New Acquisitions

New to the Collection: Pyramid Court Daughters

2022_008_4DS
Members of Pyramid Court No. 17, 1960s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2022.008.4.

In this photograph, new to the collection in 2022, a group of women wearing white dresses and either white fezzes or a crown poses for a photo with a man in a suit wearing a darker fez. This image features members of a women’s auxiliary group of Prince Hall Shriners, the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South America and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Historically Black fraternal groups in the United States have a fascinating history and objects like this photograph help us better understand it.

Based on organization proceedings and area newspapers, this photo appears to show members of Pyramid Court No. 17, Imperial Court Auxiliary, A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Philadelphia along with one member of Pyramid Temple No. 1, A.E.A.O.N.M.S., also of Philadelphia. The A.E.A.O.N.M.S. was founded in 1893 in Chicago as a charitable, benevolent, fraternal, and social organization, dedicated to the welfare and extension of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Its women’s auxiliary was founded in 1910 in Detroit. The latter group was established at the behest of a committee headed by Hannah Brown, Esther Wilson, and Lucy Blackburn, wives of Prince Hall Shriners from Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. These women and others had already created eight “courts” (similar to Shrine Temples or Masonic lodges) for female relatives of A.E.A.O.N.M.S. members. In 1909, they requested an official “Grand Court” to oversee the activities of the local groups.

This international organization, then known as the Imperial Grand Court of the Daughters of Isis, is now called the Imperial Court. The organization boasts more than nine thousand members that meet in more than two hundred courts throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Korea and Western Europe. Members are known as Daughters.

Their regalia includes ceremonial collars worn with white dresses, shoes, and gloves, along with white fezzes or crowns. Decorated with embroidery and/or rhinestones, these fezzes bear the name of the owner’s court and a profile of the Egyptian goddess Isis. When a Daughter serves as Imperial Commandress, the presiding officer of a court, she wears a crown in place of a fez. In this photograph, since a woman in the center of the group wears a crown, she was likely the Imperial Commandress of Pyramid Court No. 17 when the photo was taken.

In their analysis of African American fraternal groups over a period of around one hundred fifty years, social scientists Theda Skocpol and Jennifer Lynn Oser found that “black women played an unusually strong role in African American fraternal federations.” The Imperial Court is an excellent example of Black women leading fraternal groups. It exists because women who were already organizing local courts applied for official recognition from A.E.A.O.N.M.S. The auxiliary’s schedule of meetings, fundraising events, and annual sessions is very similar to that of the brother organization.

In the past and today, the women’s and men’s groups under the umbrella of the A.E.A.O.N.M.S. gather together at an annual joint session. Daughters of the Imperial Court Auxiliary and Nobles of A.E.A.O.N.M.S. work together at all levels to accomplish the charitable, social, and Masonic goals of Prince Hall Shriners.

If you know of or have any materials related to the A.E.A.O.N.M.S. or its women’s auxiliary, please let us know by writing in the comments section below.

---

References and 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. Museum purchase, 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.


Now on View - Recent Acquisitions in the Library & Archives

A2021_021_006_webThe exhibition currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room features some recent acquisitions. This circular is among the items.

On June 7, 1893, the worst fire in Fargo, North Dakota’s history, destroyed much of the town, including its city hall, the business district, and homes of most of Fargo’s 6,000 residents. This circular describes the destruction, which included “every Lodge Room in the City.” The General Relief Committee of Northern Light Lodge No. 1 sent out this appeal for donations to other Odd Fellows. It noted that fifty members of the lodge “lost home, business and everything they possessed.” If you are interested in learning more about the fire, the North Dakota State University Archives has a page about the fire, including photos that depict the devastation.

The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives is one of the premiere repositories in the United States for the study of Freemasonry and fraternalism and is recognized as one of six major Masonic libraries in the country. Its collections reflect the Museum’s scope of Freemasonry, fraternalism, and American history. The Library & Archives holds one of the world's most comprehensive collections on the subject of Freemasonry, as well as other fraternal organizations, such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias, whose development paralleled or was influenced by Masonry.

The Library & Archives collections pre-date the founding of the Museum in 1975, with the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council library collections forming the nucleus of the Van Gorden-Williams Library. Since its inception, the Library & Archives has continued to add to its holdings—from unique manuscripts to the latest scholarship on fraternalism—through purchases and donations.

The Library & Archives encourages both serious and casual researchers to consult its collections and learn more about American history, especially the wide variety of fraternal groups that have been part of our national story, and which demonstrate the role that Masonic and fraternal organizations have played—and continue to play—in American life.

Do you have something you're interested in donating? Feel free to get in touch with us through the museum's website.

Caption:

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Circular Letter, 1893
Issued by Northern Light Lodge, No. 1
Fargo, North Dakota
Museum Purchase, A2021/021/006


New acquisition: 1750 Masonic ritual exposure

Masonry DissectedThrough a recent donation, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library acquired the very rare book pictured here. It is one of only three copies of the 1750 edition of a famous Masonic ritual exposure that are known to exist. Generously donated by the granddaughter of Roger Keith (1888-1968), Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts from 1948-1950, this 32-page pamphlet is a 1750 reprint of a Masonic ritual exposure originally printed in London in 1730 (see a digitized version here). The book was reprinted several times in London between 1730 and 1750, but this is the first American edition of the book.

The book is reprinted verbatim from earlier London editions, although the book also contains references to a sermon by Charles Brockwell that was not published until January 1, 1750. The title page does not say where or by whom the book was printed, noting only that it was done in 1749. Bibliographer Kent Walgren explains the discrepancy between the publication date and the quotation from the 1750 Brockwell sermon by noting that, "prior to 1752 the legal year began on Annunciation Day, March 25. [The book was therefore] probably printed between 1 Jan. and 25 Mar. 1749/50." (Read more about the 1752 calendar change here.)

Walgren makes a case for this book having been produced at Newport, Rhode Island, by Ann Smith Franklin (1696-1763), Benjamin Franklin’s sister-in-law, and a printer in her own right. Walgren suggests that the book might have been issued to exploit the public's interest in Joseph Green's Entertainment for a Winter's Evening, an anti-Masonic satire of Charles Brockwell's Brotherly Love Recommended in a Sermon Preached before the Ancient and Honourable Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Christ-Church, Boston, on Wednesday the 27th of December, 1749 (see a digitized copy of that book here). Both were published in 1750.

Walgren also notes that, although the text of Masonry Dissected is a Masonic ritual exposure, the book might have been printed for Freemasons, as an aide-mémoire for the members of Newport's first Masonic lodge. The Provincial Grand Lodge in Boston chartered this lodge on December 24, 1749. Freemasons purchasing ritual exposures may not be as strange as it seems at first. At a time when officially-sanctioned printed Masonic ritual was not available, the biggest customers for ritual exposures were likely not opponents of Freemasonry or curious non-members, but instead Masons themselves. For more on this topic, be sure to check out earlier blog post, Are Early Masonic Ritual Exposures Anti-Masonic?

Do you have a rare book that you'd like to donate? We'd love to hear from you! Send us an e-mail and tell us more.

Caption:

Samuel Prichard
Masonry Dissected, 1749 [i.e. 1750]
Possibly Newport, Rhode Island
Possibly printed by Ann Smith Franklin
RARE 19.5 .P947 1750
Gift of Carolyn Keith Silvia


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: Scandinavian Fraternity of America Sign

2015_066DP1DBBy 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States, numbering six million members.  Part of this surge in fraternal organizations during the late 1800s came from the formation of numerous ethnic fraternities.  As immigration to the United States increased, foreigners in this new world sought out their countrymen and joined fraternal groups for social reasons, as well as to partake of the benefits that these groups offered, from help with securing employment to financial assistance for themselves and their families.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects objects associated with ethnic fraternal groups.  Recently we purchased this colorful sign at auction.

The sign was originally used by Mayflower Lodge No. 200 of the Scandinavian Fraternity of America.  This is the museum's first acquisition associated with this group.  The sign probably hung where the lodge met.  At the center it shows the fraternity's logo with pyramids or mountains and a golden sun.  Along the sides of the central triangle it reads "Svea / Nora / Dana," presumably representing the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark.

The Scandinavian Fraternity of America was founded in 1915, probably in Chicago.  One source suggests that it was a consolidation of three other organizations, including the Scandinavian Brotherhood of America and possibly the Scandinavian American Fraternity (although another source explicitly says that this one is unrelated).  It was open to both women and men.

Unfortunately, we have not been able to determine exactly where Mayflower Lodge No. 200 met, although it seems likely that it was a New England or even Massachusetts lodge.  The choice of such a quintessentially American name for the lodge seems at odds with a Scandinavian fraternity, but suggests a desire by the members to embrace their new country.  If you have any information about Mayflower Lodge No. 200, or other objects, documents or photos associated with the Scandinavian Fraternity of America, please let us know in a comment below!

Scandinavian Fraternity of America Mayflower Lodge No. 200 Sign, 1915-1945, Fred Hagberg, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.066.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Sources:

Alan Axelrod, The International Encyclopedia of Secret Societies and Fraternal Orders (New York: Facts on File 1997), 221.

Arthur Preuss, comp., A Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies (St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co., 1924), 423.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania website: http://www2.hsp.org/collections/Balch%20manuscript_guide/html/sfa.html.

 


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.


Odd Fellows Props: David's Harp

2016.021 AutoharpRecently, a generous donor presented this autoharp (at left) to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library for our collection. The donor was intrigued by the label visible inside that mentions the Masonic Temple in Chicago, Illinois.  The reference to the Masonic Temple on the label relates to the location of the autoharp’s retailer rather than any implied Masonic ritual use.

A “Pianoette” like this one was first patented in 1916. For more on its development, see this website.  As the label indicates, Samuel C. Osborn was selling these instruments for $25 apiece.  While these were produced and sold for general musical use, there are similar autoharps that appear in catalogs for Odd Fellows lodges (see photo on right from a 1908 Pettibone Brothers Mfg. Co. catalog).  The catalog explains that it could be "very easily learned by anyone having any musical ability."Pettibone harp catalog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2001_084S1NPIn Odd Fellows ritual, a “self-playing harp” is a prop for the character of David in the fraternity’s First, or Friendship, Degree. The ritual traces the biblical story of David and Jonathan teaching that “Odd Fellows…should maintain their feelings and friendship to a brother under the most severe tests.”  David was known for his musical ability, which “had a pleasant effect upon the mind and a soothing effect upon the heart of King Saul.”  In our collection we have another autoharp (at left) that closely resembles several that are illustrated in Odd Fellows regalia catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The harp shown on the cover of the 1910 C.E. Ward Company catalog (see photo at right) shows a very similar crescent shape and decoration (called the “chaldean design”) and sold for $6.50. Harp on Ward Catalog Cover

“Pianoette” Autoharp, 1916-1940, United States, gift of Larry W. Toussaint in memory of Allison Howard Toussaint, 2016.021.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Self-Playing Harp, 1900-1930, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2001.084. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Rev. T.G. Beharbell, Odd Fellows Monitor and Guide, Indianapolis: Robert Douglass, 1881.


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.

 


Play Ball! A Masonic Baseball Jersey

2015_055DP1DBWith calls of “play ball” starting the 2016 baseball season this coming Sunday, it seemed right to focus our blog post this week on a Masonic baseball jersey that we recently added to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection. The short-sleeved shirt is off-white with dark pinstripes and bears the team name across the chest, “Ionic.”  What made this an exciting find for us is the blue patch on one sleeve with a square and compasses symbol and a G in the center.  This jersey seems to have been worn by a member of a team in a Masonic baseball league during the late 1910s or early 1920s.

“A Masonic baseball league?” you might ask, “how many of those could there have been?” Turns out, there were several, so we don’t know where this shirt was originally worn.  Initially, we thought that the jersey might have been used by the Ionic team that played in Detroit during the 1910s and 1920s.  Newspaper accounts from 1917 through 1921 trace the league’s games and frequently reference the Ionic team, who were the 1918 champions.  But we haven’t been able to conclusively link this shirt to the Detroit league yet.  There was also a league active in western New York during the 1930s, although we do not have a complete list of team names.  And, Duluth, Minnesota, Freemasons organized an “indoor baseball league” in 1914, which was active into the 1920s.  Newspaper articles confirm that this league had an Ionic Lodge team, but a March 1922 article about their playoff contest refers to them as “the Red and Gray squad,” suggesting their team colors do not match this jersey. Baseball Ticket

Other items in our collection also tell us that “Masonic” baseball games took place in New Jersey. This ticket (at right), from our Archives, admitted the bearer to a game on June 24, 1911, between Irvington’s Franklin Lodge No. 10 and Newark’s Oriental Lodge No. 51.  And, a photo in our collection (below) from October 1935 documents an “All-Star Masonic Game” that was played in Trenton between National League and American League players.  The teams were made up of professional baseball players who were also Freemasons.  It seems to have been a fundraising event put on by Trenton’s Tall Cedars of Lebanon Forest No. 4.

Our Ionic shirt has a label stitched inside telling us that it was made by Thomas E. Wilson and Company in Chicago. However, a few years before this shirt was made, in 1909 and 1910, consecutive Grand Masters of Illinois ruled that a group of baseball clubs with all-Masonic players “cannot use the name “Masonic Baseball League” or any other name in which Mason or Masonic appears” in the jurisdiction.  While creating the league and playing the games was not banned, it was felt that “it would not do for lodges to vote funds for the entertainment and amusement of a few members, who desire to engage in something foreign to Masonry.” 90_42T1

Histories of Thomas E. Wilson and Company (known today as Wilson Sporting Goods Company) help us to date this jersey between 1916 and 1925, when it was using the particular label in this shirt, and the Thomas E. Wilson and Company name. Thomas E. Wilson (1868-1958), who was born in Canada and came to Chicago in 1877, joined that city’s Mizpah Lodge No. 768 in 1894.  Do you have any documents or objects associated with a Masonic baseball league?  Do you know where this jersey might have been used?  Leave us a comment below!

Masonic Ionic Baseball Jersey, 1916-1925, Thomas E. Wilson and Company, Chicago, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.055. Photograph by David Bohl.

Ticket, 1911, unidentified maker, New Jersey, gift of Grant Romer, A87/010/1.

All-Star Masonic Baseball Game. 1935, Moyer, Trenton, New Jersey, gift of Donald Randall, 90.42.