At the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we actively collect through gifts and purchases to improve and refine our existing holdings of more than 17,000 objects. The Museum’s primary strength is its American Masonic and fraternal collection. To fully understand and appreciate Freemasonry in America, the Museum collects objects and documents associated with all types of fraternal organizations.
We currently have a selection of our recent acquisitions on view in our lobby. Among the items are these two medals from the Order of Knights of Friendship. We were especially excited to acquire these medals since we did not have the Knights of Friendship previously represented in our collection. The group was founded in Pennsylvania in 1859 and by 1920 numbered 20,000 members. These medals are particularly fascinating because they both belonged to the group’s founder, Mark G. Kerr, M.D. (1815-1883). The gold medal seems to be a membership medal for Kerr and is engraved along the edge on one side “M.G. Kerr M.D. Harmony Chamber No. 1 O.K.F. May 29th, 1859.” The silver medal with enamel on one side was a gift to Kerr in 1875. It is engraved on the back “Presented to Most Eminent Grand Sir KM Mark G. Kerr, M.D. by Resolution of the Most Eminent Chamber OKF in appreciation of his Services as Author and Founder of the Order of Knights of Friendship. Done at Reading, Pa., this 19th day of October A.D. 1875.”
Kerr taught at the Female Medical College in Philadelphia and is thought to have been both a Freemason and an Odd Fellow. He organized the Knights of Friendship to “inculcate good will among all mankind and establish peace and friendship throughout the world.” The group conferred three degrees: Knight Junior, Knight Bachelor and Knight Errant. It also offered funeral benefits to its members, as a type of insurance before the widespread availability of the commercial insurance industry.
The medals will be on view at the museum until early 2014, check our website for more details.
Order of Knights of Friendship Medals, 1859-1883 and 1875, unidentified makers, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Museum Purchase, 2013.012.1-.2. Photographs by David Bohl.