Posts by Hilary Anderson Stelling

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.

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.


A Portrait of Samuel Larison, Freemason and Winemaker

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Samuel Larison, 1860-1869. California. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.17.

Around 1853 the subject of this photograph, Samuel Larison (also spelled Larrison), drawn by the promise of the Gold Rush, emigrated to California. Larison mined for a few years and “met with more or less success.” Eventually he left prospecting and purchased land to farm. He settled with his family near the town of Cloverdale in Sonoma County, California. There he became a pioneer winemaker, a cooper for the new wine industry, and a charter member of the town’s Masonic lodge. 

In the 1870s Samuel Larison (1821-1899) advertised multiple times as a cooper, declaring, “Wine-Growers, Attention! Cooperage of all kinds on hand and made to order….” A note in the local paper detailed that he used white oak from neighboring Lake County to make wine-pipes (specialized wine barrels) that held 150 gallons (about 750 modern bottles of wine). Starting in 1868, he cultivated grapes, with 18 acres planted with Zinfandel, Burgundy, and other varieties by 1883. Ten years later one observer drew attention to his product, noting that on a visit to the Cloverdale Winery “a load of Burgundy grapes grown by Samuel Larison…were the best we ever saw.”

Larison had first become a Mason as a young man in Ohio. He was a member of Yuba Lodge No. 39 in Marysville from 1856 to 1857. Later he was one of the charter members of Curtis Lodge No. 140 in Cloverdale, founded soon after he settled in town. The lodge received its charter in 1860; that same year Larison served as the lodge’s Tyler. Decades later, his obituary recalled that Larison was “an ardent admirer of masonry and for fifty years was a member of that order.”

This photograph shows Larison wearing the regalia of a Royal Arch Mason sometime in the 1860s. His obituary stated that he was a “chapter mason,” or member of a Royal Arch Chapter. When Larison first became a Royal Arch Mason or which chapter he belonged to is not known. Though many details about Larison’s Masonic career remain to be uncovered, this portrait of Larison in his apron suggests the pride he felt in his association with the group.

Many years after this photograph was taken, Larison continued to demonstrate his devotion to Freemasonry. In 1895 he was the oldest living member of the lodge and attended an installation of lodge officers. The local paper recorded of Larison that on this occasion, even though he did not travel into to town often, “his fraternal love for Masonry was to[o] overpowering to resist this opportunity to meet again with his brothers.”

If you'd like to more photographic portraits in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection, visit our online collections database or take a look at our flickr albums of cabinet cards and daguerreotypes.

 

Many thanks to Thomas Krummell, Assistant Grand Secretary/Recorder, Grand York Rite of California, for his help in researching Samuel Larison's Masonic activities in California.

References:

Tom Gregory, History of Sonoma County, California with Biographical Sketches (Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Company, 1911), 668, 671.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, CA: Frank Eastman, Printer, 1857), 175.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, CA: Frank Eastman, Printer, 1860), 476.

“Wine-Growers, Attention!,” Sonoma Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) December 14, 1872, 7.

"Samuel Larrison of Cloverdale…," Los Angeles Daily Herald (Los Angeles, CA) July 9, 1874, 2.

“Cloverdale,” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) September 19, 1883, 2.

“Local Items," Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) September 24, 1892, 3.

“Samuel Larrison, a charter member…,” Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) December 28, 1895, 3.

“Samuel Larrison Passes Away,” Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) May 27, 1899, 3.


Pollie and James Henry Thomas and the Household of Ruth

Pollie Thomas postcard
Pollie Thomas, 1908-1914, Benjamin Ami Blakemore (1846-1932), Staunton, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, A2018/053/005.

Pencil inscriptions on the back of these two photographs in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives identify that they portray Pollie Thomas (1888-1976) (at left) and her husband, James Henry Thomas (1869-1929) (at left, below). The Thomases lived in Staunton, Virginia. A copy of the "By-laws and Rules of Order Rose of Sharon Household of Ruth," published in 1915, signed "Sister Pollie Thomas," shows that Pollie Thomas belonged to this organization. A further inscription on the back of her portrait notes that she held the office of “Worthy Recorder,” or secretary, of the group.

Membership in the Household of Ruth was open to wives, daughters, and other relations of men who belonged to the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. Based in England, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows granted a charter to a group of Black men who wished to form a lodge in New York in 1843. In the United States, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was an African American organization.

Established in the United States in 1858, the Household of Ruth was a women’s auxiliary associated with the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. The organization granted degrees to both men and women. The group that Pollie Thomas belonged to, Rose of Sharon, No. 79, received its warrant in 1876. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Staunton, King Hiram No. 1463, where Pollie’s husband was likely a member, received its charter a few years before, in 1871. When he died in 1929, James Henry Thomas’s obituary noted that the Odd Fellows, the Household of Ruth, and the Lilly of the Valley Lodge of Elks, No. 171 conducted portions of his funeral service.

More examples of archival material related to African American fraternal groups in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives can be viewed here, on our digital collections site.

References:

"Thomas Funeral," The News Leader (Staunton, VA), 7/13/1929, 2.

Charles H. Brooks, The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America (Philadelphia, PA: Odd Fellows Print Journal, 1902), 115, 141.

 

Henry Thomas postcard
James Henry Thomas, 1907-1929, J.A. Haack, Washington, D.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, A2018/053/007.

 


Masonic Marks: Lost and Found

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Royal Arch Mason, 1886-1897. John B. Scholl (1857-1924), Chicago, Illinois. Museum Purchase, 97.031.4.

From the middle of the 1800s and through the early 1900s, many well-dressed Freemasons wore fobs that bore the mark that they had selected as part of receiving the Mark Degree. Others sported fobs engraved with not only their mark, but also the names of the different Masonic bodies they belonged to, along with the dates they had joined. The Royal Arch Mason here (at left), wears a keystone-shaped mark as a fob attached to his watch chain, along with a rich red velvet collar and apron, embroidered in gold.

Small, valuable, and connected to a watch chain with only a ring or hook, the fob style of Masonic marks worn by the subject of this portrait, and similar fobs, did get lost or were stolen. Countless advertisements and snippets from newspapers, hint at how frequently these items went astray--and at how much their owners wished for their return.

In 1856, Jason R. Hanna, staying at the Lima House in Lima, Ohio, advertised that his "MASONIC MARK made of gold in the shape of a Key Stone, with a locket enclosure, was lost or STOLEN." For its return he offered a $5 reward "and NO QUESTIONS ASKED." A few years later, newspapers reported on the return of a Masonic mark, "in the shape of a Maltese cross, of solid gold," that had belonged to Col. T. S. Martin, a Union solider that had died at Manassas, to his widow in Philadelphia. Thaddeus Miller, a Mississippi soldier, had retrieved the mark and, after many months, it was delivered to Mrs. Martin.

The same year, in 1868, an advertisement in The Evening Telegraph of Philadelphia sought the owner of "a silver watch and a gold Masonic mark, bearing the inscription, 'Girard Mark Lodge, No. 214'" that had been stolen by an escaped convict called George Black.  Another Philadelphia paper told the story of an unlucky man named John Matsinger who, in 1894, lost his watch, chain, and gold Masonic mark after being drugged at Arthur Chamber's saloon. A policeman intercepted the thief while he was trying to pawn Matsinger's property, and it was restored to its owner.

Another observant police officer received a reward of "a bank note of substantial value and an imported cigar" when he returned a lost Masonic mark decorated with diamonds to its owner, W. L. Marsh of Pittsburgh. Marsh, upon having his mark restored to him explained that "he valued it highly" as the fob had been given to him by his employees.  He rated it "without price...for its associations."

An even more remarkable story of a mark returned to its owner was that of the mark that belonged to Rev. Dr. H. Franklin Schlegel. Around 1911, Rev. Schlegel visited his family's farm at Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, and "inspected the big flock of Plymouth Rocks" in the chicken coops. During this visit he wore, "Suspended from his watch chain...his Masonic mark, representing the Blue Lodge, the Chapter, Commandery, Consistory or 32nd degree...." As he examined the chickens "the charm, fell to the ground" only to be eaten by one of the hens, though the bird that ate it could not be identified. Three years later, Dr. Schlegel's gold and diamond mark was discovered during excavation at the farm "in the old hen yard." After a small repair to the damaged enamel, the delighted Dr. Schlegel resumed wearing his fob.

If you have an interesting story about a lost or found Masonic mark or jewel, tell us about it in the comments below.

 

References:

"Lost or Stolen!," The Times-Democrat (Lima, OH), 5/3/1856, 3.

"A Masonic mark...," The Galveston Daily News (Galveston, TX), 12/9/1868, 1.

"An Owner Wanted," The Evening Telegraph (Philadelphia, PA), 7/18/1868, 8.

"Knocked Out," The Times (Philadelphia, PA), 8/4/1894, 6.

"Policeman Found Fine Masonic Mark," The Morning Post (Camden, NJ), 5/8/1906, 8.

"Dr. Schlegel Recovers Long-Lost Masonic Mark," Mount Carmel Item (Mount Carmel, PA), 7/25/1914, 1.


New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis

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Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis, ca. 1863. Museum Purchase, 2020.028.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library recently added a sparkling jewel owned by Winslow Lewis (1799-1875) to it its collection. This jewel, in the form of a compasses and arc topped with a crown containing a cross and a pelican feeding her chicks was likely presented to Lewis when he served as the Most Wise Master of Mount Olivet Chapter of Rose Croix in Boston in 1863.

Lewis’s jewel is made of metal set with cut glass stones in white, green and red. These stones, called paste, are imitation gems cut from lead glass that is soft, refracts light and can be produced in different colors. The jewel, almost 4 inches high, features a symbol, the pelican in her piety, used in the 18th degree of Scottish Rite Freemasonry. The pelican, as depicted on this jewel, feeds her chicks with blood drawn from a wound in her chest, representing self-sacrifice, charity, and resurrection. On this jewel, the head of the pelican and the chicks are formed from red stones, echoing the color of the blood. At the center of the cross is a group of red stones set in a circle that symbolize a rose. Unfortunately, the jeweler who created this elegant object did not mark it; its maker is unknown.

On the back of the jewel (see below), on the arc, an engraver noted the name of its owner, "Winslow Lewis." Trained as a physician, Lewis was a surgeon and anatomist who taught more than 400 private medical students and was associated with the Massachusetts General Hospital. He wrote and translated several book about anatomy. Many other interests claimed his time. In 1861, for example, members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society elected him president, a position he filled until 1866. He amassed a well-regarded collection of Papal medals and was the first president of the Boston Numismatic Society, founded in 1860. He served as a trustee at Harvard College and at the Boston Public Library.

In addition to these and other pursuits, he led, as one author described, “a Masonic life of greatest activity and usefulness, extending over more than thirty years.” He first received his degrees at Columbian Lodge in Boston in 1830 and 1831, and, soon after, took the York and Scottish Rite degrees. Twenty-four years after he was raised at Columbian Lodge, he served as the Grand Master of Massachusetts for two years. He held the office again in 1860. During the time that he received this jewel, along with his office at Mount Olivet Chapter, he was the Grand Secretary General for the Supreme Council. Lewis’s jewel is a striking artifact and reminder of the Masonic career of a man who declared that, “…in Masonry, I have found the best friends, the best social ties and comforts….”

 

2020_028DI2 back
Back of Jewel Owned by Winslow Lewis, ca. 1863. Museum Purchase, 2020.028.

References:

"Personal Sketches," Freemasons' Monthly Magazine, Vol XX, No. 8, June 1861, 231.

“Obituary, Dr. Winslow Lewis” Boston Journal (Boston, MA), August 4, 1875, [2].

Samuel Harrison Baynard, Jr., History of the Supreme Council, 33°Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Vol. 1 (Boston, MA: The Supreme Council, 1938), 428-29.