Posts by Hilary Anderson Stelling

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.


A Portrait of Samuel Larison, Freemason and Winemaker

2008_038_17DS1 Samuel Larison
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

97_031_4DS1 cropped
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

2020_028DI1 front
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.


An Engraved Masonic Jewel from Ireland

GL2004_4591DP1JF-1 RA and KT
Masonic Jewel, 1790-1820. Possibly Ireland. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4591.

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

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

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

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

GL2004_4591DP2JF Craft
Masonic Jewel, 1790-1820. Possibly Ireland. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.4591.

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

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


New to the Collection: George M. Silsbee’s Masonic Model

Am192129-1
Model, George M. Silsbee (1840-1900), 1887. Leadville, Colorado. Museum Purchase, 2020.010. Image courtesy of Freeman’s.

In the early 1870s, a Civil War veteran named George M. Silsbee (1840-1900) moved to Denver, Colorado. City directories from 1871, 1873, and 1876, listed his occupation as “artist,” though what kind of art he practiced is not known. When he was drafted to serve in the Union Army in 1863, a clerk noted that he was a daguerreian—an artist or photographer specializing in daguerreotypes. In 1875 he worked in partnership with Charles Anderson (1831-1922) as an organ builder.  Together they constructed a church organ with over 500 pipes—one of the first large organs built in Colorado. By 1880, Silsbee had moved to the boom town of Leadville, Colorado, likely prompted by the discovery of silver in the area. He lived there for the next twenty years, earning his living as a miner and as an engineer.

While in Leadville he embarked on a project later described by his family as “his life’s work.” The project included at least 14 large ink and watercolor paper charts backed with fabric and mounted on wood dowels. Densely packed with writing, calligraphy, and illustrations, these mystical charts explore ideas and symbols related to the Bible, Christianity, and Freemasonry. Along with these charts, Silsbee created this model (at left), newly added to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

About two feet tall, Silsbee’s three-dimensional model takes the form of a three level structure set onto a floor or counter, with an arch and columns spanning the whole.  Each level of the structure is rich with Masonic symbols portrayed as three dimensional objects shaped from different kinds of stone, metal, wood, plaster, and other materials. The first two levels feature symbols taken from the first three degrees of Freemasonry.  The upper level highlights symbols from the Royal Arch degree. Crowning the levels, Silsbee created a dark blue sky, glittering with sparkling grains (possibly pyrite) with an all-seeing eye at the center. Silsbee placed a keystone at the middle of the arch.  On it is the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master degree incised onto a circle.  What is likely Silsbee’s own mark—a square and compasses over a shield decorated with blue dots and red strips, representing the colors and symbols of the American flag—is at the center of the circle. At the very bottom of the model, on a blue shield, Silsbee cut his own initials in script, along with the year 1887, the date he likely completed this arresting work.

In crafting this model, Silsbee showed his skill at working with a wonderful variety of materials, and also demonstrated his knowledge of Freemasonry and its symbols.  The 1875 proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin list Silsbee as a member of Kenosha Lodge, No. 47 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He became a Mason at the lodge in 1863. When and where he became familiar with Royal Arch Masonry and where he took the Mark degree is not known. 

A few months ago, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added this striking example of Masonic folk art, which had been preserved in Silsbee’s family for several decades, to its collection. In the coming years, with additional research, we hope to learn more about George M. Silsbee--remembered by his family in an obituary as "an artist of ability"--and his remarkable creation.

Reference:

Micheal D. Friesen, “’A Wonderful Promise of Something to be Attained’: Colorado Organbuilder Charles Anderson and his Work,” The Tracker, Journal of the Organ Historical Society, vol. 42, no. 1, 1998, 27-34, 46.

Many thanks to Erika Miller of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin.


An Elaborate Royal Arch Jewel Owned by Lambert Keatting

GL2004_6656DP1DB
Front, Royal Arch Jewel, 1810. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.6656.

This elaborate gilded Royal Arch jewel belonged to Lambert Keatting (1773-1847), a member of Harmony Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 52 in Philadelphia. Founded in 1794, the chapter—like others in Pennsylvania at the time—worked under the authority of a craft lodge warrant issued by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and took its name from that lodge, Harmony Lodge No. 52. In spite of its connection with Harmony Lodge No. 52, the chapter drew its membership from several different craft lodges in Philadelphia. Lambert Keatting belonged to Lodge No. 67, where he was elected Master in 1811 and 1812. Later, in 1820, he became a member of Lodge No. 2, also in Philadelphia.

A boot and shoemaker, Keatting joined the Harmony Holy Royal Arch Chapter No. 52 in 1810. A few years later, in 1816 and 1817, he served as the presiding officer, or High Priest, of the chapter. Around the same time, he was appointed to be the Senior Grand Deacon at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Keatting had a life-long connection to Freemasonry. When he died, in 1847, his friends and acquaintances were requested to attend his funeral. The notice of this event in the newspaper invited specifically, “The Brethren of the Masonic Order generally, and particularly Lodge No. 2….”  

Keatting’s intriguing jewel, part of the collection of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, appears to have been made from two separate jewels(at left). The inner jewel—the round element topped with a bow at the top a banner at the bottom—is a Royal Arch jewel . This style of jewel—in the shape of a circle containing two interlaced triangles—was first worn by English Royal Arch Masons in the mid-1700s. On this jewel, at the center of the star, is a triangle that, on one side, has an engraving of a compasses surrounding a globe, and, on the other side, a circle with the letters of the mnemonic associated with the Mark Master Degree (below, at left). The space within the circle is left blank, suggesting that Keatting may have not taken the degree. Or, if he did, he did not have his personal mark or emblem engraved on this jewel. The banner at the base of the jewel threads beneath an oval with the letter G (a symbol for God or geometry) engraved on it. On the circle and on the arms of the triangle, on both sides of the jewel, an engraver cut phrases in Latin, English, and Greek that relate to the Royal Arch Degree (you can read about these inscriptions here, as they appear on another Royal Arch jewel made in England around 1791). On the back of the jewel, the engraver added Keatting’s name on one of the horizontal arms of the triangle, as well as a Latin phrase and the date (1810) on the circle. On the back of the jewel, the banner at the bottom bears the name of Keatting’s chapter, Harmony Royal Arch Chapter.

The outer element of the jewel is in the shape of an arch supported by two columns, spanned by four steps at the base. At the peak of the arch, above a keystone engraved with an all-seeing eye, is a hanging loop. A ladder (representing Jacob’s Ladder) connects the arch to the bow at the top of the round jewel. To join the arch to the round jewel, a craftsman cut away part of the bow. The round jewel is also connected to the inner sides of the columns and the top of the stairs. On the back side of the jewel, at the base, an engraver cut the initials of the name of the chapter and its number, “H. H. R  A. C. N[o] 52.” This inscription suggests that the arch and columns surrounding Keatting’s jewel may have come from a jewel owned by the chapter. Why Keatting’s jewel and another were joined together is unknown. If you have an idea or theory, we would love to hear  it. Please share it in the comments section below.

GL2004_6656DP2DB-1
Back, Royal Arch Jewel, 1810. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.6656.

References:

John Curtis, Centennial Celebration and History of Harmony Chapter No. 52 (Philadelphia, PA: Dunlap Printing Co., 1894).

Bernard E. Jones, Freemasons’ Book of the Royal Arch (London, England: George G. Harrap & Company Ltd), 1969,258-271.

Joshua L. Lyte, Reprint of the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA: The Grand Lodge, 1897).

Public Ledger, (Philadelphia, PA) August 6, 1847), [2].


New to the Collection: A Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling

2018_017aDP1DB name side  for blog
Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added an elegant and distinctive mark medal to its collection. In 1817, the owner of this medal, Thomas Colling (d. 1859) received the first three degrees at the newly founded Utica Lodge No. 270, in Utica, New York. The same year, the Grand Chapter of New York gave area Freemasons permission to establish Oneida Royal Arch Chapter No. 57. Thomas Colling joined this organization as well. Sometime after he received the Mark degree at the chapter, he commissioned this sophisticated mark jewel (at left).

Colling’s jewel is a shield-shaped. One side bears the motto of the Royal Arch, “Holiness to the Lord” at the top. At the point of the shield, the engraver cut block and script letters spelling out Colling’s name and chapter within an oval. The center of the medal features a female figure holding a ball and a plumb line, leaning against a plain block with a triangle within a circle drawn on it that supports an urn. A group of Masonic tools, a book (likely a Bible), a compasses, a mallet, and a level, are at the bottom of the block. The figure on Colling’s jewel, dressed in robes and sandals in a classical style, could possibly represent Fortuna, the Roman goddess of fortune, chance, and luck.  She was usually identified by the attributes of a ball, wheel, or cornucopia.

In the early 1800s, the Masonic virtues of faith, hope, and charity, were sometimes represented by female figures shown with particular attributes. Faith carried a cross or Bible, Hope held an anchor, and Charity nursed or carried children. For his mark, engraved on the other side of the medal, Colling selected the virtue of hope (at left, below). The craftsman who engraved Colling’s jewel depicted hope as a woman on the shore, with a ship in the distance, gesturing upward and stepping on a large anchor half obscured by her skirt. At the top of the jewel, the craftsman engraved a square, compasses, and Bible. At the tip of the shield, he depicted a shovel, pick, and rod, the working tools of the Royal Arch degree.

An adept engraver decorated Colling’s medal using a number of techniques such as, line engraving, roulette work, and stipple. Although the name of this engraver is unknown, we hope further research will help uncover more about the craftsman who ornamented this jewel. If you have any suggestions or ideas about this medal, please leave them in the comment section below.

Many thanks to Joseph Patzner of the Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library at the Grand Lodge of New York.

 

2018_017aDP2DB mark side for blog
Mark Medal Made for Thomas Colling, mark side, 1817-1830, New York. Museum Purchase, 2018.017a. Photograph by David Bohl.