Mark Medals

Masonic Marks: Lost and Found

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Royal Arch Mason, 1886-1897. John B. Scholl (1857-1924), Chicago, Illinois. Museum Purchase, 97.031.4.

From the middle of the 1800s and through the early 1900s, many well-dressed Freemasons wore fobs that bore the mark that they had selected as part of receiving the Mark Degree. Others sported fobs engraved with not only their mark, but also the names of the different Masonic bodies they belonged to, along with the dates they had joined. The Royal Arch Mason here (at left), wears a keystone-shaped mark as a fob attached to his watch chain, along with a rich red velvet collar and apron, embroidered in gold.

Small, valuable, and connected to a watch chain with only a ring or hook, the fob style of Masonic marks worn by the subject of this portrait, and similar fobs, did get lost or were stolen. Countless advertisements and snippets from newspapers, hint at how frequently these items went astray--and at how much their owners wished for their return.

In 1856, Jason R. Hanna, staying at the Lima House in Lima, Ohio, advertised that his "MASONIC MARK made of gold in the shape of a Key Stone, with a locket enclosure, was lost or STOLEN." For its return he offered a $5 reward "and NO QUESTIONS ASKED." A few years later, newspapers reported on the return of a Masonic mark, "in the shape of a Maltese cross, of solid gold," that had belonged to Col. T. S. Martin, a Union solider that had died at Manassas, to his widow in Philadelphia. Thaddeus Miller, a Mississippi soldier, had retrieved the mark and, after many months, it was delivered to Mrs. Martin.

The same year, in 1868, an advertisement in The Evening Telegraph of Philadelphia sought the owner of "a silver watch and a gold Masonic mark, bearing the inscription, 'Girard Mark Lodge, No. 214'" that had been stolen by an escaped convict called George Black.  Another Philadelphia paper told the story of an unlucky man named John Matsinger who, in 1894, lost his watch, chain, and gold Masonic mark after being drugged at Arthur Chamber's saloon. A policeman intercepted the thief while he was trying to pawn Matsinger's property, and it was restored to its owner.

Another observant police officer received a reward of "a bank note of substantial value and an imported cigar" when he returned a lost Masonic mark decorated with diamonds to its owner, W. L. Marsh of Pittsburgh. Marsh, upon having his mark restored to him explained that "he valued it highly" as the fob had been given to him by his employees.  He rated it "without price...for its associations."

An even more remarkable story of a mark returned to its owner was that of the mark that belonged to Rev. Dr. H. Franklin Schlegel. Around 1911, Rev. Schlegel visited his family's farm at Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, and "inspected the big flock of Plymouth Rocks" in the chicken coops. During this visit he wore, "Suspended from his watch chain...his Masonic mark, representing the Blue Lodge, the Chapter, Commandery, Consistory or 32nd degree...." As he examined the chickens "the charm, fell to the ground" only to be eaten by one of the hens, though the bird that ate it could not be identified. Three years later, Dr. Schlegel's gold and diamond mark was discovered during excavation at the farm "in the old hen yard." After a small repair to the damaged enamel, the delighted Dr. Schlegel resumed wearing his fob.

If you have an interesting story about a lost or found Masonic mark or jewel, tell us about it in the comments below.

 

References:

"Lost or Stolen!," The Times-Democrat (Lima, OH), 5/3/1856, 3.

"A Masonic mark...," The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX), 12/9/1868, 1.

"An Owner Wanted," The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, PA), 7/18/1868, 8.

"Knocked Out," The Times (Philadelphia, PA), 8/4/1894, 6.

"Policeman Found Fine Masonic Mark," The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), 5/8/1906, 8.

"Dr. Schlegel Recovers Long-Lost Masonic Mark," Mount Carmel Item (Mount Carmel, PA), 7/25/1914, 1.


A Jewel Made for Nathaniel Rogers Hill

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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.

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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).

 

 


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.


New to the Collection: William L. Peet’s Mark Medal

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Medal made for William L. Peets, 1824. Connecticut. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

Readers who subscribe to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library know we can’t get enough of the intriguing engraved medals created for Freemasons in the early 1800s, especially those associated with the mark degree. We’ve posted about mark medals in the past.  Today we want to introduce a recent acquisition—a mark medal that can, unusually, be attributed to a designer or engraver who put his name on similarly decorated examples.

In October of 1824 William Leavenworth Peet (or Peets, as noted on the medal) affiliated with the Masonic lodge St. John’s No. 3 in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  In April of the same year he had joined Jerusalem Chapter No. 13, also in Bridgeport.  To commemorate his taking the mark degree at Jerusalem Chapter, Peet (1788-1866) commissioned a silver shield-shaped medal inscribed with his name, his chapter, its location and the date (illustrated at left).  On the other side of his medal Peet had engraved an emblem that he selected for himself as part of the mark degree--a letter “W” (illustrated below at right).  The letter may have referred to his first name or symbolized Wisdom, one of the supports of the lodge, often represented by the letter W or by an Ionic column.   

The craftsman who decorated Peet’s medal did so with flair.  He added vine-like lines to the edges of the metal and cut out tiny pieces of the medal in different patterns to give the medal a richly textured border.    A very similar style of engraving decorates a medal made for Lockwood N. DeForest in 1826, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a medal crafted for Silas Wooster Sherman in 1826, owned by the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.  DeForest, like Peet, belonged to St. John’s No. 3 and Jerusalem Chapter.  Sherman was a member of Hiram Chapter No. 1 in Newtown, Connecticut.  An engraver or designer, C. Foote, signed these medals at the bottom of the circle that enclosed the owners’ personal emblems.  These medals, and two others in private collections that are signed by Foote, all belonged to Royal Arch Masons that lived in Connecticut. 

The signer was likely Charles Foote (1793-1862), a member of St. John’s No. 3 and of Jerusalem Chapter.  Intriguingly, Foote worked as a bank cashier, not as far as we know, as an engraver, artist or silversmith.  Records have not shed light on Foote’s interest or skill in engraving.  Hopefully further research will  uncover more information about Foote.  Alternately, Foote may have designed rather than engraved the medals or the Charles Foote who belonged to the same lodge and chapter as William L. Peet may not have been the C. Foote who signed the medals.   If you have any ideas about C. Foote and the medals he signed, be sure to leave us a comment below. 

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Medal made for William L. Peets, 1824. Connecticut. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Theodore H. Sommers, Jr., 200th Anniversary of the Found of St. John's Lodge No. 3 (Bridgeport, Connecticut:  Masonic Temple, 1962).

Thanks to Richard C. Memmott, Sr., Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Connecticut.

 


Daniel Rathbone’s Certificate and Mark Medal

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Master Mason Certificate for Daniel Rathbone, 1796. Engraved by Isaac Hutton, Albany, New York. Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, A78/038/1.

Around 1790 Daniel Rathbone (1759-1808) moved about 70 miles from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to Saratoga County, New York.  Recently married to Anna Reddington (1764-1855), he relocated to the area to start a saw mill and a family in an area called Rock City, a community that later became part of Milton, New York.  A county history published in the late 1800s claimed Rathbone was Rock City’s first settler.  Over the next ten years he and his wife had eleven children. As part of establishing his life in a new town, Rathbone joined the first Masonic lodge in the area—Franklin Lodge No. 37 in nearby Ballston, New York.  His Master Mason certificate (pictured at left), issued in 1796, survives.  Engraved by Albany, New York, craftsman Isaac Hutton (1766-1855), it features images of Masonic symbols and a promise, attested by the officers of the lodge, that they “recommend him [Rathbone] as a worthy member.”

Area Freemasons solicited Franklin Lodge No. 37’s warrant from the Grand Lodge of New York in 1794.  A few years later, in 1803, Freemasons in Ballston requested and received a warrant from the Grand Chapter of New York for a Mark Master’s Lodge.  Franklin Mark Lodge No. 21 may have met in the same place as Franklin Lodge No. 37.  Daniel Rathbone was likely a member of this group.  A silver mark medal engraved with his name (pictured at right, below) and mark (pictured at left, below) forms part of the collection here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  As part of taking the mark degree, a Freemason chose an emblem to represent himself; often a symbol related to his profession or a representation of a value he held dear.  For his mark, Rathbone selected a bird surrounded by a snake eating its own tail (a traditional symbol of infinity or ouroboros).  What the symbols engraved on the mark medal meant to Rathbone is not obvious.  On the other side of the medal the engraver inscribed “Daniel Rothbon” (a variation on the spelling of Daniel’s last name) and “Mk Ms Lodge Ballston” (an abbreviation for Mark Master’s Lodge). 

According to a family history, Daniel Rathbone’s father, also named Daniel (1731-1823), moved from Berkshire County, Massachusetts, to Milton, 

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Mark Medal, 1803-1808. New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 78.45.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

New York, around 1804, near three of his sons.  Given the fact that both men lived near Ballston around the time residents founded the Mark Master’s Lodge No. 21, it is possible that the medal belonged to Daniel’s father. Daniel Rathbone Jr.’s certificate proves his interest and involvement in Freemasonry during the time that local brethren established the Ballston mark lodge.  It seems most likely that the medal was his property.  If the medal belonged to the younger Daniel Rathbone, he did not own it for long.  He died unexpectedly.  As noted on his gravestone, his “death was occasioned by an accident at his saw mill on the 13th day of December 1808 aged 49 years 9 months and 11 days."

 

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Mark Medal, 1803-1808. New York. Special Acquisitions Fund, 78.45.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

 

References:

John C. Cooley, Rathbone Genealogy (Syracuse, N.Y.:  Press of the Courier Job Print, 1989), 483-485.

Dave Bixby, compiler, “Town of Milton Cemeteries, Rock City Falls Cemetery” (http://www.saratoganygenweb.com).

John Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons (Lexington, Massachusetts:  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 1994), 144-145.

Gary L. Heinmiller, compiler, Craft Masonry in Saratoga and Warren Counties, New York, (Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies, 2010-2011), 2, 13.

Nathaniel Bartlett Sylvester, History of Saratoga County, New York (Philadelphia: Everts & Ensign, 1878), 485.

Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, (Buffalo, New York: The Grand Chapter, 1871) 1:29.

 


New to the Collection: Phillip Langdon's Medal

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Masonic Medal Made for Phillip Langdon, early 1800s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.2. Photograph by David Bohl.
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Masonic Medal Made for Phillip Langdon, early 1800s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

As regular blog readers know, here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library we are fascinated by engraved medals created for Freemasons in the early 1800s. Some of these are mark medals that feature representative emblems chosen by their owners as part of the mark degree.  Others are medals that indicate affiliation with a particular lodge, sometimes called craft medals.

Recently the Museum purchased a craft medal produced for a Mason named Phillip Langdon (pictured, near left).  He is thought to have been associated with Columbia Lodge No. 91 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  This medal closely resembles a medal purchased by the Museum thirty five years ago (pictured below, at right).  That medal is also engraved with the name of its owner, Benjamin Cannon. Neither man’s name appears on the list of members published in a history of Columbia Lodge, nor are they noted in the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania's membership records, but their medals share iconography with a certificate printed for Columbia Lodge No. 91 in the early 1800s.

Both of these medals are teardrop (or plumb) shaped with feathered wings engraved on the widest part of the outside edges.  The maker incorporated a hanger in the shape of a half circle into the top of the medal.  Just under it, the engraver incised “No. 91.”  The medal owners’ names were written on a flowing banner clasped in an eagle’s beak on one side of the medal.  A history of Columbia Lodge No. 91 discusses how, in 1803, members decided to “procure a draft or design for a certificate plate” two years after their founding.  The engraver did not sign the plate.  Because engraver David Edwin (1776-1841) later became a member of the lodge, scholars have suggested he designed this plate.  The certificate made from it, like the medal, features an eagle with a sinuous banner bearing the lodge's name in its beak. Members also used a version of this eagle on an engraved apron pictured in the lodge history.  

The other side of both medals features the same group of Masonic symbols, most of them related to the first three degrees of Freemasonry (pictured at far left).  At the center, the engraver depicted an altar with an open Bible with a square and compasses on top of it, which represents the "Great Lights" of the lodge.  The Bible is flanked by two candles, another is above the Bible.  The candles are the emblems of the "Lesser Lights" of the lodge. An arch with a keystone decorated with the motto “Holiness to the Lord” surrounds these symbols. This emblem and motto typically relate to the Royal Arch degree. Although its history is sketchy, there seems to have been a mark lodge at Columbia Lodge in the early 1800s and the Royal Arch degree may have also been offered at the lodge around the same time.  As one scholar has noted, when the Ancients and the Moderns were at odds in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s, craft medals made for members of lodges that followed the Ancients often incorporated symbols associated with the Royal Arch degree. As seen on the certificate, which is addressed "To all Ancient York Masons," Columbia Lodge identified as an Ancient lodge. The Grand Chapter of Pennsylvania recognized Columbia Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 91 in 1822. 

Because of the iconography they share with the early 1800s certificate and the apron produced for Columbia Lodge, these medals were likely owned by members of the lodge.  However, many questions remain.  Hopefully further research will shed light on the men who commissioned them and what event prompted them to have the medals made.  If you have any observations to share, please leave them in the comments section. 

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Masonic Medal Made for Benjamin Cannon, early 1800s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisition Fund, 80.10. Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 

References:

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons (Lexington, Massachusetts: Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994), 140, 142, 185, 187.

Thomas E. Reilly, Centenary of Columbia Lodge, No. 91, AY. Y. M. (Philadelphia: 1901), 22-25, illustration between 40 and 41.

Abstract of the Proceedings of the Most Excellent Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Co-operative Printing Co., 1870), 92.  

 

With many thanks to Glenys A. Waldman, the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.


New to the Collection: Jared Sandford’s Mark Medal

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Mark Medal, 1809-1817. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.009.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

From time to time, we have the chance to post about interesting new additions to the collection at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library—today a silver mark medal from the early 1800s.

Previous posts have discussed mark medals, an intriguing form of Masonic material culture.  When taking the mark degree, a new Mark Master Mason selected a symbol that was personally meaningful to be recorded as his unique mark next to his name in the lodge records.  Some men chose an emblem that represented a value important to Freemasonry, such as charity or equality.  Other men recorded symbols with personal meanings, like the initials of their name or attributes representing their profession.  Some Mark Master Masons commissioned engraved silver or medal badges decorated with their personal emblems.  A few lodges, like Holland Mark Lodge in New York City, required that members have these badges made.

An engraver decorated one side of this medal with the owner’s name, Jared Sandford and a depiction of an incomplete arch.  At the top of the medal, the engraver detailed the Masonic symbols of a square and compasses with a sprig of acacia, a ladder and a plumb.  On the other side, the engraver outlined an all-seeing eye near the hanging ring and a cherub’s head at the bottom of the medal.  Between these two elements, the craftsman engraved the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master degree in ornate letters in a circle.  Within the circle, the engraver delineated what appears to be a distinctive tool used by doctors in the early 1800s. 

Doctors and surgeons used this handheld and hand-powered tool, a small circular saw called a trephine, to cut out small circles of bone, often from the skull.  Removing a portion of skull bone could help speed the healing of a head injury by relieving pressure on the brain.  The engraver who portrayed this trephine included distinctive details such as the small spike at the center of the circular blade that helped hold the saw in place.  He also showed the small lever on the side of the tool that controlled the height of the spike.  This control helped keep the spike from injuring the brain as the surgeon cut away bone with the saw. 

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Mark Medal, 1809-1817. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 2016.009.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

A trephine is an unusual tool to be selected as a mark.  Because a trephine is a medical device, it was likely a meaningful object to a Mark Master Mason who had a special understanding its use—a surgeon or doctor. A man named Jared Sandford, who was born in Southampton, New York in 1774 and died in 1817, and was a doctor in the town of Ovid, Seneca County, New York, appears to be a likely candidate to have owned this medal.  Further research will, hopefully, uncover information about Jared Sandford’s Masonic membership.

If you have ideas or suggestions about how to learn more about this medal, be sure to leave them in the comment section below. 

 

Many thanks to Catherine Walter, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, Grand Lodge of New York for helping identify the trephine.

 


New to the Collection: James Higgins’ Mark Medal

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Mark Medal made for Henry Brayman, ca. 1818-ca. 1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2008.010. Photograph by David Bohl.

A year ago the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library was lucky enough to receive a gift of a collection of chapter pennies and badges, mostly dating from the early 1900s. Mixed in with the comparatively modern tokens was an engraved silver mark medal that belonged to James Higgins, made in the 1810s or 1820s (below, at left).

As regular blog readers know, these individually commissioned badges can be fascinating.This one sparked our interest because of its intriguing shape and similarity to another in the collection: a gilded and engraved crafted for Henry Brayman, a member of David’s Royal Arch Chapter (at left). 

Both of these medals were cut in an interesting lobed form.  One side is engraved with the owner’s name and chapter, the other bears the Royal Arch motto “Holiness to the Lord,” a mitre and eight circles (both below).  Within each circle the engraver illustrated selections of Masonic symbols or scenes that relate to the Mark Master degree. For example, the circle on the upper right contains images of a keystone, chisel and mallet—all symbols of the Mark Master degree.The circle at the lower left encloses three candles, an open Bible, a square and compasses—the lesser and greater lights of the lodge. Comparison of the symbols and scenes engraved within the circles points to a common inspiration for these vignettes, although we don’t yet know what it is. Each medal

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Mark Medal made for Henry Brayman, ca. 1818-ca. 1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2008.010. Photograph by David Bohl.

also features an integrated hanging loop, as well as similarly styled script letters in the mnemonic “HTWSSTKS” separated by simple flowers, and a trailing vine embellishing the top edge of the medal by the loop. Together, the similarities between the two medals suggest they may be the work of the same engraver.

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Mark Medal made for James Higgins, 1816-1827, New York. Gift of Kevin Farrell, 2014.073.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

The man who owned the gilded medal, Henry Brayman, belonged to David’s Chapter No. 34 and St. Paul’s Lodge in Auburn, New York. He may have been the Henry Brayman (1791-1853) who lived in Aurelius and later Buffalo, New York. James Higgins owned the silver medal. He is likely the James Higgins (1766-1827) who was born in Connecticut but later lived in Hamilton, New York, where he worked as a cabinetmaker, hotel keeper and tanner. He was  a member of Hamilton Lodge, No. 121, as well as Cyrus Royal Arch Chapter No. 50 of Eaton, New York. Brayman selected a personal mark of a square and awl and had these the symbols engraved on his medal along with his name. James Higgins never had his mark incised on his badge, for reasons we can only speculate about. Hopefully ongoing research will uncover more about these expertly crafted and interestingly decorated medals. If you have any insights to share, please let us know in a comment.  

Many thanks to Tom Savini, Director, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library, Grand Lodge of New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 


New to the Collection: Mark Medals from Dutchess County, New York

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Mark Medal made for William Ely, 1797-1800. Dutchess County, New York. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.5.  Photo by David Bohl.

As always, we are excited about some of our recent acquisitions! Just a few weeks ago, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library was able to add two beautifully engraved mark medals to our growing collection.  These two medals are each interesting on their own. They also prompted intriguing questions when viewed side by side.

In previous posts we have discussed other mark medals in the collection. These engraved badges feature a specially selected symbol—often related to Freemasonry or the owner’s profession—sometimes along with the owner’s name and his lodge’s name and location. These two shield-shaped mark medals are embellished with intricate pierced tops.  These carefully made decorative elements were designed to allow the owner to wear his badge around his neck, suspended from a ribbon. 

Each of these medals bears an owner’s name and Masonic lodge. William Ely (dates unknown) belonged to Solomon’s Mark Lodge in Poughkeepsie, New York and commissioned the medal with top pierced to look like a ribbon tied in a bow (see at left). Ely chose a complicated symbol, or mark, for himself:  a young woman holding a vine in her left hand and a set of scales in her right. She stands next to a table or counter, decorated with a square and compasses. A mortar and pestle and a bottle sit on it, possibly suggesting apothecary work. The other medal belonged to John Dutcher (dates unknown), a member of Hiram Lodge No. 27 in Amenia, New York.  His mark, surrounded by the mnemonic associated with the mark degree and a circle enclosing 15 different Masonic symbols, was a top hat and what looks to be a gavel (see image below at right)—symbols often associated with the office of lodge master.

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Mark Medal made for John Dutcher, early 1800s. Dutchess County, New York. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.6. Photo by David Bohl.

Ely’s lodge, Solomon’s Lodge of Poughkeepsie, first chartered in 1771, had several numbers over the years it met—1, 56 (the number on this medal and used by the lodge from 1797-1800), 5 and 6.  Members are thought to have established a mark lodge, called Solomon’s Mark Lodge, during the late 1700s.  Hiram Lodge No. 27—first founded in 1793 as Payne Lodge, called Hiram Lodge after 1797—received a dispensation for a mark lodge in 1810. The Grand Chapter approved the charter for Hiram Mark Lodge No. 65 in 1811.

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Mark Medal made for William Ely, 1797-1800. Dutchess County, New York. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.5. Photo by David Bohl.

The Ely and the Dutcher medals are both shield-shaped with different pierced elements.  A close look at the sides of the two medals that bear Ely’s and Dutcher’s names show like symbols—an open Bible with a corner of a page folded back—engraved in a similar style (see images at left and below). The image is embellished with the same flourishes at the top and bottom of the open volume. This and other similarities shared by the medals suggests a question: did the same craftsman design and engrave these medals? Hopefully, with further research, we will learn more about these medals' owners and makers. If you have any ideas or insights, be sure to leave a comment below!

 

 

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Mark Medal made for John Dutcher, early 1800s. Dutchess County, New York. Museum Purchase, 2015.014.6.

References:

Catalog notes, Minute Book, Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, Poughkeepsie, New York (1771-1852), Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library of the Grand Lodge of New York. 

Compiled by Gary L. Heinmiller, Craft Freemasonry in Dutchess County, New York, (Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies, March 2010).

Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the State of New York, Volume 1. 1798-1853. (Buffalo, New York:  Grand Chapter, 1871).