Masonic symbolism

Quilted Celebrations of Masonic and Fraternal Activity

2011_059DP1DBThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library received the Masonic quilt at left as a recent gift.  It was made in 1981 and helps us bring our fraternal quilt collection closer to the present, allowing us to compare and contrast this quilt with others from the 1800s and early 1900s (see these previous blog posts!).  Anyone who quilted or sewed during the late 1970s and early 1980s may recognize some of the fabrics if you look at them closely.  We loved the story that the donor told about this quilt's history.  His aunt, a lieutenant commander and nurse in the U.S. Navy, made this bed covering for him on the occasion of his installation as Master of Crescent Lodge in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for the second time.  Edith Bowen, the quilt's maker, bought a book about Masonic symbols here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library to help her design the quilt, which includes appliqued squares and compasses, cornucopias, a lyre and other recognizable symbols.

Shortly after we received this Masonic quilt, we were also given the fraternal quilt at right.  Made in 1989, it shows the symbol of the Pythian Sisters, a female auxiliary of the Knights of Pythias (for more on this group, see our posts), which was formed after the Civil War.  This quilt was a gift, honoring the accomplishments and volunteer efforts of one Pythian Sisters member, on the occasion of the group's centennial. 2011_066_4DP1DB

Have you made any Masonic or fraternal quilts?  Have you received one?  If so, we'd love to hear about it in a comment below.

Masonic quilt, 1981, Edith M. Bowen, United States.  Gift of Stephen J. Twining, 2011.059.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Pythian Sisters quilt, 1989, unidentified maker, United States.  Gift of the Estate of Geraldine M. Worley, 2011.066.4.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 


New to the Collection: Nathan Lakeman's Masonic Aprons

2016_005_3DP1DBSeveral generations of the Hill family, all members of Liberty Lodge in Beverly, Massachusetts, passed down this apron and two others painted with a strikingly similar design. A descendant from the family recently donated all three aprons to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  The apron shows a common arrangement of symbols: three steps up to a mosaic pavement (symbolizing the good and evil in life), with two columns and a square and compasses (signifying reason and faith) with a “G” (an emblem for God or geometry or both) above an open Bible in the center. Other symbols are painted on each side, and an all-seeing eye decorates the flap.

While this particular apron does not have a label on the back, one of the other very similar-looking aprons in the gift does.  The almost identical appearance and the aprons' history suggest that the same maker who labeled one apron made all three: Lakeman and Hooper in Salem, Massachusetts. Nathan Lakeman (1804-1835) and Stephen Hooper started advertising their partnership in the local Salem newspapers in early 1824. An ad in the Essex Register in February 1824 explained that the men “have taken rooms in the building on the corner of Essex and Washington streets, where they will execute Masonic, Portrait, Sign, Fancy and Glass Tablet Painting with neatness and despatch.”

Later newspaper advertisements featured their Masonic work more prominently. Lakeman joined Jordan Lodge in Danvers in 1827, serving as Secretary from 1828 to 1832.  One ad, which appeared in 1824, began with the bold heading “MASONIC” and then specified, “Knights Templars, Royal Arch, and Master Mason’s Aprons and Sashes, For sale by Lakeman & Hooper.”  However, by June 1825, the two men seem to have gone their separate ways, judging by an advertisement in the Essex Register offering “Masonic Aprons of the newest and most elegant patterns, constantly for sale by N. Lakeman … Floorings, Royal arch Dresses, &c. furnished at short notice.”  Lakeman continued advertising alone throughout the 1820s.  A fourth apron in the Museum & Library collection (see photo at right; it is not part of the recent gift) also has a label for Lakeman & Hooper on the back, but “Hooper” is crossed out, suggesting that it was made (or sold) after the men dissolved their partnership. 94_003_1T1

In 1831, Lakeman married and took a job as cashier of the Danvers Bank. He seems to have stopped advertising as a painter, but it is unknown whether he continued to paint on the side.  Sadly, Nathan Lakeman died of consumption in 1835 when he was only thirty-one years old.   His obituary noted that “a wide circle of acquaintance lament his death—the aching hearts of more intimate friends are the melancholy testimonies of his worth.”

This selection of four aprons by the same maker in the Museum & Library collection offers a unique opportunity to study the choices made by the artist and the customer. While the design is essentially the same on each apron, they show small differences that could suggest the personal preferences of the customer or the growing skill of the artist.  For more on Masonic aprons, check out our book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which can be ordered here.  The apron at top left is currently [July 2016] on view at the Museum & Library as part of our exhibition of Recent Acquisitions.  For more about our exhibitions, location and hours, visit our website, http://www.srmml.org/.

Master Mason Apron, 1824-1830, attributed to Nathan Lakeman (1804-1835), Salem, Massachusetts, gift of Jon Gregory Adams Hill, 2016.005.3. Photograph by David Bohl.

Master Mason Apron, 1825–1830, Nathan Lakeman (1804–1835), Salem, Massachusetts, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 94.003.1. Photograph by David Bohl.


The Mysterious Ladder

94_029DP1DBDo you recognize this ladder? It’s a prop that Scottish Rite Freemasons used during the early 1900s when conferring the 30th degree. Known as the “mysterious ladder,” the words on one side’s rungs call out the seven liberal arts and sciences: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The rungs on the other side, marked with transliterations of Hebrew, reminded initiates of virtues such as understanding, faith, purity and charity. Writing on the sides of the ladder represents love of God and love of your neighbor. These messages, along with the upward-pointing shape of the ladder reminded the candidate of how he could learn and grow as a Mason.

While this particular ladder dates to the early 1900s, the history of its use in the Scottish Rite degrees goes back to the mid-1700s, when it appeared in the 24th degree. Scholar Alain Bernheim has found evidence that this degree, complete with an illustration of the ladder, originated in France in 1750. The Francken Manuscript in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which dates to 1783, also includes an illustration of the ladder with the text of the 24th degree, then titled “Grand Elected Knight of Kadosh or Knight of the White and Black Eagle” (you can read more about Henry Andrew Francken, the compiler of the manuscript, here). As the degrees were rewritten and reorganized into the present-day system, the ladder remained in what became the 30th degree. Regalia Catalog Ladder 1

Ritual books from 1875, 1904 and 1939 include an explanation of the ladder and required the candidates to mount the steps and climb over it before receiving the degree. The 1904 and 1939 books show a scale drawing of the ladder and indicate its placement in a plan of the room or stage. The ritual explained that “it is the only way of entrance to the Order, and we sincerely trust that the lessons taught on its several steps will make a deep and lasting impression on your mind.” Regalia catalogs in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection from the early 1900s (see illustration on right) offer the ladder “of wood, well made and finished, the proper lettering in both English and Hebrew.” Today, the ladder is no longer used in the 30th degree, but it helps to demonstrate the change from intimate degree ceremonies conferred in the lodge room to elaborate staged degrees during the early 1900s.

Mysterious Ladder, 1900-1910, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 94.029. Photograph by David Bohl.

Ladder illustration from Catalog No. 270, The Lilley Company, 1900-1920, Columbus, Ohio. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.


A Freemason's Heart

2013_026_1DP1DBIn late 2013, when Supreme Council staff packed up to move down to their new offices inside the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library building, a number of treasures were found in storage spaces and were added to the Museum’s collection.  One of the oldest items discovered was this engraving titled “Freemasons Heart.”  Dating to about 1820, the engraving depicts a large heart under compasses and an all-seeing eye and flanked by allegorical figures of Liberty and Justice.  The heart is divided into sections, each labeled with a virtue central to Masonic teachings, such as fidelity, mercy and charity.  At the center of the heart is a space marked “Christianity” with a G and square and compasses emblem on a Bible.  A verse below the Bible reads “The Bible rules our faith without factions, the square and compass rules our lives and actions.”

When we add a new object to our collection, we catalog it into our database system so we can track it for use in our exhibitions, programs and publications.  We try to do as much research as we can, although that can be an ongoing process, as it will be for this print.  We have learned some history about it, but we still have a number of questions that require further study.  Unfortunately, we do not know much about who originally owned this particular example.  A handwritten inscription on the back of the frame reads “Cap. Joseph Burnett, Stowe, Vermont.”  Possibly, this is the Joseph Burnett born in 1816 who died in 1875, but additional research is needed to conclusively identify him.  It does make sense that the engraving would have been owned in Vermont because the engraver and publisher produced this print in that state.

Engraver Moody Morse Peabody (1789-1866) and publisher Ebenezer Hutchinson worked together in the Quechee area of Vermont, near the New Hampshire border.  As early as 1819, the two men produced a map of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Additional research is ongoing about the lives of these two men.  Scholars George R. Dalphin and Marcus A. McCorison were able to track Peabody, who was born in Peterborough, New Hampshire, to Vermont and then to Whitehall, New York, in 1826.  Later he moved to Utica, New York, where he was listed in city directories from 1828 to 1840 as an engraver and copperplate printer.  He died in Ontario, Canada, in 1866.  Less information is currently known about Hutchinson; there are a couple of men with this name in the same general area around the time he was active, so it is difficult to know which one he was.

It seems likely that Hutchinson and Peabody were Freemasons.  The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection, on extended loan to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, includes an engraved Royal Arch apron that is signed “Printed and Sold by E. Hutchinson Hartford Queechy Village VT.”  Masonic scholar Kent Walgren found an 1820 advertisement in the Vermont Republican newspaper for Peabody who was selling Masonic aprons and diplomas through Hutchinson.  Walgren also suggests that the inclusion of the motto “Supporters of Government” at the top of the print may allude to the Illuminati scare of the late 1790s.  In an attempt to win back public approval and explain that American Freemasons were not part of the alleged Illuminati plot, the printmakers noted that they backed government.  If you know of other Masonic prints by Ebenezer Hutchinson or Moody Morse Peabody, please let us know by writing a comment below!

Freemasons Heart, ca. 1820, Moody Morse Peabody, engraver, Ebenezer Hutchinson, publisher, Hartford, Vermont.  Gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 2013.026.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 


New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Rose Croix Apron

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Scottish Rite Rose Croix apron, 1810-1840, unidentified maker, France or United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.053.

Recently, we were able to add this Masonic apron to our collection.  It shows symbols associated with the Rose Croix degree of the Scottish Rite, which is the fraternity that founded and supports the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Many people, Freemasons and non-Masons alike, assume that the fraternity’s name, “Scottish Rite,” honors the roots of the group and that it originated in Scotland.  Some historical sources have fostered this story by suggesting that Scottish supporters of the Stuarts of England invented the Scottish Rite degrees in the 1600s to advance their political cause.  The Scottish Rite was actually established in France in the 1700s, followed trade routes to the West Indies and was then imported to North America.

Once a man becomes a Master Mason, he may choose to join additional Masonic groups, such as the Scottish Rite.  Today, members perform a series of twenty-nine degrees (4th-32nd) as morality plays.  Freemasons often call the Scottish Rite “the University of Freemasonry,” as the degrees are designed to supplement and amplify the philosophical lessons of the first three degrees by exploring the philosophy, history and ethics that guide members.  A 33rd degree is conferred as an honorary degree on selected members.

The Rose Croix degree, for which this apron was used, is the 18th degree in the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.  It tells the biblical story of the building of the Temple of Zerubbabel on the site of Solomon’s Temple, which had been destroyed.  The apron shows the symbols used in the ritual: the pelican piercing her breast to feed her children with her blood; a cross with a rose; and several symbolic tools along the side.  As the symbols on the apron suggest – note the implements of the crucifixion at bottom center – the ritual explores the idea of resurrection and alludes to the story of Jesus Christ.

The design of this apron is probably French, although it can be hard to tell if an apron was actually made in France, or was influenced by French style and made in the United States.  The motif of the ribbons along the sides with tools is often seen on French aprons.  For more examples of Rose Croix aprons, see our recent publication, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which can be ordered here.

 


Skeletons in the Lodge Room

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As we often like to remind our readers, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects materials associated with any and all American Masonic and fraternal groups.  This recent acquisition is a pin that was produced for members of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) in 1905.  The two American Scottish Rite jurisdictions co-exist in the United States.  The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) oversees Scottish Rite groups in fifteen states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.  The SJ administers Scottish Rite groups in the other 35 states, as well as Washington, D.C. where their headquarters is located.  The NMJ founded the Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1975.

The two jurisdictions don’t always follow the same ritual, but the symbols on this pin were also used by the NMJ during the 1800s and early 1900s.  An illustration in The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, written by Charles McClenachan (1829-1896) in 1867 – who served as Chair of the NMJ’s Ritual Committee from 1882 to 1896 – shows the same skeleton holding a chalice and a banner (at the left side of the illustration - click on it to see a larger version).  This prop was used in the ritual for the fraternity’s honorary 33rd degree ritual. When McClenachan wrote his book in 1867, the Scottish Rite conferred degrees in much the same way as local lodges.  McClenachan’s illustration shows the men wearing sashes over their street clothes.  A few years later, members changed their rituals to theatrical endeavors complete with sets, costumes and props. RARE14.7.M126 1867DP1DB

The shape and materials of this pin were popular among fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The shield shape relates to fraternal symbolism, while the enamel face allowed for colorful and detailed decoration.  The Museum’s collection includes at least one similar pin associated with the NMJ from 1901, while the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection includes several round enamel pins produced for local Knights Templar Commanderies in 1895.

This pin was probably given or sold to attendees of the SJ’s biennial meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 1905.  Along the bottom is the Latin phrase, “Post Tenebras Lux,” which translates to “Light After Darkness.”

Top: Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction pin, 1905, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2014.057.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Frontispiece, The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 1867, Charles T. McClenachan, author, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, publisher, New York, New York, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 


New to the Collection: A Masonic Apron by William Laughton

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Master Mason Apron, 1819-1824, William Laughton (poss. 1794-1870), Hartford, Connecticut, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2014.070.7. Photograph by David Bohl.

As regular readers of our blog will know, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has one of the best collections of Masonic aprons in the world.  We are always looking to add new examples with designs or makers that we are not familiar with.  This apron, a recent purchase at auction, has both a design AND a maker that were new to us. 

This Master Mason apron shows a typical all-seeing eye symbol on the flap, signifying watchfulness.  The body features an arrangement of Masonic symbols with celestial and terrestrial columns on a mosaic pavement at the top of three stairs.  Between the columns are a sun, moon, shooting star, seven stars, clasped hands, three candlestands and an altar with an open Bible.  Rough and smooth ashlars appear to the sides and at bottom center is a coffin.

Applied on the back is a printed label for the apron’s maker – “Hartford / W. Laughton / Painter.”  Unfortunately, little is known about William Laughton (possibly 1794-1870), despite the inclusion of his label on this apron.  The best source of information about his activities is a series of newspaper advertisements in the Hartford papers between 1819 and 1824.  In August 1819, he begged “leave to inform his friends and the public, that he has taken a room a few doors east of the Court House…where he will do all kinds of ornamental painting, in the neatest manner, and at the shortest notice.”  By September 1819, he was advertising as a “delineator, ornamental, and sign painter,” and that he would “execute Masonic paintings and Signs of every description.”

In June 1820, he used his ad to “[tender] his sincere thanks to his friends and the public, for the encouragement they have given him in his profession for a year past.”  In this same advertisement he specifically noted that he would do “Masonic paintings, such as carpets, aprons, etc., etc.”  And, at the end, he noted “W.L. has on hand a few Masonic Aprons, which he offers very low.”  In addition to his newspaper advertisements, Laughton marketed himself by entering a painting in the local cattle show in October 1822.  According to a published account of the fair, “Mr. Laughton…offered for inspection, a fruit piece painted by himself.  This was considered by judges, to indicate a talent in the art which deserves particular encouragement.”  In 1823, his advertisements focused specifically on Masonic aprons, such as the one in the Connecticut Mirror on June 30, 1823, which was headed “Masonic Aprons,” and included an illustration of an apron.  “William Laughton,” the advertisement read, “has now on hand, a handsome assortment of Masonic Aprons, plain and gilt, very cheap by the dozen or single.”

After 1824, Laughton disappears from the newspapers.  He may have headed out of town to work as an itinerant painter.  In an 1898 biography of Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) (Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy, 1775-1778), a portrait of Hopkins is mentioned.  It was “taken from North Providence to Brookline, and in 1825, as it had become somewhat defaced, was turned over to a man by the name of Laughton, a carriage and sign painter, of Brookline, to be repaired.”  We do not know for sure if this “Laughton” and the William Laughton who made this apron are one and the same, but it is possible.  The 1838 Hartford City Directory lists Laughton back in the city as a “fancy painter.”  Few other details remain to tell us about the latter part of his life.  A “William W. Laughton” is listed in the records of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut.  He joined Bridgeport’s St. John’s Lodge No. 3 in 1862, but there is no birth date given, so this is an inconclusive match, especially since it seems strange that Laughton would have joined so late in life after making and selling aprons in the 1810s and 1820s.

Perhaps further information about William Laughton will come to light over time.  If you know of other aprons by Laughton, please let us know in a comment below!

To learn more about our apron collection, see our new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, available June 2015 at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.

References:

Connecticut Mirror, The Times, Connecticut Courant, 1819-1824.

Edward Field, Esek Hopkins, Commander-In-Chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolution 1775 to 1778 (Providence: The Preston & Rounds Co., 1898).

Susan P. Schoelwer, ed., Lions & Eagles & Bulls: Early American Tavern & Inn Signs (Hartford: The Connecticut Historical Society, 2000).

I am indebted to Robert Fitzgerald, Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Connecticut, for sharing the Laughton Masonic membership information with me.


The Magic Lantern

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Magic Lantern, ca. 1900. Gift of the Harrisburg Consistory, S.P.R.S. 32°, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 93.041.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

Magic lanterns, in their most basic form, were invented in the 1600s and are considered a precursor to the modern slide projector and even the motion picture. These lanterns were a mainstay in Masonic lodges throughout the world in the 1800s and early 1900s as they were a useful tool in teaching members about Freemasonry and initiatory rites. The lantern used an artificial light source, which evolved from candles and kerosene lamps to limelight and electricity, and a combination of lenses to enlarge small transparent images or miniature models and project them onto a wall or screen. Lanterns could vary from a simple wooden box with brass parts to ornately designed boxes with multiple lenses. In America, magic lanterns were often referred to as stereopticons so as not to be confused with entertainment that may be provided with more basic toy lanterns. “Stereopticons” were usually biunial or double lens lanterns. The terms “Sciopticon” and “Optical Lantern” were sometimes used in a similar manner.

Several scientists and mathematicians developed projection devices in the 1600s including Thomas Walgenstein (1622-1701) and Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695). Although Huygens is attributed with inventing the magic lantern, it was Walgenstein, a Dutch mathematician, who coined the term "Magic Lantern" and began conducting lantern demonstrations throughout Europe. In the late 1700s Etienne-Gaspard Robertson(1763-1837), a Belgian physicist and stage magician started to “conjure” ghosts for audiences. These shows lay the foundation for the popular late 18th century phantasmagoria lantern shows that featured skeletons, devils, and ghosts. Aside from these entertainment spectacles, the lanterns were used also for science, education and religious instruction by wealthy academics and Jesuit priests. As the lantern became more popular and readily available, traveling lanternists could be found hosting public performances in taverns and public meeting houses.

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Toy Lantern and Lantern Slide (Little Red Riding Hood), ca. 1900, Gift of Dorothy A. and Albert H. Richardson, Jr., 84.18.42a and 43. Photographs by David Bohl.
The lantern was gradually used more often for advertising, propaganda and entertainment purposes as it became more popular in the 1700s and 1800s. The lantern’s diverse range and use made it ubiquitous in churches, fraternal organizations and public institutions in the Victorian era.  Lanterns became more lightweight, began using standardized slide sizes and soon smaller toy lanterns were mass produced, continuing to increase their presence in schools, homes, and public lectures. The advent of cinema and the invention of smaller transparencies and the Kodachrome three-color process led to a decline in the popularity of magic lanterns.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns a collection of magic lanterns and glass lantern slides, many of which were donated by  Masonic and  fraternal groups like the Knights Templar, Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows. The slides vary from those specific to Freemasonry to those depicting events in world history, literary and biblical stories, folktales, and photographs. Catalogs published in the late 1800s by The M.C. Lilley Company, one of many fraternal regalia manufacturers, included product advertisements for magic lanterns and slides for lodges. According to the 1896 M.C. Lilley catalog no. 195, a Lodge or Valley could purchase a lantern for anywhere from thirty to seventy dollars and lantern slides for two dollars each.

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Masonic Magic Lantern Slide (Master Mason’s Carpet), Gift of Armen Amerigian, 90.19.8a.
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Masonic Knights Templar Magic Lantern Slide, "Emblem of KT", 1906, Harry G. Healy, New York, New York, Gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, Jr., 87.41.16.27.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop by the museum to see a magic lantern on exhibit (Spring 2015). The lantern on display was donated by the family of Knights of Malta former Supreme Commander Gerard Dallas Jencks. Also check out our website and online catalog in the coming months as we scan and share more images of our extensive magic lantern slide collection.

Update: Please visit the online exhibition, "Illuminating Brotherhood: Magic Lanterns and Slides from the Collection" for more information and photographs about magic lantern history.



References:

Borton, Deborah and Terry Borton, Before the Movies: American Magic-Lantern Entertainment and the Nation’s First Great Screen Artist, Joseph Boggs Beale (New Barnet, Herts, United Kingdom: John Libbey publishing, 2015)

Freeman, Carla Conrad. "Visual Media in Education: An Informal History." Visual Resources. Volume 6 (1990): 327-340.

Masonic Lodge Supplies, Catalogue 1893. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. Found in Collection, A2002/96/1, Box 4, Masonic Lodge Supplies.



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Drawing a Fraternal Identity

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

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

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

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

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


New to the Collection: A Masonic Stamp Collage

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

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

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

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