Posts by Hilary Anderson Stelling

New to the Collection: Elisha J. Cleveland’s Past Master’s Jewel

2021_008_5DP1FG E J Cleveland PM jewel
Past Master’s Jewel, 1860. Massachusetts. Gift of Virginia B. Squair, 2021.008.5a-b. Photograph by Frank E. Graham.

In December of 1859, twelve men applied to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for permission to form a new Masonic Lodge, called Hammett Lodge, in East Boston. Members of this group selected Elisha James Cleveland (1821-1866) to be the presiding officer—or Master—of their inchoate lodge. After the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts granted Hammett Lodge a charter in 1860, Elisha Cleveland served as Master. Members and guests attended Hammett Lodge’s dedication and officer installation ceremony early in 1861. Attendees and officers marked the event with speeches and refreshments.

In choosing Elisha Cleveland as their leader, members of the new lodge looked to someone with immediate experience as Master of a lodge. Cleveland had first become a Freemason at Mount Tabor Lodge, in East Boston, in 1851 and served as Master in 1858 and 1859. Around this time, he earned his living as a blacksmith or as a shipsmith in Boston. The brethren of Mount Tabor Lodge thanked Cleveland for his service as Master with a handsome Past Master’s jewel. Cleveland soon received another gold Past Master’s jewel (at left) with an inscription noting that it was given “by his friends, E. Boston, Apr. 6, 1860.” Cleveland was elected Master of Hammett Lodge before it received its charter and held the office through at least part of 1861. Though the inscription is not specific, this jewel likely commemorated Cleveland’s leadership of Hammett Lodge from its start.

After he received this jewel, Cleveland visited a photographer’s studio a few blocks from his home in East Boston. There he had his portrait (at left) taken by a self-described “photographist,” William R. Hawkes. In dressing for his appointment at the studio, Cleveland wore his street clothes—a jacket, vest, neckcloth, and shirt—with the Past Master’s jewel he received in 1860 pinned at the center. This photograph, in a small carte-de-visite format, is an intriguing document of how Cleveland used the jewel and suggests the pride he may have felt in wearing it.

E. J. Cleveland image
Elisha James Cleveland, 1860-1866. William R. Hawkes, East Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of Virginia B. Squair, 2021.008.2.

Cleveland died suddenly, of a stroke, in 1866. His obituary noted that he was “much beloved by the masonic fraternity.” Many years later, his widow Mary Ann Cleveland (1824-1883) bequeathed “the Past Master jewels belonging to my late beloved husband” to her son-in-law, Charles Leeds. Both of Cleveland’s Past Master’s jewels, and other Masonic items that descended in his family, are part of a recent generous gift to Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Reference:

“Funeral of the Late Elisha J. Cleveland,” October 5, 1866, Boston Herald, page 2.


An 1805 Membership Certificate for the New York Mason Society

Masonic Society Certificate 1805
New York Mason Society Certificate Issued to Ezekiel Thorp, 1805. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, A2019/010/001.

In 1805 the New York Mason Society issued a certificate to Ezekiel Thorp proving his membership in the organization. This document, signed by the group’s secretary and president, is an engraving executed by artist Archibald Robertson (1765-1835) and engraver William Rollinson (1762-1842). The images on the certificate help tell the story of the Society's purpose and work.

Divided into three vignettes, each scene on this certificate speaks to one of the group’s activities. On the far right, glimpsed behind a drape, the artist created a scene of men constructing a building. On the ground, climbing a ladder, and on scaffolding, the figures are engaged in preparing and carrying mortar and laying bricks. On the left-hand side, a man in a top hat brings items to a group of three people, a man, woman, and child—the man is in bed, his weeping family members are next to him. With an open stance, the man in the hat gestures toward the group, appearing to offer them the coins in his right hand and the sack in his left. At the center of the image, columns and an arch define the space that contains the text, red wax seal, and officers' signatures. Below the text, two men shake hands. Above them is a selection of mason’s tools: a hammer, two kinds of trowels, and a mallet on either side of a large level. Though some of the tools depicted in the center panel are used as symbols in Freemasonry, the New York Mason Society was not a group for Freemasons. In spite of having the word "Mason" in its name and featuring tools on its certificate, the New York Mason Society was an organization for men who earned their livings in specific building trades.

As yet, nothing is known of the owner of the certificate, New York Mason Society member Ezekiel Thorp. The president of the group who signed Thorp's certificate, Michael Norris, was a mason listed in several New York City directories in the early 1800s. He died in 1818 at age 45. Also listed in New York City directories as a mason, is Samuel Ludlum, who signed  as secretary of the organization. In addition to working as a mason, Ludlum advertised as the co-owner of a plaster-of-Paris factory in 1811. He, like Norris, died at a young age—just 34 years—of consumption, in 1813.

In commissioning a certificate for members, the New York Mason Society worked with an artist Archibald Robertson, and engraver, William Rollinson. The pair worked on other projects together, most notably an engraved portrait of Alexander Hamilton (1755 or 1757-1804), published soon after Hamilton died suddenly from wounds sustained in a duel. Rollinson, an active Freemason, also engraved certificates for several Masonic lodges and the Grand Lodge of New York (you can see examples of some of this work in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library here).

Two years after Ezekiel Thorp received this certificate, the New York state legislature passed an act incorporating the New-York Masons’ Society. This act outlined that this group, drawing members from masons, bricklayers, and plasterers, sought to promote sociability among members, to offer charity to members  “in distress,” and to encourage members to become “more perfect in their respective callings.” These goals and activities are reflected in the images that Robertson and Rollison created for this certificate. The act also noted that the organization’s first president was Samuel Ludlum, one of the men who signed this document over two hundred years ago.

References

Laws of the State of New York, Vol. 5, (Albany, New York: Websters and Skinner), 1809, 8-10.

"For Sale," Public Advertiser (New York, NY), June 14, 1811, 1.

"Died," Mercantile Advertiser (New York, NY), March 3, 1818

 

 

 

 

 


New to the Collection: Fob Owned by Members of the Chillson Family

Chillson fob 1867 credit Robert Scholnick view oneThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added an intriguing piece of silver jewelry to its collection--a watch fob owned by three members of the Chillson family. Dates and initials engraved on this fob help tell its story.

Throughout the mid-1800s, an increasing number of American men wore watches, often keeping their timepieces safe and accessible in a vest pocket. A watch chain, usually threaded through a buttonhole, served to secure the watch to a vest, in case it slipped out of the user’s hand when he was checking the time. Some watch-wearers selected tokens and ornaments, called fobs, to add sparkle and pizazz to their watch chains. This fob is made of three square plates joined by wide rings. Rings attach an ornament in the shape of a keystone to the bottom-most plate. The square plates, made from cut down silver dollars, bear engraving detailing its different owners over time.

The first owner recorded in engraving on the fob is “L. D. Chillson” who gave the fob “to his Brother W. S. C., 1867.” Lorenzo Dow Chillson (1830-1921) was the giver; the recipient of this gift was the eldest of Lorenzo’s fifteen siblings, Waters Sherman Chillson (1808-1887). Waters, in turn, gave the fob “to his Son W. F. C.,” William Francis Chillson (1851-1922), in 1884. The keystone-shaped ornament connected to the plates is engraved with Masonic symbols. One side shows a Masonic emblem, a square and compasses with the letter G. The other is decorated with a mnemonic associated with the Mark degree of Freemasonry. Within this circle of letters, an engraver outlined a personal symbol chosen by William.  The symbol on this fob is a ticket punch with the initials W. F. C. engraved on it. These are William Francis Chillson's initials and the ticket punch relates to his profession--census records show that William worked as train conductor in 1880.

Chillson fob 1867 credit Robert Scholnick view twoHis uncle, Lorenzo Dow Chillson, worked in Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, and California as a miner, surveyor, and entrepreneur. He is listed as a Master Mason at Washoe Lodge No. 157, in Washoe, Nevada, in 1863 and was a charter member of San Buenaventura Lodge No. 214 in Buenaventura, California in 1870. In the 1890s, he was involved in Freemasonry in Arizona. What prompted him to give this fob, or the silver dollars it was made from, to his eldest brother in 1864 is not known, nor is it known if a particular occasion led Waters Chillson to give the fob to his son almost twenty years later. Further research may offer insight into this object and its different owners in the Chillson family. In the meantime, it serves as a tangible reminder of the enduring connections between family members.

 

Photo credit:

Fob and Detail of Fob, 1864-1884. United States. Museum Purchase, 2022. Photo, Robert Scholnick, Essex River Antiques.

References:

Deanne DeGrandpre, “The Remarkable Life of Lorenzo Dow Chillson,” The Journal of Ventura County History, vol. 60, no. 1, 2017-2018.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, Frank Eastman), 1863-1866, 1871-1878.


The Masonic Hall of Fame: Prince Hall

PH GM w monument M180_B001_F008_Masons_002
Grand Master with Prince Hall Monument, 1910-1930. Charles H. Bruce (1884-1975), Boston, Massachusetts. Charles H. Bruce Photographs (M180), Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections, Boston, Massachusetts, Box 1, Folder 8.
Prince Hall Freemasons honor Prince Hall with a ceremony at his monument in Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston each Memorial Day.

 A leading member of Boston’s African American community, Prince Hall (1735 or 1738-1807) campaigned for schools for Black children, fought for equal rights for Black Americans, and sought to abolish slavery. Prince Hall, who was barred from joining American Masonic lodges solely because of his race, founded the historically Black organization that now bears his name.

Made a Mason

Drawn to Freemasonry’s values, Hall tried to join St. John’s Lodge in Boston in the early 1770s but was denied membership because he was a Black man. Hall and fourteen other African Americans who had also been rejected by established Boston lodges turned to a military lodge operating in Boston, No. 441, in their quest to become Freemasons. Initiated by the lodge in 1775, Hall and his brothers met as members of the British lodge until end of the Revolutionary War.

African Lodge No. 459

In 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England to form a new lodge in Boston. The governing body granted his request, creating African Lodge No. 459. Prince Hall helped found other lodges in Philadelphia and Providence; they worked under the charter of

Wright certificate at Houghton Library cropped
 Certificate, June 23, 1799. Provided by Colonial North America at Harvard Library, Harvard University, Houghton Library.
In 1799, Prince Hall, as Grand Master of the African Lodge in Boston, signed a document certifying that Richard P. G. Wright was a Master Mason.

African Lodge No. 459. These lodges eventually joined to form African Grand Lodge. In 1847, forty years after Prince Hall’s death, members of African Grand Lodge changed their name to Prince Hall Grand Lodge, in honor of their founder. The organization that Prince Hall established continues to thrive today and Prince Hall Masons meet in thousands of lodges across the United States.

"The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History"

We hope you can come visit the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s exhibition, "The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History." This exhibition showcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition will be on view through October of 2024. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons, such as Prince Hall, who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours.

 

 


Royal Arch Certificate Issued to Seth Sweetzer in 1797

GL2004_10888_DS1 from RIn 1797 the officers of “the Royal Arch Chapter holden at Boston under the sanction of St. Andrew’s Lodge No. 82” certified that on September 11, 1797 “our faithful, true and well beloved Brother Seth Sweetzer had been exalted to the sublime degrees of Super Excellent and Royal Arch Mason.” The men who signed the document (above) proclaimed Sweetzer a member of their group and recommended him to “all Royal Arch Chapters on the face of the Globe.” Sweetzer’s fascinating certificate is part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Seth Sweetzer (1772-1851), to whom this certificate was issued, took the first three Masonic degrees at St. Andrew’s Lodge in Boston in 1795. He was later one of the founding members of St. Andrew’s Chapter No. 1—his was name noted on the charter that the chapter received from the General Grand Chapter in 1800. Sweetzer served as Grand Secretary for the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts from 1801 through 1803. Sweetzer (also spelled Sweetser), who sold glass, crockery, and other goods for a living, moved from the Boston area to Newburyport, Massachusetts, in the early 1800s. In Newburyport he expanded his business undertakings to include auctioneering and running a bakery. Though he joined St. John’s Lodge in Newburyport in 1800, he eventually cut his connection to Freemasonry and was, decades later, remembered as “not approving of Masonic teachings.”

Until the end of the 1700s, Masonic certificates were generally issued not as a matter of course, but only if requested. Known to their fellow lodge brethren, members did not need a certificate to attend meetings at their home lodge. A Masonic brother who relocated, as Sweetzer did, might desire a certificate to help him prove his status as a Mason or as a Royal Arch Mason in a new town. Certificates from the handful of lodges that met in North America in the mid-1700s, if issued at all, were handwritten, rather than printed, documents. In the late 1700s lodges began to commission artists to design and engrave printed certificates bearing standard text. These were often illustrated with Masonic symbols. Printed by the hundreds, these attractive certificates were easy to issue—the lodge or chapter secretary needed only to fill out the recipient’s name, location, and other details, and to make the document official by affixing the lodge’s seal to it and by obtaining lodge officers’ signatures.

Sweetzer’s intriguing 1797 certificate is a hybrid of a printed certificate and a manuscript (or handwritten) certificate. The Masonic symbols on Sweetzer’s certificate—a large arch containing an assortment of Masonic emblems set on a checkered pavement—also appear on a printed certificate issued by St. Andrew’s Lodge to Phillip Wentworth the year before, in 1796 (see below). On Wentworth’s certificate for the third, or Master Mason, degree of Freemasonry, the text in the center was printed with blank spaces left for the recipient’s name, his lodge, and for other information added by the lodge secretary. Sweetzer’s certificate features the same Masonic ornaments, but no printed text. Instead, at the center, the text on his certificate was handwritten in ink.  As well, several mottos, shapes, and symbols related to the Royal Arch degrees were inked onto Sweetzer’s certificate.

Historians have stated that these certificates are the work of Boston silversmith Benjamin Hurd (1739-1781) based on the script “Brother B. Hurd del.” engraved on the lower left-hand corner. This attribution may be correct, but it is also possible that the design of the certificate was undertaken by St. Andrew’s Chapter member Benjamin Hurd Jr. (1750-1821) and was engraved by a craftsman that did not sign the work. The abbreviation “del.” after “Brother B. Hurd” represents the Latin for “drawn by.” In the time this certificate was created, some engravers would sign their name to their work along with with the abbreviation “sculpt.” which represented the phrase “engraved by.” Benjamin Hurd Jr., a Charlestown merchant, was a former secretary of St. Andrew’s Chapter and the presiding officer of the chapter when Sweetzer received this document. He was not, in spite of their shared names, directly related to Benjamin Hurd, the silversmith. Benjamin Hurd Jr.'s signature is the topmost of the officers’ signatures on the document. There are several reasons to question the certificate’s attribution to the silversmith Benjamin Hurd. The silversmith Hurd was not known to have been a Freemason and this certificate is signed "Brother." The silversmith Hurd died in 1781, several years before Sweetzer's and Wentworth's certificate were issued. And, finally, the silversmith Hurd is not known to have signed other engraved prints. The question of which Benjamin Hurd designed this certificate is bedeviled by the fact that several men that lived in Boston and Charlestown in the 1790s were named Benjamin Hurd and Benjamin Hurd Jr.—their separate life histories and activities are difficult to distinguish. Regardless of who designed these certificates, these preserved documents speak to the involvement of members with Freemasonry at the close of the eighteenth century.

GL2004_1105DP1DB

 

 

Photo Credits:

Certificate Issued to Seth Sweetzer, 1797. Boston, Massachusetts. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.10888.

Certificate Issued to Phillip Wentworth, 1796. Boston, Massachusetts. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.1105. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

William Richard Cutter, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908), 1595.

Hollis French, Jacob Hurd and His Sons Nathaniel & Benjamin Silversmiths, 1702-1781 (New York: Da Capo Press, 1972), 143-146.

Aimee E. Newell, Hilary Anderson Stelling, and Catherine Compton Swanson, Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection (Boston: Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts and Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2013), 38-41.

 

 

 

 


New to the Collection: Portrait of Thomas Lownds (1762-1825)

2021_002DP1FG Thomas Lownds cropped
Thomas Lownds, 1800-1825. Probably New York, New York. Museum Purchase in Memory of Charles Gordon Lambert and through the Generosity of the Augusta Masonic Bodies, 2021.002. Photograph by Frank E. Graham.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added this wonderful portrait to its collection. The subject of the portrait is New York City native Thomas Lownds (1762-1825), an intriguing character and a Masonic mover and shaker.

By profession Lownds (also spelled Lowndes) was a grocer and a baker. In middle age he left this trade to become superintendent of the alms house in New York City and of St. John’s Hall, a meeting place for many Masonic lodges in the city. Later he owned a boarding house and was, at the end of his life, in charge of running the city’s debtors’ prison. He also earned money serving as a Tyler for several Masonic groups. A history of Washington Lodge No. 21 notes that Lownds, who took his degrees at the lodge and served as its Master in 1808 and 1814, was “energetic, jovial, a good leader, and evidently popular among his companions” as well as “a restless, ambitious man, possessed of wonderful organizing ability.”

The same author described Lownds as “…inexhaustible in his enthusiasm for Masonry….” Lownds’ Masonic record supports this account. Lownds played key roles in several Masonic groups established in New York City in the early 1800s. He held the offices of Deputy High Priest and Grand Visitor of the Grand Chapter of New York in the 1810s. A charter member of the Aurora Grata Lodge of Perfection in 1808, Lownds later worked the Scottish Rite degrees with Joseph Cerneau, whose Rite was in competition with the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction for many years. Additionally, Lownds held leadership roles in the at Columbian Commandery No. 1 and at the Knights Templar Grand Encampment in the 1810s. Lownds helped establish Cryptic Masonry in the United States, serving as Grand Master of the Grand Council when it was organized in 1823. From 1802 through the early 1820s, Lownds participated in almost all the forms of Freemasonry that were active in New York. When he died at the age of 63, the newspapers noted simply that Lownds was, “…an old and respectable inhabitant of this city.”

This undated portrait depicts Lownds as a vibrant man in middle age. In the image Lownds sits on a dark upholstered chair, with red drapery behind him. The understated background and his black clothing provide a contrast to Lownds’ expressive face, crisp neckwear, and the light-colored cane he holds in his right hand. This portrait is not signed, but its unknown artist left a compelling visual record of a strong personality who helped establish and sustain several Masonic organizations in their formative years.

 

References:

Robert W. Reid, Washington Lodge No. 21, F. & A. M. and Some of Its Members (New York, NY: Washington Lodge, 1911), 184-186.

“Died,” Statesman, New York, NY, December 16, 1825, p. 3.


Masonic Hall of Fame: George Washington

6_30_21 HiRes WilliamsWashington resized2 AW22 Lodge(1)
George Washington, William Joseph Williams (1759-1823), 1794. Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, A.F. & A.M., Alexandria, Virginia.

“…the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.” George Washington, 1793

Elected on February 4, 1789, George Washington (1732-1799) served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Washington had been an officer in the Virginia militia during the French and Indian War from 1754 to 1763, a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses, and Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution from 1775 to 1783. He devoted his professional life to his country. He was born on February 22, 1732, two hundred and ninety years ago today.

Freemason

Freemasonry played an important role in Washington's private and public life from the time he joined Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 in Virginia in 1752. In 1788, Alexandria Lodge No. 22, composed largely of Revolutionary War officers, petitioned the Grand Lodge of Virginia for a charter and asked Washington to be their founding lodge Master. He complied with his brethren’s request and served as Master for nearly twenty months, starting in April 1788.

Lodge Master and President

Inaugurated on April 30, 1789, Washington became the first and only United States President to also serve as Master of his lodge during his term. Although his time as Master ended in December of 1789, Washington continued to support the fraternity. While touring the country, he often met with local Freemasons and took part in special ceremonies, such as the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the U.S. Capitol in 1793. After Washington’s death in 1799, Freemasons throughout the nation participated in processions and ceremonies marking the passing of

A2017_043_1DS1 scan of Plummer memorial cropped
Memorial Drawing, 1800 or 1802, Nathan Plummer (1750-1835) or (1787-1871), New Hampshire. Museum Purchase, A2017/043.

their Masonic brother. The watercolor and ink memorial pictured here (at right) expressed the grief felt by one American upon Washington's death and features, at the center, Masonic symbols underscoring Washington's association with Freemasonry. For over two centuries, Freemasons have taken great pride in Washington's membership in the fraternity.

"The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History"

When you have the chance, we hope you can come visit the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s new exhibition, "The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History." This exhibition showcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition will be on view through October of 2024. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons, like George Washington, who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours.

 


The Masonic Hall of Fame: Meriwether Lewis and William Clark

As we passed on it seemed as if those scenes of visionary enchantment would never have an end. Meriwether Lewis, 1805

NPS_INDE_14096_MeriweatherLewisByCWPeale_600 smaller
Meriwether Lewis, ca. 1807. Charles Willson Peale. Independence National Historic Park.

In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson charged Meriwether Lewis (1774-1809) and William Clark (1770-1838) to lead an expedition to explore and map the land that the United States had gained with the 15-million-dollar Louisiana Purchase. This area stretched from Louisiana to what is now Montana. Jefferson asked the explorers to find a water route across the continent, make scientific observations, and establish diplomatic relations with the Native American tribes over whose land they traveled. Lewis and Clark, with the other members of the Corps of Discovery, made progress on all of these goals. As well, the keenly observed impressions that the pair recorded in their journals about geography, plants, animals, and people, have sparked the imagination of generations to dream about exploration, discovery, and the American West.

Corps of Discovery

In twenty-eight months of exploration, from 1803 to 1806, Lewis and Clark’s party traveled over 8,000 miles from St. Louis to the mouth of the Columbia River. Lewis and Clark’s group of volunteers from the Army as well as interpreters, including Sacagawea (c. 1788-1812), a Lemhi Shoshone woman and her baby, witnessed many wonders. They also endured unpredictable weather, shortages of supplies, illness, accidents, and uncertainty. Lewis and Clark made their initial report of the expedition to Jefferson in 1806. A narrative of their expedition, based on their journals, was published in 1814.

Friends and Brothers

Lewis and Clark first met when they served together in the Army in the 1790s. Lewis had become a Freemason during that time, at Door to Virtue Lodge No. 44, in Albemarle, Virginia, in 1797. In 1809, Clark took his degrees St. Louis Lodge No. 111, where Lewis had served as founding Master just a year before. Their time as members of the same lodge was cut short by Lewis’s unexpected death in 1809.

"The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History"

Lewis and Clark are included in the  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s new exhibition, "The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History." This

William Clark portrait 1921-055-0001
William Clark, ca. 1810. John Wesley Jarvis. Missouri Historical Society.

exhibition showcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition will be on view through October of 2024. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons, like Lewis and Clark, who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours.

 


The Masonic Hall of Fame: Benjamin Franklin

92_025 dealer photo BF portrait smallerBoston-born Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) established what became a successful printing business in Philadelphia as a young man. From an early age, Franklin developed and followed a philosophy of continual self-improvement. He also practiced this ideal in his community, helping found and improve organizations that contributed to individual and public good, including Freemasonry.

Thinker and Diplomat

After he retired from business in his early 40s, Franklin turned his curiosity to his vast interests, including politics, science, philosophy, literature, and diplomacy. In Paris in the late 1770s, he successfully sought French support for the American fight for independence. He later served as ambassador to France for the new United States. Upon his return to Pennsylvania as a respected elder statesman, he became President of the Pennsylvania Assembly, helped shape the new nation at the Constitutional Convention, and worked to abolish slavery.

A Freemason for the Ages

Franklin became a Freemason as a young man, in 1731. In 1734, Benjamin Franklin produced the first book about Freemasonry that was printed in North America. Franklin based his Constitutions—which contained the history, laws, and regulations of Freemasonry—on the English edition published in 1723. Able and active, he served as Grand Master of Pennsylvania just three years later and as Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1749. Alongside his many endeavors, Franklin held many lodge and Grand Lodge offices. Near the end of his life, his Pennsylvania brethren honored Franklin as “An illustrious Brother” of “distinguished merit” entitled to the “highest veneration.”

"The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History"

This November,  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library opened a new exhibition, "The Masonic Hall of Fame: Extraordinary Freemasons in American History." This exhibition Constitutions BF publishedshowcases inspiring American Freemasons and introduces visitors to the history of Freemasonry in the United States. The exhibition will be on view through October of 2024. Throughout the exhibition, visitors will meet extraordinary Masons, like Benjamin Franklin, who, through their outsized contributions to Freemasonry, government, the arts, and social justice, made a profound impact on their world and ours.

Photo credits:

Above, Benjamin Franklin, ca. 1782. Painted by Joseph Wright (1756–1793), Paris, France. Special Acquisitions Fund, 92.025.

The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, 1734. Printed by Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Acquired through the generosity of Mount Lebanon Lodge, Boston; St. Andrew’s Lodge, Boston, and Kane Lodge Foundation, New York, RARE 31 .A547 1734.

 


Andrew P. Gilkey: Treasurer of his Lodge

2008_038_16DS1 Andrew P. Gilkey
Andrew P. Gilkey, 1860-1870. Probably Maine. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.16.

Sometimes even a small clue can lead to information about an object or image in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This photographic portrait shows a man wearing Masonic regalia, standing on a patterned floor in front of a plain background, with one hand resting on a stylish side chair. Along with an apron, he wears an interestingly shaped sash (which may have actually been a separate collar and sash that appear as one piece in this image), and an officer’s jewel suspended from a ribbon around his neck. His jewel is in the shape of two crossed keys. In Freemasonry, this symbol indicates the lodge office of Treasurer. To add pizazz to the image, an artist painted the sash blue and gold and added gold to the apron and jewel. This special treatment enhances the simple portrait and draws attention to the sitter’s regalia. An inscription on the back of this photograph, produced in the pocket-sized carte-de-visite format popular in the 1860s, records the name of the sitter, Andrew P. Gilkey, along with the information that he was the “Treasurer Royal Arch Masons.” This inscription offers valuable clues about the subject of the portrait.

Census takers recorded a man named Andrew P. Gilkey (1809-1890). This man was a resident of Islesborough, Maine, from 1840 through 1880. An 1876 business directory listed Gilkey as a carpenter and builder in the same community—an island town in Penobscot Bay. Membership records at the Grand Lodge of Maine show that Andrew P. Gilkey received his degrees at Island Lodge No. 89 in Islesborough in 1857. From 1860 through 1870, the Grand Lodge noted that Gilkey served as Treasurer of his lodge. A notice in the Portland newspaper confirms that he held this office in 1870.

Although the inscription on the back of the photograph suggests Gilkey was a Royal Arch Freemason, his name does not appear in the Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Maine as the treasurer of a chapter during the 1860s. As well, the apron he wears in this portrait features symbols related to Craft, rather than Royal Arch, Freemasonry. It is possible that the inscription on the back of the photograph noted the name and office of the sitter but misstated his connection with Royal Arch Masonry.

Married twice, Gilkey outlived both of his wives and four of his children. His grave marker, near those of family, bears his name, his age at his death, and a symbol of Freemasonry, a square and compasses with the letter G, emphasizing his long-time association with the fraternity.  

References: 

“Masonic,” Daily Eastern Argus (Portland, ME), March 15, 1870, [3].

Maine Business Directory(Boston, MA: Briggs & Co., 1876), 63.

John Pendleton Farrow, History of Islesborough, Maine (Bangor, ME: Thomas W. Burr, 1893), 212-213.