Posts by Jeff Croteau

Newly added to Digital Collections: Scottish Rite Documents

A2019_178_0262_webDo you want to take a closer look at how the Scottish Rite developed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added a selection of new documents related to Scottish Rite history to its Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. There are now over fifty primary source documents related to the history of the Scottish Rite available through our digital collections website. Viewing the documents is easy - clicking on an image will open a high-res image of the document or, in the case of some multi-page documents, a PDF.

The digitized Scottish Rite material includes some of the founding documents of both the Northern Masonic and Southern Jurisdictions, as well as official documents that show the various schisms within the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in the nineteenth century, especially with regard to groups founded by or inspired by Joseph Cerneau.

Do you have a question about Scottish Rite history? We'd love to hear from you. Head over to the Library & Archives page on the museum's website to get in touch with us.

Caption:
Announcement of the Union of the Hays and Raymond Supreme Councils, 1863. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A2019/178/0262.


Online Exhibition - Illustrated Patriotic Envelopes of the American Civil War

A1985_012_0733The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “Illustrated Patriotic Envelopes of the American Civil War” now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. The objects in the exhibition are from a collection of over 1,000 Illustrated patriotic envelopes of the American Civil War that were donated to the museum by William Caleb Loring, 33° (1925-2011).

Following the November 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) as President of the United States, seven states in which slavery was legal individually seceded from the Union. They did so because of Lincoln’s opposition to the expansion of slavery in the western United States. South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas declared themselves the Confederate States of America (C.S.A.), and established a capital first in Montgomery, Alabama and then in Richmond, Virginia. After the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina in April 1861, four more slave-holding states joined the Confederacy. The C.S.A. was never officially recognized by the United States or any foreign government. The American Civil War, fought between the Union and the Confederate South, lasted until 1865. Casualties on both sides, from death, disease, and wounds, totaled over one million.

Shortly after the war began, publishers began printing illustrated envelopes (also known as covers) related to the war. The designs treated a variety of subjects, such as soldiers, battles, and patriotism. Publishers released 3,000-4,000 individual Union designs and no more than 160 individual Confederate designs of this form of wartime propaganda. Americans quickly began collecting these envelopes and, as early as 1861, manufacturers marketed albums that consumers could fill with examples that they had acquired. Soldiers also put these envelopes to practical use, using them to mail letters home to their families. These envelopes offer an immediate view on the bold rhetoric and political passions of the American Civil War.

If you haven't already, be sure to visit the Museum's online exhibition website for more online exhibitions.

 


Newly added to Digital Collections - Jacob Norton letters

A2011_017_717_webThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added a selection of letters to its Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. The digitized letters are selected from the over 700 that are in the Jacob Norton Papers collection, which consists of Norton's incoming correspondence from well-known nineteenth-century Freemasons, such as Rob Morris (1818-1888) and Enoch Terry Carson (1822-1899).

Jacob Norton (1814-1897), of Polish ancestry and Jewish faith, was born in Middlesex, England. He was a furrier by trade. He was raised to the degree of Master Mason in Joppa Lodge (London, England) on August 5th, 1839.

Norton took his business to the United States, and in 1842, demitted from Joppa Lodge. In 1844, after taking up residence in Boston, Massachusetts, Norton joined St. Andrew’s Lodge, and was made a member on November 14th. He remained a member of this lodge for almost eight years until his petition to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for the revision of its ritual and removal of overt Christian allusions was denied in June 1852. The committee members who denied this petition also recommended that he and the other petitioners had to withdraw from St. Andrew’s. He subsequently resigned from St. Andrew’s Lodge and became increasingly discontent with American Freemasonry, writing critical articles until his death. Due to this, Norton was considered to be argumentative and opinionated by the Masons of the Massachusetts jurisdiction, and beyond. He collected some of these articles and new writings in a book called Masonic Fiction Exploded: Including the Pretended Grand Mastership of Henry Price, published in 1896.

Norton did not remove himself from Freemasonry altogether, however, as he continued to attend the meetings of Joppa Lodge in England when his trade took him there and also corresponded with Masons until his death. Additionally, he joined the Correspondence Circle of Quatuor Coronati Lodge in London in November 1887.

In his personal life, Norton was married to Miriam Norton (born 1829), and had three children, Edward, Rachel, and George. Sometime between 1852 and his death he renounced his Jewish faith and considered himself an atheist. He lived in Boston until his death in March 1897, aged 83.

In addition to the letters in the Jacob Norton Papers, the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website includes a number of different collections of letters and correspondence, including the Armand P. Pfister Masonic Papers, 1840-1846 and the G. Edward Elwell, Jr., Autograph Collection.

Caption:
Letter from William P. Mellen to Jacob Norton, 1856. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Museum Purchase, A2011/017/717.

 


Experience Some of Patriots' Day Online

Lexington alarm letterThis year marks the 245th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington. During any other year, you can usually visit us in person at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library around Patriots’ Day, when we normally exhibit one of the highlights from our collection: an original copy of the Lexington Alarm letter. Our letter is one of several created by colonists to inform other colonies about the Battle of Lexington and the outbreak of war with England. It is as close as contemporary viewers can get to the beginning of the American Revolution. While all of the Patriots' Day activities and events around Lexington and the rest of Massachusetts have been canceled this year, we wanted to remind you that you can still get an up close look at the Lexington Alarm letter through the high resolution images of it that are available to everyone through our Digital Collections website

The original alarm letter was written by Joseph Palmer just hours after the Battle of Lexington which took place around daybreak on April 19, 1775. Palmer, a member of the Committee of Safety in Watertown, Massachusetts, a town near Lexington, had his letter copied by recipients along the Committee of Safety's network so that the message was distributed far and wide. While the original alarm letter written by Palmer is thought to be lost, the Museum & Library has in its collection this copy of his famous warning, which was written the day after the Battle of Lexington by Daniel Tyler, Jr., of Connecticut.

If you want to do a little more armchair traveling, be sure to check out a blog post we published over a decade ago, which traces the route that the alarm letter took from Watertown, Massachusetts down to New York City.

And we hope to see you in person in April of next year for the 246th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington, when you can once again see this exciting piece of American history in person.

Caption:
Lexington Alarm Letter, [April 20, 1775], Daniel Tyler, Jr. (about 1750–1832), copyist, Brooklyn, Connecticut, Museum purchase, A1995/011/1.


More Content Added to Digital Collections Sites!

A2018_127_001_DSwebIf you haven't visited the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's digital collections sites before, or if it's been awhile, now is the perfect time to explore them.

Museum & Library staff are currently working from home and are using this closure period to add digitized materials to our online sites, making more of our unique collections available to you. Be sure to check out all of the places where you can access our collections and virtual exhibitions online: the Museum's online collections, the Library & Archives' online collections, the Museum's online exhibitions, and the Museum & Library's Flickr page.

Among the many interesting items that the Library & Archives has added during this period is the 16th degree "Prince of Jerusalem" Scottish Rite certificate pictured here. Historically, the Scottish Rite has issued 32nd, 33rd, and occasionally 18th degree certificates, but this 1842 certificate issued by the Grand Council of Princes of Jerusalem in Albany, NY, to John Christie is highly unusual. Christie's certificate is just one of over two hundred Masonic certificates that can be viewed on the Library & Archives' Digital Collections website.

John Christie (1804-1890) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and spent most of his life there. He became a Mason in St. John's Lodge No. 1 in Portsmouth in 1826 and later served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire from 1847 to 1850. This certificate marks Christie's entry into the Scottish Rite, which began in 1842 and lasted over half a century, until his death in 1890. In addition to this certificate, we have also digitized two other certificates that document Christie's participation in the Scottish Rite. The first is a beautifully engrossed 1845 certificate declaring John Christie an Active Member of the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. The second is an 1852 certificate appointing Christie as the Supreme Council's Deputy for New Hampshire, an office he held from 1851 to 1864, and again from 1878 to 1882. The Valley of Portsmouth-Dover today still honors Christie's service to Scottish Rite Freemasonry in New Hampshire; one of its three subordinate bodies is named John Christie Council, Princes of Jerusalem.

Be well, be safe, and happy online exploring from all of us at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library!

 


Lewis Carroll, Deputy Snarks, Hoo Hoos, and Las Vegas

A2003_011_001DS1_webOn November 16, 1955, the Concatenated Order of the Hoo Hoo's Office of the Snark of the Universe issued this State Deputy Snark appointment certificate to Vaughn H. McDowell (1913-1977), a resident of Las Vegas, Nevada. This is one of many fraternal certificates in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection.

Established in Gurdon, Arkansas, on January 21, 1892, by six men with various connections to the lumber industry, the Concatenated Order of the Hoo Hoo is still around today. Now known as Hoo-Hoo International, the group's mission is to "achieve a united and progressive forest products industry through fraternal participation in its business, social and community programs so that there may result, Health, Happiness and Long Life to its members." The group is open to people eighteen years and older, "who are engaged in the forestry product industry or any person genuinely interested in supporting the purpose and aims of our order." The group's name may be unusual-sounding - maybe even silly - but they are a business-minded group that bills itself as the "Fraternal Order of the Forest Products Industry."

Hoo Hoo? Snark? Deputy Snark? Fraternal officer's titles can be grand, and sometimes even strange, but Snark of the Universe is perhaps in a category of its own. Where did these names come from?

According to the group's own history [PDF], two of the founders, William E. Barnes and Bolling Arthur Johnson, were responsible for the group's nonsensical names, many of which were directly inspired by a poem written by Lewis Carroll, who is perhaps best remembered as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Hoo-Hoo's own history reports that

W. E. Barns had just completed reading Lewis Carroll's "Hunting of the Snark" and suggested that the directors be given names of an "eerie and peculiar" nature like those used in the book. Hence, the names "snark", "bojum", "Sr. High Hoo-Hoo", "Jr. High Hoo-Hoo", and "bandersnatch" were chosen, although "jabberwock" later replaced "bandersnatch". The other names which are now affixed to officers (e.g. Scrivenoter, Arcanoper, Custocatian, and Gurdon) were the products of Johnson's imagination some days or weeks later.

In addition to "eerie and peculiar" titles, the group's logo is a black cat with its tail curved into the shape of a number 9, which can be seen on McDowell's certificate. The organization explains the choice of a black cat as its mascot in its own history:

Being a war upon conventionality, Hoo-Hoo was to be non-superstitious from the beginning. Therefore, when the discussion lent itself to adopting a mascot it seemed the black cat would be the critter extraordinaire due to its general association with bad luck. Also, having no history of its own, Hoo-Hoo would assume some other history, decidedly that of ancient Egyptians who worshipped the black cat as a deity. (Other Egyptian religious symbols and lore found its way into Hoo-Hoo in later years through the Osirian Cloister, an "upper chamber" of Hoo-Hoo consisting of the order's most dedicated workers.) In honor of the legendary nine lives of the cat, Johnson suggested that the number nine assume a high and lofty position within the makeup of Hoo-Hoo. There would be nine men on the Board of Directors. The order would hold its annual meeting on the ninth day of the ninth month beginning at nine minutes after nine. Annual dues would be 99 cents, and the initiation fee would be $9.99. The membership would never consist of more than 9,999 men.

Vaughn McDowell was a member of Reno Hoo-Hoo club No. 129, which served Reno and the surrounding area. McDowell moved to Nevada in 1950, first living in Reno and then, in 1954, moving to Las Vegas. In 1955, the Hoo Hoo's chief officer, the Snark of the Universe, appointed McDowell to the position of Deputy Snark (i.e. chief representative) of Nevada. McDowell was involved in the lumber industry. A 1952 Reno city directory lists him as being manager of the Home Lumber Company in that city. The 1954 Las Vegas city directory shows that McDowell was manager of M & T Builder's Supply.

You can take a closer look at McDowell's Deputy Snark certificate at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.

Caption:

State Deputy Snark appointment certificate, 1955. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Anthony Ziagos, A2003/011/001.

 


Digital Collections Highlight: Frederick P. Wahlgren's life-long Masonic membership

A1996_041_9aDS1_webBetween 1902 and 1909, Frederick Peter Wahlgren (1859-1935) made a lifetime commitment to Freemasonry by paying for lifetime memberships in the eight different Masonic bodies of which he was a member. Wahlgren was a 24-year-old Swedish immigrant when he arrived in the United States in 1883. He owned a house painting business and lived in the Roslindale neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1899, at age 40, he became a Master Mason in Prospect Lodge in Roslindale. A few years later he joined all four Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Boston, as well as Boston's York Rite bodies.

A1996_041_6aDS1_webA small collection of certificates and receipts in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection show evidence of Wahlgren's decision to become a lifetime member of his Blue Lodge, all four subordinate bodies in the Scottish Rite, as well as all three subordinate bodies of the York Rite. By becoming a lifetime member in these organizations, Wahlgren paid a larger membership fee up front, with the guarantee that he would not have to pay any other membership fees for the rest of his life. One receipt in the collection shows that in 1902 Wahlgren paid $180 to become a lifetime member of all four subordinate bodies in the Valley of Boston: Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, Mount Olivet Chapter Rose Croix, Giles F. Yates Council Princes of Jerusalem, and Massachusetts Consistory. Wahlgren received attractive lifetime membership certificates for each of the four bodies, two of which are shown here. In 1904, he became a life member of the York Rite bodies and, finally, in 1909, he became a life member of Prospect Lodge.

How were the life membership fees calculated? In 1900, the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation unanimously adopting a resolution which stated that

the minimum fee for life membership in any of the subordinate bodies shall be fifteen times the annual fee of that body, and shall in no case be less than thirty dollars in a Lodge of Perfection, a Council of Princes of Jerusalem, and a Chapter of Rose Croix; nor less than forty-five dollars in Massachusetts Consistory, provided, however, that in the Consistory, the fee for the life membership of a member who resides more than ten miles from Boston shall be ten dollars less than the fee herein established.

The 1900 resolution further mandated that the total fee to belong to all four Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Boston should be no less than $135. Two years later, Wahlgren paid $180. Nonetheless, it still would have made financial sense for Wahlgren to pay the fee, as he lived for another 33 years. Wahlgren died on April 30, 1935, just four days after his wife, Ida S. (Dufva) Wahlgren (1855-1935). His lifetime commitment to Freemasonry is evidenced by the life member certificates he was issued. We have digitized and made available most of the Frederick Peter Wahlgren certificates in our collection. You can view them at our Digital Collections website, along with hundreds of other documents that we have digitized and made available.

Captions:

Life membership certificate issued by Massachusetts Consistory to Fredrick Peter Wahlgren, 1903. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Mrs. Lucian D. Warner, A1996/041/009a.

Life membership certificate issued by Boston Lafayette Lodge of Perfection to Fredrick Peter Wahlgren, 1903. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Mrs. Lucian D. Warner, A1996/041/006a.


Caring for Your Masonic Treasures - now available!

Caring for Your Masonic Treasures coverThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library often receives calls from Masonic lodges and Valleys asking how to preserve their historic documents—charters, minute books, and certificates—as well as photographs and books. We have updated and revised one of our most popular resources, Caring for Your Masonic Treasures. This 21-page booklet is now freely available online. Feel free to consult the PDF online, download it to your device, or print it out.

We hope this booklet will help you get started with preserving your lodge’s or Valley’s historic material. The booklet outlines various preservation techniques and explains:

  • The kinds of materials you might encounter in your collection
  • The ideal conditions in which to store your collections
  • The types of storage enclosures (boxes, folders, etc.) to use when storing your collections
  • How to contact and hire a professional conservator to repair damaged documents and books.

We hope that the guidelines in Caring for Your Masonic Treasures will help you feel confident that you are doing what you can to help insure the long-term preservation of your lodge’s or Valley’s documents, photographs, and books.

View Caring For Your Masonic Treasures – Digital Booklet (Issuu)

Download Caring For Your Masonic Treasures – PDF (15.1MB)


Vietnam Veterans and Freemasonry: MSA’s Hospital Visitation Program

Your Masonic Hospital Visitor September 1966_smallerFounded in the aftermath of World War I, the Masonic Service Association (MSA) has performed a number of services for Masons since 1919. The initial impetus for the MSA's formation was to coordinate U.S. Masonic efforts to provide aid to American military servicemen near the end of World War I. In 1966, the MSA published a book called Fifteen Years of Masonic Service to Hospitalized Veterans, 1952-1966, a copy of which is in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection. The book reprints the MSA’s bulletin, originally titled Army and Navy Masonic Service Center and, in 1960, changed to Your Masonic Hospital Visitor, a name it carried for years. Most of the reprinted bulletins feature news of Masons visiting veterans of both World War II and the Korean War, but the end of the book sheds light on service to a new group of veterans.

The lead article in the September 1966 bulletin is titled “A New Call for Service, The Veterans of Viet Nam.” The article begins:

Our sons and brothers are coming back from South Viet Nam, the sick and wounded, I mean. The war in Southeast Asia is a hot war; the build-up of men and material is increasing. A lot more boys will be going over before most of them come home.

At the beginning of 1966, the U.S. military personnel in South Vietnam numbered nearly 185,000. By the end of 1966, the United States had over 385,000 troops there – an increase of 108%. That year, more than 6,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam, and 30,000 were wounded.

The article in the 1966 bulletin is accompanied by three photographs of wounded soldiers being visited by Masonic Service Association staff. The men shown are Norman C. Weiffenbach, a member of Ft. Benning Lodge No. 579 (Columbus, Georgia), pictured at Walter Reed Medical Center; Johnnie S. Miller of Tarpon Springs, Florida, at the V.A. Hospital in East Orange, New Jersey; and Thomas E. Bennett of Atlanta, Georgia, at an unidentified hospital.

The work of the MSA’s Hospital Visitation program continues today, with Masons volunteering their time to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. The MSA’s website describes the program as “much more than merely ‘visitations’ to the disabled and lonely patients in V.A. Hospitals, State Veterans Homes and Extended Care Facilities. It is the rendering of personal services to all our sons and brothers, Masons and Non-Masons alike, who now need someone to turn to for encouragement and to make life a little more pleasant.”

Do you have any items related to Freemasonry and your time in service during the Vietnam War or related to your time as a hospital visitor? We’d love to hear more about them. Please leave a comment below.

 

Caption:

Fifteen Years of Masonic Service to Hospitalized Veterans, 1952-1966 (Washington, D.C.: Masonic Service Association of the U.S., 1966), Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 45.D614 1966.

 

A version of this post originally appeared in the August 2019 issue of The Northern Light.


Digital Collections Highlight: 1855 Masonic Festival Notice

A2010_015_1dDS_webThe Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives' Digital Collections website features a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This week, we highlight a Masonic festival notice from 1855.

Montgomery Lodge, located in Milford, Massachusetts, sent this invitation out to a number of Masonic lodges, inviting them to a St. John's Day celebration that they were planning for Saturday, June 23, 1855. This particular notice was sent to Richard Colton, Master of Harmony Lodge, inviting him, the officers and members of the lodge to the Masonic festival hosted by Montgomery Lodge. A handwritten notice at the bottom of the invitation reads "Fare on B.W.R.R. reduced one half. Please send date of your charter." While it is not clear why Montgomery Lodge was requesting the charter date for lodges that it invited, it is clear that they had arranged for half-fare tickets for those invitees traveling on the Boston & Worcester railroad line.

detailed, 8-page account of the day's events was published in the August 1855 issue of Freemason's Monthly Magazine. The event was large - "probably between four and five hundred Brethren in the procession" - and the food and drink clearly left a lot to be desired. The article was hardly without editorial comments. While praising the day's events - "We heard but one expression among the audience, — that of hearty approval and gratification" - the writer also had a few choice words about the meal that was served after the church services, while also making it clear that he doesn't usually expect much in the way of good food on "such occasions":

After the Benediction the procession was again formed and marched to the new Town Hall, where the tables were spread with the worst dinner we ever sat down to; and we have often been severely tried in this interesting particular, — albeit we are not usually very fastidious on such occasions. Experience has pretty effectually cured us of all such nonsense; but there is a point at which the gastronomic organs revolt! We give the caterer for this occasion, the credit of having reached that point of physical sufferance!

Making dinner speeches on empty stomachs, and drinking toasts in turpentine water, is a rather hazardous experiment! Nevertheless, some of the Brethren present had the courage to attempt it, and under the able presidency of Col. Thompson, succeeded to great satisfaction, and, probably, to their own astonishment! Among the number was the M. W. Grand Master, Dr. [Winslow] Lewis [Jr.], who, in response to a complimentary toast to the Grand Lodge, spoke substantially as follows...[Curious readers may read Lewis's speech here.]

St. John's Day, the June celebration of the birth of St. John the Baptist, has a long tradition in Freemasonry. As early as 1739, the day was well-known enough that Joseph Green (1706-1780) published a satirical anti-Masonic poem about it. A broadside publication of that poem can also be found on our Digital Collections website.

 

Caption:

Masonic Festival Notice, 1855. Milford, Massachusetts. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Maria Rogers, MA 001.392.