Masonic and fraternal history

Drawing a Fraternal Identity

82_3_1DI1

While “Masonic” is in our name and we often focus on American Masonic history, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library also actively collects, studies and presents fraternal history – stories, objects and people associated with the history of non-Masonic fraternal organizations, like the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

At its center, this drawing shows an arrangement of symbols used in Odd Fellows rituals.  Unfortunately, we do not know who the artist or original owner of the drawing was.  “Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681” is written along the top, so presumably the drawing was produced by or for a member of the lodge, or for the lodge itself.  Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681 met in Wadhams, New York, a hamlet, or unincorporated settlement, located along the Boquet River in the Adirondack Mountains, near Westport.  By the end of 1920, Boquet Valley Lodge counted 73 members, although other details about its history and activities are proving elusive.

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share a three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  They also share some symbols, like the all-seeing eye, winged hourglass and the scales of justice on the drawing.  However, the three-link chain with the initials “FLT” (for Friendship, Love and Truth), also seen on the drawing, is a symbol unique to the Odd Fellows.

This drawing could have been framed and hung on the wall at the lodge or in a member’s home.  In a home, it would serve to identify the owner as a member, and in a home or a lodge, it would help members to learn and remember the lessons taught during ritual work.  To see examples of similar Masonic drawings, visit our current [December 2014] exhibition, “Every Variety of Painting for Lodges”: Decorated Furniture, Paintings and Ritual Objects from the Collection, which features over fifty paintings, aprons, furniture and other decorative and illustrated items, exploring the ways that Freemasons have expressed their involvement with the fraternity.  Visit our website for more information and leave us a comment below if you have seen similar drawings or know more about Boquet Lodge No. 681!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Drawing, 1875-1900, Wadhams, New York, Special Acquisitions Fund, 82.3.1


Happy 201st Birthday to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction!

2013_030DI1Today, August 5, 2014, marks the 201st anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which founded the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1975). A year ago today, we celebrated the momentous occasion of the fraternity’s 200th anniversary – see our posts from last year - here and here. This year, the day is passing more quietly. However, our exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” which opened last year, is still on view – for a few more weeks. The exhibition will close on September 27, 2014, so if you haven’t visited, it’s time to plan a trip to the museum. We have one more gallery talk planned in the exhibit. The Museum’s Director of Collections and curator of the exhibition, Aimee E. Newell, will offer a free gallery talk on Saturday, September 27, at 2 p.m.

During the official anniversary ceremony last August, in New York City, Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton welcomed his counterpart from the Southern Jurisdiction, Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale. At the festivities, Commander Seale presented Commander McNaughton with a reproduction of the 1813 charter that officially created the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Commander Seale also presented a commemorative glass vase to celebrate the occasion (see above). The vase is currently on view in our lobby as part of our display of recent acquisitions. Engraved on the front is the double-headed eagle emblem of the Scottish Rite with an inscription, “Presented to the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, in honor of its Bicentennial Anniversary 1813-2013 by the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, USA.”

To order a copy of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's recent published history, which the exhibition is based on, visit the NMJ online store.

Vase, 2013, United States, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 2013.030. Photograph by David Bohl.


Souvenirs from Solomon's Temple

GL2004_4583DP4DBAn inscription on the lid of this silver octagonal box tells its story:

"This piece of Magnesian lime stone was broken off from the side of one of the large foundation stones on which stood the renowned Temple of Solomon. It was procured by myself with considerable difficulty, the place being guarded by an armed Turkish soldier, in the spring of 1851 in the ancient city of Jerusalem, & it is affectionately presented to Hammatt Lodge, East Boston, as a memorial —J. V. C. Smith Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Boston. Feb. 22, 1860."

Applied to the front of the box is an open book, representing the Bible, with a square and compasses symbol. The box is lined with dark blue velvet. Inside rests the piece of white limestone.

Masonic ritual is based on the biblical story of the building of King Solomon’s Temple. The structure is described in 1 Kings 6–7, including its dimensions and the materials used in its construction. Builders erected the Temple in the tenth century BC as a sacred resting place for the Ark of the Covenant, which contained fragments of the Ten Commandments’ tablets. In 597 BC, Babylon conquered Assyria and laid siege to Jerusalem. Ten years later, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar II, destroyed the Temple and stole most of the artifacts inside; the Ark of the Covenant vanished and its location remains a mystery.

For centuries, Solomon’s Temple has captured the imagination of Freemasons. Individual Masons, as well as groups of lodge brothers (like those in the photo to the right), made pilgrimages to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem throughout the late 1800s and the 1900s. These men often brought back souvenirs made out of limestone from King Solomon’s Quarry, thought to be the source of the stone for the Temple. GL2004_11735DS1

Jerome Van Crowninshield Smith (1800–1879), who obtained the stone in this box and donated it to Hammatt Lodge, of which he was a charter member in 1860, was born in Conway, New Hampshire. He attended Brown University and Williams College, eventually becoming a physician. In 1826, Smith took the post of health officer of the port of Boston, a position he filled until 1849. He also worked as a medical journalist.

Smith became a Mason in 1822 when he joined Boston's Mount Lebanon Lodge. In 1857, he demitted from that lodge and became a charter member of Hammatt Lodge. From 1852 to 1854, he served as District Deputy Grand Master of District No. 1, and, in 1860, he was Deputy Grand Master of Massachusetts. During the early 1850s, Smith traveled, going to Jerusalem in 1851, where he procured the piece of limestone from Solomon’s Temple illustrated here. He also obtained another set of stones that he presented to Boston’s Mount Lebanon Lodge in 1852. Smith published three books about his travels: Turkey and the Turks, A Pilgrimage to Egypt, and A Pilgrimage to Palestine. He also gave lectures to Masonic groups about his trips.

When Smith returned from abroad in 1854, his fellow citizens elected him mayor of Boston; he served into 1855. He also resumed his work as a medical journalist and, in 1854, became editor of the Medical and Surgical Journal. In 1870, Smith retired and moved with his wife to New York City, where he lived until his death in 1879.

Today, this box is part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, which is on extended loan at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts. This box is one of more than 100 objects from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection featured in the recent book Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection.  You can order a copy here.  You can see this box and other souvenirs from Jerusalem in our current (July 2014) exhibition, “Prized Relics: Historic Souvenirs from the Collection.”

Box, 1860, unidentified maker, probably Boston. Gift of Hammatt Lodge, Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4583a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

Massachusetts Masons at King Solomon’s Quarry, 1899, unidentified photographer, Jerusalem. Gift of King David Lodge, Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.11735.

Sources:

Joseph Gutmann, “The Temple of Solomon and Its Influence on Jewish, Christian and Islamic Architectural Thought” in Companion to Contemporary Architectural Thought, ed. Ben Farmer and Hentie Louw (London: Routledge, 1993): 215-219.

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 1879 (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1879), 67–68.


New to the Collection: A Masonic Stamp Collage

2013_051DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently received this charming stamp collage as an addition to its collection.  The Masonic square and compasses symbol, representing reason and faith, along with the G in the middle, symbolizing God, geometry or both, is made out of postage stamps cut to fit the shape.  Above the symbol, the maker trimmed the portraits of George Washington (1732-1799) and six other presidents who were Freemasons out of stamps and applied them to the page.  More presidential portraits appear below the square and compasses emblem.

The collage is signed at the lower right corner: "John J. Buechler / 1929."  Unfortunately, although Buechler would seem to be a less common last name, a search of the 1930 U.S. Census records turned up several possibilities and we are currently unable to precisely identify which Buechler made this collage. 

We are very pleased to add this piece of intriguing folk art to our collection.  Donor Albert K. Resnick, who purchased it at a stamp show, generously gave it to the Museum & Library after enjoying it for forty years.  As he explained, "It represented my two main interests - Freemasonry and stamp collecting."  We look forward to preserving it for and exhibiting it in the future.

Masonic Stamp Collage, 1929, John J. Buechler, United States, gift of Albert K. Resnick, 2013.051.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 


Registration Extended! April 11, 2014, Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

UN2000_0131_49DS1

We are pleased to announce that registration for our symposium, "Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism," on Friday, April 11, has been extended to APRIL 4.  Visit our website for more information and a registration form.  Please note that the deadline for the discounted hotel rooms remains MARCH 28.  Make plans to join us now for what promises to be a wonderful day!

 


Register Now! April 11, 2014 Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

UN2000_0131_49DS1Don't miss out!  Register now for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library symposium on Friday, April 11, 2014 - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism.  This day-long symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.

The day will include:

"Mid-Nineteenth Century Lodges: Middle-Class Families in the Absence of Women," Kristen M. Jeschke, DeVry University

"Bragging Brethren and Solid Sisters? Contrasting Mobilization Patterns Among Male and Female Orders During the Spanish-American War," Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussels

"Painted Ambition: Notes on Some Early Masonic Wall Painting," Margaret Goehring, New Mexico State University

"Pilgrimage and Procession: The Knights Templar Triennial Conclaves and the Dream of the American West," Adam G. Kendall, Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge of California

"The Colored Knights of Pythias," Stephen Hill Sr., Phylaxis Society

"'The Farmer Feeds Us All': The Origins and Evolution of a Grange Anthem," Stephen Canner, Independent Scholar

Participants will also have their choice of a tour of our exhibition, "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction," a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum collection, or a tour of highlights in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.

Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception.  The day runs from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  To register - BY MARCH 21 - visit our website and complete a registration form.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, N.M.J., U.S.A.

 


Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Objects from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

96_050T1Starting February 5, 2014, one of our hallway cases will feature a selection of Masonic and fraternal ritual objects from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection. 

Among the more than twenty objects on view will be favorites such as a trick chair, one of our ritual bells and a ritual beehive thought to have been used in a Masonic lodge.  We will also be showcasing two altars, as well as several officers' staffs and ritual props.  In addition to objects used in Masonic lodges, material from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Daughters of Rebekah and other fraternal organizations will be exhibited. 

Masonic and fraternal organizations teach new members about their groups’ values and symbols through ritual. These ceremonies often feature props, special furniture and other paraphernalia. All of the intriguing objects that will be exhibited were designed to not only help convey certain concepts and illustrate important symbols, but to also focus initiates’ and members’ attention.  Imaginatively-wrought ritual props were often oversized and brightly decorated. Ritual props did not need to function as the actual objects that inspired them did.  For example, static metal feathers and gold-painted dowels represented arrows in the whimsically colored and ornamented quiver pictured here. Combined with a darkened lodge room, dramatic lighting and bright costumes, props and other specially-designed objects enriched the presentation of Masonic and fraternal ritual.  In the accompanying photograph members of Lodge Room in Baxter Springs, Kansas a York Rite chapter that met in Baxter Springs, Kansas, many wearing regalia, posed for a portrait in the lodge room where they likely presented ritual.  Shutters covering the buildings’ windows both protected members’ privacy and assisted them in creating an appropriate setting for ritual. Along with a suitable venue, ritual objects helped make the time initiates and members spent in the lodge room--and the lessons they learned there--memorable. 

Photographs:

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Ritual Quiver and Arrows, 1850-1900.  American.  Museum Purchase, 96.050.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Royal Arch Degree Team, 1890-1900. Baxter Springs, Kansas. Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.112.

 


Would You Jump? The Knights of Pythias Test of Steel

2013_057_1a-bDP1DBAt the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we collect objects, documents and books associated with any and all American fraternal groups - Masonic and non-Masonic. Recently, we were given this set of props that was used by the Knights of Pythias. While these two items may look identical in the photo - triangular wooden bases covered with pointed spikes - there is a crucial difference between them. On one, the spikes are metal and unyielding. On the other, the spikes just look like metal but they are actually rubber.

Founded by Justus H. Rathbone in 1864, the Knights of Pythias based their ritual on the story of the friendship between Damon and Pythias (for more on the Knights of Pythias, see our other posts). Like many American fraternal groups, and because founder Rathbone was a Freemason, the Knights took inspiration from Freemasonry, which was officially established in America in the 1730s. Like Freemasonry, the Knights of Pythias have three degrees, called ranks, each with an initiation ritual.

These props, known as the "test of steel," were a part of the ritual for the third Knights of Pythias rank - the rank of Knight. A published version of the ritual from 1928 explains how these objects were used. The candidate was asked to examine the one with the metal spikes. Then the officers would swap in the prop with the rubber spikes, without the candidate noticing. The Master at Arms would take the candidate to a set of steps and make sure he walked to the top. At the word of the man playing the King, the candidate had to jump into the center of the spikes. An earlier published version of the ritual, from 1882, differs slightly in that it does not call this part of the ritual the "test of steel," and suggests that these bases with spikes were not always used. In this version, the "instrument" is not specific - a blank is left in the text. The Master of Arms is commanded simply to go to the armory and "bring forth the first instrument of ---- upon which [his] hand may chance to fall." The rest of the ritual is conducted very similarly to that in the 1928 version - the candidate is led to the top of the steps and asked to jump after seeing the real item, which is then exchanged for the "fictitious" one (as it was called in the 1882 published ritual). Knights of Pythias Shall I Jump Postcard

A postcard in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection shows a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the "test of steel." Seen here at right, it shows a woman on top of a block with a bouquet of flowers on the floor in front. Inscribed on the block is the Knights of Pythias symbol and the words "Shall I jump?" A member of the Knights of Pythias would understand the allusion being made by the postcard.

Do you have any props from American fraternal groups? Tell us about them in a comment below!

Knights of Pythias Test of Steel, 1900-1930, American. Gift of James J. Bennette, 2013.057.1a-b. Photograph by David Bohl.

Postcard, 1910, H.A. Bliler, American. Museum purchase, A87/219/1.

Sources Consulted:

Ritual of the Knights of Pythias (Supreme Lodge, 1882).

Revised Knights of Pythias Illustrated (Chicago: Ezra A. Cook, 1928).


Now Available: Book of Wisdom Compiled by Jean Doszedardski

Doszedardski Book CoverCompiled by Freemason Jean Doszedardski (b. 1770) during the early 1800s, the “Book of Wisdom” contains “statutes and general regulations” for Lodge le Choix des Hommes, located in Jacmel, San Domingo.  Now translated from the original French, the book provides an entrée into the lodges of the West Indies during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  In addition to details about how the lodge pursued its routine business, the end of the book includes a history of the development of Scottish Rite Freemasonry as it traveled from France to the West Indies and, eventually, to the United States.

The original manuscript is part of a collection of documents compiled by Doszedardski, now in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Kamel Oussayef, 33°, completed the translation over several years as a volunteer at the Museum & Library.  Director of Collections Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., provided an introduction and historical notes for the text.

Book of Wisdom: Freemasonry through the Veil of an Ancient French Manuscript is available now for $34.95 plus shipping from the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, at https://shop.scottishritenmj.org/.


Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment

2010_024_3DP1DBAt the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we aspire to collect and interpret objects associated with all of the fraternal groups that have ever met in the United States – Masonic and non-Masonic alike.  Millions of Americans have joined one or more groups since the 1700s and many men and women belonged to more than one.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s one of the most popular fraternal groups in America was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch was organized in Baltimore in 1819.  By 1907, the group numbered almost one million members in this country (see this previous post for more information).

Recently, we acquired the daguerreotype at left, showing an unidentified member of the Odd Fellows.  In the photograph, he proudly wears his collar and apron.  While we unfortunately do not know who this man is or who took the photo, his apron is detailed enough, with a tent, sun, moon and wreath, to tell us that he received the Odd Fellows Encampment degrees.  The Encampment degrees originated in 1827 and were conferred on members after they received the initial three degrees.  The Encampment degrees are called Patriarchal, Golden Rule and Royal Purple. 87_50_1DI1

In addition to the daguerreotype, we are fortunate to have an example of an Encampment apron in our collection, seen here at right.  The dark silk apron has gold bullion fringe and painted emblems of a tent and wreath with an all-seeing eye on the flap.  While the daguerreotype dates to the 1840s or 1850s, this apron was probably made a bit later – in the 1870s or 1880s.

Unidentified Man, 1840-1860, United States.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase through the generosity of Helen G. Deffenbaugh in memory of George S. Deffenbaugh, 2010.024.3.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment Apron, ca. 1880, United States.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, gift of Paul Fisher, 87.50.1.