Posts by Sarah H. Shepherd

In a Portrait Studio, Worn with Pride: Prince Hall Freemasonry, Order of Eastern Star, and Real Photo Postcards in the Early Twentieth Century

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In celebration of Black History Month and the long history of Prince Hall Freemasonry, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library wanted to highlight a striking new acquisition of a real photo postcard of a Black man standing between two women, with all three wearing Masonic regalia. The man wears a dark suit with a jewel of office pinned on his chest and a Past Master’s apron—identifiable by the common motif of a square and compass with the legs of the compass connected by an arc. The two women are in white dresses, white high heeled shoes, and white stockings. The younger woman, to the right of the man, wears two sashes, one on either shoulder. The one on the left shoulder is more visible, with a band of color running through it, a cockade on the top. The other sash is less visible, although the darker colored folds are clear to see by her waist near the hem of her dress. Any identifying features of the regalia are difficult to discern. Do these sashes mark her as a member of the Order of Eastern Star? The older woman, to the left of the man, was clearly a member of the Order of the Eastern Star, as evidenced by her five-color star apron. Though the picture is black and white, the red, blue, yellow, green, and white in the star are easy to visualize. With her proudly displayed apron, she also wears a necklace, earrings, and a white pin in her hair.

The postcard has no date, no location, nor any hint to the identities of the three people in the photograph. Was this a man and his wife and mother or daughter? Was this a family demonstrating their Masonic pride? The postcard was never sent and was likely kept as a keepsake or handed physically to its intended audience. Postcards were widely popular at the end of the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century in America. In 1913, almost one billion postcards were in sent in the United States, almost ten times the population at that time. Real photo postcards, like the one seen here, were produced on photographic paper with postcard backs. This postcard is undoubtedly a studio portrait—the upper right-hand corner gives a glimpse of the hanging backdrop—that was then printed on photographic postcard stock.

Using the Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography, by Robert Bogdan and Todd Weseloh, we were able to estimate the age of the postcard using the distinct design on the back. Bogdan and Weseloh studied thousands of postcard backs to determine the earliest known date and years that the design of the back was in use by manufacturers. This postcard was manufactured by Eastman Kodak Company, which you can tell by the letters AZO surrounding the area for the stamp. The back of the postcard is divided between correspondence and address, which the United States Postal Service allowed after 1907, and the small black squares on the corner of the stamp box are all signifiers that this style of postcard was produced mainly in the 1930s by Eastman Kodak Company.

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Though not much is known about the three people in the postcard, the family’s clear pride in their Masonic brotherhood and sisterhood shines through the small photograph and gives a glimpse into Prince Hall Freemasonry and Order of Eastern Star in the early twentieth century. Can you help us identify anyone in this real photo postcard? Do you know what the women’s sashes on the right represent? Please comment below if you have any insight!

Photo Caption

Postcard portraying African American Freemason and two women with regalia, 1930-1939, Museum purchase, A2023/168/001.

References

Bogdan, Robert and Todd Weseloh. Real Photo Postcard Guide: The People’s Photography. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2006.


The Independent Order of St. Luke: Black Fraternal History

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired a collection of forty-one receipts cards from the Independent Order of St. Luke, a Black fraternal organization. This collection, titled “Lucy Garnett Independent Order of St Luke receipt card collection, 1941-1953,” demonstrates the vibrancy of the Independent Order of St. Luke—best remembered for the longest running independently Black-owned bank in the United States. Maggie L. Walker, the famous revitalizer of the Independent Order of St. Luke, was the first Black woman bank founder in the United States, and for several decades was the only Black women bank president. She was also the only woman leading a major Black fraternal organization in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. A2023_155_001DS9

The Independent Order of St. Luke, originally named the Grand United Order of St. Luke, was founded by Mary Prout in 1867 in Baltimore, Marland. When the Grand United Order of St. Luke spread to Virginia in 1869, a faction split off from Prout’s original order to form the Independent Order of the Sons and Daughters of St. Luke. The schism was brought on by objection to the requirement of turning over fifty cents of each initiation fee to Mary Prout. In 1877, William M. T. Forrester, who was also the Grand Master of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, created a new ritual for the Independent Order of the Sons and Daughters of St. Luke. Under Forrester’s leadership, the order would first flourish and then nearly collapse due to financial mismanagement. On the brink of bankruptcy in 1899, Maggie Walker took over, and within a year doubled the size of the order and set it on its path to great success.

Maggie Walker joined the organization in Richmond in 1881 and by the time she graduated high school, Walker was already the secretary of her council and had been elected a delegate to the 1883 convention. In the late 1880s, she started the highly successful Juvenile Department of the Independent Order of St. Luke. Under her leadership, the order started their fraternal newspaper, opened a local department store to provide employment for Black women, and founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank. Walker served as the leader of the Independent Order of St. Luke until her death in 1934. Two years later, her daughter-in-law, Hattie N. F. Walker took over the position and led the order until 1957. Although the Independent Order of St. Luke was never a national order, at its peak the order had over 100,000 members in twenty-six states. 

The recently acquired “Lucy Garnett Independent Order of St Luke receipt card collection, 1941-1953” demonstrates this rich history of the order. The receipt cards were all sent to Lucy Garnett in Steelton, Pennsylvania, who remained a part of the Bowling Green Council, No. 1103, located in Bowling Green, Virginia. The receipts reflect payments for postage, assessments, tax, etc. and include the signature of Hattie N. F. Walker, who was serving as Right Worthy Grand Secretary of the Right Worthy Grand Council of the Independent Order of St. Luke. While most of the 41 receipt cards bear Walker’s stamped signature, two have Walker’s actual signature.

Lucy Garnett lived in Bowling Green, Virginia until sometime before 1940 when she moved to Steelton, Pennsylvania—potentially when her husband died, and she moved into her child’s home. Despite moving to Pennsylvania, Garnett continued to be heavily involved in the Bowling Green Council, No. 1103, in Virginia until 1953.


Selections from W. J. Slys_Independent order of st lukeThis collection aligns with a similar 2023 library acquisition of a book titled Selections from W. J. Sly’s World Stories Retold for Library of Juvenile Department I. O. of St. Luke, published by the St. Luke’s Press at the St. Luke headquarters in Richmond, Virginia in August 1926. This book contains several fables, folk tables, and American historical stories which were selected by Maggie Walker, who at that time was the Right Worthy Grand Matron of the St. Luke Juvenile Department, from W. J. Sly’s World Stories Retold. This book and the archival collection serve to represent the diversity and breadth of Black fraternal organizations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and showcase the lasting impact of the Independent Order of St. Luke.

Caption:
Receipt card, 1949, Lucy Garnett Independent Order of St Luke receipt card collection, 1941-1953, Museum purchase, A2023-155-001.
Selections from W. J. Sly’s World Stories Retold for Libraries of Juvenile Department I. O. of St. Luke, Museum purchase.

Resources:
Marlowe, Gertrude Woodruff. A Right Worthy Grand Mission : Maggie Lena Walker and the Quest for Black Economic Empowerment. Washington, DC: Howard University Press, 2003.


The Rise of Youth Organizations: Newly Acquired Juvenile Branch Charter of Grand United Order of Oddfellows Juvenile Branch

At the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, there are incredible collections in the archives, but they are not often visually interesting. Occasionally, however, archival materials in our collection are both historically fascinating and beautiful. We recently acquired this Juvenile Branch, No. 44, charter of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, which checks both boxes. It is a stunning as well as an important testament to Black life and culture in Danville, Kentucky. A2023_135_001DS1_reduced
The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was, at one time, the largest Black fraternal order in the United States. In 1843, Peter Ogden and several other Black men were rejected from the white Independent Order of Odd Fellows. After receiving a charter from the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in England, they founded Philomathean Lodge, No. 646, and started the American branch of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a Black organization unlike its originator in England. The Juvenile Branch began on September 13, 1897, when the first warrant was granted to the Household of Ruth, No. 29, in Washington, D. C. The juvenile branches, which operated under the supervision of the Household of Ruth, the women’s auxiliary order established in 1858, were open to children, from the ages of three to sixteen, regardless of whether their parents were a part of the Order. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows celebrated the fourth Sunday in September as “Children’s Day.”

The charter for Juvenile Branch, No. 44, acquired by the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, features rich art with red, white, and blue American flags surrounded by pink roses and detailed images of three women, embodying the Odd Fellows’s motto, “Friendship, Love, & Truth,” which is written in Latin on the banner below the women. The woman sitting on a pedestal atop the Odd Fellows coat of arms looks lovingly down at the two naked toddlers in her arms and the two young children at her knees. The woman on her left stands looking at the scene with a sword in her left hand and a scale in her left. The woman on the right looks into a shining mirror and holds the Rod of Asclepius associated with healing and medicine. The charter was designed by the Grand Secretary, Charles H. Brooks, and was printed in Bradford, England, demonstrating a continuing close relationship with England. It should be noted, as well, that the women and children that Brooks designed are white. Why would the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, a proud Black American organization, use white woman to represent friendship, love, and truth? The vivid bright colors and the large size of the charter (24” x 17”) mark the charter as a showpiece that was meant to be displayed prominently. Did this charter once hang framed at the lodge? Or was it brought out only for special occasions?

Juvenile Branch, No. 44, was under the direction of the Household of Ruth, No. 59, located in Danville, Kentucky and was established on March 22, 1898, only six months after the first Juvenile Branch was founded. It is striking that in those six months, forty-four juvenile branches were formed. Not much is known about this Juvenile Branch or the Household of Ruth, No. 59. The five women listed as members of the Household of Ruth branch, Bessie B. Shain, Paulina Langford, Ann Word, Georgiana Allen, and Agnes Green, all seemed to be part of the working class—respectably married, and in their thirties and forties with children. Langford was a carpet sewer, Allen was a cleaner, and Green worked in the laundry business. Did they form the Juvenile Branch for their children and their communities’ children to bring them more fully into the fold and involved with the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows?

Around the turn of the century, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows’s membership was greatly increasing and from 1897-1898, the organization issued six hundred and sixty-five warrants for new branches. This Juvenile Branch was part of the shifting movement to bring the whole family into the fraternal order which reached its peak in the 1910s and 1920s with the popularity of youth organizations such as DeMolay. The Juvenile Branch, No. 44, charter documents the early growth of youth organizations and the spread of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in Kentucky.

 

Caption:

Grand United Order of Oddfellows Juvenile Branch, No. 44, charter of the Household of Ruth, No. 59, 1898 March 22, Museum purchase, A2023-135-001.

 

Resources

Needham, James F. General Laws and Regulations of the Household of Ruth. Philadelphia, PA: Sub-Committee of Management, 1923.

Brooks, Charles H. The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America: A Chronological Treatise. Philadelphia, PA: Sub-Committee of Management, 1902.


“Let's be really foolish!”: The German Order of Harugari, a German Mutual Aid Society in Early America

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently purchased a collection of fraternal records related to the German Order of Harugari’s Arminia Loge, No. 459. The records, dating from 1882 to 1893, give a brief glimpse into the vibrancy of German culture and brotherhood in Chicago through the lens of August David, the lodge’s Financial Secretary. When twenty-seven-year-old August David immigrated to the United States in 1872, he sought community, advice, and fellowship with other German Americans. The German Order of Harugari, or Deutscher Orden der Harugari, was a German mutual aid society that sought to help German immigrants and to preserve German culture and language. A2022_230_002DS2

The German Order of Harugari was, at one time, the largest German fraternal organization in the United States. It was initially founded in 1847 in response to discrimination and attacks fomented by the “Know-Nothings,” a nativist political party that was anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant. The founders of Harugari were inspired by early Germanic history and the accompanying paganism and declared that they were “Germans by birth, Americans by choice, Patriots by principle.” This emphasis on paganism and the prohibition against religious discussion during their meetings led to the Catholic Fortnightly Review accusing the organization of being hostile to the Catholic Church in 1905.

The German Order of Harugari drew inspiration from the ancient Germanic tribe of Cherusci who overthrew their Roman overlords led by their general Arminius, also known as Hermann, in 9 B.C.E. The word Harugari comes from the old German word, Haruc, which means “worshippers in a sacred grove.” The German Order of Harugari’s three initiation degrees tell the history of the Cherusci’s triumph over Roman tyranny. An additional degree was added on September 5, 1890, to initiate women into the order. The Hertha Degree was named after an ancient Germanic goddess, Hertha or Nerthus, who accompanied Odin into war. Women and men met separately in local lodges. The German Order of Harugari’s motto was “Friendship, Love, and Humanity” and their emblem was the oak leaf.

The Arminia Loge, No. 459, records contain an account book of assessments and dues, an envelope, dues record sheet, and a party invitation, all dutifully recorded by August David, the Financial Secretary who served from around 1882 to 1893. Although it is unknown when Arminia Loge, No. 459, was formed, the Illinois Staats-Zeuitung, a nationally popular German newspaper published in Chicago, recorded seventy-seven members of the lodge on January 9, 1888. Arminia Loge, No. 459, was one of several lodges in Chicago and was located on 552 Blue Island Avenue in the heart of Chicago. A2022_230_002DS1

As seen in the Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, the German Order of Harugari held many social and cultural events to further their mission of preserving German culture and language. This invitation was to a party where the guests are invited to be närrisch (i.e., foolish, crazy, silly) The event was hosted by the Arminia Loge and Harugari male choir. The German Order of Harugari was famous for its choirs and singing festivals. In 1906, Dr. Georg Schuster, archivist at the Royal Prussian Archives, noted that the order had more than fifty choral societies where “the German song finds a place of loving care.” The invitation, like much of the records for the German Order of Harugari, is in German. Below is a transcription and a rough translation of the invitation. Please comment down below if you have a better translation!

Einladung zum

Groβen Massen=Fest nach Narrhalla

veranstaltet von der

Arminia Loge No. 459, D. O. H.

Und

Harugari Männerchor

Da wollen wir mal recht Närrisch sein, recht Närrisch sein, ja ja!

(nämlich in der Vorwärts Turnhalle)

Am Samstag, den 5. März, 1892

Eintritt zum Saal, a hell of a Dollar, (50c)

Zur Gallerie nur a Quarter

Tickets sind bei allen Mitgliedern und Abends an der Kasse zu haben

 

Invitation to the/for

Large crowds=Feast/festival after Narrhalla [German carnival]

organized by the

Arminia Loge No. 459, D. O. H.

and

Harugari male choir

 Let's be really foolish, be really foolish, yes yes!

(namely in the Vorwaerts Turner Hall)

On Saturday March 5th, 1892

Entrance to the hall, a hell of a Dollar, (50c)

To the gallery only a Quarter

Tickets are available from all members and at the box office in the evening

The Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, 1882-1893, hints at a world of German fellowship and vibrant social life in nineteenth-century Chicago. The collection tells a larger and more diverse history of fraternal life in America. The German Order of Harugari continues today under the name of the Harugari German-American Club although the organization has moved away from its ritual and mutual aid society roots into a social and cultural club.

 

Photo captions:

Party invitation, 1892, Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, 1882-1893, Museum Purchase, A2022-230-001.

Account book, 1882-1893, Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, 1882-1893, Museum Purchase, A2022-230-001.

References

Theodore Graebner, The Secret Empire: A Handbook of Lodges, (St. Louis, MO: Concoridia Publishing House, 1927).

Albert C. Stevens, The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities: a compilation of existing authentic information . . . of more than six hundred secret societies in the United States, (New York: E. B. Treat, 1899)

Arthur Preuss, A Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies, (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Company, 1924).

 “The Order of Harugari,” New York Times, August 25, 1895.

Georg Schuster, Die Geheimen Gesellschaften Verbindungen und Orden, (Leipzig: Verlag von Theodor Leibing, 1906).

“Stadt Chicago: Die Harugari,” Illinois Staats-Zeitung, January 9, 1888.


Walter Weitzman: American Soldier and Freemason in the Panama Canal Zone

A2023_114_001DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired a group of Masonic membership cards and certificates that help tell the story of American Freemasonry in the Panama Canal Zone during the era of American imperialism in the early twentieth century.

After the Spanish-American War in 1898, the United States became a global empire claiming dominion over Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and the Philippines, and continued to conquer additional territories into the early twentieth century. U.S. soldiers were shipped to these territories to maintain control and with them spread American Freemasonry. Walter Weitzman (1892-1989) was one of these soldiers, stationed in the U.S. Panama Canal Zone in 1914, to protect the newly opened Panama Canal which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean. Weitzman, a Polish Jew who immigrated to the U.S. in 1909 or 1910, joined the U.S. Army at age twenty-two—several months before the start of World War I. He served in the Coastal Artillery Corps at Fort Randolph in the Panama Canal Zone until 1920.

Freemasonry was a part of the social lives of both the workers constructing the Panama Canal, as well as American soldiers stationed there. Masons in Panama saw Freemasonry as an integral part of life in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1910, the Masonic Advisory Board of the Isthmus of Panama declared that Masonic membership “permeates the entire personnel of this vast enterprise and beneath the sod of the Isthmus, many of our Brothers who have died in the service, are resting. The brethren meet one another from every clime, and as the great work continues, so let Brotherly [work] continue.”

Initially Masonic clubs flourished as it was difficult to form lodges because Masons in Panama continued to belong to lodges on the mainland during their temporary stay.  The first lodge, Sojourners Lodge, no. 874, was founded in 1874, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. When the United States took over the Panama Canal, the membership became predominantly American and in 1912, a new Sojourners Lodge was chartered under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

In 1917, the District Grand Lodge of Panama recorded membership at 902 with 141 new initiates and 78 applicants were rejected. Walter Weitzman, an American soldier, a Polish Jew newly immigrated to the United States, standing 5 feet and 4 ½ inches tall, with dark gray eyes and dark hair, was one of the new applicants. He was initiated into Sojourners Lodge on December 15, 1917. Weitzman paid an application fee of ten dollars in October and a forty-five dollar initiation fee in December—a significant amount, considering that his salary was around thirty dollars a month. Weitzman was raised a Master Mason on February 23, 1918.

After joining Sojourners Lodge, Weitzman became a Scottish Rite Mason in the Panama Canal Consistory No. 1 in the Valley of Cristobal in the Canal Zone. His dues were six dollars a year. Weitzman also became a Noble of the Mystic Shrine of the Abou Saad Temple on November 30, 1918. He was one of the first members as the Abou Saad Temple in Panama was established in 1918 and still exists today. A2023_114_001DS8

Weitzman was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1920 after his regiment was disbanded. He continued to be a member of Sojourners Lodge and a part of the Panama Canal Consistory No. 1 until 1925. In New York, Weitzman became involved in other fraternal organizations such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows where he was elected Noble Grand of the Norman A. Manning Lodge, No. 415, in Brooklyn, New York in 1927. His association with Freemasonry appears to have ended about a decade after he was discharged from the Army. According to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts records, Weitzman was suspended on September 1, 1931, likely for not paying dues.

Weitzman lived in the Bronx, New York for several decades with his wife, Anna Lerman, and their two sons until his death on January 30, 1989. The Walter Weitzman Panama Canal Zone Masonic collection, 1917-1925, (A2023-114-001; MA 760.001) now resides at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Photo captions:

Master Mason certificate issued to Walter Weitzman by Sojourners Lodge, 1918, Walter Weitzman Panama Canal Zone Masonic collection, 1917-1925, Museum Purchase, A2023-114-001.

Member card issued to Walter Weitzman by Abou Saad Temple, 1919, Walter Weitzman Panama Canal Zone Masonic collection, 1917-1925, Museum Purchase, A2023-114-001.

References:

W. Norman Benjamin Davison, The First Fifty Years of the District Grand Lodge of the Canal Zone A. F. & A. M., 1917-1967, (Balboa, Canal Zone: District Grand Lodge of the Canal Zone, 1967).

Masonic Advisory Board of the Isthmus of Panama, Master Masons Sojourning on Isthmus of Panama during American Occupation, 1910.

Irvin Beam Walter and John Layard Caldwell, Masons and Masonry on the Panama Canal: 1904-1914, (Philadelphia, PA: Thomson Printing Company).

L.L. Anchel, “In the Odd Fellows’ Corner,” Times Union, July 3, 1927.