Popular Culture

Masonic Revelries and the Roaring Twenties

A recent acquisition to the Scottish Rite Masonic Library & Museum reminds us of the Fraternity’s adoption of Orientalism, its passion for revelry, and captures the lively spirit of the 1920s.


After the opening of trade with Japan in the late 19th century, America’s consumer desire for all things “Oriental” grew exponentially, and of all the groups associated with American Freemasonry, the Shriners, noted for their use of the red fez, embraced the symbols and spirit of Orientalism to the fullest. This broadside addressed to New York State Assemblyman Alexander G. Hall, a member of both the Mecca Temple Shrine and the York Commandery, No. 55, invited Hall and his wife to the Colorful Oriental Durbar sponsored by the Mecca Temple Band of New York. The Durbar or reception was held at the 71st Regiment Armory on 34th Street and Park Avenue and highlighted by the music of the Mecca Temple Band, conducted by Arthur H. Hoffman.



Colorful Oriental Durbar Broadside and Envelope, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum Purchase, MA 430.

The Mecca Temple Band of New York City, undated. The Masonic Postcard Collection. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum Purchase, MM 025.

Model Trains at the Museum, Feb. 15 & 16


The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library launches February School Vacation Week with a weekend filled with model railroading fun. The Northeast Ntrak Modular Railroad Club will be running its trains through its modular display at the Museum Saturday, February 15 from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Sunday, February 16 from 12 noon-4:00 p.m. Admission to the train display is $5/individual ($3 for members of either organization) and $7/family ($5 for families with membership to either organization).

The Ntrak trains are smaller in size than traditional model trains, but are just as much fun. Because the scale is smaller, the landscapes the trains travel through encompass more. The show features an enormous bridge, train yards, and a spectacular cliff face with multiple tunnels running in and out of the rocks. Trains climb mountain passes, shunt freight cars, and use branch lines to pick up and set out cars at the many industries and stations along the way.

2010_02_14_0237_CroppedA highlight of the dipslay is a model of the Zakim Bridge (see photo). Constructing the bridge took John Dunne three months; his efforts won him a first prize at the Springfield train show. Dunne, who has been building NTRAK for 40 years, notes, “If I built that bridge in HO (scale), it would be 32 feet long.”

Watch this video about the Ntrak show, recorded by the Lexington Minuteman newspaper.

For further information contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559 or visit www.nationalheritagemuseum.org.


Model Trains at the Museum, Dec. 14 & 15

Model Train Weekend is Back this Holiday Season!

Model Train Weekend, Saturday, December 14 and Sunday, December 15

IMG_3751This family-friendly event is the perfect outing for adults and children of all ages. The HUB Division of the National Model Railroad Association presents miles of track with trains running on multiple main lines as they chug up mountain climbs, past coal mines, through small villages and into tunnels. Some engines pull 50 cars past hundreds of charming venues including icy lakes with skaters, snow-covered farms, and urban skyscrapers.

Here's a great video clip recorded at the 2011 HUB Train Show, put together by the Lexington community access station LexMedia. Watch it and gain a sense of the passion for detail and accuracy that the model railroad hobbyists of the HUB Division put into this yearly show.

Model Train Weekend hours are 10 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday, December 14, and 12 pm to 4 pm on Sunday, December 15.  Admission is $7 per family.

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For information about this program or about the Museum, check our website, call our front desk at 781 861-6559 or write to [email protected]

Exhibition Curator to Trace the Fashionable Roots of Masonic Regalia, 10/29

Join the Museum's Director of Collections Aimee Newell, Ph.D, for a tour of the exhibition, “Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia,” on Saturday, October 29 at 2 p.m. Newell, curator of the exhibition, will trace the fashion antecedants behind traditional Masonic costumes and regalia.

2008-039-27Popular television programs and movies have been known to poke fun at fraternal groups by featuring characters that belong to made-up fraternities with goofy names and even funnier hats and costumes. Do you remember Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble who were members of the “Royal Order of Water Buffaloes” on The Flintstones cartoon? Even among Freemasons, Masonic costume has been perceived as weird, funny or outlandish.

And, indeed, Masonic regalia can have an element of wackiness. But, we may think the same thing about the clothing we see in historic prints, paintings, and photographs from the 1700s and 1800s. Even people of the era reacted to what they perceived as the extremes of fashion by publishing cartoons and satires. Then, as now, fashion itself was as wacky, if not more so, than the regalia worn by Masonic groups.

Furthermore, when we start to look more closely, comparing Masonic costumes and photographs with clothing and images from the same time periods, we can see that regalia manufacturers often took their cues from fashion houses. Come and see garments and images from the Museum’s collection that demonstrate the four different design sources for Masonic garments – contemporary fashion, the military, Orientalism, and theater. Learn how there have always been connections between everyday style and Masonic fashion!

To participate in the gallery tour, meet Aimee Newell in the “Inspired by Fashion” gallery at 2 p.m. For more information, please call the Museum reception desk at 781 861-6559 or visit our website.

Image credit:

George S. Anderson, Grand Commander, Masonic Knights Templar of Georgia, 1860-1869. Smith and Motes, Atlanta, Georgia. National Heritage Museum, gift in memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.039.27.

Fantastic Model Miniatures at the Museum, October 1 and 2

Moss Spitfire Join us for a fun weekend as the Patriot Chapter of the International Plastic Model Society and The East Coast Figure Artists present “Fantastic Model Miniatures” at the Museum on Saturday, October 1 and Sunday, October 2, 2011. More than 150 miniatures will be on view including aircraft, vehicles, dinosaurs, and figures and dioramas from history and popular culture. Hours for the show are Saturday, October 1, 10 am-4:30, and Sunday, October 2, from noon-4:30 pm. Admission is $7 per family; $5 individual. Proceeds support educational programs at the Museum.

The art of miniatures allows us to see the people, machines, and places lost in time past. The models take us to places we could never visit, from the inside of a WWII British Fighter plane to the surface of the moon. Visitors can examine the interior of a deep diving submarine, walk among prehistoric creatures, and look into the fantasy world of the Lord of the Rings. The historical figures presented, like Sir Edmond Hillary atop Mount Everest, are superb examples of the exacting work done by miniature portraitists. Model makers will also offer demonstrations and talks.

General1 The organizers of the event, Robert Butler and Pip Moss, are teachers, artists and long time miniaturists. Butler, who will present a number of miniature dinosaurs that he created for the Discovery Channel's Paleo World, says "Miniature sculptures serve as blueprints in the creation of the life size sculptures of extinct animals such as the dinosaurs that are seen in museums worldwide. Models are irreplaceable tools used in the design of the planes, tanks and vehicles, much relied on by the military throughout the history of our country. The displays are intriguing to look at, yet teach a great deal about art, history, craftsmanship and science."

Photo Credits:

Scale Model (1:48) of a 1943 USAAC Spitfire, 2010. Courtesy of Pip Moss.

Fantastic Model Miniatures! at the Museum, 2009. Courtesy of Pip Moss.

New England Cuisine at the Museum

Don't break out your lobster bibs quite yet! No, we are not offering a grand buffet of New England cooking classics. However, we have the next best thing in store for you.

Fitzgerald&Stavely On Saturday, May 28, at 2 PM there will be a really fun Lowell Lecture that you won't want to miss. Kathleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely will relate the tale of "Pressed Heads, Pottages, and Pippin Tarts: The Surprising Story Behind a Typical Diner Meal." Authors of Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England (2011) and America’s Founding Food: The Story of New England Cooking (2004), Stavely and Fitzgerald will treat us to a culinary tour that traces the precursors of franks and beans and apple pie, as well as other traditional New England foods. Their talk will be illustrated with images of some of the foods they have prepared and served in their home.

The author team has a wealth of experience as speakers, having presented at international conferences, at numerous historical societies, libraries, and museums, and to a variety of community and professional groups. Through lively presentations and sprightly give-and-take with their audiences, they bring the hidden history of New England foodways to light, along the way showing how a region's food practices can illuminate its broader social and cultural history.

Nothern-hospitality-210 Stavely is a writer and scholar whose interest in the Puritan influence on American and English culture has resulted in a number of critically-esteemed books and articles. He has been a Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Societies fellow and a winner of the Modern Language Association Prize for Independent Scholars. Fitzgerald worked for five years as a college chaplain and for eight years as a coordinator of a soup kitchen. Except for one brief stint in an academic library in Ohio, she has worked for over twenty years as a public librarian in urban settings in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She is currently a librarian at the Newport Public Library.

This free public lecture is funded by the Lowell Institute and complements the exhibition Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf. After the lecture, please join us for a book signing. Copies of both Northern Hospitality and America’s Founding Food will be available for purchase, thanks to a collaboration with an independent bookshop in Winchester, Book Ends.

Please call the Museum at 781-861-6559 if you have questions about this public program.


Courtesy of Katheleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely

Courtesy of Katheleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely and the University of Massachusetts Press

Chief Two Moon Meridas: Native American Healer or Snake-Oil Salesman?

75_72_1T1 Advertising is one of my favorite primary sources for historical research. Ads can tell you so much about the time in which they were made. They can also tell you about some of the compelling characters who made and sold products.

Not much is known about Chief Two Moon, whose real name was Chico Colon Meridas, before 1914, when he moved east and began selling his patent medicines in New York and Philadelphia. Soon after, he met and married Helen Gertrude Nugent and set up shop in Waterbury, Connecticut. Although his marriage certificate states that he was born in Devil’s Lake, South Dakota, in 1888, historians have not been able to confirm this information. As his product’s name implies, he claimed to be of Native American descent, but this information is also unconfirmed. In fact, his 1933 obituary states that when he died, the Department of the Interior had recently refused to certify him as an Indian. Biographers have suggested that his father, Chico Meridan, was Mexican, but this too is unconfirmed. One thing seems clear, however. He took his pseudonym from his mother’s maiden name, Mary Tumoon.

Chief Two Moon’s popular patent medicines and his practice as a naturopath made him a wealthy man. Sales took off following the 1918 influenza epidemic, when, according to newspaper accounts of the time, none of his patients died. By his death in 1933, “his immense [medical] ‘practice’ was more than mere legend,” according to the New York Times.

A clever salesman, he hawked his products by combining modern advertising practices with Americans’ romantic ideas about Native Americans’ healing powers in the 1920s. As seen in this advertisement, which is featured in our new exhibition, "Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection," depictions of his motorized advertising bus—“The Only one of its Kind”—and his 1925 Waterbury, Connecticut, laboratory—implying that he used scientific manufacturing techniques—flank the mystical central image of a contemplative Indian above a powerful waterfall. The word “Health” magically floats between the waterfall and the moon. At the time, a number of patent medicine companies featured Indians in their advertising because the American public believed that Native Americans, especially their medicine men, had knowledge of herbal remedies through a deep connection with the natural world. But Chief Two Moon claimed to be the real deal.

The last few years of Meridas’s life contained both honors and difficulties. The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council named him an honorary chief on August 6, 1930, for his philanthropy, providing cash, food and other supplies for the tribe. However, he was also faced with several lawsuits in New York and Connecticut for practicing medicine and naturopathy without a license. He died on November 3, 1933, of liver failure. His wife continued to sell the Chief Two Moon products long after her husband’s death.


"Chief Two Moon Dies in Waterbury," The New York Times, November 3, 1933.

Tom Fillius, "Chief Two Moon Meridas": http://home.comcast.net/~tomahawks1/

Bonnie Lynn-Sherow, "Indian in a Bottle," unpublished paper, February 2008

The Mattatuck Museum Arts and History Center has a number of objects related to Chief Two Moon and his products. Here is one example.


Advertisement, 1925–1933. Parker-Brawner Co., Washington, D.C. Gift of Deborah Hills, 75.72.1. Photograph by David Bohl.


Lecture on Classic Diners, Saturday, Nov. 20

If you have ever eaten at a diner--and who hasn’t?--the upcoming Lowell Lecture is for you! We are excited to welcome guest speaker Richard J. S. Gutman, director and curator of the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI.

RJSG at CAM lg_cropped

He will join us on Saturday, November 20 at 2 p.m. for an illustrated presentation entitled “What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That's for Sure!” Mr. Gutman, about whom Yankee magazine said, “Nobody knows more about these classic eateries,” will elaborate on the staying power of the American diner, based on 40 years of eating and research. He has consulted on more than 80 diner restoration projects across the United States and in Europe. The leading authority on the history and architecture of diners, he has published several books on the topic, including American Diner Then and Now (2000) and The Worcester Lunch Car Company (2004). Long-time visitors to the National Heritage Museum may fondly recall two exhibitions he guest-curated with Kellie  Gutman: “American Diner: Then and Now” (1995)  and “Summer Camp” (1998).

This free public lecture is funded by the Lowell Institute. It is held in conjunction with the new exhibition, “Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf."

Photo credit: Courtesy of Richard J.S. Gutman

Fall Public Programs at the Museum

Fall is a busy time, so be sure to mark your calendar with the following public programs at the National Heritage Museum. We look forward to seeing you!

Gallery Talk: Curators’ Choice Theodore Ross and His Wife's Spirit, 85_80_25cS1

Saturday, October 9, 2 p.m.

Join Museum staff as we explore favorite objects from our broad collection in “Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection,” a brand new exhibition opening today. Free.


DeanLahikainen Lecture: The Art of Collecting: A Curator's Personal Journey

Saturday, October 23, 2 p.m.

Dean Lahikainen, Carolyn and Peter Lynch Curator of American Decorative Arts at the Peabody Essex Museum, will discuss our fascination with historical objects and show us some of his personal favorites. This lecture complements the exhibition, “Curators’ Choice.” This free public lecture is funded by the Lowell Institute.


Lecture: What Is It about Diners? More Than a Meal, That's for Sure RJSG at CAM lg  

Saturday, November 20, 2 p.m.  

Richard J. S. Gutman, director and curator of Johnson and WalesCulinary Museum in Providence, RI, will hold an illustrated lecture that complements the exhibition, “Night Road: Photographs of Diners by John D. Woolf.” Gutman will elaborate on the staying power of the classic diner, based on 40 years of eating and research. This free public lecture is funded by the Lowell Institute.


Yosemite Gallery Talk: Treasured Lands

Saturday, December 4, 2 p.m.

Join Museum staff and enter worlds of stunning natural beauty in the popular exhibition, “Treasured Lands: The Fifty-Eight U.S. National Parks in Focus.” Free.


Finally, looking ahead to winter, we know you've been waiting for the holiday train show dates – we've received inquiries. Note that the Museum will be open for both Saturday and Sunday on this mid-December weekend.


Model Trains 2010_02_14_0237_Cropped

Saturday, December 11, 10 AM–4:30 PM and Sunday, December 12, Noon–4 PM

An annual favorite, the HUB Division of the National Railroad Association will delight fans large and small with their model train display. $5/family (members); $7/family (non-members).


All programs take place at the National Heritage Museum, located at 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, Massachusetts (at the corner of Mass. Ave. & Rte. 2A). Admission and parking are free.


Please note our winter hours:

From Monday, October 4, 2010, through May 3, 2011, the Museum will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m.


The Museum is wheelchair accessible. Hearing assistance devices are available for all lectures.

For more information, call 781-861-6559 or visit www.nationalheritagemuseum.org.


Photo credits:

Dean Lahikainen. Courtesy of Dean Lahikainen; Richard J.S. Gutman. Courtesy of Richard J.S. Gutman; Theodore Ross with His Wife’s Spirit, 1862–1875. W.H. Mumler (1832-1884). Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of the Supreme Council, 85.80.25c; Yosemite National Park, California, January 2002. Quang-Tuan Luong. © by the artist; Train Show. National Heritage Museum.

"Jim Henson's Fantastic World": Public Programs in May

Now entering its second month at the National Heritage Museum, "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" continues to delight visitors. Throughout May, we are offering public programs for every age and interest level. Read on - you're sure to discover a program you'd like to attend.

Heather Henson Head Shot This Mother's Day, Sunday, May 9, at 2 p.m., Jim Henson's youngest child, Heather Henson, will offer visitors an exquisite treat, entitled "A Daughter Remembers." Heather Henson's reminiscences about her father's life and extraordinary career will open a window to her own professional activities. She is the president and artistic director of IBEX, an entertainment company which promotes puppetry for the stage, film, and gallery. This presentation is free.

If you come to the Museum a bit earlier on May 9, you can enjoy a free gallery tour of "Jim Henson's Fantastic World." Join Museum staff at 1 p.m. for insights into the artist's astonishingly versatile mind and works.

Would you like to plunge in and AnythingCanBeAPuppetride the waves of your own creativity? Let Jim Henson inspire you at our puppetry workshop, "Anything Can Be A Puppet," offered on Saturday, May 15, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Michelle Finston, art educator and puppeteer, will be on hand to lead a workshop for people of all ages in how to create puppets and use them to tell stories. Ages seven to adult will enjoy this program, which costs $20/participant for non-members and $15/participant for members. Reserve your spot by emailing: [email protected].

Falk-IMG_4208-vF[1] The third May weekend brings a second special guest to the Museum. On Saturday, May 22, Karen Falk, exhibition curator and archivist at The Jim Henson Legacy, will offer visitors two exciting programs. At 12 p.m., she will lead a free gallery tour of "Jim Henson's Fantastic World." Please note that participation is limited to 25 and pre-registration required. To secure one of the few remaining spots, call (781) 861-6559, ext. 4101. Then, at 2 p.m., Ms. Falk will present a free talk entitled "Sell, Sell, Sell! Highlights from Jim Henson's Commercials." Did you know that Jim Henson was an innovator in advertising in the early 1960s, launching many of his characters' careers in that field? Come see video of this little-known and highly entertaining work!

Calling all pre-schoolers! Even the smallest visitorsErnie&Bert can connect with "Jim Henson's Fantastic World" through our Mornings at the Museum programs. Come on Thursday, May 13 at 10:30 for a "Puppet Delight." We'll read a story about an imaginative chicken named Minerva Louise and make our own puppets. On Thursday, May 27 at 10:30, "MONSTERS!" will be our theme. Find your inner monster by listening to Where the Wild Things Are, creating a monster mask, and parading to some fun and fuzzy monster tunes. Children ages 4 and under and accompanying adults will enjoy these programs. $5/child (non-members) and $3/child (members). No pre-registration necessary.

You'll find more information about these and other public programs offered at the Museum on our programs webpage. Send us a mail at [email protected] or give us a call at 781 457-4126 if you have questions about programming.

MLF name Blue The Smithsonian Community Grant program, funded by MetLife Foundation, is a proud sponsor of these public programs. 

"Jim Henson's Fantastic World" is on view at the National Heritage Museum through June 27, 2010.

Photo Credits:

Heather Henson. Photo courtesy of The Jim Henson Legacy

Puppet. Photo courtesy of Michelle Finston

Karen Falk. Photo by John E. Barrett

Bert & Ernie. Photo by John E. Barrett. TM & © 2010 SesameWorkshop. All Rights Reserved


“Jim Henson’s Fantastic World” is organized by The Jim Henson Legacy and SITES, in cooperation with the Henson Family; The Jim Henson Company; The Muppets Studio, LLC; and Sesame Workshop. The exhibition is made possible by The Biography Channel. Additional support has been provided by The Jane Henson Foundation and Cheryl Henson.

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