Say "Cheese"!

2001_015_10DS1In early 2011, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library curatorial staff began an ambitious project to digitize our historic photograph collection by scanning each photo and making the image and its basic descriptive information accessible via our website.  Flash forward five years, to today, and we have completed this project with more than 2,500 images accessible!  They are searchable by names, places and virtually any other term. 

In celebration, here is just one image from our collection – a photograph from 1913 showing members of Boston Commandery at the National Monument to the Forefathers in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Part of the Masonic Knights Templar fraternity, Boston Commandery dates its founding to 1802.  The group often enjoyed making “pilgrimages” to visit other Commanderies around New England.  While the exact details of this 1913 trip to Plymouth are unknown, Boston Commandery had taken part in this monument’s dedication on August 1, 1899. 

The monument’s central figure is a depiction of Faith, with one foot resting on a replica of Plymouth Rock.  Four smaller seated figures around the base represent morality, law, education and liberty – all values cherished by the Pilgrims.  For other images from Knights Templar excursions, search our online collection or read this previous post.

Now that we have completed digitizing our existing photograph collection, we are moving forward with other projects.  We have started digitizing our collection of Masonic and fraternal badges, ribbons and jewels.  Over 100 of these objects are already accessible online, with many more to follow.  We will also be starting to digitize our collection of prints and engravings in the coming months, including our notable Dr. William L. and Mary B. Guyton Collection of over 600 images of George Washington (1732-1799).  Check back often to see what’s new!

Boston Commandery at the National Monument to our Forefathers, 1913, E. Chickering, Plymouth, Massachusetts, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2001.015.10.


Are you a fan of Pilgrims?

Embarkation_of_the_Pilgrims_Fan_75.69.99Before the advent of air conditioning, men and women carried fans to help them keep cool.  As one scholar has described, “decorative hand-held fans brought relief to an overdressed, overheated society.”  These dress accessories also added color, movement and glamour to the indoor landscape for centuries.  Among the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library’s collection of fans from the 1800s and the early 1900s is this example:  a paper folding fan with bamboo sticks that bears a photogravure of a famous American painting, Robert W. Weir’s Embarkation of the Pilgrims. 

Robert Weir (1803-1889) first painted this work in 1843 for the Rotunda of the U. S. Capitol.  There it is joined by other depictions of pivotal events drawn from American history, such as Columbus’s landing in the New World and De Soto’s discovery of the Mississippi.  Decades later, Weir created a smaller version of the work that fair organizers exhibited at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia.  Americans also became familiar with Weir’s version of the Pilgrims' departure from Holland through printed versions.  As well, from 1863 through the early 1900s, a version of Weir’s painting decorated $50 bank notes.  Fan_Detail_75.69.99

Makers likely crafted this fan in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The Photo Gravure Company of New York printed the image on the center of the fan.  Craftsmen assembled the fan, affixed metal brilliants to its surface and embellished the fan with painted flowers.   Underneath the photogravure of Weir’s painting, the printer featured a quote, “Truly dolful was ye sight of that sad and mournfull parting.”  William Bradford (1590-1657), the chronicler of the Pilgrims' settlement, penned those words to describe the travelers’ feelings as they left friends and family behind and started on their journey to Massachusetts.

For a description of the museum's painting, "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in America, a.d., 1620," by Charles Lucy (1814-1873), see this past post.  If you have any information or questions about this fan, please leave us a comment below!


Anna Gray Bennet, Unfolding Beauty:  The Art of the Fan, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1988, p. 12.

Object credit:

Fan, 1875-1900.  Printed by Photo Gravure Co., A. C. Bosselman, New York, New York.  Gift of The Estate of Russell J. and Vera L. Wilder, 75.69.99.



Much Admired Pilgrims


Pilgrims cropped small view Every exhibition includes an object that makes a real hit with the public.  For "Remember Me:  Highlights from the National Heritage Museum" the visitors' choice was "The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in America, a.d., 1620," by Charles Lucy (1814-1873). 

As every text-book reader and museum-goer knows, since the late 1700s, artists have put their versions of American history on canvas.  Among the many topics treated by history painters, anything having to do with the Pilgrims’ voyage, landing and relationship with the native people they encountered has attracted (and continues to attract) viewers’ imaginations.

The Pilgrims’ story caught the attention of French-trained British painter, Charles Lucy in the mid 1800s.  British history of the 1600s intrigued him.  Along with the Pilgrims, he painted scenes of Oliver Cromwell and Charles I.  A London paper memorializing the painter after his death noted that, “One of the first works which brought him into notice on this side of the Channel was his “Embarkation of the Pilgrim Fathers in the Mayflower,” to which was awarded one of the prizes for oil paintings in the Westminster Hall competition of 1847.”  Lucy’s winning work, now called the "Departure of the Pilgrims from Delft Haven," is part of the Pilgrim Hall Museum's offerings.  Perhaps building on his success with the subject in 1847, Lucy painted “The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in America, a.d., 1620” for the following year.

A 1944 letter from the Frick Art Reference Library from the files of the Pilgrim Society says that that painting, the 1848 landing of the Pilgrim fathers is un-located, other sources note that it is lost.  Has it been found at NHM? 

J. Robert Merrill gave the painting, which he had purchased it at Cape Cod auction in 1974, to NHM.  The auctioneer advertised the work as having been, “displayed at the Royal Academy.” However, it seems unlikely that the NHM painting is the one Lucy created for the 1848 exhibition.  Smaller than Lucy’s “Departure of the Pilgrims from Delft Haven,” (over 9 feet by 14 feet) and clearly dated 1868 in the artists’ hand, NHM's painting is twenty years older and about half the size of Lucy’s showpiece. An intriguing inscription on the strainer of the NHM painting tell us that it once belonged to Capt. E. Mac Kirdy, of Abbey House in Malmesbury.  Mac Kirdy bought that house in 1909 and his family sold it in 1968.  Somehow, between 1968 and 1974, Lucy's painting traveled across the Atlantic, just like the Pilgrims.

We will keep you posted if future research uncovers more of the story.


The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers in America, a. d. 1620, 1868.  Charles Lucy (1814-1873), London, England.  National Heritage Museum collection, Gift of J. Robert Merrill, 79.77.1.  Photo, NHM staff.