The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added this silver mark medal once owned by Philadelphian William C. Rudman (1799-1856) to its collection. In choosing a personal emblem for himself Rudman, like many Masons taking the Mark degree, selected symbols related to his profession as his own personal emblem. An engraver delineated Rudman’s choice of symbolic tools and implements related to his occupation on this keystone-shaped silver badge within the circle surrounded by the letters HTWSSTKS (at left).
The artist John Neagle (1796-1865) painted portraits of Rudman and members of his family. A publication about Neagle's work noted that William Crook Rudman, born in England, moved to Philadelphia and became a naturalized American citizen who was “noted for his philanthropy.” Records at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania show that Rudman, at age 27, took the first three degrees of Freemasonry at Kensington Lodge No. 211 in Philadelphia. These records note that Rudman earned his living as a brewer.
An enthusiastic marketer, Rudman took out many advertisements that described his brewery at 121 Green Street. There, he stated, “Tavern keepers and families” could “be supplied with first rate Beer at the shortest notice.” One October, in 1841, Rudman announced that “he has commenced BREWING for the season, [and] is now prepared to deliver, and will have constantly on hand, fine PALE ALE, PORTER, STRONG and TABLE BEER.” A few years before, Rudman commissioned a lithograph that noted he sold “Philadelphia PALE ALE on Draught, Warranted free from all pernicious DRUGS and ALCOHOLIC admixture” along with an image depicting workers, an office, and other structures at Rudman’s brewery.
In selecting a personal emblem as part of the Mark degree, Rudman chose Masonic symbols: an all-seeing eye, the sun and the moon, and a level, plumb, and square, combined with three objects that were part of his work as a brewer: a barrel, a sheaf of grain, and what appears to be a cooper’s ax. Taken together these symbols underscored two aspects of Rudman’s identity, his association with Freemasonry and his profession.
Rudman received the Mark degree in January of 1829, the month and year inscribed on the front of this jewel. Soon after, he took an extended break from Freemasonry--he withdrew from his lodge in February 1830. What prompted Rudman to leave his lodge is unknown. Members demitted from lodges for many reasons, some personal, such as uncertain finances, ill health, or the press of business. Alternately we can speculate that Rudman may have decided to turn away from his lodge because of the rise of public sentiment against Freemasonry during the late 1820s and the 1830s, an era when many men left their lodges. Regardless of why Rudman stepped away from the lodge, his choice may have shaped the engraving on this jewel. The side of the badge bearing his name and mark is complete. The reverse side is unfinished (below). The engraver never filled in the banner at the top of the badge, and the line that would have defined the top edge of the arch is missing.
After a time, in 1844 Rudman rejoined Kensington Lodge. He soon left to become a member of Columbia Lodge No. 91, also in Philadelphia, in 1847. When he died, after a “long and painful illness,” he was still involved in Freemasonry. An announcement of his death in 1856 invited members of Columbia Lodge and of the “Sons of St. George” (a charitable group that assisted English immigrants) to attend his funeral. Years later this engraved medal recalls Rudman’s time as a Freemason and his work as a brewer.
“Deaths,” North American (Philadelphia, PA), April 19, 1856, page 2.
Exhibition of Portraits by John Neagle (Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1925), catalog number 37.
“Notice…” United States’ Gazette for the Country (Philadelphia, PA), October 9, 1827, page 3.
“Notice…” Daily Chronicle (Philadelphia, PA), October 9, 1841, page 3.