A few months ago, we posted about a certificate for the mark degree engraved by Amos Doolittle (1754-1832) that was published by Henry Parmele (d. 1821) and, previously, about an apron engraved from the plate the Parmele used for another certificate.
Though many aspects of Parmele’s biography are, as yet, unknown, the engraved and printed material he produced speaks to his interest in selling material to the Masonic community. Along with the certificate for the mark degree and the Royal Arch apron, Parmele also produced at least two certificates for the Royal Arch, a Masonic handbook called Key to the First Chart of the Masonic Mirror that was meant to be used in conjunction with an engraved Masonic chart and a Master Mason certificate.
Parmele’s Master Mason certificate (at left) shared an inspiration with or was based on certificates used and produced in Massachusetts in the early
1800s. You can see an example of one of these earlier certificates in this past post. As was the case with Parmele and Doolittle’s mark degree certificate, Parmele, who census-takers recorded as living in Philadelphia in 1820, worked with printers and engravers in different East Coast cities to retail his certificate. A line engraved at the bottom of this document (see below, at left) notes that it was sold by G. Fairman in Philadelphia, A. Doolittle in New Haven, Samuel Maverick in New York and by I. W. Clark in Albany. Gideon Fairman, Doolittle and Maverick were all engravers. Israel W. Clark was a publisher, printer and editor. The note also identifies all the men as “Brothrs,”or Freemasons.
Interestingly, this certificate does not seem to have been given to a Master Mason. Though a name, Charles Nye Otis, and lodge, Moriah Lodge No. 120 (recorded as No. 195) of De Rutyer, New York, are written in ink on the front of the certificate, a handwritten note on the back of the document (at right) shows that Parmele used it as an example of his work. In a note signed “H. P,” (initials thought to stand for Henry Parmele), the writer discussed how he provided this certificate, or diploma, as a sample. He also thanks the unknown recipient of the note for his “influence in obtaining subscribers” for another publication, Parmele’s Masonic charts. Parmele planned to publish two charts to go with his Key, which came out in 1819, but likely only issued one before he died in 1821. From the wording of Parmele’s note, it is difficult to tell if the recipient had already helped Parmele gain subscribers or if Parmele just wanted to let the recipient know that any help in the future would be appreciated. This certificate offers some tantalizing clues about how publishers and engravers undertook their business in the early 1800s at the same time it prompts questions about their endeavors.
Kent Logan Walgren, Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States: 1734-1850: a Bibliography (Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society, 2003).