Massachusetts

The Rainbow Apron, “. . . a sacred symbol that binds”

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Miniature Rainbow Apron. 1922-1931. Gift of Audrey E. Martin, 2008.026.1.

Freemasons wear aprons – some simple in design, some very ornate – as a symbol of connection to the practical origins of the order and a visual emblem of membership. The collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library contains more than four hundred aprons, one of the largest collections of aprons in the United States.

The International Order of the Rainbow for Girls was founded in Macalester, Oklahoma one hundred years ago, in 1922. As an auxiliary body of Freemasonry, the organization draws much of its symbolism and ritual from Masonic sources. A perfect example of this is the miniature apron that a Rainbow girl is given at her initiation and wears on her wrist for certain organizational events. The connection is made explicit in the initiation ceremony, where the new Rainbow Girl is told, “It is a sacred symbol that binds. To your father, if he were a Mason, the lambskin apron was sacred, and though you may never fully know its meaning, it will be dear to you because he loved it, and to him it was priceless.”

These scaled-down versions of Masonic aprons retain the same shape, flap, and ties as their inspiration. They are made of white lambskin, as with Masonic aprons. Like many Master Mason aprons produced in the twentieth century, these miniature aprons featured blank lines under the flap where the owner could, as on this example, write her name, address, and the assembly to which she belonged.

The apron shown here once belonged to Ruby Vandergrift Duncan Kramer (1911-2007). Ruby was born in Belmont, Massachusetts on April 28, 1911. Her parents, Oscar and Gertrude, were from Nova Scotia. Ruby was named after a Canadian aunt who died of illness at age 22. Her parents also had another daughter, named Pearl.

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Miniature Rainbow Apron. 1922-1931.  Gift of Audrey E. Martin, 2008.026.1.

Ruby was a member of Waltham Assembly No. 2 when she owned this miniature apron. Other examples of Rainbow aprons in the collection are from Massachusetts and Ohio and date from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1980s. Ruby’s apron dates from the early days of the Rainbow Girls in the 1920s.

Ruby lived at 34 Davis Road in Belmont for most of her life. She attended Boston University and graduated with a teaching degree in 1932. After teaching for one year, Ruby moved to a role as a clerk for the Belmont Electric Light Department, where she worked for forty-one years. She later married Howard Kramer, a Mason in Belmont Lodge from 1940 through 1970.

Ruby died in Belmont on October 11, 2007 at age 96. Her miniature apron survives as a tangible connection to her time in the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls in Massachusetts and to the Masonic fraternity.

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Further Reading:

 


New to the Collection: Blood Donor Recognition Pin

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Blood Donation Lapel Pin. ca. 1983. Gift of Kamel Oussayef, 2022.049a-b.

New to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection this month is a small gold-colored lapel pin bearing a square and compasses and a “G” in blue enamel. Masonic lapel pins are abundant in both members’ homes and the Museum’s collection. This, however, is the first pin in the collection in the shape of a drop of blood.

Throughout the United States, more than ten state Grand Lodges sponsor a Masonic blood donation program of some kind. The model for many programs involves a coordinator at each local lodge who schedules blood drives on location and encourages brethren to donate. Each unit of blood donated by individual lodge members is counted towards the total for the whole lodge.

Lapel pins are given to individual members who achieve certain blood donation milestones. Some, like this one, are awarded for an initial donation of one unit. Others are given when the Mason reaches a certain volume of blood donated. For example, the Virginia Grand Lodge Blood Program specifies that new donors and donations under two gallons receive the pin type shown here, with a “G” in the center of the Masonic square and compasses. When an individual donates more than two gallons, each subsequent pin bears the number of gallons, increasing by increments of two.

Some Masons donate impressive volumes of blood throughout their lives, such as Scottish Rite Mason Steven Fishman of Georgia, who has donated over thirty-seven gallons since the 1970s. Given that one gallon is equal to eight one-pint donations and that donors can only give once every eight weeks, achieving that volume would take a minimum of forty-five years.

As mentioned above, individual donations by members are counted towards the one lodge’s contribution to the blood program. In Rhode Island, for example, lodges who seek to earn the Grand Master’s Award are advised to participate in local blood drives and ensure at least ten percent of their eligible members give blood.

This new addition to the collection helps us tell the story of how Masons, as the Virginia Blood Program Manual says, “. . . facilitate donations in an organized and craftsman-like fashion . . .”

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Reference and Further Reading:


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/


In Memoriam

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

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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.  

 

Fraternal Ribbons

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

Fraternal ribbons

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

GravestoneAnother 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.  

Captions

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.


The DeMolay Centennial Anniversary

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Crown of Youth, 1953. Mac & Jack, Saugus, Massachusetts. Gift of Middlesex Chapter, Order of DeMolay, Reading, Massachusetts, 2000.034.3.

One hundred years ago, Freemason Frank S. Land (1890-1959) founded the Order of DeMolay in 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 28. After the initial formation of the youth club, Land and other early members named the group after Jacques DeMolay (1243-1314) and met regularly at the Kansas City Masonic Temple. The Order was open to young men aged 16 to 21.The success and popularity of the original DeMolay group spurred members to set up chapters across the country.

When Land died in 1959, there were 135,000 DeMolay members and 2,097 chapters in 14 countries. Local chapters were and still are sponsored by a Masonic organization. Several objects related to DeMolay history will be on display at the Museum & Library through December 2019 as the organization celebrates its centennial anniversary in more than 15 countries worldwide.

One object on view includes a “Crown of Youth” from Middlesex Chapter in Reading, Massachusetts (at left). In 1953, the Mother’s Club for the Middlesex Chapter in Reading presented the crown to the chapter to commemorate their 30th anniversary. A plaque was later added in memory of “Dad” Herbert K. Miller.

Another object in the collection, a recently donated 1964 panoramic photograph, shows over one hundred DeMolay members and advisers at a Colorado DeMolay leadership camp outside Estes Park, Colorado. The first DeMolay National Leader's Training Camp was held at Bear Lake Lodge, Colorado, in 1924. 

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DeMolay Leadership Camp, 1964. Larson Photography Studio, Estes Park, Colorado. Gift of of David A. Glattly, 2017.021.1.

1964 New Jersey Past State Master Councilor Thomas C. Richard gave this photograph to current Sovereign Grand Commander, David Glattly, who then donated it to the Museum.

Visit the Museum & Library to see more DeMolay items from the collection! Do you or a family member have photographs or items related to DeMolay? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment in the section below. 

 


Who were the Independent Odd Ladies?

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Quilt, ca. 1915. Probably Massachusetts. Gift of Jean Burditt. 2016.066. Photograph by David Bohl.

Perhaps you have heard of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows or the Daughters of Rebekah, but are you familiar with the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies?

In 1845, a group of women in Boston, Massachusetts, founded the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies, a mutual aid and benefit society.  The women were interested in the laws and principles of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows but were unable to join as equals. They created their own order, six years before the Odd Fellows female auxiliary group, the Daughters of Rebekah, was formed. The Museum recently acquired a "redwork”  cotton album quilt embroidered with emblems and names related to the Independent Odd Ladies. "Redwork" describes a a quilting style with red embroidery on a white back ground, popular in the 1910s.The quilt includes over fifty lodge names from throughout the state of Massachusetts. Some of the symbols on the quilt squares, including a cross and crown, scales, a hand and heart, and sheaves of wheat, are similar to emblems in Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows. Several of the lodge names feature establishment dates and the years 1914 or 1915, helping to date the quilt to about 1915.

According to a 1922 Boston directory, the Independent Odd ladies held their annual and semi-annual meetings at the local Elks and Odd Fellows lodges in town. Officer titles and roles included Supreme Lady, Supreme Secretary, Lady Governess, and Vice Lady Governess. 

It is currently unclear when the order stopped meeting, when the lodges closed, or if the IOL spread beyond Massachusetts and New Hampshire.The IOL is mentioned in local newspaper articles and directories through the 1950s. Read our previous blog post about Independent Odd Ladies ritual guides and minute books in the Library & Archives collection.

Do you have any items or information related to this intriguing but relatively unknown group? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Quilt, ca. 1915. Probably Massachusetts.Gift of Jean Burditt. 2016.066. Photograph by David Bohl.