New Online Exhibition - Signed & Sealed: Masonic Certificates

A1990_036_1DS1_webThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “Signed & Sealed: Masonic Certificates” now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. The twenty-one Masonic certificates featured in the exhibition are drawn from the Library & Archives' collection of hundreds of Masonic and fraternal membership certificates.

Included in the exhibition is the 1756 certificate pictured here, which one Masonic historian, writing in 1912, stated was "believed to the be the oldest American Masonic certificate." William Shute, Worshipful Master of Philadelphia Lodge No. 2, signed this hand-written certificate, which identifies James Harding as a Master Mason. You can learn more about this certificate and others by visiting the online exhibition.

If you haven't already, also be sure to visit the Museum's online exhibition website for more online exhibitions.

 

Caption:
Master Mason certificate issued by Philadelphia Lodge, No. 2, to James Harding, 1756. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A1990/036/001.


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

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.  

 

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.


Freemasonry and the First Black-Owned TV Station in the United States

A2018_153_001DS001_webWhat does Freemasonry have to do with the first Black-owned television station in the United States? A recently digitized membership application for the International Free & Accepted Modern Masons (IFAMM), pictured here, helps explain.

William Venoid Banks (1903-1985) founded the IFAMM in 1950. Although Banks' organization has been around for seventy years, it is not recognized by either mainstream predominantly white Grand Lodges or by historically Black Grand Lodges. Indeed, the International Free & Accepted Modern Masons is among the groups highlighted by the Phylaxis Society's Commission on Bogus Masonic Practices and is included in their list of "Bogus Grand Lodges." The Phylaxis Society's website includes a number of pages related to the organization, which it considers clandestine. Another article, titled "The Amway of Freemasonry? - The Clandestine Order of International Masons," lays out an argument about why mainstream historically Black and predominantly white Grand Lodges do not view IFAMM as a legitimate Masonic organization. Yet IFAMM, and in particular its founder, William V. Banks, played an important role in the history of Black-owned media, both in Detroit and in the United States as a whole.

The membership application shown here highlights Banks' involvement with the group. He is the only officer identified on the form and his title--Supreme Grand Master--makes it clear that he heads the organization. He also self-identifies as both a minister and a lawyer. Two phrases near the top of the form--"Get Involved in the Progress of Our People" and "The Owner of the First Black Owned TV in the U.S." highlight the organization's focus on Black empowerment and the importance of Black-owned businesses.

IFAMM's website gives an account of the organization's 1964 purchase of the Detroit radio station WGPR. It also notes that in 1975, IFAMM established WGPR-TV62, the first Black-owned television station in the United States. Fifty-six years later, IFAMM continues to own and operate the radio station. IFAMM owned and operated the TV station for twenty years, from 1975 until 1995, when it was purchased by CBS.

In 2017, the WGPR TV Historical Society founded the William V. Banks Broadcast Museum & Media Center, which is housed in the television station's original studios in Detroit. If you want to learn more about Banks and the importance of the founding of WGPR-TV62, we recommend this 2018 article [PDF] which appeared in the Historical Society of Michigan's magazine, Michigan History.

The IFAMM membership application featured here is among the many items that can be found in the African American Freemasonry & Fraternalism collection at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.

Caption:

Unissued International F. & A.M. Masons application, about 1975. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2018/153/001.

 

 

 


An Engraved Masonic Jewel from Ireland

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Masonic Jewel, 1790-1820. Possibly Ireland. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4591.

Last month we posted about the frontispiece to David Vinton’s The Masonick Minstrel: A Selection of Masonick, Sentimental, and Humorous Duets, Glees, Canons, Rounds and Canzonets and how this image was based on an advertisement for a Dublin jeweler, James Brush & Son, published in Smollet Holden’s A Selection of Masonic Songs. In creating the ad, the jewelry firm depicted one of their products—a Masonic medal—along with information about their services. Just as Brush’s ad inspired Vinton’s frontispiece, one of Brush’s medals may have been a source for some of the engraving on this jewel, part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

Brush’s ad featured—suspended on ribbons linking three columns—images of the back and front of one of his medals. Brush produced these medals in multiples and examples survive to the present day. Cleverly, Brush created an ornament that would appeal to Freemasons holding different degrees by designing two options for one side of the medal—one with Royal Arch symbols, the other featuring symbols from the Knight Templar degree. At the time Brush produced his medals, Irish Masons received Royal Arch and Knight Templar degrees in craft lodges. Both Bush’s Knight Templar and the Royal Arch medals featured the same design, a selection of symbols associated with the craft degrees, on the other side. Brush joined the two sides of the medal with a molded rim secured by a hinged hanging ring. The finished medal, composed of two sides and a rim, was hollow inside.

Intriguingly, the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts holds a jewel bearing some designs that are similar to symbols on Brush’s medals—for example, the ornate letter G surrounded by three crowns—but the symbols on this jewel are engraved onto the jewel’s surface, rather than expressed in relief, as they are on Brush’s medals. As well, the symbols on the side of the engraved jewel with the letter G on it relate to both the Knight Templar and Royal Arch degrees—and the compasses and arc at the center of the jewel, may refer to the Past Master degree or status (pictured above). On the side of the jewel related to the craft degrees, the selection and arrangement of symbols differs quite a bit from Brush’s version (pictured below). To represent the craft degrees, the engraver who ornamented this jewel included a large all-seeing eye, a motto ("Sit Lux Et Lux Fuit," Let there be light and there was light), and Masonic tools (a square and compasses, a trowel, a plumb, a level, a mallet, and a rule), along with other symbols (two columns, a sword, a sprig of acacia, and the 47th Problem of Euclid). Like Brush’s medals, the two sides of this jewel are held together with a molded rim fixed with a hinged suspension ring. The sides of the engraved jewel are oval in shape and slightly convex.

Whether the engraver who decorated this jewel looked to Brush’s medals or advertising for inspiration is uncertain. It is possible that the engraver may have drawn his ideas for how to arrange and depict Masonic symbols from the same printed or material sources as Brush. That said, the mix of symbols on this engraved jewel and the way it was constructed may be clues that it is of Irish origin.

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Masonic Jewel, 1790-1820. Possibly Ireland. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4591.

A Family Affair

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Ralph and Elizabeth Schoenherr, 1953. New York. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.3.

Sometimes the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library receives donations that help to tell the story of an entire family’s history, complete with personal remembrances. Such is the case with the Schoenherr family of Schenectedy, New York, who had a long standing connection to Freemasonry. Since 2007, Florence E. Connor, daughter of Armin W. Schoenherr (1909-1949), has donated items related to these Masonic family connections. Armin L. Schoenherr (1880-1926), born in Germany, immigrated to New York at a young age and joined Corlaer Lodge No. 932 in Schenectady in the 1920s. His wife Emmy L. Canzan Schoenherr (1875-1954) was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star George Hope Chapter No. 271 and involved in the Order of Amaranth. They passed on their Masonic interests  to their three children, Armin W. (1909-1949), Ralph H. (1912-2002), and Florence Schoenherr Grubey (c. 1918-2004).

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Florence Margaret Schoenherr Grubey, 1994. Mary Lou Bentley, Louisville, Kentucky. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2007.012.23.

Armin W., a Mason and Shriner, owned a local jewelry store that sold and repaired not only traditional jewels but fraternal pins and other material designed to appeal to Masonic consumers. His younger brother Ralph (pictured above with his wife Elizabeth) was a Mason for over fifty years and involved with the Royal Arch, Knights Templar, Shriners, and Jesters. He served as Potentate of Albany's Cyprus Shrine in 1959 and ran the Shrine circus for several years. Their sister Florence was a member of the Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America and is pictured at right with a fellow member in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1994.

Aside from donating a number of objects related to her father and brother's jewelry store, Florence most recently donated charm bracelets, one is pictured below, that belonged to Elizabeth Schoenherr, Ralph's wife, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Florence shared some information about the family’s history and related this memory of her father, who passed away suddenly at the age of 43 in 1949, the same year he became a Shriner. She remembered the day he joined the Shrine as “one of his proudest days,” adding, “I remember the Shriners at the wake putting an apron in his coffin and having a service. It meant a lot to my mother (41 with 3 children, 8, 10 and 12). My mother continued the business...My brother (Armin, Jr.) later took over the store.” Armin Walter Schoenherr, Jr. (c.1941-1987) was also a member of Corlaer Lodge No. 92 in Schenectady. 

Do you have a Masonic family tradition to share? We want to know about it! Leave a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, at ylaxton[@]srmml.org. 

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Bracelet worn by Elizabeth Schoenherr. United States. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.1.
Armin jr
Armin Schoenherr, Jr. (back row, third from left) with other officers from Corlaer No. 932, 1967. "Corlaer Trestle Board "(Schenectady, NY), February, 1967.

The Frontispiece of David Vinton's "The Masonick Minstrel"

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Frontispiece of "The Masonick Minstrel,"  David Vinton, Providence, Rhode Island, 1816. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, RARE 65.1 .V791 1816

In 1816, David Vinton (1774-1833) of Providence, Rhode Island, published The Masonick Minstrel: A Selection of Masonick, Sentimental, and Humorous Duets, Glees, Canons, Rounds and Canzonets. “A collection of masonick songs, set in the different parts,” this work was, according to advertisements, “recommended to every individual Brother, and may be considered a valuable acquisition to the library of all Societies and a pleasing Companion for every Gentleman throughout the United States.”

Vinton published words, music, and a smattering of instructions for different types of songs, along with a list of lodges, a history of Freemasonry, and other information related to Freemasonry, in his 470-page book. His compilation offered songs, some specifically Masonic, others not, suitable for a variety of social occasions. Some featured Vinton’s lyrics set to existing music. Today the most well-known of these is a funeral dirge, “Solemn Strikes the Funeral Chime.” Performed to the tune of a hymn composed by Ignace Plezel (1757-1831) in 1791, this song is still part of Masonic ritual in some states. Vinton designed The Masonick Mintrel to be appealing, as one review noted, “among the fraternity, as the dignified and solemn character of Masonry, does not prohibit occasional seasons of innocent festivity.” Vinton sold The Masonick Minstrel by subscription and through booksellers. Customers reputedly purchased 12,000 copies.

Advertisements described Vinton’s book as a quality production, printed on “a fine demi-wove paper, elegantly bound and lettered, [with a] gilt edge…with four elegant engravings,” and crafted “by some of the best workmen in the country.” Subscribers paid $2.50 for a copy; the book cost $3.00 in a shop. In creating his publication, Vinton borrowed concept and content from a previously published work, A Selection of Masonic Songs by Smollet Holden (d. 1813), that had been issued in Dublin, Ireland, around 1802. One of the elements of Vinton’s publication inspired by Holden’s book was The Masonick Minstrel’s frontispiece (pictured above). As a frontispiece, Holden’s book featured an advertisement for a Dublin jeweler, James Brush & Son. This firm specialized in Masonic goods and listed some of their products on its ad, including, “Masonic Jewels, Medals, K.T. Items, Lodge Candlesticks, & c….” Vinton modified Brush’s ad by simplifying the image and, in the rectangular cartouches where James Brush & Son had detailed their Masonic offerings, Vinton had the name of his work, “Masonic Mintsrel,” inscribed.

When soliciting subscribers for his work before it was published, Vinton called attention to this image, noting that his book would be “embellished with an elegant emblematick frontispiece, and title page, engraved by the first artists in Philadelphia.” He also noted to the fact that the book included songs and music from “the most celebrated authors, together with a number of original pieces never before published.” This approach was in keeping with the time Vinton worked in, when writers, artists, and musicians freely borrowed from one another.  In marketing The Masonick Minstrel, Vinton emphasized his investment of time in the project, writing that, “This undertaking is the result of much consideration and the work of many hours, for upwards of a year.” Judging from the number of copies of The Masonick Minstrel that Vinton is thought to have sold, he may have well achieved his goal “to afford…delightful employment…and excite mirth,” at Masonic gatherings throughout the country.

References

“Masonick Minstrel,” Rhode-Island American (Providence, RI), September 27, 1816, 1.

“Masonick Minstrel,” Gazette (Portland, ME), March 26, 1816, [3].

“David Vinton Proposes Publishing by Subscription,” Ohio Register (Clinton, OH), May 2, 1815, 284.

W. J. Bunny, “Bro. S. Holden’s Masonic Song Book,” The Lodge of Research, No. 2429 Leicester, Transactions for the Year 1947-48, 49-75.

John D. Hamilton, Material Culture of the American Freemasons (Lexington, MA: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 1994), 207.


Digital Collections Highlight: An 1847 Scottish Rite Meeting Summons

A2019_178_0001DS1_webPictured here is a recently digitized handwritten summons from Sovereign Grand Commander John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865) to Edward A. Raymond (1791-1864), dated November 22, 1847. It is among a number of recently digitized nineteenth-century Scottish Rite documents that we have added to the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. By taking a closer look at the events surrounding the creation of this summons, we can gain insight into the difficult reorganization of the Scottish Rite that took place in the 1840s.

The Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction was small and geographically dispersed in 1847. Of its nine members, seven had joined the Supreme Council within the past two years. The Council was still rebuilding itself after the anti-Masonic period had brought most Masonic activity to a halt in the late 1820s and through the 1830s. In 1847, the Council was dispersed throughout two states, with four members living in the Boston area and five living in New York State. At the time, the Council was headed by J.J.J. Gourgas and his Lieutenant Grand Commander Giles Fonda Yates (1798-1859). Gourgas, who lived in New York City, and Yates, who lived in Schenectady, had kept the Supreme Council's records together during the dormant period of the anti-Masonic period and were responsible for the reorganization of the Supreme Council in 1844 and 1845, during which time they admitted the seven new members to the Supreme Council.

This 1847 summons gives us a glimpse into this period of rebirth. Written in Gourgas's unmistakable handwriting, and addressed to Edward A. Raymond in Boston, the summons directs Boston-based members Raymond, Charles W. Moore, and Reuel Baker to attend the "Stated Constitutional Meeting of the Grand and Supreme Council" to be held on December 7, 1847. The record of that meeting shows how difficult it was for Gourgas to rebuild the Council. The December 7, 1847 meeting was attended by only three people: Gourgas, Yates, and Van Rensselaer. In the published Proceedings, Gourgas notes that Raymond, Moore, and Baker provided an official excuse for non-attendance, which was accepted. Showing his frustration with members who did not attend meetings, Gourgas mentions that two members - John Christie and Archibald Bull - had not made an appearance at any meetings since they had been admitted and, in strong language, declared them "useless members, unless they come forward with admissable excuses..." In a letter, dated January 20, 1848, written in response to Gourgas's wish to hear from Bull and Christie, Bull explains to Gourgas that his absences occurred because of his poor health.

As the events surrounding this summons demonstrate, the robust Supreme Council that eventually emerged from the work of Gourgas and Yates was not easily accomplished.

Interested in reading more primary sources related to the history of the Scottish Rite? Be sure to check out the growing collection on our Digital Collections website.

Caption:
Handwritten summons from Sovereign Grand Commander John James Joseph Gourgas to Edward A. Raymond, 1847. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A2019/178/0001.


A Daughters of Rebekah Quilt

94_007T1Temple Hill Quilt, 1924-40. Members of the Temple Hill Daughters of Rebekah. Temple Hill, Illinois. Museum Purchase, 94.007.

Continuing our celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States, here we feature another object from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library representing women’s involvement in fraternalism: a quilt made by members of the Daughters of Rebekah in the Temple Hill, Illinois, area.

The Daughters of Rebekah is a women’s group associated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). Commonly known as the Rebekahs (and officially as the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies), this group was founded in 1851, making it the first women’s auxiliary connected to any American fraternal order. Its name honors the biblical character who offered hospitality to a humble stranger. When it was established, the group’s stated objectives were to “aid in the establishment and maintenance of Homes for aged and indigent Odd Fellows and their wives… [and the] care, education, and support of orphans of deceased Odd Fellows and deceased sisters of the Rebekah degree” as well as to cultivate social relations among these groups.

The quilt shown here, possibly made as a fundraiser by Rebekahs living in the Temple Hill, Illinois, area, was pieced by hand and machine. Measuring 85 by 64 inches, it is rendered in the symbolic colors of the Rebekahs, pink and light green. Like many quilts associated with fraternal groups, this one is replete with symbols. Many of these—such as the sword and scales, open bible, and coffin and scythe—are used in both Odd Fellowship and Freemasonry. At the quilt’s lower center, under a 48-star American flag and a panel bearing the I.O.O.F. three-link chain emblem, is a pink square dedicated to symbols used by the Rebekahs. It features the four main emblems of that order: the beehive, to remind members of the sweet rewards of industry and coordinated effort; the dove, to teach them to promote “peace on earth and good will to men”; the lily, to nudge members toward purity of thought and action; and finally, the moon and seven stars, to represent order in the universe and thus in one’s duties, as well as to evoke the idea of reflecting the glory of the Supreme Being as the moon and stars reflect the sun’s light in the darkness.

This quilt was likely made between 1924 and 1940, a period when the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs enjoyed popularity. Over the prior seven or so decades, Rebekahs had flourished, counting numerous first ladies and pioneering female civic leaders among their membership. These included Arizona state representative Vernettie O. Ivy (1876-1967); Warrenton, Oregon, mayor Clara C. Munson (1861-1938); and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Possibly due in part to the increased social buttresses of the New Deal, membership in such mutual aid societies began to decline precipitously by the mid-twentieth century. Today, Rebekah lodges continue to be active in community and charitable projects, with a creed to "live peaceably, do good unto all" and obey the Golden Rule.

Do you have a question or observation related to women's involvement in fraternal groups? Let us know in the comments section below! We also invite you to join us on Facebook and check out our online exhibitions and online collections

References:

Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb. As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2015.

Max Binheim, ed. Women of the West: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Living Eminent Women in the Eleven Western States of the United States of America. Los Angeles, CA: Publishers Press, 1928 edition, https://archive.org/details/womenofwestserie00binh (accessed Aug 25, 2020).

George and J.C. Herbert Emery. A Young Man's Benefit: The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Sickness Insurance in the United States and Canada, 1860-1929. Montreal and Kingston, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.

Alvin J. Schmidt. Fraternal Organizations (The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Membership manual of the Sovereign Grand Lodge Office and Grand Lodge of Rebekah Assembly of CA, http://www.ioofmembership.org/Membership%20Manual.htm (accessed August 12, 2020).

 


Temperance & Women's Suffrage

A2005_001_014_webFounded in 1852, with a Grand Lodge of North America organized in 1855, the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT) was a total abstinence temperance organization. From its inception, the group accepted men and women equally as members. Women frequently held elected office within the organization. The temperance movement in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - with much of its leadership and organization comprised of women - was also aligned with the women's suffrage movement, which led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment one hundred years ago this month.

Shown here is a recently digitized IOGT membership certificate from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection. Issued in 1867, the certificate states that Helen Peck was admitted as a member of Temp Star Lodge, No. 146, of Hyde Park, Pennsylvania in 1866. 

This certificate is part of the Women and Freemasonry & Fraternalism collection at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.

There are now over 800 items in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. Be sure to visit and check them all out!

Caption:

Membership certificate issued by Temp Star Lodge, No. 146, to Helen Peck, 1867. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts. FR 007.


The Order of the Eastern Star at the Chicago World’s Fair

On August 18th, 1920, the United States Congress ratified the 19th amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Throughout August, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this momentous occasion, Museum staff will highlight items from our collection related to women’s fraternal groups. Many of these groups offered not only a place of community for women but also a place to organize. A number of these groups were actively involved in the suffrage movement and had members who championed women's equality. We first feature this recently donated photograph from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

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Order of Eastern Star Booth at Columbian Exposition, 1893. Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), Chicago, Illinois. Gift of Thomas Nelson, 2020.008. 

On May 1st, 1893, thousands of visitors streamed into the newly opened Columbian World Exposition at Jackson Park in Chicago, Illinois. This exposition, commonly referred to as the Chicago World’s Fair, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ (1451-1506) arrival in the Americas in 1492. Organizers built over 200 new structures and pavilions that spanned over 600 acres in the South Side of Chicago, including a “Woman’s Building,” designed by architect Sophia Hayden (1868-1953). The structure, created to showcase women artisans and highlight women’s achievements, was managed by an all-female board. A number of female associations were featured in the building, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Order of the Eastern Star, and Ladies Catholic Benevolent Association. 

Board member Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), a women's activist and high-ranking member of the Order of the Eastern Star (OES), a Masonic women's auxiliary group, advocated for this Eastern Star exhibit (pictured at left) to be displayed in the Woman’s Building. The photograph shows various Eastern Star charts, signets, and banners from over nine of the organization's chapters in the Upper Midwest.

Pitkin also participated in the World’s Congress of Representative Women on behalf of OES. The Congress, a week-long conference managed and attended by women as part of the World's Fair, included a day of programming devoted to the Eastern Star on May 16, 1893. Sessions from that day included "The Value of the Eastern Star as a Factor in Giving Women a Knowledge of Legislative Matters"  and "Eastern Star and the Benefit it Has Been to Women as an Educational Organization." Pitkin later served on the Board of Directors of the World's Fair Fraternal Building Association held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1902. This photograph will be featured in our upcoming Flickr album about women and fraternalism. Stay tuned!

Have a favorite item related to women's suffrage or fraternalism at the World's Fair? Let us know in the comments below!

 

References

May Wright Sewall, ed., The World's Congress of Representative Women... (Chicago, IL: Rand McNally, 1894), 68-72.

Maude Howe Elliott, ed., Art And Handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition Chicago, 1893 (Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1894), 180-185.