October 29, 2020
In October and November, many people celebrate not only the changing seasons, but the lives of those who have passed before us. We memorialize the dead with different kinds of objects, including obituaries, photographs, grave markers, and jewelry. Here we highlight some items in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection related to remembrance and memorial in the Masonic and fraternal communities.
A Masonic Funeral
This 1916 photograph (at left), captures a group of Masons gathered in Taunton, Massachusetts, for the funeral procession of Alden Hathaway Blake (1836-1916). Blake, a book keeper, was a Civil War veteran, and member of King David’s Lodge in Taunton. He was also a Past Commander of the William H. Bartlett Post No. 3, of the Grand Army of the Republic. The photograph shows the Masonic catafalque, horses draped with Masonic mourning blankets, and Freemasons wearing white aprons and sashes.
In the 1800s, regalia manufacturers produced reversible Masonic and fraternal ribbons made with one side in black for mourning. The ribbons at the right were used by
the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Arcturus Lodge, No. 35, in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Ladies Society of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen from Denison, Texas. Badges like these, along with other funerary objects, such as casket clips, handles, and grave markers, were advertised in Masonic and fraternal regalia catalogs.
Major John Farrar Gravestone
Another memorial object, the gravestone, is perhaps the most easily recognizable monument to a person’s life and death. In the past, to preserve the art and cultural significance of gravestones and burial grounds, people made gravestone rubbings. At left, is a gravestone rubbing taken from the gravestone of Major John Farrar (1741-1793) in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Farrar became a Master Mason in Trinity Lodge in Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1781.
This massive gravestone includes not only Masonic symbols but also a family roll that outlines the names of his wife and seven children. The epitaph engraved on the stone reads, “Farewell vain world, I've had enough of thee / And now I'm careless what thou say'st of me / The faults saw'st in me take care to shun / There's work within thyself that must be done.”
Do you have familial objects related to Freemasonry and mourning? Let us know in the comments below.
Masonic Funeral Procession, 1916. Taunton, Massachusetts. Special Acquisitions Fund, 83.18.
Independent Order of Odd Fellows Mourning Badge, 1880-1900. Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.133.
Ladies Society of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen Ribbon, ca. 1895. Whitehead & Hoag Co., Newark, New Jersey. Gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 94.011.30.
Gravestone Rubbing, 1970. Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred R. Youngren, 85.46.1.