Masonic Decorative Arts

New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Jewels Owned by Edward H. Caldwell

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Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.2. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

In December of 1867, Edward Holland Caldwell (1844-1872) of Mobile, Alabama, received the fourteenth degree at the newly established Mobile Lodge of Perfection No. 1. The following year he received the eighteenth degree, and later, the thirty-second degree. Caldwell’s jewels for the eighteenth and thirty-second degrees survive and were recently added to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Crafted of silver and cut-glass stones (also called pastes), Caldwell’s jewels were formed in the shape of symbols associated with the eighteenth and thirty-second degrees. The eighteenth-degree jewel is in the shape of a compasses topped with a crown (at left). An arc connects the legs of the compasses. Within the compasses is a cross highlighted by red stones and a cast representation of a pelican feeding seven chicks from the blood of her breast. On the reverse side is a cast cross and rose and an eagle with spread wings (at right). Caldwell’s thirty-second degree jewel is in the shape of a crown on top of a cross with arms of equal length with leaves or vines between the arms (at left, below). At the center of the cross is the number 32 reverse painted on glass in gold and black. On the back side of the jewel, at the center of the cross, two crossed swords are reverse painted on glass in black and gold with a white background.

Caldwell likely became a Mason in Mobile Lodge No. 40, the largest Masonic lodge in Alabama in the 1860s. He later joined a new lodge, Athelstan Lodge No. 369, constituted in Mobile in 1870. In 1868, when he took the eighteenth degree, he was the father of two young sons and involved in a local business. Caldwell and Emil Oscar Zadek (1848-1908) owned “Zadek & Caldwell, Importers and Manufacturers of Fine Jewelry” from about 1866. The firm advertised “handsome jewelry of every description. Also watches, silver ware, plated ware, opera glasses, etc.,” for customers in search of “an elegant article at reasonable prices….” Zadek was, according to the local paper, an accomplished craftsman who was not “surpassed in Mobile as a gold or silver smith.” Caldwell’s Scottish Rite jewels are not marked with the name of the manufacturer, so it is not known if his firm produced them in Mobile, or if Caldwell ordered them from another source.

Caldwell had grown up in New Orleans, the son of a wildly successful actor, theater owner, and entrepreneur, James Henry Caldwell (1793-1863). As a young student, he attended Spring Hill College in Mobile in 1856 and 1857, but does not seem to have graduated from that institution. Only a few years after he joined with Zadek in the jewelry business,  Edward Caldwell's business and circumstances changed when his older brother, James Henry Caldwell, Jr.,

2022_004_2 DP2 MC 18 backReverse of Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.2. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

died in his early 30s in 1870. Upon his brother's passing, Edward Caldwell inherited a large estate and became the president of the Mobile Gas, Light and Coke Company. This firm was one of the companies that his father had founded. His brother had previously served as president of the business. Reflecting this change, on the first of November in 1870 Edward Caldwell and Emil Zadek officially dissolved their partnership in the jewelry business.

Caldwell’s time as the head of the Mobile Gas, Light and Coke Company was short lived. He died in 1872 while in New York City. An obituary in a New Orleans newspaper stated that Caldwell was “noted among his friends for the geniality of his disposition and his boundless liberality." The writer also described Caldwell's philanthropy, observing that "no call for charity" made to him was unnoticed. All appeals to him, the writer continued, received "a cheerful response" from Caldwell, "a princely income enabling him to do much good in this respect.” As a sign of respect, Freemasons in New Orleans escorted Edward Caldwell's body to the train depot in New Orleans before it was put on a train to Mobile where Caldwell was buried. Caldwell's two handsome Scottish Rite jewels offer evidence of his involvement in Freemasonry and speak to his pride in his association with the group. 

References:

"Removal and Purchase," The Mobile Daily Times (Mobile, AL), April 1, 1866, page 10.

Notice, Mobile Register (Mobile, AL), November 25, 1869, page 3. 

Notice, Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), October 8, 1872, page 4.

Many thanks to:

Michelle Lambert of the Grand Lodge of Alabama; Katy Osborne, Special Collections, Spring Hill College; Larissa Watkins of the Library, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. 

 

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Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868-1872. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.1. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

New to the Collection: Masonic Fair Bowl

2023_001DP1MC biggerIn the late 1800s White’s Pottery of Utica, New York, (also called the Central New York Pottery) is thought to have created this substantial stoneware vessel. Makers ornamented its surface with patterns and shapes, including swags, ribbons, flowers, and vegetables, all highlighted with cobalt blue. The legend “Masonic Fair” is impressed within shield-shaped cartouches in three places on the outside of the object. This handsome and intriguing bowl is a recent addition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

At first glance, this large footed vessel—over 19 inches in diameter—appears to be a punch bowl. However, a close look at the patterns beneath the lettering within the shield-shaped cartouches ornamenting the bowl raise questions about the vessel and the purpose for which it was originally designed.  

In addition to functional objects, such as jars, water coolers, and mugs, White’s Pottery and the Central New York Pottery made decorative stoneware objects such as commemorative tankards, match holders, and coin banks. One of the firm’s clients was Bardwell’s Root Beer, a company run by druggist Charles Ellis Bardwell (1853-1927) of Holyoke, Massachusetts. He advertised “Bardwell’s Unparalleled Root Beer” to his fellow drug store owners to sell at their soda fountains. In a 1900 notice he offered not only root beer syrup, but an “outfit, consisting of Bardwell’s Root Beer Cooler…Bardwell’s Root Beer Pitcher, Six of Bardwell’s elegant Steins.” The components of these sets were made of stoneware and are commonly thought to have been manufactured by White’s Pottery.

In 1899 Bardwell received a design patent for “a new and original Design for Bowls” that were distinguished by vertically oriented perforated cylinders at their centers. From an image accompanying one of Bardwell’s root beer outfit advertisements, it appears that the perforated element contained the pitcher from which the root beer was poured into lidded steins. Bardwell’s ads described the bowl with the cylinder at its center as a cooler, claiming that his delectable product was served in “ice cold steins kept cold in Bardwell’s cooler.” The perforated cylinder kept the pitcher used to serve the root beer out of the ice, but cool. The dense stoneware from which the cooler, steins, and pitcher were made was a good insulator and helped keep the root beer, steins, and pitcher cool.

2023_001detailFrom images of surviving examples and pictures in Bardwell’s ads, each element of Bardwell’s outfit—the cooler, the pitcher, and the steins—bore the name “Bardwell’s” or “Bardwell’s Root Beer” in distinctive script. Surprisingly, this vessel, though marked with the phrase “Masonic Fair,” was made from a mold originally designed for to create the bowl that was part of Bardwell’s root beer outfit. On this bowl recently added to the collection of the museum, letters spelling out “Bardwell’s Root Beer“ are faintly visible under the words “Masonic Fair” (below, at left, look for the letter "R" under the star). The phrase “Masonic Fair” was likely pressed into the bowl while the clay was still moist enough to accept the impression. Decorators later outlined it with cobalt blue.

A member of Mount Holyoke Lodge in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts, Bardwell may have offered coolers customized with the words “Masonic Fair” to serve refreshments or as prizes at fundraisers for Masonic organizations. Hopefully further research will shed light on the connection between Bardwell’s root beer coolers and Masonic fairs.

References:

Advertisements, “The Popular New England Beverage for 1900…,” The Spatula, March, 1900, May, 1900, n. p.

John L. Scherer, Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection (Albany, NY: The University of the State of New York, 2015), 126-127, 136-141.

“What’s New?” The Spatula, April, 1900, 361.

For examples of stoneware made by White’s Pottery, see the Munson Museum, Utica, New York, online collection database.  

Photo credits:

Cooler, 1894-1901. Attributed to White’s Pottery, Utica, New York. Museum Purchase through the Special Acquisitions Fund, and Maureen Harper, Patricia Loiko, and Hilary Anderson Stelling in Memory of Jill Aszling, 2023.001. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

Detail Cooler, 1894-1901. Attributed to White’s Pottery, Utica, New York. Museum Purchase through the Special Acquisitions Fund, and Maureen Harper, Patricia Loiko, and Hilary Anderson Stelling in Memory of Jill Aszling, 2023.001. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

 


New to the Collection: A Desk with Secrets

The Scottish Rite Masoni2022_037a-bDP1MC overallc Museum & Library recently received this handsome nineteenth-century desk decorated with inlaid Masonic symbols as a generous gift to the collection. Masons are oath bound to keep specific information about Freemasonry, such as ritual, passwords, and recognition signs, to themselves, causing many observers to describe the organization as a secret society or as a society with secrets. This desk fits right in—it has secrets of its own.

Constructed, in part, of southern beech, this desk came to the museum with a history of having been used in Arkansas and, later, in Utica, New York. Who owned and used it is not known. With several drawers, multiple shelves, and a writing surface, this form of desk falls into the category of secretary or desk-secretary—a piece of furniture that meant business. Only people with a serious amount of papers, objects, and books to organize would need a desk like this one.

Six and a half feet tall at its highest point, the largest portion of this desk is a glass-fronted cabinet with shelves, enough to contain—and  2022_037a-bDP2MC document cubbies display—a small library of books. A cornice with an elaborate pediment tops the section with a glass door. The design of the cornice offers a nod to the Renaissance Revival style popular in the United States in the 1860s and 1870s. At the very center of the pediment is an inlaid square, compasses, and letter G—a combination of Masonic symbols found on lodge buildings, in lodge rooms, and on many objects related  to the fraternity. The smaller connected cabinet has a solid door.  When opened, it reveals pigeonholes, vertical shelves with curved dividers designed to house and organize tall ledgers, and small horizontal shelves with shaped dividers likely used to store correspondence, along with two small drawers, and several cubbies. The drawers could accommodate pocket-sized articles, such as pens, coins, currency, or valuable trinkets best kept under lock and key. 

At the lower inside corner of the cabinet is a cubbyhole with an arch-shaped opening decorated with 2022_037a-bDP6MC removable prospectMasonic symbols—a checkered pavement, a keystone, stars, and a panoply formed of a square, plumb, and level.  In Freemasonry, the square, plumb, and level together are the working tools of the second degree. They served to remind Masons of the value of equality and to act morally and fairly. Though it looks like integrated part of the desk, this decorated cubbyhole is actually a box that can be removed from the cabinet. Behind it, hidden to anyone who does not know the secret of how to access them, are two small drawers with ring pulls (the drawers are visible just behind the removed section). These tiny drawers are not protected by a lock, but their secret location in the desk would have helped keep their contents secure.

The upper portions of the desk rest on a slightly sloped writing surface. Now stained black, this 2022_037a-bDP4MC hidden drawersurface may have, at one time, covered with felt or leather. Supporting the surface on one side is a column of four drawers, on the other side are two turned legs. The long single knee-hole drawer is fit with two levels of compartments divided to accommodate writing implements and small objects. At first glance, the lockable drawers with white knobs appear to be run-of-the-mill. They, in fact, offer several secret hiding places to stow documents and objects. Each of the four drawers at the side are shorter than the overall length of the desk. Behind each of them is a second drawer with a leather pull that lays flat. The bottom of the lower-most drawer in the column conceals a drawer accessible by pulling the back of the drawer up to reveal a wooden knob and a shallow hidden compartment perfect for concealing documents. Altogether, six different keys are needed to access the drawers and cabinets in this desk. 2022_037a-bDP5MC hidden document drawer

With so many secret compartments incorporated into its design, this beguiling desk offers more questions than answers.  The most  compelling of these questions may be, what important objects and papers did the original owner of the this desk want to keep secure or hidden? Though we may never know the answer to this question, the decoration, form, and function of this desk are clues that it was a tool used by someone who valued his association with Freemasonry who engaged in work that required he retain and organize different kinds of records and objects. This desk suggests that he had intriguing secrets to keep.

 

Photography credit:

Details, Desk, 1860-1880. United States. Gift of Peter J. Samiec, 2022.037. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

 

 

 

 


New to the Collection: Mark Medal Owned by William C. Rudman

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Mark Medal Made for William C. Rudman, 1829. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 2022.068.2. Photo courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries, Inc.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added this silver mark medal once owned by Philadelphian William C. Rudman (1799-1856) to its collection. In choosing a personal emblem for himself Rudman, like many Masons taking the Mark degree, selected symbols related to his profession as his own personal emblem. An engraver delineated Rudman’s choice of symbolic tools and implements related to his occupation on this keystone-shaped silver badge within the circle surrounded by the letters HTWSSTKS (at left).

The artist John Neagle (1796-1865) painted portraits of Rudman and members of his family. A publication about Neagle's work noted that William Crook Rudman, born in England, moved to Philadelphia and became a naturalized American citizen who was “noted for his philanthropy.” Records at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania show that Rudman, at age 27, took the first three degrees of Freemasonry at Kensington Lodge No. 211 in Philadelphia. These records note that Rudman earned his living as a brewer.

An enthusiastic marketer, Rudman took out many advertisements that described his brewery at 121 Green Street. There, he stated, “Tavern keepers and families” could “be supplied with first rate Beer at the shortest notice.” One October, in 1841, Rudman announced that “he has commenced BREWING for the season, [and] is now prepared to deliver, and will have constantly on hand, fine PALE ALE, PORTER, STRONG and TABLE BEER.” A few years before, Rudman commissioned a lithograph that noted he sold “Philadelphia PALE ALE on Draught, Warranted free from all pernicious DRUGS and ALCOHOLIC admixture” along with an image depicting workers, an office, and other structures at Rudman’s brewery.

In selecting a personal emblem as part of the Mark degree, Rudman chose Masonic symbols: an all-seeing eye, the sun and the moon, and a level, plumb, and square, combined with three objects that were part of his work as a brewer: a barrel, a sheaf of grain, and what appears to be a cooper’s ax. Taken together these symbols underscored two aspects of Rudman’s identity, his association with Freemasonry and his profession.

Rudman received the Mark degree in January of 1829, the month and year inscribed on the front of this jewel. Soon after, he took an extended break from Freemasonry--he withdrew from his lodge in February 1830. What prompted Rudman to leave his lodge is unknown. Members demitted from lodges for many reasons, some personal, such as uncertain finances, ill health, or the press of business. Alternately we can speculate that Rudman may have decided to turn away from his lodge because of the rise of public sentiment against Freemasonry during the late 1820s and the 1830s, an era when many men left their lodges. Regardless of why Rudman stepped away from the lodge, his choice may have shaped the engraving on this jewel. The side of the  badge bearing his name and mark is complete. The reverse side is unfinished (below). The engraver never filled in the banner at the top of the badge, and the line that would have defined the top edge of the arch is missing.

After a time, in 1844 Rudman rejoined Kensington Lodge. He soon left to become a member of Columbia Lodge No. 91, also in Philadelphia, in 1847. When he died, after a “long and painful illness,” he was still involved in Freemasonry. An announcement of his death in 1856 invited members of Columbia Lodge and of the “Sons of St. George” (a charitable group that assisted English immigrants) to attend his funeral. Years later this engraved medal recalls Rudman’s time as a Freemason and his work as a brewer.

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Mark Medal Made for William C. Rudman, 1829. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 2022.068.2. Photo courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries, Inc.

References:

“Deaths,” North American (Philadelphia, PA), April 19, 1856, page 2.

Exhibition of Portraits by John Neagle (Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1925), catalog number 37.

John Neagle, William Crook Rudman, Sr., 1845.  Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts .

“Notice…” United States’ Gazette for the Country (Philadelphia, PA), October 9, 1827, page 3.

“Notice…” Daily Chronicle (Philadelphia, PA), October 9, 1841, page 3.

William Breton, “Wm. C. Rudman’s Philadelphia Pale Ale….” (Philadelphia, Lehman & Duval, lith.), ca. 1835, Free Library of Philadelphia.


New to the Collection: Mark Medal Engraved by John Bower

Poshardt mark side
Mark Medal Made for Conrad Poshardt, 1812. John Bower, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 2022.068.3. Photo courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries, Inc.

Recently the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added an intriguing mark medal from Pennsylvania to its collection. Along with the name of its owner, Conrad Poshardt, this keystone-shaped badge is inscribed with the name of the craftsman who engraved it, John Bower.

In April 1810 Bower advertised his services in the Democratic Press of Philadelphia, noting that he undertook his business as an engraver “in all its various branches, with neatness and dispatch” at “No. 80 North Fourth, near Race street.” A few months later, in November, he informed the paper’s readers that he had changed the location of his business with this announcement: “John Bower, engraver, has removed to No. 1, Sterling Alley, where the above business is carried on….” Sterling Alley was just a block or so from his previous address. City directories list John Bower as an engraver at these and other addresses in the same neighborhood from 1810 through 1819. In 1810 census takers recorded a Philadelphia resident named John Bower working as an engraver with a family of 3 at two locations in August and again in October, likely reflecting Bower’s change of address during the year.

In the 1830s critic William Dunlap noted that John Bower “made plates of inferior execution in Philadelphia about 1810.” Dunlap’s tepid assessment of his skills notwithstanding, Bower worked a number of projects. Examples of Bower’s work that have survived to this day include illustrations for several books, prints, a trade card for his neighbor, a plaque for a lockable chest, and this mark medal (at left) made for Conrad Poshardt, a member of Herman’s Lodge No. 125.

Bower signed Poshardt’s mark medal “Br. J. Bower, Sculp.” on the side of the jewel decorated with an arch (below). In adding “Br.,” an abbreviation of the word brother, to his signature on this medal, Bower identified himself as a Freemason. Membership records at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania note that a man named John Bower took his degrees at Lodge No. 72 in Philadelphia in the first half of 1811. He withdrew from the lodge in the fall. The lodge readmitted Bower as a Master Mason in 1814. Bower’s profession is not noted in the Grand Lodge records, but the J. Bower who signed this medal is a strong candidate for being the man who belonged to Lodge No. 72.

The medal that Bower created for Conrad Poshardt is in the keystone shape favored by many Pennsylvania Mark Masons in the early 1800s.

Poshardt symbol side
Mark Medal Made for Conrad Poshardt, 1812. John Bower, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 2022.068.3. Photo courtesy of Stack's Bowers Galleries, Inc.

You can see another example here; a mark medal made for Samuel A. Van Deursen in 1812. In addition to the owner’s name and Poshardt’s personally chosen mark—a group of seven Masonic symbols contained within the letters HTWSSTKS--Bower engraved the name of the owner’s lodge—Herman’s Lodge N[o]. 125—and a date expressed as "Feby 5812", indicating February 1812, on this medal. Two years before, in 1810, a group of Freemasons, who described themselves “all Germans by Birth” who did “not possess a perfect knowledge of the English Language” petitioned the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to form “a Lodge whose Labours are carried on in the German Language.” The Grand Lodge granted this request and issued a warrant for Lodge No. 125, called Herman’s Lodge. As the petitioners had planned, this lodge undertook its business and ritual in German. Hopefully further research will uncover more about Conrad Poshardt, his lodge, and other work undertaken by his brother Freemason, engraver John Bower.

References:

William Dunlap, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, vol. 3 (Boston: C. E. Goodspeed, 1918), 284.

Mantle Fielding, American Engravers Upon Copper and Steel (Philadelphia, 1917), 70-71.

Reprint of the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania, vol. II 1801-1810, vol. III 1811-1816 (Philadelphia: The Grand Lodge, 1897), 497-498, 13.

 

Many thanks to Cathy Giaimo of The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania.


Hurricane Gavel

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Gavel, ca. 1939. Massachusetts. Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2657.

High in the Taurus Mountains of Turkey, there is a grove of Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani). In the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection cared for at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, there is a gavel made from the wood of one of these trees. The story of this gavel – from seeds to storage – brings together natural science and Masonic ingenuity.

In the early 1900s, Charles Sargent (1841-1927), the first Director of Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum, wanted to add examples of Cedrus libani to the collection of trees and shrubs at the site. However, these trees – which are mentioned in the Bible – grew primarily in the warmer climate of Lebanon and did not seem suited for New England weather. With the help of German naturalist Walter Siehe (1859-1928), Sargent was able to locate a forest of Cedars of Lebanon in the Taurus Mountains in Turkey. These trees grew further north and at higher altitudes and the two men thought they might also grow in Massachusetts.

In early 1902, Siehe shipped a number of cedar cones to Sargent and the trees were propagated in the greenhouses at the Arboretum. They started well and were planted on the grounds. By 1930, the Turkish Cedars of Lebanon were growing well and producing their own seed cones. The experiment was a success.

Then came the Hurricane of 1938, one of the most severe storms in New England history. The storm devastated the forests of the Northeast, destroying an estimated two billion trees in New York and New England. In the Arboretum, at least five of the Turkish cedars fell victim to the storm. (Happily, in 2022, eight of the original trees still survive on site.) As for the hurricane-damaged ones, a group of local Masons “grasped the opportunity to perpetuate these trees Masonically,” as one of them later said.

William Judd (1888-1946) was a member of Eliot Lodge in Dorchester and a gardener at Arnold Arboretum. During the clean-up after the hurricane, he and Welby McCollum (1887-1952) of West Roxbury Lodge decided to use some of the cedar wood to make a gavel. Given that McCollum worked as a builder, he may have crafted the piece.

After the gavel was completed, it was given to West Roxbury Lodge’s Past Master, Alexander McKechnie (1887-1965). He wrote out the story of the gavel on two typewritten pages – kept with the item – as a draft of his planned speech for a January 1940 presentation to West Roxbury Lodge. McKechnie mentioned in a handwritten addendum that he intended to present the gavel to the lodge and thence to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts if desired. His note is addressed to Joseph Earl Perry (1884-1983), then-Grand Master of the Grand Lodge, and ends, “If you decide to put this gavel in the Museum you can pick out the important points in the above for a small card.” This small piece of material culture made of wood more than one-hundred-twenty years old still has a big story to tell.

Reference and Further Reading:

Anthony S. Aiello and Michael S. Dosmann. “The Quest for the Hardy Cedar-of-Lebanon,” Arnoldia, Volume 65, Issue 1 (2007). https://arboretum.harvard.edu/stories/the-quest-for-the-hardy-cedar-of-lebanon/


New to the Collection: Elisha J. Cleveland’s Past Master’s Jewel

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Past Master’s Jewel, 1860. Massachusetts. Gift of Virginia B. Squair, 2021.008.5a-b. Photograph by Frank E. Graham.

In December of 1859, twelve men applied to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for permission to form a new Masonic Lodge, called Hammett Lodge, in East Boston. Members of this group selected Elisha James Cleveland (1821-1866) to be the presiding officer—or Master—of their inchoate lodge. After the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts granted Hammett Lodge a charter in 1860, Elisha Cleveland served as Master. Members and guests attended Hammett Lodge’s dedication and officer installation ceremony early in 1861. Attendees and officers marked the event with speeches and refreshments.

In choosing Elisha Cleveland as their leader, members of the new lodge looked to someone with immediate experience as Master of a lodge. Cleveland had first become a Freemason at Mount Tabor Lodge, in East Boston, in 1851 and served as Master in 1858 and 1859. Around this time, he earned his living as a blacksmith or as a shipsmith in Boston. The brethren of Mount Tabor Lodge thanked Cleveland for his service as Master with a handsome Past Master’s jewel. Cleveland soon received another gold Past Master’s jewel (at left) with an inscription noting that it was given “by his friends, E. Boston, Apr. 6, 1860.” Cleveland was elected Master of Hammett Lodge before it received its charter and held the office through at least part of 1861. Though the inscription is not specific, this jewel likely commemorated Cleveland’s leadership of Hammett Lodge from its start.

After he received this jewel, Cleveland visited a photographer’s studio a few blocks from his home in East Boston. There he had his portrait (at left) taken by a self-described “photographist,” William R. Hawkes. In dressing for his appointment at the studio, Cleveland wore his street clothes—a jacket, vest, neckcloth, and shirt—with the Past Master’s jewel he received in 1860 pinned at the center. This photograph, in a small carte-de-visite format, is an intriguing document of how Cleveland used the jewel and suggests the pride he may have felt in wearing it.

E. J. Cleveland image
Elisha James Cleveland, 1860-1866. William R. Hawkes, East Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of Virginia B. Squair, 2021.008.2.

Cleveland died suddenly, of a stroke, in 1866. His obituary noted that he was “much beloved by the masonic fraternity.” Many years later, his widow Mary Ann Cleveland (1824-1883) bequeathed “the Past Master jewels belonging to my late beloved husband” to her son-in-law, Charles Leeds. Both of Cleveland’s Past Master’s jewels, and other Masonic items that descended in his family, are part of a recent generous gift to Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Reference:

“Funeral of the Late Elisha J. Cleveland,” October 5, 1866, Boston Herald, page 2.


A Maine Mason at Sea

In 1852, shipbuilders in Calais, Maine, near the American border with Canada, launched a ship named the Lincoln. The following year, the Lincoln would commemorate American Independence Day many miles from Maine, in the Aegean port of Smyrna, Greece (now İzmir, Turkey). Like the Lincoln, her captain that day left his Maine home to make a living in the maritime world of the nineteenth century.

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Bark Lincoln, W.H. Polleys Master Laying at Anchor in Smyrna July 4th 1853. Raffaele Corsini, Smyrna, Greece. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 85.9.

In this watercolor, acquired by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1985, the Lincoln is shown lying at anchor in the foreground, with the city, its castle, and surrounding hills in the background. The ship bears four flags: from bow to stern, the “Union Jack” or Navy Jack, a blue flag with a Masonic square and compasses, a masthead pennant, and an American flag. The Lincoln’s Union Jack, a blue flag with white stars flown on American ships, appears to have twenty-six stars and her American flag twenty-one stars. Given that the United States had thirty-one states by 1853, perhaps the ship’s owners or captain had not updated her flags or, more likely, the painter took artistic license with these details.

It is believed that ship’s captains sometimes raised a flag bearing a square and compasses to invite Masons in the area aboard their vessel. To local residents and other mariners, this signaled his fraternal affiliation and served as an invitation for conversation, informal meetings, and trade. The Lincoln was in Smyrna in July 1853 to purchase opium, a common ingredient in American patent medicines at the time.

The Lincoln’s captain and 1/16 share owner for her first five years was Woodbury H. Polleys. Polleys was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine in 1817 and raised in Portland Lodge No. 1 in 1844. When he took command of the ship, he had been, as he later wrote in a letter to the Secretary of the Navy, “at sea as Master of a Ship since June 1848, principally trading between Europe & southern ports . . .”

After the Lincoln, Polleys went on to captain other vessels, including at least three Union ships during the Civil War. These included the USS Katahdin, USS Oleander, and USS Madgie. The latter two ships were part of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, preventing Confederate vessels from eluding the Union trade blockade. After the Madgie sank off North Carolina in 1863, Polleys traveled north to Maine for a month’s leave “to procure a new outfit and visit my family.”

In the late 1870s and early 1880s, Polleys used his knowledge of international trade to serve the new United States as Consul to Barbados and Commercial Agent to Cuba. Woodbury H. Polleys died of suicide in 1885 and is buried in Portland’s Pine Grove Cemetery. His headstone bears a Masonic square and compasses, as his ship’s flag did that day in 1853, many miles from Maine.

If you want to dive into this piece of artwork further, you can visit it and many others in our exhibition, “What’s in a Portrait?,” now on view at the Museum & Library. You can also visit the online version of the exhibition.

Further Reading:


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: Fob Owned by Members of the Chillson Family

Chillson fob 1867 credit Robert Scholnick view oneThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added an intriguing piece of silver jewelry to its collection--a watch fob owned by three members of the Chillson family. Dates and initials engraved on this fob help tell its story.

Throughout the mid-1800s, an increasing number of American men wore watches, often keeping their timepieces safe and accessible in a vest pocket. A watch chain, usually threaded through a buttonhole, served to secure the watch to a vest, in case it slipped out of the user’s hand when he was checking the time. Some watch-wearers selected tokens and ornaments, called fobs, to add sparkle and pizazz to their watch chains. This fob is made of three square plates joined by wide rings. Rings attach an ornament in the shape of a keystone to the bottom-most plate. The square plates, made from cut down silver dollars, bear engraving detailing its different owners over time.

The first owner recorded in engraving on the fob is “L. D. Chillson” who gave the fob “to his Brother W. S. C., 1867.” Lorenzo Dow Chillson (1830-1921) was the giver; the recipient of this gift was the eldest of Lorenzo’s fifteen siblings, Waters Sherman Chillson (1808-1887). Waters, in turn, gave the fob “to his Son W. F. C.,” William Francis Chillson (1851-1922), in 1884. The keystone-shaped ornament connected to the plates is engraved with Masonic symbols. One side shows a Masonic emblem, a square and compasses with the letter G. The other is decorated with a mnemonic associated with the Mark degree of Freemasonry. Within this circle of letters, an engraver outlined a personal symbol chosen by William.  The symbol on this fob is a ticket punch with the initials W. F. C. engraved on it. These are William Francis Chillson's initials and the ticket punch relates to his profession--census records show that William worked as train conductor in 1880.

Chillson fob 1867 credit Robert Scholnick view twoHis uncle, Lorenzo Dow Chillson, worked in Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, and California as a miner, surveyor, and entrepreneur. He is listed as a Master Mason at Washoe Lodge No. 157, in Washoe, Nevada, in 1863 and was a charter member of San Buenaventura Lodge No. 214 in Buenaventura, California in 1870. In the 1890s, he was involved in Freemasonry in Arizona. What prompted him to give this fob, or the silver dollars it was made from, to his eldest brother in 1864 is not known, nor is it known if a particular occasion led Waters Chillson to give the fob to his son almost twenty years later. Further research may offer insight into this object and its different owners in the Chillson family. In the meantime, it serves as a tangible reminder of the enduring connections between family members.

 

Photo credit:

Fob and Detail of Fob, 1864-1884. United States. Museum Purchase, 2022. Photo, Robert Scholnick, Essex River Antiques.

References:

Deanne DeGrandpre, “The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Dow Chillson,” The Journal of Ventura County History, vol. 60, no. 1, 2017-2018.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, Frank Eastman), 1863-1866, 1871-1878.