Fundraising

The Importance of Research in Creating Connections to the Past

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Colored Odd Fellows Handbill

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 Envelope (front)

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Envelope (back)

At the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, research helps the museum’s staff of professionals not only to establish the history or provenance of the objects we collect, but also helps us to better understand the past lives of the people connected to these objects.

This week, we feature a new acquisition, a handbill that publicized an “Amateur Minstrels” show for the “Benefit of the Colored Odd Fellows.” The handbill was acquired with an envelope, postmarked February, 27, 1907, and is addressed to William Russ of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Research into this document has narrowed its sender to one of three people: Wilbur Miles, the headlining performer mentioned in the enclosed handbill, Agnes C. Stuart, or her daughter Katherine Stuart Godfrey. As this report from the society page of the Clarksburg Telegram (December 13, 1906) explains, it was customary for the Stuart family to spend their winters in Florida, and during the winter of 1906-1907, Agnes C. Stuart brought two members of her family with her.  

“Mrs. Agnes C. Stuart and daughter, Miss Kathyrine [sic], left today for St. Lucie, Fla., to spend the winter. Wilbur Miles, colored, joined them from Birmingham, Ala. Mrs. Stuart raised him and on that account, as he requested to be taken along she granted the request.”

The Stuart family were prominent citizens of Clarksburg, and as burial records for the town’s Odd Fellows cemetery reveals, at least three generations of Stuarts were buried there and were members of the Odd Fellows. It is likely that Wilbur Miles was introduced to Odd Fellowship through his relationship with the Stuarts and may have been a member of its African American counterpart, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America.

In addition to caring for the young Wilbur Miles, the Federal Census reports for the years 1870 and 1880 indicate that Agnes’ parents, William and Catherine, may have cared for another member of Wilbur’s family, Rosa D. Miles, who eventually 

 

became the family’s domestic servant and was identified as “mulatto” or mixed race in the records. Research has yet to establish her connection to Wilbur; however, it is possible that Rosa was either Wilbur’s mother or older sister.

As for the recipient of the handbill, William Russ, how was he connected to the Stuart family and to Wilbur Miles?  Federal Census records for the years 1900 and 1920 reveal that Russ, who was of mixed raced ancestry as well, worked as a construction worker for himself and later for Katherine Stuart Godfrey, Agnes’ daughter. In fact, for the 1942 draft, Russ listed Katherine as both his employer and as a “person who will always know your address” on his draft registration card.
 
Do you have any information regarding the history of this document or the people behind its creation? Or would you like to learn more about African American Minstrel performers? Feel free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.

 


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Colored Odd Fellows Handbill and Envelope Addressed to William Russ, February 1907. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 160.001.


Research into Socks Reveals the Role of Women Played in the Growth of American Freemasonry

Before researching these items from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, an invitation for the Westbrook Masonic (Maine) Fair and pair of colorful, miniature socks, I thought they were created by Arthur W. Greely, Treasurer of Esoteric Lodge, No. 159, whose name is printed on the outside of the envelope. However, as I continued my research and learned more about the fundraising technique of sock socials, I became convinced that the creator of the invitation and socks was Alice D. Greely, Arthur’s wife.

S-l1600Masonic Fund Raising Letter and Socks, 1904.
 
A2016_090_DS1
Masonic Fund Raising Poem
January 1904.

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Envelope Addressed to Mrs. B. F. Joy
February 25, 1904.

 

Sock socials were a fundraising technique practiced by many women’s organizations. R. E. Smith, author of The Ladies’ Aid Manual: A Practical Work for Ladies’ Aid Societies writes that women would “meet and plan to make any desired number of miniature socks,” which would be sent along with a printed invitation similar to the invitation presented below.

 Sock Social Invitation

This little sock we give to you
Is not for you to wear;
Please multiply your size by two
And place inside with care
In silver or in cents,
Twice the number that you wear
(We hope it is immense.)
So if you wear a number ten,
You owe us twenty, see?
Which dropped in the little sock
will fill our hearts with glee.
So don’t forget the place and date,
We’ll answer when you knock,
And welcome you with open arms--
But don’t forget your sock.

In brief, each person invited to a sock social received a sock, and each sock served as that person’s invitation to the social. The person “had to have the sock to get in at the social,” the Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune reported, and in “the sock, he or she would put money."

Considering this information, I believe it is more likely that Alice D. Greely produced the invitation, as well as the two miniature socks. Alice was the wife of a Mason, as was letter's recipient Edna Joy, and both women would have been eligible for Eastern Star membership. That said, my research into both women’s possible Eastern Star ties proved inconclusive. All that we know for certain is that Edna Joy and her husband, Benjamin F. Joy, a prominent local photographer, were invited to the Westbrook Masonic Fair, which was held for the week of February 15, 1904, and run by the lodge, chapter, council and Eastern Star. According to the American Tyler, the proceeds from this Masonic fair were to be used to build a “new Masonic quarters” in Westbrook.




Caption
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Fund Raising Letter from Mrs. Arthur W. Greely to Mrs. B. F. Fox, February 25, 1904. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 260.004.

References

Beckford, William Hale, and George W. Richardson. Leading Business Men of Bangor, Rockland and Vicinity. Boston: Mercantile Publishing Company, 1888. Accessed: 25 January 2017. https://archive.org/details/leadingbusinessm00beck_0

GenDisasters.com. “Ellsworth, ME Masonic Block Fire, Jan 1907.” Accessed: 25 January 2017. http://www.gendisasters.com/georgia/14194/ellsworth-me-masonic-block-fire-jan-1907

Grand Lodge of Maine. Membership Card Records: Card Listing, 1820-1995. Accessed: 25 January 2017. http://www.mainemason.org/genealogy/index.asp

Grand Lodge of Maine (1907). Twenty-first District. In Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, 1907, (Vol. 21, pp. 278 – 281). Portland, Maine: Stephen Berry.

Grand Lodge of Maine (1909). Annual Address: Consolidation of Lodges. In Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, 1908 - 1909, (Vol. 22, pp. 21). Portland, Maine: Stephen Berry.

“Here and There.” American Tyler 18, 14 (1904): 314-319. Accessed: 25 January 2017. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000056270    

“Here and There.” American Tyler 18, 17 (1904): 410-415. Accessed: 25 January 2017. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000056270

“Masonic Buildings.” American Tyler 20, 12 (1905): 262. Accessed: 25 January 2017. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000056270

Pollard, Ralph J. Freemasonry in Maine, 1762-1945. Portland, Maine: Tucker Printing Company, (no date). Accessed: 25 January 2017. http://www.mainemasonrytoday.com/history/Books/Pollard/index.htm

“Skating Parties, Bobsledding, Dancing Were Popular Then.” Chillicothe Constitution-Tribune, February 2, 1950. Accessed: 31 January 2017. https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/17760368/

Smith, R. E. “Fancy Sock Social and Entertainment.” In Ladies’ Aid Manual: A Practical Work for Ladies’ Aid Societies, 48. New York: Eaton & Mains, 1911. Accessed: 25 January 2017.
https://books.google.com/books?id=8i8bAAAAYAAJ&lpg=PA48&ots=TXjyr7GfzI&dq=%22sock%20social%22&pg=PA48#v=onepage&q=%22sock%20social%22&f=false