Grand Lodge of Connecticut

New to the Collection: Apron Owned by John Mix

Royal Arch Apron, 1810-1830. Attributed to James T. Porter (active 1810-1830), Middletown, Connecticut. Museum Purchase, 2017.011.

In the 1950s James Royal Case, later the Grand Historian of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, noted, “We probably are indebted to this brother for preservation of records which Storer [Eliphalet Gilman Storer (1793-1870), long-time Grand Secretary] transcribed ‘almost entire’ and printed in the Connecticut Grand Lodge Proceedings….”  Case was praising John Mix (1755-1834)--the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut for almost thirty years, from 1791 to 1820.  Following his service at the Grand Lodge, Mix filled the same role at the Grand Chapter of Connecticut from 1821 until 1831.  Along the way he held offices in both Frederick Lodge No. 14 in Farmington and Pythagoras Chapter in Hartford.  He was also a probate judge and town clerk in his hometown, Farmington, from 1791 to 1823.  He stepped away from his work in Freemasonry in 1831, “on account of his advanced age, and almost total blindness, occasioned by cataracts on both of his eyes,” after “long and faithful services.”

A few months ago the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchased a hand-colored engraved leather apron (pictured at left) with a family history of having been owned by John Mix.  The family had preserved it along with an 1818 receipt for furniture made out to Mix as part of his job as Grand Secretary.   To decorate the apron, a painter highlighted Masonic symbols, many of them used in the Royal Arch degrees, in watercolor (pictured at left) and added a gold border around the edges.  The apron has dull red silk trim along its top edge; at one time it likely had ties made out of the same material.  The museum owns a similar apron, as does the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts (pictured at right).  The apron in the GLMA collection has a history of having belonged to Ebenezer Way (1784-1849), a Freemason from New London, Connecticut.  He may have worn it at the cornerstone laying ceremony for the Bunker Hill Monument in 1825.      

This apron design and at least two others are thought to be the work of engraver James T. Porter (active 1810-1830), of Middletown, Connecticut.  The attributions stem from a printed inscription on one of the apron designs: “J. T. Porter, Middletown, Conn.”  Another design has been attributed to Porter through its similarities to the inscribed example and a related inscription on the second design: “Designed and engraved by a brother, Midd. Conn.”  Unfortunately, James T. Porter’s name does not show up in the Grand Lodge of Connecticut’s membership records and little is known of his biography.  The apron thought to have been owned by John Mix and the related example collected by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, do not have printed inscriptions on them but have been attributed to James T. Porter based on similarities in design and histories of ownership in Connecticut.  Hopefully, further research will  uncover more information about James T. Porter and the aprons he engraved for the Masonic community in the early 1800s.         


Royal Arch Apron, ca. 1825. Attributed to James T. Porter (active 1810-1830), Middletown, Connecticut. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.7553. Photograph by David Bohl.

Many thanks to Gary Littlefield and Richard Memmott of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.


James R. Case, “Nominal Roll of those on record in the Minutes of American Union Lodge, 1776-1783,” Transactions of the American Lodge of Research, vol. VI, no. 1, July 2, 1952-December 12, 1953, 383.

Barbara Franco, Bespangled, Painted & Embroidered: Decorated Masonic Aprons in America 1790-1850, (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1980) 92-93.

Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling, Catherine Compton Swanson, Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures form the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection (Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts: Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2013) 102-103.  

Joseph K. Wheeler, Record of Capitular Masonry in the State of Connecticut (Hartford, Connecticut: Wiley, Waterman & Eaton, 1875).

New to the Collection: A Masonic Apron by William Laughton

Master Mason Apron, 1819-1824, William Laughton (poss. 1794-1870), Hartford, Connecticut, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2014.070.7. Photograph by David Bohl.

As regular readers of our blog will know, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has one of the best collections of Masonic aprons in the world.  We are always looking to add new examples with designs or makers that we are not familiar with.  This apron, a recent purchase at auction, has both a design AND a maker that were new to us. 

This Master Mason apron shows a typical all-seeing eye symbol on the flap, signifying watchfulness.  The body features an arrangement of Masonic symbols with celestial and terrestrial columns on a mosaic pavement at the top of three stairs.  Between the columns are a sun, moon, shooting star, seven stars, clasped hands, three candlestands and an altar with an open Bible.  Rough and smooth ashlars appear to the sides and at bottom center is a coffin.

Applied on the back is a printed label for the apron’s maker – “Hartford / W. Laughton / Painter.”  Unfortunately, little is known about William Laughton (possibly 1794-1870), despite the inclusion of his label on this apron.  The best source of information about his activities is a series of newspaper advertisements in the Hartford papers between 1819 and 1824.  In August 1819, he begged “leave to inform his friends and the public, that he has taken a room a few doors east of the Court House…where he will do all kinds of ornamental painting, in the neatest manner, and at the shortest notice.”  By September 1819, he was advertising as a “delineator, ornamental, and sign painter,” and that he would “execute Masonic paintings and Signs of every description.”

In June 1820, he used his ad to “[tender] his sincere thanks to his friends and the public, for the encouragement they have given him in his profession for a year past.”  In this same advertisement he specifically noted that he would do “Masonic paintings, such as carpets, aprons, etc., etc.”  And, at the end, he noted “W.L. has on hand a few Masonic Aprons, which he offers very low.”  In addition to his newspaper advertisements, Laughton marketed himself by entering a painting in the local cattle show in October 1822.  According to a published account of the fair, “Mr. Laughton…offered for inspection, a fruit piece painted by himself.  This was considered by judges, to indicate a talent in the art which deserves particular encouragement.”  In 1823, his advertisements focused specifically on Masonic aprons, such as the one in the Connecticut Mirror on June 30, 1823, which was headed “Masonic Aprons,” and included an illustration of an apron.  “William Laughton,” the advertisement read, “has now on hand, a handsome assortment of Masonic Aprons, plain and gilt, very cheap by the dozen or single.”

After 1824, Laughton disappears from the newspapers.  He may have headed out of town to work as an itinerant painter.  In an 1898 biography of Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) (Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1778), a portrait of Hopkins is mentioned.  It was “taken from North Providence to Brookline, and in 1825, as it had become somewhat defaced, was turned over to a man by the name of Laughton, a carriage and sign painter, of Brookline, to be repaired.”  We do not know for sure if this “Laughton” and the William Laughton who made this apron are one and the same, but it is possible.  The 1838 Hartford City Directory lists Laughton back in the city as a “fancy painter.”  Few other details remain to tell us about the latter part of his life.  A “William W. Laughton” is listed in the records of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.  He joined Bridgeport’s St. John’s Lodge No. 3 in 1862, but there is no birth date given, so this is an inconclusive match, especially since it seems strange that Laughton would have joined so late in life after making and selling aprons in the 1810s and 1820s.

Perhaps further information about William Laughton will come to light over time.  If you know of other aprons by Laughton, please let us know in a comment below!

To learn more about our apron collection, see our new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, available June 2015 at


Connecticut Mirror, The Times, Connecticut Courant, 1819-1824.

Edward Field, Esek Hopkins, Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolution 1775 to 1778 (Providence: The Preston & Rounds Co., 1898).

Susan P. Schoelwer, ed., Lions & Eagles & Bulls: Early American Tavern & Inn Signs (Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 2000).

I am indebted to Robert Fitzgerald, Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Connecticut, for sharing the Laughton Masonic membership information with me.

An Update on a Connection Between Masonic Aprons

2009_080T1 Back in December 2010, I wrote a blog post about an exciting new addition to our apron collection – one that came with a note linking it to President Grover Cleveland.  In the post I explained why it seems unlikely that Cleveland ever actually wore the apron and I compared the Cleveland apron with one in our collection that was printed with a design by Lewis Roberson and Oliver T. Eddy of Vermont, probably between 1814 and 1822. I am including the images of those two aprons here again, so you can see the similarities between the two designs.83_46_1DI1

Around the same time that the Cleveland apron post went live, I received an inquiry from the library at the Grand Lodge of Conneticut. They asked me about an apron with a design that is signed by Abner Reed of East Windsor, Connecticut. In the course of answering the inquiry, I realized that the Cleveland apron shows virtually the exact Reed design! We are fortunate to have a signed example of Abner Reed’s apron in the National Heritage Museum collection, which you can see below.

80_14DI1 Reed was born in 1771 and began working as an engraver in the 1790s, despite having served an apprenticeship with a local saddler. He pursued a successful engraving business through the 1820s and then worked more sporadically through the 1840s. In 1851, he moved to Toledo, Ohio, to live with his daughter and remained there until his death in 1866.

The signature on the apron reads “Eng’d by A. Reed for Br. S. Dewey.” Sherman Dewey was a charter member of Eastern Star Lodge No. 44 in Willimantic, Connecticut. There is no record that Reed was a Freemason in Connecticut. In addition to the Cleveland apron, two other aprons in the Museum’s collection show a strong similarity to Reed’s design but are not marked with the printed signature. One of the three is a painted version of the printed design. All three, including the Cleveland apron, probably date later than 1800 when Reed created the signed apron.


Barbara Franco, Bespangled, Painted & Embroidered: Decorated Masonic Aprons in America, 1790-1850, Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1980.

Donald C. O’Brien, “Abner Reed: A Connecticut Engraver,” The Connecticut Historical Society Bulletin 44 (January 1979): 1-16.

Top: Masonic apron, 1825-1850, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of the Grand Lodge of AF & AM of Illinois, 2009.080. Photograph by David Bohl.

Middle: Masonic apron, 1814-1822, Lewis Roberson and Oliver T. Eddy, Wethersfield, Vermont, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Paul D. Fisher, 83.46.1. 

Bottom: Masonic apron, circa 1800, Abner Reed (1771-1866), East Windsor, Connecticut, National Heritage Museum collection, Museum Purchase, 80.14.