Posts by Hilary Anderson Stelling

A Photograph of Royal Arch Mason Marcus L. Young Taken by George N. Burley

Marcus L. Young, ca. 1871. George Newton Burley (1847-1919), Taylorville, Illinois. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.62.

Around 1870 a young photographer, George Newton Burley, took this portrait of a fellow resident of Taylorville, Illinois. An inscription inked on the bottom edge of the image names the subject of the portrait, M. L. Young. The richly decorated sash and apron, and the badge suspended from the collar of his coat, document Young’s involvement in Royal Arch Freemasonry.

Born in Kentucky, Young (ca. 1824-1890) likely moved to Illinois as a teenager. In 1865 a state census taker noted that Young engaged in the trade of harness and saddle making and lived in Taylorville with his family. Where and when Young first became a Freemason is not known. It is possible that he belonged to the Masonic lodge in Taylorville, Mound Lodge No. 122. His brother, Asbury A. Young (ca. 1829-1894), received his degrees at Mound Lodge No. 122 in 1852, the same year that the lodge received its charter.  In late 1866 or early 1867, M. L. Young took the Royal Arch degree at Taylorville Chapter No. 102. There, as noted in the Grand Chapter’s Proceedings, he joined 25 members of the new chapter. Royal Arch Masons in the area had established the chapter the previous year. Starting in 1867, Young filled the office of Tyler at the chapter.  In this role, he would have been charged with guarding the door during meetings. He may have received payment for undertaking this duty. The Grand Chapter’s Proceedings note that Young held this position in 1868, 1869, and 1870. It is possible that he served in this position after 1870. Starting in 1871 the Grand Chapter stopped publishing the names of all chapter officers in its Proceedings, so information about Young's roles at the chapter after that time is harder to come by.

In this portrait taken by George Burley, Young appears to wear the jewel of a High Priest—the presiding officer of a Royal Arch Chapter. The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Illinois did not record Young as holding this office in its Proceedings from 1867 through 1890.  However, in 1871, the High Priest and Secretary of Taylorville Chapter were, unusually, not recorded in the Grand Chapter’s Proceedings. It is possible that Young served as presiding officer of his chapter during that year.

If Young had filled that role, he may have wanted to commemorate this achievement with a portrait. George N. Burley (also spelled Burleigh, 1847-1919), born in Rosedale, Illinois, established himself as a photographer in Taylorville around 1870. When seeking to have his portrait taken Young selected Burley for the job. The image that Burley took has endured to the present day, capturing Young in his Royal Arch regalia.        



Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois…1852 (Peoria, Illinois: T. J. Pickett, 1852), 1852.

Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois, 1867-1871 (Springfield, Illinois: Harman G. Reynolds and Chicago, Illinois: Horton & Leonard), 1867-1871.   

Richard E. Hart, Springfield, Illinois' Nineteenth Century Photographers (1845-1900) (Spring Creek Series, 2014 Edition), 69-86.


Many thanks to Jodi Lloyd of the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Stephanie Martin  of Lincoln Library, Springfield, Illinois.

Portraits of Two Members of Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343, Independent Order of Odd Fellows

96_027_2DP1DB smaller
Portrait, 1851-1857. Thomas H. Newcomer (ca. 1827-1896), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 96.027.2. Photograph by David Bohl.

Sometime between 1851 and 1857, two members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343 had their portraits taken by daguerreotypist Thomas H. Newcomer (ca. 1827-1896) of Philadelphia. Though the subjects of these portraits in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library are unidentified, the images offer clues about the circumstances under which their portraits were taken.

An impression in the velvet-covered inner covers of the cases of these photographs reads “T. H. Newcomer 316 N. Second St. Philada.” This mark helped identify the artist who took these photographs. According to directory listings, Newcomer pursued his business at 316 N. Second St. from about 1851 to about 1857. In 1852 a newspaper advertisement extolled Newcomer’s virtues to readers, encouraging them to: “Remember the merits of Newcomer’s pictures…Newcomer, who takes such fine portraits. Newcomer, who has a fine reputation as an artist. Newcomer, whose prices are cheap. Newcomer, who is very celebrated.”

The subjects of the photographs are posed in the same manner at the same studio. Each is seated on a chair facing the camera in front of a plain background, resting one elbow on a small table covered with a light-colored textile woven with a dark floral pattern. Both wear similar regalia, a dark collar trimmed with bullion and decorated with light-colored stylized leaves, flowers, and vines, along with a light-colored apron trimmed with ribbon and bullion. At the center of each apron is painted a five-pointed star, a banner bearing the lodge’s name, and a lodge number, “No. 343,” in reverse. Through the combination of the lodge number and the legible letters of the name visible in the portraits, the lodge associated with these aprons appears to be Independent Order of Odd Fellows Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343. Warranted in 1849, this lodge met in Philadelphia.

Regulations outlined in I. O. O. F.: Digest of the Laws of the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows, published in Philadelphia in 1848 (reproduced in “A Secret Society Exposed: Daguerreotypes of American Odd Fellows,” cited below), detailed how, with their regalia, Odd Fellows conveyed to one another information about the degrees they had achieved and the offices they held in the organization. For example, a Noble Grand (the presiding officer of an Odd Fellows’ lodge) was identified by a “Scarlet collar, trim’d with white or silver.” The same

96_027_1DP1DB smaller
Portrait, 1851-1857. Thomas H. Newcomer (ca. 1827-1896), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 96.027.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

regulations noted that a Past Grand (a past presiding officer) could wear a “Scarlet collar…and aprons, either White trimmed with Scarlet or Scarlet trimmed with White.” These regulations also noted the symbols associated with the identifying badges, called jewels, worn by each officer. The jewel of a Past Grand took the shape of a star with five points.  

Although the subjects of Newcomer’s two portraits are not identified and do not wear jewels of office, it is very likely that they were past presiding officers of their lodge. In the portraits, they wear collars in the colors recommended for the office. The aprons in which they chose to be portrayed are also in the colors outlined for Past Grands and the star featured at the center of each of these aprons was a symbol associated with the office. It is very possible these photographs were taken to memorialize the status of these members of Shackamaxon Lodge No. 343 as former leaders of the group. The direct gazes of both men and their carefully held poses hint at the pride that they may have felt as leaders among their brethren.




“Markets,” Sunday Dispatch (Philadelphia, PA), 1/25/1852, page 2.

Michael P. Musick, “A Secret Society Exposed: Daguerreotypes of American Odd Fellows,” The Daguerreian Annual 2009/2010, 2011, 173-210.


Thank you to:

Robert Brown, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library research volunteer

Justin Bailey, Grand Secretary, Pennsylvania Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows

New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Jewels Owned by Edward H. Caldwell

2022_004_2DP1MC 18
Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.2. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

In December of 1867, Edward Holland Caldwell (1844-1872) of Mobile, Alabama, received the fourteenth degree at the newly established Mobile Lodge of Perfection No. 1. The following year he received the eighteenth degree, and later, the thirty-second degree. Caldwell’s jewels for the eighteenth and thirty-second degrees survive and were recently added to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Crafted of silver and cut-glass stones (also called pastes), Caldwell’s jewels were formed in the shape of symbols associated with the eighteenth and thirty-second degrees. The eighteenth-degree jewel is in the shape of a compasses topped with a crown (at left). An arc connects the legs of the compasses. Within the compasses is a cross highlighted by red stones and a cast representation of a pelican feeding seven chicks from the blood of her breast. On the reverse side is a cast cross and rose and an eagle with spread wings (at right). Caldwell’s thirty-second degree jewel is in the shape of a crown on top of a cross with arms of equal length with leaves or vines between the arms (at left, below). At the center of the cross is the number 32 reverse painted on glass in gold and black. On the back side of the jewel, at the center of the cross, two crossed swords are reverse painted on glass in black and gold with a white background.

Caldwell likely became a Mason in Mobile Lodge No. 40, the largest Masonic lodge in Alabama in the 1860s. He later joined a new lodge, Athelstan Lodge No. 369, constituted in Mobile in 1870. In 1868, when he took the eighteenth degree, he was the father of two young sons and involved in a local business. Caldwell and Emil Oscar Zadek (1848-1908) owned “Zadek & Caldwell, Importers and Manufacturers of Fine Jewelry” from about 1866. The firm advertised “handsome jewelry of every description. Also watches, silver ware, plated ware, opera glasses, etc.,” for customers in search of “an elegant article at reasonable prices….” Zadek was, according to the local paper, an accomplished craftsman who was not “surpassed in Mobile as a gold or silver smith.” Caldwell’s Scottish Rite jewels are not marked with the name of the manufacturer, so it is not known if his firm produced them in Mobile, or if Caldwell ordered them from another source.

Caldwell had grown up in New Orleans, the son of a wildly successful actor, theater owner, and entrepreneur, James Henry Caldwell (1793-1863). As a young student, he attended Spring Hill College in Mobile in 1856 and 1857, but does not seem to have graduated from that institution. Only a few years after he joined with Zadek in the jewelry business,  Edward Caldwell's business and circumstances changed when his older brother, James Henry Caldwell, Jr.,

2022_004_2 DP2 MC 18 backReverse of Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.2. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

died in his early 30s in 1870. Upon his brother's passing, Edward Caldwell inherited a large estate and became the president of the Mobile Gas, Light and Coke Company. This firm was one of the companies that his father had founded. His brother had previously served as president of the business. Reflecting this change, on the first of November in 1870 Edward Caldwell and Emil Zadek officially dissolved their partnership in the jewelry business.

Caldwell’s time as the head of the Mobile Gas, Light and Coke Company was short lived. He died in 1872 while in New York City. An obituary in a New Orleans newspaper stated that Caldwell was “noted among his friends for the geniality of his disposition and his boundless liberality." The writer also described Caldwell's philanthropy, observing that "no call for charity" made to him was unnoticed. All appeals to him, the writer continued, received "a cheerful response" from Caldwell, "a princely income enabling him to do much good in this respect.” As a sign of respect, Freemasons in New Orleans escorted Edward Caldwell's body to the train depot in New Orleans before it was put on a train to Mobile where Caldwell was buried. Caldwell's two handsome Scottish Rite jewels offer evidence of his involvement in Freemasonry and speak to his pride in his association with the group. 


"Removal and Purchase," The Mobile Daily Times (Mobile, AL), April 1, 1866, page 10.

Notice, Mobile Register (Mobile, AL), November 25, 1869, page 3. 

Notice, Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), October 8, 1872, page 4.

Many thanks to:

Michelle Lambert of the Grand Lodge of Alabama; Katy Osborne, Special Collections, Spring Hill College; Larissa Watkins of the Library, the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. 


2022_004_1DP1MC 32
Jewel Worn by Edward Holland Caldwell of Mobile, Alabama, 1868-1872. Museum Purchase, 2022.004.1. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

William S. Pine and an Odd Fellows Pitcher

79_11_1DP1DB side one
Pitcher, ca. 1845. England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.11.1. Photo by David Bohl.

In 1819 a coach spring maker from London named Thomas Wildey started what became the first American Odd Fellows lodge in Baltimore. Wildey’s lodge worked under the authority of a charter from an Odd Fellows group in England. In Maryland and beyond, Odd Fellows, with promises of conviviality and support for members, soon founded more lodges. By 1831 Odd Fellows in Delaware petitioned to form a Grand Lodge for their state. Over a decade later, from 1845 to 1846, William S. Pine (ca. 1810-1892) served as the Grand Secretary of this Grand Lodge. At the time, it counted five lodges and 286 members within its jurisdiction. This colorful pitcher, decorated with transfer prints of important symbols in Odd Fellowship, bears Pine’s name, the office he held, and a copyright year, 1845.

A resident of Wilmington, Pine worked as a hatter, and was a member of Washington Lodge No. 1. Along with his name, this paneled bright white porcelain pitcher with a gold-painted rim and handle features eleven transfer prints of symbols important in Odd Fellowship. Just under the rim are prints, colored with paint, of an open Bible, a heart in hand, a beehive, crossed arrows, and a cornucopia. Below these are prints of the three links of Odd Fellowship, an all-seeing eye, and figures representing justice and charity. Another print combines symbols of the United States—an eagle and a red, white, and blue shield, with a banner bearing one of the group’s mottoes, “Friendship, Love, and Truth.” The most elaborate print is of the seal of the Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of United States (adopted in 1833), surrounded by the motto, “We command you to visit the sick relieve the distressed bury the dead and educate the orphan.”

In 1843 the branch of Odd Fellowship founded by Wildey broke with England and, from that time, the group governed itself under the name Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The symbols on this pitcher reflect the change—the prints of the eagle with the red, white, and blue shield and the copyright statement were suited to an American organization and audience.

79_11_1DP2DB side two
Pitcher, ca. 1845. England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.11.1. Photo by David Bohl.

As a mark on the bottom of the pitcher attests, Clark and Levering of Baltimore, glass and ceramics merchants, imported this vessel. The firm likely commissioned the pitcher from an English manufacturer. What Pine’s part in the commission was, and why his name is on the object is, as yet, unknown. A note in the Odd Fellows’ official proceedings shows that Pine’s association with the Odd Fellows came to an abrupt end. In 1848 his brethren expelled him from Washington Lodge No. 1, recording the reason for his ouster with the description “bad conduct.” Before he left the group, Pine had a role in the fabrication of this pitcher—an object which celebrated the values of the organization and its newly declared independence.


Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb, As Above So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930 (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2015), 31-36.

Henry C. Conrad, History of the State of Delaware, vol. 2 (Wilmington, DE: The Author, 1909), 442-445.

William Henry Ford, Symbolism of Odd-Fellowship (New Orleans, LA: Cornerstone Book Publishers, 2013, reprint of 1904 edition), 215-216.

Journal of Proceedings of the Right Worthy Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows of the United States of America…, vol. 2 (Baltimore, MD: P. G. James Young, 1852) 1346.

79_11_1DP3DB under spout
Pitcher, ca. 1845. England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 79.11.1. Photo by David Bohl.

Theo. A. Ross, Odd Fellowship: Its History and Manual (New York, NY: The M. W. Hazen Co., 1888), 42, 621.


A Personalized Pitcher Owned by Maine Blacksmith Edward Nason

85_36_2DP2DBBorn in Maine in 1756 (or 1755, in some sources), Edward Nason trained as an apprentice with a blacksmith in Saco. At about age 19, he enlisted in the army. Nason was at the siege of Boston, participated in the attack on Quebec, and fought at Ticonderoga and Saratoga before completing his service at the end of 1777. A few years later he married, started a family, and worked with members of his family. By 1816, an announcement of a destructive fire noted that Nason had owned a grist mill, a blacksmith’s shop, and a fulling mill in an area called “Nason’s Mills” at Arundel, Maine. Genealogical records and newspaper notices provide clues about Nason’s long life—he died in 1847 at over 90 years of age—but an object in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library offers hints at how he identified himself.

This creamware pitcher, made in England and decorated with transfer prints, was personalized with the owner’s name, “Edward 85_36_2DP3DBNason,” painted within an ornamental cartouche under the spout. Each side of the pitcher bears a transfer print. One print was designed particularly for the American market. It features at its center a wish for the new nation that Nason had fought to establish in his youth: “Peace, Plenty, and Independence.” Symbols in this print support the patriotic sentiment. One of the largest is an eagle, standing on a cannon, with an American flag and many martial objects behind it. On either side of the text at the center, female figures dressed in classical robes carry fruit-filled cornucopia representing the idea of plenty.

The other side of the vessel features a heraldry-inspired image, “The Blacksmiths Arms.” It also bears the motto “By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand.” Above this motto panoplies of armor and weapons flank a shield which displays three blacksmith’s hammers. The text and images are an interpretation of the arms of The Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, a trade guild which had been established in London in the 1500s. By the time this pitcher was made, the group no longer regulated the blacksmithing trade. Nason could not have had any formal association with this group, but this image may have resonated with him as a representation of his occupation. Though Nason earned his living from different ventures over the years, he was known by the trade that he had learned as a teenager—he was, for example, identified as a blacksmith on deeds for land transactions he was involved in from 1779 through 1821.

85_36_2DP1DBIf Nason received this pitcher as a gift or if he commissioned it himself is not known. Nor is it known if this object commemorated a particular milestone or event. Regardless, whomever ordered or selected this pitcher decorated with these particular images made a choice that connected aspects of Nason’s life, his time as a soldier and his identification as a blacksmith.


Photo Credit:

Pitcher Owned by Edward Nason, 1800-1820. England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 85.36.2. Photographs by David Bohl.


“Fires,” Columbian Centinel (Boston, MA), 4/3/1816, page 4.

Robert Teitelman, Patricia A. Halfpenny, Ronald W. Fuchs II, Success to America: Creamware for the American Market (Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK: Antiques Collectors’ Club, 2010), 224-225, 271.

Two Images in David Vinton’s "Masonick Minstrel" on a Transferware Pitcher

GL2004_11687DP3DB Memento Mori smallerOver two hundred years ago, in 1816, Freemason David Vinton (1774-1833) compiled The Masonick Minstrel: A Selection of Masonick, Sentimental, and Humorous Duets, Glees, Canons, Rounds and Canzonets. Along with collecting existing songs and music, Vinton included some of his own original lyrics, set to well-known tunes, for his readers. Most of the work’s contents—music, songs, a history of Freemasonry, and a list of lodges in the United States—were drawn from a variety of previously published sources.

The frontispiece of Vinton’s work was directly inspired by that of a similar work, Smollet Holden’s A Selection of Masonic Songs. This book was published in Ireland, almost a decade and half before Vinton’s. A Selection of Masonic Songs featured a frontispiece based on a Dublin jeweler’s advertisement for Masonic wares. An 1814 circular soliciting subscribers for Vinton’s planned publication noted that among its embellishments was “an elegant emblematick frontispiece.” It and the title page were, according to the advertisement, going to be “engraved by the first artists in Philadelphia.”

In addition to the detailed frontispiece, Vinton’s book included other decorative engravings portraying Masonic symbols and themes. One is a depiction (above) of a skull over crossed bones flanked by representations of day (the sun on a light background) and night (the moon and stars on a dark background) and Masonic symbols contained within a diamond-shaped surround, along with Latin phrases related to Freemasonry, and cherubs at top and bottom.

Another image (below, at left), also oval-shaped, features, at its center, a Freemason, holding a rule, and wearing an apron and a jewel. He stands within an arch which is, in turn, surrounded by a structure with columns and a pediment. The pediment is ornamented by a Masonic coat of arms. An oval border contains this structure, the figure, and a selection of symbols used in Freemasonry.

GL2004_11687DP4DB j Lux Sapientiae croppedWhere did Vinton, an enthusiastic compiler and borrower, find models for these images? It is likely that he took these images from illustrations in a publication, as he did in the case  of his book’s frontispiece. Another intriguing possibility is that he encountered these images on a ceramic object decorated with Masonic-themed transfers. A small pitcher (5 ½” high) in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, provides an example (below at left and right). This object, manufactured in England, is ornamented with three Masonic-themed transfers printed in black on a red body. Vinton’s images are reversed and differ from the images on the pitcher in some small details. Overall the images in Vinton's book and those on the pitcher are enough alike to appear to have a shared inspiration.

This pitcher is one of the many stylish ceramic objects decorated with Masonic imagery created by English potteries in the late 1700s and the 97_25_4 hatchment image early 1800s. These kinds of ceramic objects proved popular with American Freemasons as special gifts to individuals or as presentations to lodges. Though the source Vinton used for these illustrations is not known, the similarity between them and the images on this pitcher underscores the connections between Masonic visual and material cultures in the Anglo-American world in the early 1800s.




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.

Kent Logan Walgren, Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States, 1734-1850, a Bibliography, vol. 1 (Worcester, MA: America Antiquarian Society, 2003), 284, 295-296.

97_25_4 lodge officer imagePhoto credits:

Pitcher, ca. 1800. England. Special Acquisitions Fund, 97.025.4. Photographs by Michael Cardinali.

Details from "The Masonick Minstrel…," Compiled by David Vinton, 1816. Published by Herman Mann & Co., Dedham, Massachusetts. Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.1687. Photographs by David Bohl.

New to the Collection: Masonic Fair Bowl

2023_001DP1MC biggerIn the late 1800s White’s Pottery of Utica, New York, (also called the Central New York Pottery) is thought to have created this substantial stoneware vessel. Makers ornamented its surface with patterns and shapes, including swags, ribbons, flowers, and vegetables, all highlighted with cobalt blue. The legend “Masonic Fair” is impressed within shield-shaped cartouches in three places on the outside of the object. This handsome and intriguing bowl is a recent addition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

At first glance, this large footed vessel—over 19 inches in diameter—appears to be a punch bowl. However, a close look at the patterns beneath the lettering within the shield-shaped cartouches ornamenting the bowl raise questions about the vessel and the purpose for which it was originally designed.  

In addition to functional objects, such as jars, water coolers, and mugs, White’s Pottery and the Central New York Pottery made decorative stoneware objects such as commemorative tankards, match holders, and coin banks. One of the firm’s clients was Bardwell’s Root Beer, a company run by druggist Charles Ellis Bardwell (1853-1927) of Holyoke, Massachusetts. He advertised “Bardwell’s Unparalleled Root Beer” to his fellow drug store owners to sell at their soda fountains. In a 1900 notice he offered not only root beer syrup, but an “outfit, consisting of Bardwell’s Root Beer Cooler…Bardwell’s Root Beer Pitcher, Six of Bardwell’s elegant Steins.” The components of these sets were made of stoneware and are commonly thought to have been manufactured by White’s Pottery.

In 1899 Bardwell received a design patent for “a new and original Design for Bowls” that were distinguished by vertically oriented perforated cylinders at their centers. From an image accompanying one of Bardwell’s root beer outfit advertisements, it appears that the perforated element contained the pitcher from which the root beer was poured into lidded steins. Bardwell’s ads described the bowl with the cylinder at its center as a cooler, claiming that his delectable product was served in “ice cold steins kept cold in Bardwell’s cooler.” The perforated cylinder kept the pitcher used to serve the root beer out of the ice, but cool. The dense stoneware from which the cooler, steins, and pitcher were made was a good insulator and helped keep the root beer, steins, and pitcher cool.

2023_001detailFrom images of surviving examples and pictures in Bardwell’s ads, each element of Bardwell’s outfit—the cooler, the pitcher, and the steins—bore the name “Bardwell’s” or “Bardwell’s Root Beer” in distinctive script. Surprisingly, this vessel, though marked with the phrase “Masonic Fair,” was made from a mold originally designed for to create the bowl that was part of Bardwell’s root beer outfit. On this bowl recently added to the collection of the museum, letters spelling out “Bardwell’s Root Beer“ are faintly visible under the words “Masonic Fair” (below, at left, look for the letter "R" under the star). The phrase “Masonic Fair” was likely pressed into the bowl while the clay was still moist enough to accept the impression. Decorators later outlined it with cobalt blue.

A member of Mount Holyoke Lodge in South Hadley Falls, Massachusetts, Bardwell may have offered coolers customized with the words “Masonic Fair” to serve refreshments or as prizes at fundraisers for Masonic organizations. Hopefully further research will shed light on the connection between Bardwell’s root beer coolers and Masonic fairs.


Advertisements, “The Popular New England Beverage for 1900…,” The Spatula, March, 1900, May, 1900, n. p.

John L. Scherer, Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection (Albany, NY: The University of the State of New York, 2015), 126-127, 136-141.

“What’s New?” The Spatula, April, 1900, 361.

For examples of stoneware made by White’s Pottery, see the Munson Museum, Utica, New York, online collection database.  

Photo credits:

Cooler, 1894-1901. Attributed to White’s Pottery, Utica, New York. Museum Purchase through the Special Acquisitions Fund, and Maureen Harper, Patricia Loiko, and Hilary Anderson Stelling in Memory of Jill Aszling, 2023.001. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.

Detail Cooler, 1894-1901. Attributed to White’s Pottery, Utica, New York. Museum Purchase through the Special Acquisitions Fund, and Maureen Harper, Patricia Loiko, and Hilary Anderson Stelling in Memory of Jill Aszling, 2023.001. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.


Abner W. Pollard Masonic Aprons in Photographs

UN2000_0063DS2From the mid-1840s through the 1860s, merchant tailor Abner W. Pollard (1808-1886) sold Masonic aprons and other regalia to Freemasons throughout New England from his store in Boston. An 1849 price list published by Pollard notes several of the different types of aprons he offered to his customers. Included on this list were Master’s aprons in satin for $2.50 to $3.00. A less costly option was a Master’s apron in leather for $00.75 to $1.00. Polland’s price list also noted a painted satin Royal Arch apron for $5.00. Many examples of the aprons that Pollard sold survive to the present day. The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library holds aprons marked by Pollard and others attributed to Pollard in its collection, as well as several on loan to the museum by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. Surviving examples of Pollard’s aprons with histories of ownership show that he supplied regalia to many lodges in Massachusetts, including lodges in Cambridge, Andover, Dorchester, and the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston.

Photographic portraits of Freemasons wearing Pollard aprons provide evidence of the popularity of Pollard’s designs beyond his home state. Photographer William Weiman Peabbles (1831-1901) who worked in Livermore Falls, Maine, captured this image of a man in his street clothes, a top hat, and what appears to be one of Pollard’s aprons (at left). The relatively plain apron in the photograph bears an image of the jewel of a Senior Deacon, an officer in a Masonic lodge. This design, though it features a Senior Deacon’s jewel, or badge of office, appears to have been used broadly by Master Masons and by lodge officers. The “Master’s aprons” on Pollard’s 1849 price list may have been similar in style to the apron in this portrait. Extant examples of aprons like this one are printed on white silk edged in pleated light blue silk ribbon and silver trim. Others were printed on leather, such as this one with a history of having been used at Union Lodge in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

A Freemason who had his photograph taken in White River Junction, Vermont, wore what is likely one of Pollard’s aprons designed for 2008_038_52DS1members of Royal Arch chapters. He donned the apron and a sash over his street clothes of a vest and pants in a matching pattern and a coordinating coat. The apron that the subject of this portrait (at right) posed in likely resembles this example edged in pleated red silk ribbon.

After almost two decades of outfitting Freemasons, Pollard retired, turning his business over to his son. Abner Pollard’s work survives not only in examples of silk and leather aprons he sold, but also in portraits of proud Freemasons wearing his products.  

Photo credits:

Man in Apron, 1860-1870. William Weiman Peabbles (1831-1901), Livermore Falls, Maine. Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.158.

Man in Royal Arch Regalia, 1860-1863. Culver Brothers and Hodges, White River Junction, Vermont. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.52.


Aimee E. Newell, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library (Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2015), 167-169.

Abner W. Pollard, Price Sheet, 1849, Boston, Massachusetts. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Maria C. Rogers, A2006/57/3.

School Medals Earned by Cornelius M. Vinson in 1835

82_30_3DP1DB Vinson 1835In August of 1835, the School Committee of Boston, Massachusetts, attended a gathering of city students demonstrating their skills and scholarship. The Columbian Centinel noted that those observing the display of students’ abilities were persuaded that the schools “never appeared in better order and condition, than at this time.” To this the writer added context, relating, “This is certainly a very high compliment, for our public schools have long been the glory of our city.”

Among those called upon to showcase his learning was eighteen-year-old Cornelius Marchant Vinson (1817-1893), a student at Boston Latin School. Vinson opened the day with a “Salutatory Oration,” or welcome, in Latin. Vinson, along with five of his schoolmates, also received a Franklin Medal earlier in the month. This prize, established by a bequest left to the Boston public schools by Benjamin Franklin, a former student of the free schools in the city, was awarded to students at eight schools in 1835. Vinson’s award took the shape of a silver medal struck with a portrait of Franklin on one side (at right). On the other side, raised letters outlined the purpose of the prize--a “Reward of Merit" bestowed by the School Committee. Below this message, an engraver incised Vinson’s name and the year. A local newspaper described this honor as one earned by “scholars of distinguished merit in the respective schools.” 

Vinson was an accomplished student—the Franklin medal was just one of the awards he received. In both 1835 and 1834 Vinson earned 82_30_2DS2 Franklin Medal 1835an award for “the best specimens of Penmanship.” These prizes, like the Franklin medal, took the form of a silver token (at left). Both of Vinson’s penmanship medals were plain discs, decorated with a simple border, that an engraver personalized with Vinson’s name, his school, and the years he earned the recognition. A 1834 newspaper listing noted that Vinson also received a prize that year for “Industry and Good Conduct.”

Building on what Vinson learned at Boston Latin School, he continued his studies at Harvard. Upon graduating in 1839, he embarked on a career as a teacher. In the mid-1840s, Vinson ran a school for “Misses as well as Young Ladies” which offered girls and teenagers instruction in drawing, English, Latin, and French in downtown Boston. In 1849 he leased a “family boarding school for lads” in Jamaica Plain, where he prepared students for college or “Mercantile Life” in a “healthful and pleasant location” using an approach grounded on “The harmonious development of the Physical, Intellectual, and Moral powers.” Though Vinson went on to work in different fields—as a farmer and as a real estate dealer—his early achievement as a scholar and in penmanship doubtless served him well throughout his life.

82_30_3DP2DB Vinson 1835References:

“Public Schools,” Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), August 22, 1835, page 1.

“Public Schools,” Boston Daily Advertiser (Boston, Massachusetts), August 20, 1835, page 2.

“General Intelligence,” Christian Register (Boston, Massachusetts), August 9, 1834, page 3.

“Advertisements,” Boston Recorder (Boston, Massachusetts), July 18, 1844, page 3.

John Sallay, "American School Medals," Medal Collectors of America, presentation, July 28, 2005.

Malcolm Storer, "The Franklin Boston School Medals," Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, vol. 55 (October 1921-June 1922), 189-198.


Photo credits:

Penmanship Award, 1835. Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of Marjorie Sumner Guiler and Eleanor B. Litchfield, 82.30.3. Photograph by David Bohl.

Benjamin Franklin Boston School Medal, 1835. Charles Cushing Wright (1796 – 1854) and James Bale, New York, New York, and George Stimpson (1793-ca. 1867), Charlestown, Massachusetts. Gift of Marjorie Sumner Guiler and Eleanor B. Litchfield, 82.30.1. 

New to the Collection: A Desk with Secrets

The Scottish Rite Masoni2022_037a-bDP1MC overallc Museum & Library recently received this handsome nineteenth-century desk decorated with inlaid Masonic symbols as a generous gift to the collection. Masons are oath bound to keep specific information about Freemasonry, such as ritual, passwords, and recognition signs, to themselves, causing many observers to describe the organization as a secret society or as a society with secrets. This desk fits right in—it has secrets of its own.

Constructed, in part, of southern beech, this desk came to the museum with a history of having been used in Arkansas and, later, in Utica, New York. Who owned and used it is not known. With several drawers, multiple shelves, and a writing surface, this form of desk falls into the category of secretary or desk-secretary—a piece of furniture that meant business. Only people with a serious amount of papers, objects, and books to organize would need a desk like this one.

Six and a half feet tall at its highest point, the largest portion of this desk is a glass-fronted cabinet with shelves, enough to contain—and  2022_037a-bDP2MC document cubbies display—a small library of books. A cornice with an elaborate pediment tops the section with a glass door. The design of the cornice offers a nod to the Renaissance Revival style popular in the United States in the 1860s and 1870s. At the very center of the pediment is an inlaid square, compasses, and letter G—a combination of Masonic symbols found on lodge buildings, in lodge rooms, and on many objects related  to the fraternity. The smaller connected cabinet has a solid door.  When opened, it reveals pigeonholes, vertical shelves with curved dividers designed to house and organize tall ledgers, and small horizontal shelves with shaped dividers likely used to store correspondence, along with two small drawers, and several cubbies. The drawers could accommodate pocket-sized articles, such as pens, coins, currency, or valuable trinkets best kept under lock and key. 

At the lower inside corner of the cabinet is a cubbyhole with an arch-shaped opening decorated with 2022_037a-bDP6MC removable prospectMasonic symbols—a checkered pavement, a keystone, stars, and a panoply formed of a square, plumb, and level.  In Freemasonry, the square, plumb, and level together are the working tools of the second degree. They served to remind Masons of the value of equality and to act morally and fairly. Though it looks like integrated part of the desk, this decorated cubbyhole is actually a box that can be removed from the cabinet. Behind it, hidden to anyone who does not know the secret of how to access them, are two small drawers with ring pulls (the drawers are visible just behind the removed section). These tiny drawers are not protected by a lock, but their secret location in the desk would have helped keep their contents secure.

The upper portions of the desk rest on a slightly sloped writing surface. Now stained black, this 2022_037a-bDP4MC hidden drawersurface may have, at one time, covered with felt or leather. Supporting the surface on one side is a column of four drawers, on the other side are two turned legs. The long single knee-hole drawer is fit with two levels of compartments divided to accommodate writing implements and small objects. At first glance, the lockable drawers with white knobs appear to be run-of-the-mill. They, in fact, offer several secret hiding places to stow documents and objects. Each of the four drawers at the side are shorter than the overall length of the desk. Behind each of them is a second drawer with a leather pull that lays flat. The bottom of the lower-most drawer in the column conceals a drawer accessible by pulling the back of the drawer up to reveal a wooden knob and a shallow hidden compartment perfect for concealing documents. Altogether, six different keys are needed to access the drawers and cabinets in this desk. 2022_037a-bDP5MC hidden document drawer

With so many secret compartments incorporated into its design, this beguiling desk offers more questions than answers.  The most  compelling of these questions may be, what important objects and papers did the original owner of the this desk want to keep secure or hidden? Though we may never know the answer to this question, the decoration, form, and function of this desk are clues that it was a tool used by someone who valued his association with Freemasonry who engaged in work that required he retain and organize different kinds of records and objects. This desk suggests that he had intriguing secrets to keep.


Photography credit:

Details, Desk, 1860-1880. United States. Gift of Peter J. Samiec, 2022.037. Photograph by Michael Cardinali.