Mark Master degree

A Jewel Made for Nathaniel Rogers Hill

GL2004_9174DP1DB
Jewel Made for Nathaniel R. Hill, 1827. Probably New Hampshire. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.9174.

An inscription (see below) on the back of this engraved jewel shows that it belonged to “Nath’l R. Hill" who was "Exalted in Belknap Chapter on Jany 30th 1827.” Founders received a charter for Belknap Chapter (which became No. 8) just a few weeks before, on January 11, 1827.  Returns sent to the Grand Chapter of New Hampshire that same year record that Nathaniel R. Hill of Dover, New Hampshire, was among the first group of fifteen men who received degrees at the new chapter.  The jewel’s owner, Nathaniel Rogers Hill (1796-1878), also belonged to Strafford Lodge No. 29 in Dover.

This medal is in an unusual shape that incorporates symbols associated with some of the different degrees that were part of the Royal Arch. At the center is a keystone that bears Hill’s mark and the mnemonic associated with the Mark Degree, HTWSSTKS. The overall shape of the jewel--compasses connected to a quadrant, surrounded by a circle--reflect the Past Master Degree. For his mark at the middle of the jewel, Hill selected a rendition of a distinctive Masonic symbol, the Forty-Seventh Problem of Euclid (at left).  This symbol is a visual representation of the Pythagorean Theorem.  In Freemasonry, this emblem reminds Masons to be lovers of the arts and sciences. The engraver who decorated Hill's jewel used a combination of a burin--to make straight lines and cuts, and a roulette, a texturing tool with a patterned roller, to make the zig-zagging lines that define the circle and compasses on Hill's jewel. 

Hill was a steadfast Mason for many years.  Strafford Lodge No. 29 went dark around 1833 and Belknap Chapter closed around 1835, in response to a political movement which sought to diminish Freemasonry--the Anti-Masonic movement--that flourished from the mid-1820s through the mid-1830s.  In 1848 former members of Strafford Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire to revive their lodge, and Hill was among their number. 

 

References

Harry Morrison Cheney, Chapters, Councils Commanderies and Scottish Rite in New Hampshire, (Concord, NH: Rumford Press, 1935), 28-29.

William Richard Cutter, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol IV., (New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908), 1750.

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons, (Lexington, MA: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994), 137.

Hamilton Hurd, History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties, New Hampshire, (Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1882), 842.

GL2004_9174DP2DB reverse
Reverse of Jewel Made for Nathaniel R. Hill, 1827. Probably New Hampshire. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.9174.

Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of New Hampshire, Vol. 1, (Manchester, NH: W. E. Moore, 1896).

 

 


An Intriguing Masonic Certificate Engraved by Amos Doolittle for Henry Parmele

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Mark Master Mason Certificate Issued to William Gordon, ca. 1820. Engraved by Amos Doolittle, New Haven, Connecticut. Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, GL2004.1101.

On March 4, 1820, the officers of a mark master lodge, possibly Mark Master’s Lodge Gloria Mundi, signed and issued a certificate to William Gordon.  This document attested that Gordon had received the Mark Master Mason degree and that the lodge officers recommended him “to all Free and Accepted Masons on the Globe.”

This colorful certificate with its charming portrayals of a lodge master at the bottom of the page is an intriguing one.  In the early 1800s many grand lodges, such as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, began issuing certificates for all newly made Master Masons.  Many were issued and saved.  Today they are fairly common. However, certificates for the Mark Master Mason degree in any American state in the early 1800s are rare.  This one, preserved in the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, appear to be the only example in that collection and there aren't any in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection.

Adding to this document’s interesting features, the information printed on the bottom edge of this certificate, which says, Engraved by Brother Amos Doolittle New Haven: for H. Parmele Diaploma of the 4th Degree. The above may be had of Br’s [scratched out] Phild. Saml Maverick New York, A. Doolittle New Haven, and I. W. Clark Albany…, suggests that production and sale of the certificate was conceived of as a coordinated effort by several entrepreneurs. 

Amos Doolittle (1754-1832), a New Haven artisan, engraved the certificate. He did so for Henry Parmele (d. 1821), an author and publisher who also sold engraved Masonic aprons. From the brief information noted on the certificate, Parmele seems to have arranged that colleagues in different parts of the country offer the certificate, or diploma, to customers.  Doolittle made the certificates available in New Haven. Samuel Maverick (1789-1845), an engraver and printer, sold them in New York City.  Israel W. Clark (ca. 1789-1828), a printer, publisher and editor in Albany, had them for sale in that city.  Parmele, according to census records, lived in Philadelphia by at least 1820, sold copies there. The scratched out name likely read “Wm McCorkle,” possibly William McCorkle (ca. 1776-1826) a Philadelphia editor and publisher.  

Given that we have found only one record of another copy of this certificate, it seems that few copies were sold--it is hard to imagine that this multi-state business venture met with success.  Adding to the mystery, research in proceedings of the Grand Chapters in the New England states, Pennsylvania and New York, has not turned up a mark lodge with the words “Gloria Mundi” in its name.  It is possible that the phrase near the top of the certificate, rather than the name of a mark lodge, is an abbreviated version of the motto “Sic transit gloria mundi(Thus passed the glory of the world), often used in Freemasonry.  Compounding the mystery, to date we have not been able to identify the recipient of the certificate—William Gordon—or any of the lodge officers who signed this certificate.

If you have seen other early 1800s mark degree certificates or have ideas about this one, we’d love to hear from you—leave us a comment below. 

Reference:

Mantle Fielding, American Engravers Upon Cooper and Steel (New York: Burt Franklin [1964]) vol. 3, 93.


New to the Collection: D. Eames' Mark Medal

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Mark Medal, 1811. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.009.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

In 1811 a Freemason named D. Eames commissioned an engraver or silversmith to create a silver mark medal.  This medal (at left) is a recent addition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

On one side Eames had the craftsman depict different Masonic symbols; on the other he requested the letters of the mnemonic associated with the mark degree and his own personal symbol be engraved.  Many mark medals produced between 1790 and 1830 feature, not only the owner’s name and personal emblem, but also the name of his mark lodge or chapter and its location.  Without this information or a history of ownership associated with the medal, it is difficult to learn more about D. Eames or where his medal was made.  Mark medals in this form—the shape of a shield topped with an open Bible and a square and compasses—often come from New York.  We’ve recently posted about shield-shaped medals examples from Middleburgh and Elmira, New York.  Though the majority of shield-shaped mark medals in the Museum’s collection are from New York, Mark Master Masons from other areas commissioned medals in this shape.  Our collection includes examples from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. 

For his own personal symbol (see below, at right) Eames selected two agricultural tools, a scythe and a sickle.  Farmers used both tools for harvesting crops—long-handled scythes for cutting fields of crops like hay or grain; short-handled sickles for working in small areas.  In terms of Masonic symbols, Eames’ medal features several.  They include a square and compasses with an open Bible symbolizing the Great Lights of the Lodge, along with a sun, moon, an ark and an altar.  As well, the engraver delineated seven stars, the number required for a perfect lodge; an arch with a keystone, a symbol of Royal Arch Masonry; a beehive, standing for industry; the letter G, symbolizing God or geometry; and a floor comprised of light and dark tiles, representing the good and evil in life.  In incising the letters and symbols onto the medal, the engraver used different tools and techniques to mark its smooth surface.  With a graver, or engraving tool, with a point shaped like a letter “v,” the craftsman cut lines into the silver.  The force he used helped determine the depth and width of the line. To suggest the slightly uneven lines of the Bible’s printed text, the engraver may have wielded a rolling tool, or roulette, to form a line made out of little dots cut into the metal.  On the side of the medal that bears the mark degree mnemonic, the craftsman rocked a graver with a flat or slightly rounded point back and forth to make the wavy circle that surrounds Eames’ mark.  He used a similar graver with a flat point to cut the decorative border on the side of the medal that bears Eames’ name.  Drawing on his experience, the craftsman who made this medal created a distinct badge that suited D. Eames’ needs and wishes.

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Mark Medal, 1811. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.009.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

   

References:

Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1976) 47-52.        


New to the Collection: Samuel Tuthill’s Mark Medal

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Mark Medal made for Samuel Tuthill, 1816. New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.032.

According to a county history, Samuel Tuthill (1767-1851), the owner of this engraved medal (at left), moved from Southold, at the eastern end of Long Island, to the new settlement of Newtown in Tioga County, New York, in 1793. Tax and census records from the 1790s and the early 1800s show Samuel Tuthill making a home and raising a family there.  As part of building their community, in 1793 area Masons established Union Lodge No. 30.  Samuel Tuthill became an active member of the Newtown lodge; from 1813 to 1826 he served as Master at least four times.  Newtown citizens changed the name of their town to Elmira in 1808.  A few years later Samuel Tuthill was one of the men who received a dispensation from the Grand Chapter of New York to form a Royal Arch chapter, Elmira No. 42, in 1815.  The Grand Chapter granted the group a warrant the following year.

After taking the mark degree, Tuthill commissioned a craftsman to make this silver medal for him.  In the shape of a shield topped with a Bible and a square and compasses, Tuthill’s medal resembles others made around the same time such as this example from Connecticut and another from New York.  On one side Tuthill had his name, “Saml Tuthill,” incised in the metal with what is likely the year he took the mark degree, 1816, and stylized renditions of Masonic symbols such as an arch with a keystone, a pavement and the letter G.  Within the arch there are three letters from a form of cipher writing Masons sometimes used among themselves. 

On the reverse side of his medal (at right, below) Tuthill had the name and number of his chapter engraved.  At the center, within the circle containing the letters of the mnemonic associated with the mark degree, Tuthill asked the engraver to depict Tuthill’s mark, the emblem he chose to represent himself as part of the mark degree.  As his personal symbol, Tuthill selected a bird, probably a dove, in flight holding a spring in its beak.  Men who had taken the mark degree chose many kinds of symbols, Masonic and otherwise.  Tuthill’s dove may have related to Freemasonry; the symbol indicated a messenger in English Masonry but was not commonly used in American Freemasonry.  Alternately, the dove may have symbolized peace, a meaning of the symbol that was popular at the time.  A county history relates that Tuthill briefly lead a company of recruits from his county during the War of 1812.  In 1816, a few years after his service, peace may have been a virtue on Samuel Tuthill’s mind.  

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Mark Medal made for Samuel Tuthill, 1816. New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.032.

References: 

History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins, and Schuyler Counties, New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1879), 260.

Barbara Franco, Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts (Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1976), 49.

Gary L. Heinmiller, compiler, “Craft Masonry in Chemung, Schuyler and Tioga Counties, New York” (Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies, May, 2010), 3, 4, 24.

Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, vol. 1, 1798-1853, (Buffalo: Published by the order of the Grand Chapter, 1871), 129.

Ausburn Towner, Our County and its People:  A History of the Valley and County of Chemung, (Syracuse, New York: D. Mason, 1892), 75, 176, 422-423.


A Baseball-Playing Mason in 1887

Harry Wellington Davis markI was recently looking at a volume of Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter's Book of Marks, which is in our Library & Archives collection. The book contains the "marks" of 175 members of Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter, between January 21, 1867 and October 6, 1897. I was particularly intrigued by Harry Wellington Davis's mark, pictured here, which suggests that when Davis joined the Chapter in 1887, he had a strong interest or connection to baseball.

The Mark Master degree is conferred in Royal Arch Chapters. As part of the degree, each candidate selects a unique, personal “mark,” an allusion to the marks that working stonemasons left on medieval stone work. Marks selected for the Mark Master degree often represent or incorporate a Mason’s name or occupation, or feature Masonic symbols. Sometimes they reveal an interest, hobby, or other avocational passion.

Curious about Davis's baseball emblem "mark," I dug a little deeper to see what I could find.

Harry Wellington Davis (1863-1943) was a salesman who was born and lived in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1886 he petitioned Simon W. Robinson Lodge, the local Masonic lodge, and was raised a Master Mason on February 7, 1887. In 1887, Lexington did not have its own Royal Arch Chapter, so Lexington Masons would have to have joined Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter in Arlington, the next town over. Menotomy Chapter was named after the old name for the town it was founded in - Menotomy, later known as West Cambridge, renamed itself Arlington in 1867, as a memorial to the Civil War dead buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Davis was one of only six members who joined the Chapter in 1887.

But what about those baseball emblems? A quick internet search turned up an 1887 photograph of the Lexington Baseball Team. The photograph - which is part of the Worthen Collection at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts - reveals that Harry W. Davis was, in fact, a member of the team in 1887. He is pictured in the middle row, far right, in the 1887 photo.

Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter was chartered on June 12, 1866. In 1993, Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter effectively came to an end when it merged with Belmont Royal Arch Chapter and the chapter in Belmont became the surviving chapter.

When Davis died in 1943, he had been a Mason for fifty-six years. He was posthumously awarded the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts' Veterans Medal.

Caption:

Mark of Harry Wellington Davis, from Book of Marks for Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter, 1867-1897. Gift of Mystic-Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, Woburn, Massachusetts.