be stitched into the familiar apron shape.

John Tarbell (1774-1852) of Massachusetts originally owned the apron shown at top.  He was raised a Master Mason in Cambridge’s Amicable Lodge in 1814 and held several Masonic offices between 1816 and 1820, becoming Worshipful Master in 1821.  The apron is embroidered and hand-painted with many familiar Masonic symbols including: the all-seeing eye, signifying watchfulness; a trowel, the symbolic tool that spreads the cement that unites Masons in brotherly love; and the square and compasses, symbolizing reason and faith.  Family history suggests that one of Tarbell’s nieces made this apron for him.

The second apron shown here is also embroidered.  It bears the phrase “Cemented with Love.”  79_70s1 Masons are taught that the cement of brotherly love binds men together and that the lodge is cemented with love and friendship.  This apron was brought to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when the Alexander Stuart McKee family emigrated from Ireland.  Under the flap is the name, “Wm. Leigh,” probably the apron’s original owner, and the date “1796.”

Above: Masonic apron, 1815-1820, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, Museum Purchase, 96.014, photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Masonic apron, 1796, County Down, Ireland, National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Robert C. Streeter Jr., 79.70.