Masonic Ceramics

Mysteries in Clay: Pisgah Forest Masonic Pottery

New to the museum’s collection this spring are three pieces of North Carolina pottery bearing Masonic decoration. These items – a small bowl, a vase, and a cup or pencil holder – were created by Pisgah Forest Pottery in western North Carolina in the 1940s and 1950s. They join two previously-purchased bowls in the collection that match the new bowl nearly exactly. Our now-five-piece collection of Pisgah Forest Pottery inspires some interesting questions about their purpose, use, and Masonic connection.

Pisgah pottery - 2022.023.1-3 - small
Pisgah Forest Masonic vase (1959), cup (circa 1948), bowl (1942). Pisgah Forest Pottery, Arden, North Carolina. 2022.023.1-3.

Pisgah Forest Pottery was founded in 1926 by Walter Benjamin Stephen (1876-1961) in rural western North Carolina, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. He was a member, trustee, and Past Master (1945) of West Asheville Lodge No. 665, which merged with another Asheville Lodge in 2002. After Stephen’s death at the age of 85 in 1961, his step-grandson Thomas Case kept Pisgah Forest Pottery going with the help of another employee, Grady Ledbetter. Case died in 2014, and is buried in the same location as his grandfather, New Salem Baptist Church Cemetery. Nichols-West Asheville Lodge No. 650 performed the funeral ritual for Case.

Pisgah Forest Pottery officially closed in 2014, following Case’s death. Its historic pottery-making tools and equipment were donated to the North Carolina Museum of History. Examples of work from this important pottery are held and exhibited at other museums, such as the Smithsonian, the Asheville Art Museum, and the University of South Carolina’s McKissick Museum. Popular with collectors, pieces of Pisgah Forest Pottery frequently come up for auction.

All three of the Scottish Rite Museum’s bowls are cobalt blue with a pink glaze inside. The bottom of each bowl bears the company’s mark (a potter sitting at a wheel) and the words "Pisgah Forest / 1942”. They have a raised, unglazed emblem on the exterior which bears a double-headed eagle gripping a sword in its talons with a square and compass on its breast and a "32" glazed in blue above. On the two pieces purchased in 2019, the raised text "Asheville" appears below the emblem. However, on the piece purchased in 2022, the text reads: “Asheville Scottish Rite”. Given that all three bowls bear the same year and were clearly following a set design, it is interesting that our newest acquisition also has the words “Scottish Rite” added to it. For whom were these Scottish Rite Masonic bowls made? Much of Stephen’s usual work was sold to tourists in the region. Were these items produced as custom orders for the local Scottish Rite Valley? Were they given as gifts to Masons? More research is needed in order to determine the context and purpose of these bowls.

The inscriptions on the newly-acquired vase and cup give us a little more information about who likely owned and use them. The light blue vase has the words “To my Good Friend and Brother Dr. S. S. Fay 33° / Stephen - 1959" painted neatly in white glaze, along with a white cross with two bars and a double-headed eagle bearing a “33” on the neck of the vase. Walter Stephen was semi-retired from the pottery by about 1949, but he still created new pieces on his own in a small studio he built on his property that he called “Lone Pine Studio”. The vase inscription and date seem to indicate that he made this vase as a gift for a friend who was a 33° Mason. With help from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, we’ve identified “S. S. Fay” as Scott Stuart Fay, who was a member and Past Master of John A. Nichols Lodge No. 650, the lodge that later merged with Stephen’s West Asheville No. 665 in 2002. Fay was a West Asheville doctor who was born in 1882 and died in 1980.

The cup has a light blue glaze that matches the vase and is personalized with a white clay emblem on the exterior which bears a keystone and the words "C. C. Ricker / G. H. P. / 1947-48". The “G. H .P.” here helped identify the owner. These letters stand for “Grand High Priest” and paired with the keystone on the cup, suggests that “C. C. Ricker” was elected a Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of North Carolina in 1947. With this information, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina helped us confirm the likely recipient of the cup as Charles Carpenter Ricker. Ricker, an active Mason, served as Grand High Priest, Grand Master (1962), and Grand Commander of North Carolina.

As many members know, one of the benefits of Freemasonry is the chance to convene and form friendships with fellow Masons. We don’t know if Walter Stephen met Scott Fay and Charles Ricker through business dealings in Asheville or if they met as brethren, but these personalized pots underscore their Masonic connection.

Reference and Further Reading:

Our thanks to Eric Greene at the Grand Lodge of North Carolina for his research assistance on this post.

New to the Collection: Masonic Pitcher Owned by Charles Copeland

Pitcher, 1807-1809. Herculaneum Pottery, Liverpool, England. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s English pottery manufacturers sold great quantities of light colored earthenware, called creamware, to the American market.  Much of it was plain tableware, but consumers who wanted something special could select pitchers, punch bowls or other forms decorated with transfer-printed designs.  Many pottery manufacturers commissioned engravers to make transfer-prints for their wares that would be attractive particularly to Americans.  These designs related to current events or national heroes—George Washington was a favorite.  Along with prints that treated issues of the day, manufacturers created designs to appeal to Freemasons

This pitcher, marked as the product of the Herculaneum Pottery in Liverpool, England, features two of the most common Masonic-themed designs found on transfer-print pitchers of the era. One is a verse of the “Entered Apprentice Song” in a surround ornamented with Masonic symbols (illustrated at left); the other design displays a raft of Masonic symbols flanked by two columns, topped by figures representing the virtues Faith, Hope and Charity (illustrated at right).  The pitcher was also personalized with the name of its owner— “Charles Copland” and his profession— “Housewright”—painted in gilding under the spout (illustrated below). 

Family history relates that this pitcher belonged to Charles Copeland, who lived from 1782 to 1809.  City directories and other records show that a man

Pitcher, 1807-1809. Herculaneum Pottery, Liverpool, England. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

named Charles Copeland made his home on Orange Street in Boston and worked as a housewright, or builder, in the early 1800s.  Records at the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts note that Charles Copeland, most likely the owner of this pitcher, took the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees in St. Andrew’s Lodge of Boston in 1807.  Copeland, or a well-wisher, may have ordered this pitcher to commemorate his becoming a Freemason.  With its Masonic-themed designs, along with Copeland’s name and occupation, this pitcher represented several elements of its owner’s identity.  Copeland died young, at just 27 years old, leaving his wife Sally with three small children.  For his family, who preserved this vessel for several generations, this pitcher may have also served as a memorial to its first owner.      




John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons. Lexington, Massachusetts:  Museum of Our National Heritage, 1994.

Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling and Catherine Compton Swanson, Curiosities of the Craft:  Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection, Boston and Lexington, Massachusetts:  Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 2013

Robert Teitelman, Patricia A. Halfpenny and Ronald W. Fuchs II, Success to America:  Creamware for the American Market. Woodbridge, Suffolk:  Antiques Collectors’ Club, 2010.

Pitcher, 1807-1809. Herculaneum Pottery, Liverpool, England. Gift of Kitty Stayskal, 2016.061.1. Photograph by David Bohl.


A Masonic Pitcher

In 1924 artist Gamaliel Beaman (1852-1937) gave this transfer-print decorated pitcher to his friend Amos Clayton Parker (b. 1885).  Parker, an interior decorator and member of Norumbega Lodge in Newtonville, Massachusetts, gave or sold it to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. It is now part of the Grand Lodge's collection on loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Pitcher, 1800-1815. England. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.7128.

In addition to painting, Beaman also sold antiques in Princeton, Massachusetts.  He bought the pitcher some 40 years before he presented it to his friend Parker.  Beaman noted in a statement that accompanied the pitcher when it entered the Grand Lodge’s collection that he had purchased the vessel in nearby Templeton, Massachusetts, “in 1884, of Mrs. Works her Husband was the Tyler + took the Pitcher Home she said as the Lodge Closed for the last time.”  He further recorded that the pitcher was a relic from a lodge that had long since ceased operation and whose charter had been lost.  Beaman believed the pitcher was something out-of-the-ordinary stating that because of its history, “this Old Pitcher has added interest.”

Though efforts to identify a Mrs. Works who lived in Templeton in the 1880s have fallen short so far, it is possible that this pitcher may have once been used at Harris Lodge.  This group met in Athol, Massachusetts, starting in 1802.  From 1813 to 1834, the lodge met in Templeton. This lodge operated during the time when imported English transfer-print decorated earthenware, like this pitcher, enjoyed its greatest popularity.

GL2004.7128 Peace and plenty picture one
Pitcher, 1800-1815. England. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.7128.

Two transfer prints grace this pitcher.  One, pictured to the right, shows a common design that displays a raft of Masonic symbols between two columns surrounded by swags of flowers.  The other print, pictured to the left, depicts a patriotically themed design that English pottery makers developed to appeal particularly to American consumers.  This image shows a winged bird, meant to be an eagle, atop a representation of the Great Seal of the United States ornamented with the motto “Peace, Plenty and Independence.”  This motto was a much-proclaimed toast in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The American flag is in the background and allegorical figures bookend the design.  In embellishing this pitcher with these two images, the pottery decorator hoped to attract the business of a purchaser proud to be both an American and a Mason.   


William G. Lord, “History of Star Lodge,” Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the Year 1939 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Cosmos Press, Inc., 1940) 348-351.

S. Robert Teitelman, Patricia A. Halfpenny and Ronald W. Fuchs III, Success to America: Creamware for the American Market (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors’ Club, Ltd, 2010) 218-219, 234-235.

White Mountain Art and Artists, "Gamaliel Waldo Beaman,"

New to the Collection: A Masonic Punch Bowl

Punch Bowl Inside BottomAs the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s current lobby exhibition, “Called to Refreshment,” makes clear, Freemasons often socialized as part of their meetings.  Masonic lodges invested in pitchers, platters, bowls and other kinds of serving ware for the time when they were “called from labor to refreshment.”  Freemasons – then and now – also socialized outside of the lodge.  Using objects decorated with Masonic symbols on these occasions let everyone know that their owner identified with Freemasonry and valued his association with the group.

This bowl, which was recently acquired by the Museum & Library, is almost thirteen inches in diameter and shows a total of eleven transfer-printed images in the bottom and on the inner and outer sides.  Bowls of this size and shape were generally used to serve punch.  The image inside the bottom of the bowl features two classical figures with a series of five architectural columns.  Several Masonic tools are scattered on the ground.  A verse reads “To heavens high Architect all praise / All gratitude be given / Who design’d the human soul to raise / By secrets sprung from heaven.”  This verse appeared as early as 1769 in A Candid Disquisition of the Principles and Practices…of Free and Accepted Masons by Wellins Calcott.

Punch Bowl Masonic SceneThe decorations on the outside alternate between Masonic and non-Masonic.  The Masonic image shows a temple with three figures wearing their aprons and other Masonic symbols.  Another image is American in subject with a liberty cap at the top.  Dating back to ancient Rome, the liberty cap was often used as a symbol of freedom during the American and French Revolutions.  A verse below the cap reads “As he tills the rich glebe the old peasant shall tell, / While his bosom with Liberty glows. / How your Warren expir’d, how Montgomery fell. / And how Washington humbled your foes.”  These lines come from the poem “American Freedom,” written by Edward Rushton (1756-1814) of Liverpool, England. Punch Bowl Liberty Cap

The name of the original owner, Ephraim McFarland, is printed inside the bottom of the bowl.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts lists an Ephraim McFarland as a member of Boston’s St. Andrew’s Lodge.  This man was initiated in January 1801 and received the second degree in December 1801, but his membership record does not indicate that he ever received the third degree of Master Mason.  Information given to the Museum & Library with the bowl suggested that the original owner was the Ephraim McFarland who was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1763 and married in 1782. 

Further research suggests that the bowl’s owner might actually have been the Ephraim McFarland who lived in Belfast, Maine.  This Ephraim was born in 1765 in Boothbay, Maine, and died in 1849, also in Maine.  This Ephraim was a ship captain who sailed between Maine and Boston.  He both owned and commanded several ships.  His travel to Boston would have provided opportunities to join St. Andrew’s Lodge and to purchase this bowl.

Masonic punch bowl, 1790-1820, England, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.029.

New Book: Curiosities of the Craft Available Now!

Curiosities CoverThe Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library have partnered to produce Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection.

On July 30, 1733, Henry Price (1697-1780), appointed by the Grand Lodge of England, gathered his Masonic brothers at a Boston tavern and formed what would become known as the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.  Over the following 280 years, the Grand Lodge withstood wars, anti-Masonic sentiment and fires.  At the same time, the Grand Lodge amassed a collection of Masonic and historic objects, mementos and documents that tell not only its story, but also the story of Boston, New England and the United States.

Drawing on new research by authors Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling and Catherine Compton Swanson, the book includes over 130 highlights from the Grand Lodge collection of more than 10,000 items acquired since 1733.  These objects represent the rich heritage of Freemasonry in Massachusetts and tell stories of life in the fraternity, in the state and around the world.  Some items were made or used by Massachusetts Masons, while others have associations with famous American Freemasons, such as George Washington (1732-1799) and Paul Revere (1734-1818).

Introduced with a history of the Grand Lodge collection, the catalog treats the themes of Traditions and Roots, Ritual and Ceremony, Gifts and Charity, Brotherhood and Community, and Memory and Commemoration.  Through the treasures of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection, this publication explores the ordinary men, craftsmen and extraordinary leaders who built and sustained Freemasonry in Massachusetts for centuries.

To purchase the catalogue for $44.95 (plus sales tax and shipping), contact the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts at 617-426-6040 or order online at


New to the Collection: A Masonic Punch Bowl

2012_019DP2DBThis colorful punch bowl, which the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired at auction, includes Masonic symbols in its decoration. It seems likely that it was used in a lodge, or by a Freemason at home, during the early 1800s. “It was the custom in those days,” one member of Saint Paul Lodge in Groton, Massachusetts, reminisced, “to drink to the health of every candidate who was initiated, crafted or raised.” The pursuit of sociable fellowship has guided Freemasonry since its beginnings in the 1600s and 1700s. The Museum has two more punch bowls from the early 1800s in its collection (which differ in shape and decoration), suggesting that they were popular sellers at the time. 2012_019DP5DB

This bowl commemorates the “Cast Iron Bridge over the River Wear,” which opened on August 9, 1796. A scene printed on the outside of the bowl shows the bridge (see above - the scene is repeated inside the bottom of the bowl). Two pitchers in the Museum’s collection (see one example below) also depict the bridge. The pitcher shown here includes Masonic symbols, while the other is decorated with Odd Fellows emblems. The Wearmouth Bridge was located in Sunderland, where this bowl (and the pitchers) were made, providing easily accessible subject matter. Before the bridge was built, the only way to cross the River Wear was by ferry. The 1796 bridge was repaired and reinforced several times until 1927, when construction on a new bridge began around it. In 1929, when the new bridge was completed, the old bridge was demolished. The 1929 bridge is still on the site today.

80_49_2S1The bowl also bears several inscriptions. Lines reading “The Flag That’s Braved a Thousand Years / The Battle and the Breeze,” refer to the English flag and come from a poem written by Thomas Campbell (1777-1844) in 1800. The poem, “Ye Mariners of England,” was set to music and appeared in a number of song books during the 1800s. Campbell was inspired to write the poem by an older song called “Ye Gentlemen of England,” which praises the achievements of the English Navy.

Another verse on the bowl reads “When tempest’s mingle sea and sky, And wind’s like lion’s, rage and rend, Ship’s o’er the mountain water’s fly, Or down unfathom’d depth’s descend, Though skill avail not, strength decay, Deliver us good Lord we pray.” These lines come from a hymn written by James Montgomery (1771-1854). Montgomery wrote more than 400 hymns, while also editing the Sheffield Iris newspaper for thirty-one years. Montgomery’s spiritual hymn offers an interesting counterpoint to another verse on the bowl: “Women make men love, Love makes them sad, Sadness makes them drink, And drinking sets them mad.” 2012_019DP6DB

Masonic Punch Bowl, 1800-1825, Sunderland, England, Museum Purchase, 2012.019. Photograph by David Bohl.

Details of punch bowl, photographs by David Bohl.

Masonic Pitcher, 1800-1825, Sunderland, England, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. James DeMond in memory of Gertrude and John D. Lombard, 80.49.2. 

Sources consulted:

“Wearmouth Bridge (1796), site of,”

“Broadside Ballad Entitled ‘Ye Mariners of England,’”

“James Montgomery,”