Masonic Decorative Arts

A Glowing Lineage: Brilliant Cut Glass

2019_044a-bDI6editedCreamer and Sugar Bowl with Masonic Symbols, 1876-1917, USA. Gift of Vikki Sturdivant, 2019.044a-b.

The sugar bowl and creamer pictured here are among the more recent gifts to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection. The owner of this charming cut glass set displayed it in his home for many years. At the center of either side of each piece is a symbol used in Freemasonry, a six-pointed star, surrounded by rays.

An intriguing discovery during the cataloging process suggested that this set may possess a notable lineage, likely hailing from the era of glass manufacturing referred to by collectors as the American Brilliant Period. Glass formulas of this era, which lasted from about 1876 to 1917, typically included manganese as a clarifying agent. This element causes them to luminesce a light green shade under black light. We couldn't resist trying this test, and were rewarded with the mesmerizing results you see below. Combined with what we know about who owned them, we believe it is likely that these table wares were a product of this fascinating time.

In the late 1800s several factors converged to change the glass industry: large deposits of high-grade silica were discovered in the US, and around the same time, electric-powered machinery and assembly-line methods were ramping up production in American factories and allowing manufacturers to turn out increasingly sophisticated goods. Along with all this, surging prosperity led to a growing consumer demand for fancy table wares. Cutting shops multiplied, and American companies' designs soon garnered awards and fame at the 1889 Paris Exposition and 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. 

2019_044a-bDI5Glowing green under a black light.

The cut glass pieces of this period are characterized by intricate patterns and the ability to catch and reflect light particularly well. They were made of a type of glass with a high proportion of lead oxide. This ingredient effectively softened the glass, enabling it to be cut without shattering. Their manufacturing process started with the creation of thick “blanks” in the shape of the desired form. After being marked with a design, they underwent several stages of cutting and polishing on wheels of metal, wood, and stone. You can read more about the process, and see examples from this period—which ended abruptly when lead was needed for military purposes in World War I—at this website. Curious parties can delve into further examples of American cut glass here

The manufacturer of our creamer and sugar bowl is not known. Many glass makers did not mark their products, or used paper labels which wore off over time. Cut glass from the late 1800s and early 1900s was comparatively durable and was popular in its day. These two qualities have contributed to the survival of cut glass objects in family collections. If you have any cut glass objects decorated with Masonic symbols, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. 

References:

John C. Roesel. "American Brilliant Cut Glass, 1876-1917." American Cut Glass Association website, accessed May 29, 2021, at https://cutglass.org/AboutCutGlass.htm

"Black Light Testing." The House of Brilliant Glass website, accessed May 29, 2021, at https://www.brilliantglass.com/black-light-testing/


New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis

2020_028DI1 front
Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis, ca. 1863. Museum Purchase, 2020.028.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library recently added a sparkling jewel owned by Winslow Lewis (1799-1875) to it its collection. This jewel, in the form of a compasses and arc topped with a crown containing a cross and a pelican feeding her chicks was likely presented to Lewis when he served as the Most Wise Master of Mount Olivet Chapter of Rose Croix in Boston in 1863.

Lewis’s jewel is made of metal set with cut glass stones in white, green and red. These stones, called paste, are imitation gems cut from lead glass that is soft, refracts light and can be produced in different colors. The jewel, almost 4 inches high, features a symbol, the pelican in her piety, used in the 18th degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry. The pelican, as depicted on this jewel, feeds her chicks with blood drawn from a wound in her chest, representing self-sacrifice, charity, and resurrection. On this jewel, the head of the pelican and the chicks are formed from red stones, echoing the color of the blood. At the center of the cross is a group of red stones set in a circle that symbolize a rose. Unfortunately, the jeweler who created this elegant object did not mark it; its maker is unknown.

On the back of the jewel (see below), on the arc, an engraver noted the name of its owner, "Winslow Lewis." Trained as a physician, Lewis was a surgeon and anatomist who taught more than 400 private medical students and was associated with the Massachusetts General Hospital. He wrote and translated several book about anatomy. Many other interests claimed his time. In 1861, for example, members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society elected him president, a position he filled until 1866. He amassed a well-regarded collection of Papal medals and was the first president of the Boston Numismatic Society, founded in 1860. He served as a trustee at Harvard College and at the Boston Public Library.

In addition to these and other pursuits, he led, as one author described, “a Masonic life of greatest activity and usefulness, extending over more than thirty years.” He first received his degrees at Columbian Lodge in Boston in 1830 and 1831, and, soon after, took the York and Scottish Rite degrees. Twenty-four years after he was raised at Columbian Lodge, he served as the Grand Master of Massachusetts for two years. He held the office again in 1860. During the time that he received this jewel, along with his office at Mount Olivet Chapter, he was the Grand Secretary General for the Supreme Council. Lewis’s jewel is a striking artifact and reminder of the Masonic career of a man who declared that, “…in Masonry, I have found the best friends, the best social ties and comforts….”

 

2020_028DI2 back
Back of Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis, ca. 1863. Museum Purchase, 2020.028.

References:

"Personal Sketches," Freemasons' Monthly Magazine, Vol XX, No. 8, June 1861, 231.

“Obituary, Dr. Winslow Lewis” Boston Journal (Boston, MA), August 4, 1875, [2].

Samuel Harrison Baynard, Jr., History of the Supreme Council, 33°Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Vol. 1 (Boston, MA: The Supreme Council, 1938), 428-29.


An Engraved Masonic Jewel from Ireland

GL2004_4591DP1JF-1 RA and KT
Masonic Jewel, 1790-1820. Possibly Ireland. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4591.

Last month we posted about the frontispiece to David Vinton’s The Masonick Minstrel: A Selection of Masonick, Sentimental, and Humorous Duets, Glees, Canons, Rounds and Canzonets and how this image was based on an advertisement for a Dublin jeweler, James Brush & Son, published in Smollet Holden’s A Selection of Masonic Songs. In creating the ad, the jewelry firm depicted one of their products—a Masonic medal—along with information about their services. Just as Brush’s ad inspired Vinton’s frontispiece, one of Brush’s medals may have been a source for some of the engraving on this jewel, part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

Brush’s ad featured—suspended on ribbons linking three columns—images of the back and front of one of his medals. Brush produced these medals in multiples and examples survive to the present day. Cleverly, Brush created an ornament that would appeal to Freemasons holding different degrees by designing two options for one side of the medal—one with Royal Arch symbols, the other featuring symbols from the Knight Templar degree. At the time Brush produced his medals, Irish Masons received Royal Arch and Knight Templar degrees in craft lodges. Both Bush’s Knight Templar and the Royal Arch medals featured the same design, a selection of symbols associated with the craft degrees, on the other side. Brush joined the two sides of the medal with a molded rim secured by a hinged hanging ring. The finished medal, composed of two sides and a rim, was hollow inside.

Intriguingly, the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts holds a jewel bearing some designs that are similar to symbols on Brush’s medals—for example, the ornate letter G surrounded by three crowns—but the symbols on this jewel are engraved onto the jewel’s surface, rather than expressed in relief, as they are on Brush’s medals. As well, the symbols on the side of the engraved jewel with the letter G on it relate to both the Knight Templar and Royal Arch degrees—and the compasses and arc at the center of the jewel, may refer to the Past Master degree or status (pictured above). On the side of the jewel related to the craft degrees, the selection and arrangement of symbols differs quite a bit from Brush’s version (pictured below). To represent the craft degrees, the engraver who ornamented this jewel included a large all-seeing eye, a motto ("Sit Lux Et Lux Fuit," Let there be light and there was light), and Masonic tools (a square and compasses, a trowel, a plumb, a level, a mallet, and a rule), along with other symbols (two columns, a sword, a sprig of acacia, and the 47th Problem of Euclid). Like Brush’s medals, the two sides of this jewel are held together with a molded rim fixed with a hinged suspension ring. The sides of the engraved jewel are oval in shape and slightly convex.

Whether the engraver who decorated this jewel looked to Brush’s medals or advertising for inspiration is uncertain. It is possible that the engraver may have drawn his ideas for how to arrange and depict Masonic symbols from the same printed or material sources as Brush. That said, the mix of symbols on this engraved jewel and the way it was constructed may be clues that it is of Irish origin.

GL2004_4591DP2JF Craft
Masonic Jewel, 1790-1820. Possibly Ireland. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4591.

New to the Collection: George M. Silsbee’s Masonic Model

Am192129-1
Model, George M. Silsbee (1840-1900), 1887. Leadville, Colorado. Museum Purchase, 2020.010. Image courtesy of Freeman’s.

In the early 1870s, a Civil War veteran named George M. Silsbee (1840-1900) moved to Denver, Colorado. City directories from 1871, 1873, and 1876, listed his occupation as “artist,” though what kind of art he practiced is not known. When he was drafted to serve in the Union Army in 1863, a clerk noted that he was a daguerreian—an artist or photographer specializing in daguerreotypes. In 1875 he worked in partnership with Charles Anderson (1831-1922) as an organ builder.  Together they constructed a church organ with over 500 pipes—one of the first large organs built in Colorado. By 1880, Silsbee had moved to the boom town of Leadville, Colorado, likely prompted by the discovery of silver in the area. He lived there for the next twenty years, earning his living as a miner and as an engineer.

While in Leadville he embarked on a project later described by his family as “his life’s work.” The project included at least 14 large ink and watercolor paper charts backed with fabric and mounted on wood dowels. Densely packed with writing, calligraphy, and illustrations, these mystical charts explore ideas and symbols related to the Bible, Christianity, and Freemasonry. Along with these charts, Silsbee created this model (at left), newly added to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

About two feet tall, Silsbee’s three-dimensional model takes the form of a three level structure set onto a floor or counter, with an arch and columns spanning the whole.  Each level of the structure is rich with Masonic symbols portrayed as three dimensional objects shaped from different kinds of stone, metal, wood, plaster, and other materials. The first two levels feature symbols taken from the first three degrees of Freemasonry.  The upper level highlights symbols from the Royal Arch degree. Crowning the levels, Silsbee created a dark blue sky, glittering with sparkling grains (possibly pyrite) with an all-seeing eye at the center. Silsbee placed a keystone at the middle of the arch.  On it is the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master degree incised onto a circle.  What is likely Silsbee’s own mark—a square and compasses over a shield decorated with blue dots and red strips, representing the colors and symbols of the American flag—is at the center of the circle. At the very bottom of the model, on a blue shield, Silsbee cut his own initials in script, along with the year 1887, the date he likely completed this arresting work.

In crafting this model, Silsbee showed his skill at working with a wonderful variety of materials, and also demonstrated his knowledge of Freemasonry and its symbols.  The 1875 proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin list Silsbee as a member of Kenosha Lodge, No. 47 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He became a Mason at the lodge in 1863. When and where he became familiar with Royal Arch Masonry and where he took the Mark degree is not known. 

A few months ago, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added this striking example of Masonic folk art, which had been preserved in Silsbee’s family for several decades, to its collection. In the coming years, with additional research, we hope to learn more about George M. Silsbee--remembered by his family in an obituary as "an artist of ability"--and his remarkable creation.

Reference:

Micheal D. Friesen, “’A Wonderful Promise of Something to be Attained’: Colorado Organbuilder Charles Anderson and his Work,” The Tracker, Journal of the Organ Historical Society, vol. 42, no. 1, 1998, 27-34, 46.

Many thanks to Erika Miller of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin.


An Elaborate Royal Arch Jewel Owned by Lambert Keatting

GL2004_6656DP1DB
Front, Royal Arch Jewel, 1810. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.6656.

This elaborate gilded Royal Arch jewel belonged to Lambert Keatting (1773-1847), a member of Harmony Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 52 in Philadelphia. Founded in 1794, the chapter—like others in Pennsylvania at the time—worked under the authority of a craft lodge warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and took its name from that lodge, Harmony Lodge No. 52. In spite of its connection with Harmony Lodge No. 52, the chapter drew its membership from several different craft lodges in Philadelphia. Lambert Keatting belonged to Lodge No. 67, where he was elected Master in 1811 and 1812. Later, in 1820, he became a member of Lodge No. 2, also in Philadelphia.

A boot and shoemaker, Keatting joined the Harmony Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 52 in 1810. A few years later, in 1816 and 1817, he served as the presiding officer, or High Priest, of the chapter. Around the same time, he was appointed to be the Senior Grand Deacon at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Keatting had a life-long connection to Freemasonry. When he died, in 1847, his friends and acquaintances were requested to attend his funeral. The notice of this event in the newspaper invited specifically, “The Brethren of the Masonic Order generally, and particularly Lodge No. 2….”  

Keatting’s intriguing jewel, part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, appears to have been made from two separate jewels(at left). The inner jewel—the round element topped with a bow at the top a banner at the bottom—is a Royal Arch jewel . This style of jewel—in the shape of a circle containing two interlaced triangles—was first worn by English Royal Arch Masons in the mid-1700s. On this jewel, at the center of the star, is a triangle that, on one side, has an engraving of a compasses surrounding a globe, and, on the other side, a circle with the letters of the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master Degree (below, at left). The space within the circle is left blank, suggesting that Keatting may have not taken the degree. Or, if he did, he did not have his personal mark or emblem engraved on this jewel. The banner at the base of the jewel threads beneath an oval with the letter G (a symbol for God or geometry) engraved on it. On the circle and on the arms of the triangle, on both sides of the jewel, an engraver cut phrases in Latin, English, and Greek that relate to the Royal Arch Degree (you can read about these inscriptions here, as they appear on another Royal Arch jewel made in England around 1791). On the back of the jewel, the engraver added Keatting’s name on one of the horizontal arms of the triangle, as well as a Latin phrase and the date (1810) on the circle. On the back of the jewel, the banner at the bottom bears the name of Keatting’s chapter, Harmony Royal Arch Chapter.

The outer element of the jewel is in the shape of an arch supported by two columns, spanned by four steps at the base. At the peak of the arch, above a keystone engraved with an all-seeing eye, is a hanging loop. A ladder (representing Jacob’s Ladder) connects the arch to the bow at the top of the round jewel. To join the arch to the round jewel, a craftsman cut away part of the bow. The round jewel is also connected to the inner sides of the columns and the top of the stairs. On the back side of the jewel, at the base, an engraver cut the initials of the name of the chapter and its number, “H. H. R  A. C. N[o] 52.” This inscription suggests that the arch and columns surrounding Keatting’s jewel may have come from a jewel owned by the chapter. Why Keatting’s jewel and another were joined together is unknown. If you have an idea or theory, we would love to hear  it. Please share it in the comments section below.

GL2004_6656DP2DB-1
Back, Royal Arch Jewel, 1810. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.6656.

References:

John Curtis, Centennial Celebration and History of Harmony Chapter No. 52 (Philadelphia, PA: Dunlap Printing Co., 1894).

Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London, England: George G. Harrap & Company Ltd), 1969,258-271.

Joshua L. Lyte, Reprint of the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA: The Grand Lodge, 1897).

Public Ledger, (Philadelphia, PA) August 6, 1847), [2].


New to the Collection: A Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling

2018_017aDP1DB name side  for blog
Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added an elegant and distinctive mark medal to its collection. In 1817, the owner of this medal, Thomas Colling (d. 1859) received the first three degrees at the newly founded Utica Lodge No. 270, in Utica, New York. The same year, the Grand Chapter of New York gave area Freemasons permission to establish Oneida Royal Arch Chapter No. 57. Thomas Colling joined this organization as well. Sometime after he received the Mark degree at the chapter, he commissioned this sophisticated mark jewel (at left).

Colling’s jewel is a shield-shaped. One side bears the motto of the Royal Arch, “Holiness to the Lord” at the top. At the point of the shield, the engraver cut block and script letters spelling out Colling’s name and chapter within an oval. The center of the medal features a female figure holding a ball and a plumb line, leaning against a plain block with a triangle within a circle drawn on it that supports an urn. A group of Masonic tools, a book (likely a Bible), a compasses, a mallet, and a level, are at the bottom of the block. The figure on Colling’s jewel, dressed in robes and sandals in a classical style, could possibly represent Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune, chance, and luck.  She was usually identified by the attributes of a ball, wheel, or cornucopia.

In the early 1800s, the Masonic virtues of faith, hope, and charity, were sometimes represented by female figures shown with particular attributes. Faith carried a cross or Bible, Hope held an anchor, and Charity nursed or carried children. For his mark, engraved on the other side of the medal, Colling selected the virtue of hope (at left, below). The craftsman who engraved Colling’s jewel depicted hope as a woman on the shore, with a ship in the distance, gesturing upward and stepping on a large anchor half obscured by her skirt. At the top of the jewel, the craftsman engraved a square, compasses, and Bible. At the tip of the shield, he depicted a shovel, pick, and rod, the working tools of the Royal Arch degree.

An adept engraver decorated Colling’s medal using a number of techniques such as, line engraving, roulette work, and stipple. Although the name of this engraver is unknown, we hope further research will help uncover more about the craftsman who ornamented this jewel. If you have any suggestions or ideas about this medal, please leave them in the comment section below.

Many thanks to Joseph Patzner of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York.

 

2018_017aDP2DB mark side for blog
Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, mark side, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

A Jewel Made for Nathaniel Rogers Hill

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

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

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

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

 

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


A Past Master's Jewel from London

97_025_1DP1DB
Past Master’s Jewel Made for Robert Scholl, 1819-1820. Probably London, England.  Museum Purchase, 97.025.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Last month we posted about a Past Master’s jewel in a style that was distinct to the Boston area.  In the past, we’ve talked about examples of a popular style of Past Master’s jewel that was widespread in New England in the early 1800s. Made around the same time as these jewels--but in a entirely different style--is this jewel (at left), crafted for London Freemason Robert Scholl (ca. 1781-1832).

Listed as a gentlemen in membership records, Scholl worked as a Navy agent, with chambers at Clement’s Inn, in the early 1830s.  He was initiated at the Lodge of Union No. 275 in 1814 and served as Master of his lodge before 1820.  

To thank him for his service in that role, Scholl’s brethren at the Lodge of Union commissioned this gold and enamel jewel.  They had Scholl’s jewel inscribed with a heartfelt message (see below), noting that the elegant badge was, “...a testimony of their fraternal Regard — their Personal attachment and the Sense entertained by them of his exertions for the Benefit of the Lodge.”  Scholl’s jewel is like a watch or locket in that the decoration on the front is protected by a glass bezel.  The bezel covers elements cut from gold in the shape of a square and compasses and a sun. A border of leaves, likely laurel, surrounds the symbols.  All of the gold elements are detailed with engraving to give them depth and definition. The symbols appear to float over a background patterned by machine turning and enameled dark blue.  The deep color contrasts with the bright gold symbols.  An engraver added the inscription on the back of the jewel.  Using the pin on the back, Scholl would have worn this jewel on his coat.  

What extraordinary service Scholl may have undertaken for his lodge is not known, but this handsome jewel suggests how highly this brothers at the Lodge of Union valued his contributions.   

97_025_1DP2DB
Inscripton on the back of a Past Master’s Jewel Made for Robert Scholl, 1819-1820. Probably London, England.  Museum Purchase, 97.025.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 

References:

Lane’s Masonic Records, version 1.0. (www.hrionline.ac.uk/lanes, October 2011), Published by HRI Online Publications, ISBN 978-0-955-7876-8-3.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry; London, England. “Freemasonry Membership Registers 1751-1921,” “Register of Admissions: London, B, #275-648.” “Robert Scholl,” Folios 1 and 2, ancestry.com. 

Robson’s London Commercial Directory for 1830, (London, England: Robson, Blades & Co.), Part II, Commercial Directory, SHE-SHU, n.p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Distinctive Style of Past Master’s Jewel

GL2004_5241DP1DB
Past Master’s Jewel Made for Henry Fowle, 1825. Boston, Massachusetts. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.5241. Photograph by David Bohl.

From the late 1700s through the present day, many American Masonic lodges have followed the tradition of acknowledging the contributions of a lodge master by presenting him with a personalized jewel to mark the conclusion of his term.  Over time and place these jewels, called Past Master’s jewels, have been made of different metals and have come in many sizes and shapes, depending on the jurisdiction, local taste and the issuing lodge’s budget.  Historically, the lodge commissioned an engraver to inscribe Past Master’s jewels with the recipient’s name, lodge and the dates of his term. 

Past Master jewels presented in America in the early 1800s often featured the Masonic symbols of a sun within compasses with a quadrant connecting the legs of the compasses. These jewels, usually made of silver, were often cut from a flat sheet of metal. We have previously we posted about an example crafted in this manner in 1812 that was owned by a Boston Mason.  Other Past Master jewels were cast or included cast parts, sometimes the central symbol of the sun.  Researchers have observed that this style of Past Master jewel design was likely inspired by jewels used by Scottish Freemasons in the 1700s.

In the 1820s some Boston lodges occasionally issued a different—and distinctive—style of Past Master jewel.  This design (illustrated at left and below) featured the symbols of a compasses and a quadrant at the center and was made as a plaque.  Leafy curves in relief decorate the edges of the plaque.  The plaque was cast, then its surface was textured with different tools. An engraver noted the recipient’s name and other information on cartouche at the center of the jewel.  The contrast between the polished, shiny surface at the center and the darker, mostly matte background and borders of the plaque add to this style of jewel’s visual appeal. St. Andrew’s Lodge presented Henry Fowle (1766-1837)—an active Mason in Boston in the early 1800s—this Past Master's jewel in 1825 (above at left).  Fowle served as Master of the lodge in 1793, from 1810 to 1817 and again from 1818 to 1820.  His brethren honored him with this jewel in 1825. Two years before members of St. Andrews presented a Past Master jewel of the same style as Fowle’s to Henry Purkitt (1755-1846), who held the role of Master from 1804-1805. This jewel is now in the collection of the Bostonian Society.

GL2004_3781DP1DB
Past Master’s Jewel Made for George Girdler Smith, 1828. Boston, Massachusetts. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.3781. Photograph by David Bohl.

Brethren at Columbian Lodge in Boston honored George Girdler Smith (1795-1878) with a similar Past Master’s jewel in 1828 (at right). Later, after he had served several more terms, the lodge had the back of the 1828 jewel engraved with a message (below) thanking Smith for “the faithful and distinguished services he has rendered the Lodge as Master, during the Years 1828, and 1841 to 1844…..”  The brothers of Union Lodge in Dorchester, Massachusetts, gave Past Master Isaac W. Follansbee (d. 1882) a jewel like Fowle’s and Smith’s, more than a decade later, in 1858.  It is now part of the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Although many examples of these distinct-to-Boston style jewels survive, there is a lot more to learn about them, such as who made them and what originally inspired their shape and decoration. If you know of more examples of this kind of Past Master jewel or have other observations about them, please let us know in the comments section below.

 

References:

John Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemason (Lexington, Massachusetts: Museum of Our National Heritage), 1994, 124-125, 137-138.

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, 47, 244-5, 151, 195.

GL2004_3781DP2DB
Back of Past Master’s Jewel Made for George Girdler Smith, 1828, engraving added 1844. Boston, Massachusetts. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.3781. Photograph by David Bohl.

A Gift to Cassia Lodge

Dedication Page smaller
The Holy Bible…, 1803. Printed by and for Samuel Etheridge, Charlestown, Massachusetts. Museum Purchase, RARE 06.25 .E84 1803.

In 1823 Medfield resident William Felt, along with other Freemasons in his community, petitioned the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts to establish a Masonic lodge in Medfield. William Felt was possibly the William Felt (1766-1843, also spelled Feltt) who received his degrees at St. Andrew’s Lodge in Boston from 1793 to 1794. In September of 1823 seventeen Grand Lodge officers came to Medfield to constitute Cassia Lodge and install its officers. A month before this event William Felt had given the new lodge this 1803 Bible, published by Samuel Etheridge (1769 or 1771-1817) in Charlestown, Massachusetts, along with a square and compasses. The lodge needed these objects to officially open for meetings

Felt's gift was recorded in striking calligraphy on a dedication page in the Bible (at left). John Howe signed the inked calligraphy and ornamentation decorating the dedication page and the page opposite (at left, below). Howe undertook the work in December of 1823, a few months after Felt gave the Bible to the lodge. The dedication honored Felt’s gift grandly, expressing the wish that Felt’s “act of munificence may remain in perpetual remembrance.”  Howe was likely John Howe who took his degrees at Washington Lodge in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1816.  Later John Howe served as Junior Warden and Master of Washington Lodge. Intriguingly, records surviving from Washington Lodge contain pages ornamented in the same fashion as the page in the Cassia Lodge Bible (see below). Simon Willard, Jr. (1795-1874), a merchant and clockmaker who joined Washington Lodge in 1818 signed the decorations on a page from Washington Lodge's records in 1824. When these calligraphed pages are viewed together, the similar style of decorations suggest members of Cassia and Washington Lodges had shared tastes in decoration.

Though Cassia Lodge got off to a promising start, purchasing a building, “Academy Hall,” which members “fitted up for a lodge room,” the group did not prosper.  By 1830, Cassia Lodge had petitioned the Grand Lodge for help with its debt. The lodge, which claimed just twenty five members in 1830, owed $420. The Grand Lodge was not able to help, finding “no precedent…of the Grand Lodge paying the debts contracted by any subordinate Lodge.”  Though Cassia Lodge had likely stopped meeting years before, a local history recorded that the lodge gave up its charter in 1845, and sold its building “to the town for school purposes.” William Felt’s gift, with its richly decorated dedication page, serves as a tangible reminder of Cassia Lodge and its brief history.

 

References

Louis A. Cook, History of Norfolk County Massachusetts 1622-1918, (New York, NY: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1918), 450.

Commemoration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the Lodge of Saint Andrew, (Boston, MA:  The Lodge of Saint Andrew, 1907), 281.

Versesmaller
The Holy Bible…, 1803. Printed by and for Samuel Etheridge, Charlestown, Massachusetts. Museum Purchase, RARE 06.25 .E84 1803.

Robert A. Domingue, A History of Washington Lodge A. F. & A. M., (Project 1996 Bicentennial Committee, 1996), 315, 345.

Hamilton Hurd, History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, (Philadelphia, PA: J. W. Lewis & Co., 1884), 446.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scan_2019-01-11_19-29-46r
Washington Lodge Secretary's Records, 1824. Roxbury, Massachusetts. Extended loan from Washington Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Lexington, Massachusetts, EL77.004.29