Lodge Histories

A Civil War Masonic Military Lodge

Interior View of Rustic Masonic Lodge, 1863, Sam A. Cooley; E.W. Sinclair, Folly Island, South Carolina, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.94.













In its collection,the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has a number of Masonic and fraternal artifacts related to American Civil War history. Freemasons were among the thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers fighting throughout the four-year conflict. This stereocard shows a Masonic military lodge that was reportedly photographed in November 1863 on Folly Island, South Carolina. It was not uncommon for Masons in the military to form military or traveling lodges during times of war.  The 1st New York Engineer Regiment is believed to have established this particular lodge. They constructed the lodge with materials found on the island. This  photograph is one of the most unique Masonic lodge images in our collection.

Military lodges were usually connected to specific units. These lodges received a special dispensation from the Grand Lodge of the state in which the regiment was organized in order to be chartered and recognized as a lodge. Like other lodges, military lodges needed “volume of sacred law”, most likely a bible, and “working tools” commonly used in ritual, like a square and compasses. 

In 1861, the Grand Lodge of New York passed a resolution granting dispensations for military lodges with a stipulation that no men from outside of New York could be made Masons without the permission of the Grand Lodge. In addition, the dispensation had to be recommended by a lodge in the state and bear the names of seven petitioners. Many Grand Lodges granting dispensations for military or traveling lodges were concerned about how these lodges and their operations might impact the integrity of Freemasonry.  In 1863, due to overwhelming jurisdictional issues and questions about legality, New York passed a resolution against the "further establishment or continuance of military lodges."

These special lodges were just one of the many ways that Freemasonry was visible during the Civil War. For more information about our collection as it relates to Freemasonry during the Civil War please visit our previous blog posts at: http://bit.ly/1HD7som

To see this photograph and others from our collection on our HistoryPin map please visit:  http://www.historypin.org/en/person/64613  



Halleran, Michael A., The Better Angels of Our Nature: Freemasonry in the American Civil War, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2010.

Ross, Peter, A Standard History of Freemasonry in the state of New York, New York: The Lewis Pub. Co., 1899.

Hyde, William L., History of the One hundred and twelfth regiment, N.Y. volunteers,Fredonia, NY: McKinstry, 1866.




Masonic Banquets & Feasts

Saint_andrews_menu_web Part of what makes a library and archives collection interesting is being able to see beyond the obvious uses for the material in the collection. By thinking outside the box, you can sometimes see that there may be other uses for material that, on the surface, seems intended for one use. I'm thinking here of Masonic lodge histories and the banquet menus that are sometimes contained within them.

If one takes even a cursory glance at the history of Freemasonry, one will see  that the banquets and feasts that continue to be a part of Masonic tradition today have taken place since the earliest days of organized Freemasonry.

Masonic banquets and feasts are held for many different occasions. One of these occasions is an anniversary - often the anniversary of a lodge being chartered. In our collection we have a number of individual lodge histories, historical accounts usually published by the lodge itself based on its own records. These are very useful for researchers interested in the history of a particular lodge, its members, and its activities over the years. In addition to historical information about a lodge, many of these books also publish information about the various anniversary celebrations that took place, often coinciding with the publication of the lodge history itself. One of those activities was usually a large, formal banquet dinner.

Some of the books include the actual menu of what food was served at the banquet dinner.  These menus can not only give a more specific sense of what an event was like, but I think that they also serve to illustrate that one can bring various interests to a topic - and that different researchers can get various uses from one book. For instance, a researcher interested in food and culture might find a lodge history that includes a menu of the anniversary banquet of interest for very different reasons than a historian interested in the charter members of a Masonic lodge. Yet both will use this book. A researcher interested in food and culture - or perhaps even specifically Masonic banquets - might ask:

How are food shortages during wartime reflected in the menus?

How are now-commonplace technological advances (the ability to freeze foods, for example) reflected in these menus?

How do the menus reflect the availability or popularity of various ingredients or dishes?

Or perhaps, like me, one might just get enjoyment at looking at a menu from a banquet dinner held over a hundred years ago, and seeing both familiar and unfamiliar items on the menu.

And now, for your imaginary dining pleasure, I'm posting the menu for the banquet dinner held on June 10, 1901 for the Centennial of Mt. Lebanon Lodge in Boston, Massachusetts. It's from the book Centennial of Mt. Lebanon Lodge, A.F. and A.M. Boston Mass. 1801 - June 10 - 1901:

Lobster a la Newburg                                              Radishes
Stuffed Lamb Chops                                  Asparagus Points
Chicken Croquets and Peas
Apricot Fritters Glace
Potato Delmonico
Sardine Salad
Cold Tongue                                           Aspic Jelly
Salted Almonds
Assorted Cake
Frozen Pudding         Harlequin Ice Cream         Biscuit Glace
  Illuminated Fancy Ices
Crackers                                                Cheese

You can compare this menu to the one pictured at the top of this post, which is the menu from the banquet served for the 150th Anniversary of the St. Andrews Royal Arch Chapter in Boston on October 1, 1919. If you're interested in this topic, we have more menus in our Archives collection, in addition to those that might be found in our book collection.  Those menus in our Archives collection are generally found with a group of Masonic Dance Cards (MA 015).  These elaborate menus occur frequently on "Ladies Night". Bon appetit!

Both books mentioned in this post (including their delectable menus) may be found in our collection:

Centennial of Mt. Lebanon Lodge, A.F. and A.M. Boston Mass. 1801 - June 10 - 1901. Boston: Printed for the Lodge, 1901.
Call number: 17.97631 .B747 1901

Exercises Commemorating the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Organization of St. Andrews Royal Arch Chapter, Boston, Massachusetts, October the First, Nineteen Nineteen. Boston: Published by the Chapter, 1920.
Call number: 17.97631 .B747 S134 1920
Gift of Wallace M. Gage