Posts by Ymelda Rivera Laxton

A Family Affair

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Ralph and Elizabeth Schoenherr, 1953. New York. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.3.

Sometimes the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library receives donations that help to tell the story of an entire family’s history, complete with personal remembrances. Such is the case with the Schoenherr family of Schenectedy, New York, who had a long standing connection to Freemasonry. Since 2007, Florence E. Connor, daughter of Armin W. Schoenherr (1909-1949), has donated items related to these Masonic family connections. Armin L. Schoenherr (1880-1926), born in Germany, immigrated to New York at a young age and joined Corlaer Lodge No. 932 in Schenectady in the 1920s. His wife Emmy L. Canzan Schoenherr (1875-1954) was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star George Hope Chapter No. 271 and involved in the Order of Amaranth. They passed on their Masonic interests  to their three children, Armin W. (1909-1949), Ralph H. (1912-2002), and Florence Schoenherr Grubey (c. 1918-2004).

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Florence Margaret Schoenherr Grubey, 1994. Mary Lou Bentley, Louisville, Kentucky. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2007.012.23.

Armin W., a Mason and Shriner, owned a local jewelry store that sold and repaired not only traditional jewels but fraternal pins and other material designed to appeal to Masonic consumers. His younger brother Ralph (pictured above with his wife Elizabeth) was a Mason for over fifty years and involved with the Royal Arch, Knights Templar, Shriners, and Jesters. He served as Potentate of Albany's Cyprus Shrine in 1959 and ran the Shrine circus for several years. Their sister Florence was a member of the Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America and is pictured at right with a fellow member in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1994.

Aside from donating a number of objects related to her father and brother's jewelry store, Florence most recently donated charm bracelets, one is pictured below, that belonged to Elizabeth Schoenherr, Ralph's wife, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Florence shared some information about the family’s history and related this memory of her father, who passed away suddenly at the age of 43 in 1949, the same year he became a Shriner. She remembered the day he joined the Shrine as “one of his proudest days,” adding, “I remember the Shriners at the wake putting an apron in his coffin and having a service. It meant a lot to my mother (41 with 3 children, 8, 10 and 12). My mother continued the business...My brother (Armin, Jr.) later took over the store.” Armin Walter Schoenherr, Jr. (c.1941-1987) was also a member of Corlaer Lodge No. 92 in Schenectady. 

Do you have a Masonic family tradition to share? We want to know about it! Leave a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, at ylaxton[@]srmml.org. 

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Bracelet worn by Elizabeth Schoenherr. United States. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.1.
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Armin Schoenherr, Jr. (back row, third from left) with other officers from Corlaer No. 932, 1967. "Corlaer Trestle Board "(Schenectady, NY), February, 1967.

The Order of the Eastern Star at the Chicago World’s Fair

On August 18th, 1920, the United States Congress ratified the 19th amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Throughout August, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of this momentous occasion, Museum staff will highlight items from our collection related to women’s fraternal groups. Many of these groups offered not only a place of community for women but also a place to organize. A number of these groups were actively involved in the suffrage movement and had members who championed women's equality. We first feature this recently donated photograph from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.

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Order of Eastern Star Booth at Columbian Exposition, 1893. Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), Chicago, Illinois. Gift of Thomas Nelson, 2020.008. 

On May 1st, 1893, thousands of visitors streamed into the newly opened Columbian World Exposition at Jackson Park in Chicago, Illinois. This exposition, commonly referred to as the Chicago World’s Fair, celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ (1451-1506) arrival in the Americas in 1492. Organizers built over 200 new structures and pavilions that spanned over 600 acres in the South Side of Chicago, including a “Woman’s Building,” designed by architect Sophia Hayden (1868-1953). The structure, created to showcase women artisans and highlight women’s achievements, was managed by an all-female board. A number of female associations were featured in the building, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Order of the Eastern Star, and Ladies Catholic Benevolent Association. 

Board member Lorraine J. Pitkin (1845-1922), a women's activist and high-ranking member of the Order of the Eastern Star (OES), a Masonic women's auxiliary group, advocated for this Eastern Star exhibit (pictured at left) to be displayed in the Woman’s Building. The photograph shows various Eastern Star charts, signets, and banners from over nine of the organization's chapters in the Upper Midwest.

Pitkin also participated in the World’s Congress of Representative Women on behalf of OES. The Congress, a week-long conference managed and attended by women as part of the World's Fair, included a day of programming devoted to the Eastern Star on May 16, 1893. Sessions from that day included "The Value of the Eastern Star as a Factor in Giving Women a Knowledge of Legislative Matters"  and "Eastern Star and the Benefit it Has Been to Women as an Educational Organization." Pitkin later served on the Board of Directors of the World's Fair Fraternal Building Association held in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1902. This photograph will be featured in our upcoming Flickr album about women and fraternalism. Stay tuned!

Have a favorite item related to women's suffrage or fraternalism at the World's Fair? Let us know in the comments below!

 

References

May Wright Sewall, ed., The World's Congress of Representative Women... (Chicago, IL: Rand McNally, 1894), 68-72.

Maude Howe Elliott, ed., Art And Handicraft in the Woman's Building of the World's Columbian Exposition Chicago, 1893 (Chicago and New York: Rand, McNally & Company, 1894), 180-185.

 

 


Designing Costumes for the Scottish Rite, 1913-1920

Design SRCostume front pageAs part of their ritual, members of Scottish Rite Freemasonry perform a series of thirty degrees as morality plays. These degree ceremonies offer a shared sense of values, build a collective story, and help to create an identity for participants and audience alike. The Scottish Rite of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction made significant changes to these rituals in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The updated rituals required larger casts, elaborate sets, and new costumes. As a result, the Supreme Council—the governing body of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction—contracted to have 119 costumes designed in the 1910s.

The Museum features thirty-two of these costume designs in the online exhibition "Designing Costumes for the Scottish Rite, 1913-1920." These commissioned designs, created by Walter B. Tripp (1868-1926) and Warren A. Newcombe (1864-1960), respectively, included a colored rendering of the costume and a typewritten description of the various costume elements followed by a list of the sources consulted in developing its design (see below). These sources included American, German, French, and British published works about historic costumes, Biblical writings, paintings, and archaeological discoveries. Tripp's sources dated from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s.

 

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Costume Design for Captain of the Guard ( Council of Princes of Jerusalem, 15th and 16th Degrees), 1915-1920. Walter B. Tripp, Boston, Massachusetts.

The online exhibition organizes the designs by degree group and briefly explores what these illustrations can help us to learn about the fraternity. Each design is identified by the character name it was meant for. Several of the designs were intended to be used for multiple characters. These designs were given to the Museum by the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. To see all 119 costume designs, visit the Museum & Library website here.

Parts of this exhibition are taken from Aimee Newell's 2017 article, "Masonic Pageantry: The Inspiration for Scottish Rite Costumes, 1867-1920," featured in the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's quarterly publication, The Northern Light.


Caesar Robert Blake, Imperial Potentate

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Caesar Robert Blake, Imperial Potentate, 1919-1931. Carolina Studio, Charlotte, North Carolina. Museum Purchase, 99.044.1.

Social activism and fraternalism have long been connected in African American communities across the United States. Many members of African American fraternal groups, including the Prince Hall Shrine, Prince Hall Freemasonry, the Knights of Pythias, and the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, were also civic leaders in their communities, advocating for social justice reforms and civil liberties.

As Americans celebrate the 155th Juneteenth holiday this week, we take a closer look at one of these civic and fraternal leaders from North Carolina, Caesar Robert Blake (c.1886-1931). Born in Winnsboro, South Carolina, Blake worked as a clerk with Norfolk and Southern Railway and real estate broker in Charlotte, North Carolina. Active in fraternal societies,  Blake became the Imperial Potentate of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Prince Hall affiliated (A.E.A.O.N.M.S.), also known as the Prince Hall Shriners, in 1919, at the age of 33. He served in that role until his death in 1931.  During his tenure, he advocated for local Prince Hall Shrine lodges embroiled, along with other African American fraternal orders, in a racially charged and complex legislative dispute argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1912 and 1929.  

In 1904 leaders from the predominately white Knights of Pythias, the Benevolent Order of Elks, and the Shriners launched a legal campaign against parallel African American orders in Georgia, Mississippi, and New York, accusing the groups of fraud and copyright violations. The legal battle manifested itself in dozens of legal suits against African American orders in over twenty-nine states over a thirty year period. While litigious happenings were common among fraternal orders attempting to prevent “non-sanctioned” groups from forming, this particular campaign was thought to be partially motivated by racism. This belief was supported by official publications that included derogatory language about African Americans and the hostile actions of lodge members affiliated with the three orders filing the suit.

Blake, with many other fraternal leaders and lawyers, helped to organize a legal campaign for the Prince Hall Shrine. He also assisted in securing funding for legal costs. In author Joseph A. Walkes' 1993 history of the Prince Hall Shrine, he notes Blake described the legal trials at the 1920 national convention as part of a "life and death struggle" motivated by "intense hatred of our race." Blake went on to say that Prince Hall Shrine's defense of their "rights in the courts ... to exist as a Body of the Mystic Shrine" was their "duty ... as members of a victimized race." In 1929, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Prince Hall Shrine.  Blake issued a proclamation after the complicated legal victory stating “This is not only a distinct victory for our order but for our race…”

Blake died two years later after a brief and sudden illness, at the age of 45. His portrait, pictured here, is included in the upcoming exhibition What’s in a Portrait?  Visit the online version of the exhibition to learn more.

 

REFERENCES

Marshall Ganz, Ariane Liazos, Theda Skocpol. What a Mighty Power We Can be: African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2006), 135-167.

Susan Nance. How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream, 1790-1935 (North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), 169.

Joseph A. Walkes. Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, Inc. (Prince Hall Affiliated): A Pillar of Black society, 1893-1993 (Detroit: Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of North and South American and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. (P.H.A.), 1993), 106.

 

 

 


Astronaut Buzz Aldrin in Action

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G.I. Joe Classic Collection Colonel Buzz Aldrin Astronaut in NASA Space Suit, 1999. Hasbro, China. Gift of Robert V. Monacelli, 2019.015. Julia Featheringill Photography.

Astronaut and Freemason Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., was born in 1930 in Glen Ridge, New Jersey. Aldrin, the lunar pilot for the 1969 Apollo 11 space mission was, with fellow astronaut Neil Armstrong (1930-2012), one of the first humans—and one of the first Freemasons—to walk on the moon. American manufacturers made a number of wonderful commemorative items, including posters, plates, and toys, memorializing this historic event.  

In 1999 the Hasbro Toy Company released a special edition Buzz Aldrin action figure celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the moon landing. The Aldrin figure was part of the G.I. Joe: Classic Collection set produced by Hasbro in the late 1990s. 

Buzz Aldrin was initiated into Oak Park Lodge No. 864 in Alabama in 1955 and raised in Lawrence N. Greenleaf Lodge, No. 169 in Colorado in 1956. He is also a member of Clear Lake Lodge No. 1417 in Texas. 

This action figure complements the many other items we have related to Buzz Aldrin in the Library and Archives Buzz Aldrin ephemera collection.  

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Buzz Aldrin Masonic Ephemera Collection, 1969-1975. Gift of Ben B. Lipset. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MM 001.012.

This collection includes a photograph fraternally inscribed to Ben B. Lipset, and a photograph of Aldrin walking on the moon addressed to former Sovereign Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, George Newbury (1895-1904).

Do you have any ephemera related to Freemasonry and NASA? Let us know in the comments below! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Recent Acquisitions: A Spanish-American War Commemorative Fan

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Fan, ca.1898. United States. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory L. McKinley, 2019.006.9. Julia Featheringill Photography.

Manufacturers made a variety of political and military memorabilia in the late 1800s and early 1900s commemorating William Mckinley’s (1843-1901) presidency and the Spanish-American war (April 1898-August 1898). This 1900 fabric and wood fan featured black and white photographs of President William McKinley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), and seven U.S. naval military leaders who participated in the Spanish-American war, including Admiral George Dewey (1837-1917) and William Rufus Shafter (1835-1906), also known as “Pecos Bill.”

The United States won the brief conflict and effectively ended Spanish rule in the Americas. Their victory produced a peace treaty, in which Spain ceded control of Cuba and relinquished control of Guam and Puerto Rico to the United States. In this same treaty Spain also agreed to sell the Philippines to the United States for $20 million. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on February 6, 1899, by only one vote. Author Cynthia Fendel noted that these popular patriotic photographic fans also sometimes featured McKinley’s presidential cabinet or the American and Cuban flags. 

This recently donated fan is part of a collection of nearly fifty campaign and memorial items related to President and Freemason William McKinley. Many of these items are currently on display at the Museum & Library. Visit our website to learn more about these items. 

References:


Cynthia Fendel, Novelty Hand Fans, Fashionable Functional Fun Accessories of the Past, (Dallas, TX: Hand Fan Productions, 2006).


William McKinley's Gold Bug

 

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Gold Bug Pin, 1896-1900. United States. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Gregory L. McKinley, 2019.006.10.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently acquired a collection of nearly fifty campaign and memorial items related to President and Freemason William McKinley (1843-1901). These items add to the many objects already in the collection associated to McKinley’s involvement in Freemasonry, his campaigns, and his unexpected death. 

Several of these items will be displayed in our upcoming recent acquisitions exhibition, including this “gold bug” pin, pictured at left. The pin, a campaign item from McKinley’s first 1896 presidential campaign, signified McKinley’s support for the gold standard platform. Advocates for McKinley and the gold standard, sometimes referred to as “gold bugs,” believed that the country’s monetary system should be backed only by gold. McKinley’s presidential opponent, William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925), and his supporters, sometimes called “Silverites,”  advocated against the gold standard, and believed that currency should be redeemable in silver as well as gold. 

As debates about the gold standard consumed the election campaign, McKinley supporters began to wear “gold bug” pins, buttons, and ribbons. The pins were often in the shape of a large scarab beetle, sometimes made with wings. Bryant supporters wore similar silver bug pins to show support for their candidate. Ultimately, McKinley won the 1896 election with Garret Hobart (1844-1899) as his Vice President and signed the Gold Standard Act into law on March 14, 1900. The act established gold as the sole basis for redeeming paper currency.

The pin and other McKinley items will be on display at the Museum & Library beginning in October 2019. 


The Art of Storytelling

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Lantern Slide from "The Spectre Pig," 1895-1925. A. D. Handy Stereopticons and Supplies, Boston, Massachusetts. Gift of Anne R. Berntsen, 2008.023.97.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns a large collection of magic lanterns and glass lantern slides. The magic lantern, a precursor to the slide projector, was a popular education and entertainment device in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Lantern slides illustrated stories and events from literature, poetry, and history. The nature of slide projection and the ability to simulate the illusion of moving slides created the perfect avenue for visual storytelling. This ability to create “moving pictures” made magic lantern slides, a popular and informative form of entertainment. Below are two examples of how stories were shared using lantern slides.

A. D. Handy Stereopticons and Supplies produced a set of slides based on the 1830 ballad The Spectre Pig by author and poet Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894). The popular ballad described the butchering of a pig, who then comes back from the dead to exact revenge on the butcher who killed him. This set was one of hundreds of lantern story sets produced by lantern manufacturers. 

In 1906 Joseph Boggs Beale (1841-1926) created  a slide set called the Mr. Spurt and his Auto series . The story follows the adventures
of Mr. Spurt as he purchases and drives an automobile. The slide set images were

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Lantern Slide from "Mr. Spurt and His Auto," 1906. Joseph  Gift of Anne R. Berntsen, 2008.023.51.

reproduced in Ford Times in June 1946 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company. Beale was one of the most prolific lantern slide illustrators of his time and worked for The C.W. Briggs Company.

Although decades have passed since the use of magic lanterns, slides and even slide projectors, a fascination with the technology, wonderment, and artistry of the lanterns and slides exists today. There are several magic lantern publications, thousands of lanterns and slides in museum collections across the world, and a society dedicated to the collection, preservation, and study of magic lanterns. 

To learn more about magic lanterns and to see the slide sets, visit our online exhibition, Illuminating Brotherhood: Magic Lanterns and Slides from the Collection.

 

 


Jewels in Blue

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Cyanotype of a Past Master's Jewel made for Otis E. Weld, 33°. Probably Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.10643g.

In 1842, British scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792-1871) invented the cyanotype process—a photographic printing method that produces a cyan-blue print, commonly known as a blueprint. Engineers, scientists and photographers used the process as a simple and low-cost way to produce copies of drawings, photographs, and technical and architectural plans, from the 1870s through the 1950s.

Some cyanotype examples are in the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts collection at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. These particular cyanotypes are photographs of Masonic jewels and likely belonged to Otis Everett Weld, 33°(1840-1897). They are part of a larger group that appear to be documenting jewels owned by Weld. Weld, born in Boston, was head of the Otis E. Weld & Co, wine merchants and director of the Third National Bank and Bolyston Insurance Company.

Initiated in 1866 in the Lodge of Eleusis, he served as Junior Grand Warden and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1880 and 1894, respectively. Weld was also a member of St. Bernard Commandery and St. Andrew’s Chapter, both in Boston, and a trustee and financial benefactor for Masonic organizations.

In the June 1897 Grand Lodge of Massachusetts proceedings Thomas W. Davis (1844-1914) offered these kind words in his memorial, "His advancement in our Order was due not alone to his gifts of popularity, boundless though they seemed; not because he was an appreciative student of the ritual, but because the teachings of the Institution permeated his very being...".

These photographs show the varied ways the cyanotype process could be utilized beyond architectural plans. Have you encountered images using this photographic process? Have you seen jewels similar to Otis E. Welds's? Let us know in the comments section below.

References:

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, (Boston, Massachusetts: Rockwell & Churchill, 1897) 101.

Cyanotypes, The Atlas of Analytical Signatures of Photographic Processes The Getty Conservation Institute,https://www.getty.edu/conservation/publications_resources/pdf_publications/pdf/atlas_cyanotype.pdf, accessed June 2019.

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Cyanotype of Grand Master's Jewel made for Otis E. Weld, 33°. Probably Boston, Massachusetts. Loaned by The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.10643e

The DeMolay Centennial Anniversary

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Crown of Youth, 1953. Mac & Jack, Saugus, Massachusetts. Gift of Middlesex Chapter, Order of DeMolay, Reading, Massachusetts, 2000.034.3.

One hundred years ago, Freemason Frank S. Land (1890-1959) founded the Order of DeMolay in 1919 in Kansas City, Missouri, at the age of 28. After the initial formation of the youth club, Land and other early members named the group after Jacques DeMolay (1243-1314) and met regularly at the Kansas City Masonic Temple. The Order was open to young men aged 16 to 21.The success and popularity of the original DeMolay group spurred members to set up chapters across the country.

When Land died in 1959, there were 135,000 DeMolay members and 2,097 chapters in 14 countries. Local chapters were and still are sponsored by a Masonic organization. Several objects related to DeMolay history will be on display at the Museum & Library through December 2019 as the organization celebrates its centennial anniversary in more than 15 countries worldwide.

One object on view includes a “Crown of Youth” from Middlesex Chapter in Reading, Massachusetts (at left). In 1953, the Mother’s Club for the Middlesex Chapter in Reading presented the crown to the chapter to commemorate their 30th anniversary. A plaque was later added in memory of “Dad” Herbert K. Miller.

Another object in the collection, a recently donated 1964 panoramic photograph, shows over one hundred DeMolay members and advisers at a Colorado DeMolay leadership camp outside Estes Park, Colorado. The first DeMolay National Leader's Training Camp was held at Bear Lake Lodge, Colorado, in 1924. 

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DeMolay Leadership Camp, 1964. Larson Photography Studio, Estes Park, Colorado. Gift of of David A. Glattly, 2017.021.1.

1964 New Jersey Past State Master Councilor Thomas C. Richard gave this photograph to current Sovereign Grand Commander, David Glattly, who then donated it to the Museum.

Visit the Museum & Library to see more DeMolay items from the collection! Do you or a family member have photographs or items related to DeMolay? We want to hear from you. Leave a comment in the section below.