Prince Hall Freemasonry

Digital Collections Highlight: Theodore Gleghorn's 1921 Master Mason certificate

A2019_124_001DS1_web                                                                                                                                                             Theodore Gleghorn's Master Mason certificate is just one of many documents available in the African American Freemasonry & Fraternalism collection at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. Hermon Lodge No. 21 issued this Master Mason certificate (above) to Gleghorn (1890-1978). The certificate is dated October 10, 1921, and signed by Hermon Lodge’s Worshipful Master Charles Murdock and Secretary P. B. French. Located in Sparta, Illinois, Hermon Lodge No. 21 was chartered in 1875 by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient & Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois.

Detail_of_A2019_124_001DS1_webWhat makes Gleghorn's Masonic certificate so different from the many hundreds of Masonic certificates in our collection is that it includes a photograph of the certificate's owner (at right), embossed with Hermon Lodge's seal. This, in addition to the lodge officers' signatures, and Gleghorn's own signature, helped prove the document's authenticity if Gleghorn presented it to a lodge where he was not known.

Seeing Theodore Gleghorn's portrait on the certificate makes one wonder - who was he? What do we know about him? According to the WWI registration card that Gleghorn filled out in 1917, he was born in Cutler, Illinois in 1890. In 1917, the Wilson Bros. Coal Co., in Sparta, Illinois, employed him as a miner. The 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses also show that Gleghorn continued to work in the coal mining industry. Around 1947, Gleghorn moved north to Springfield, Illinois, where he was employed by the State Division of Local Health Services. He worked there for at least twenty-five years. A 1971 newsletter published by the Illinois Department of Health includes an article and photograph showing that Gleghorn and other long-serving employees had been honored as members of the Illinois Department of Public Health's "Quarter Century Club."

Gleghorn was married to Emma L. (Britton) Gleghorn (1907-1980) and they had a son, Emmett D. Gleghorn (1933-1987). If you know more about Theodore Gleghorn's Masonic involvement or any other details about his life, we would love to hear from you. Just post a comment below or contact us through our website.

Caption:
Prince Hall Master Mason certificate issued by Hermon Lodge, No. 21, to Theodore Gleghorn, 1921. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2019/124/001.


Rare Prince Hall Acquisitions Offers Insights into African-American Philanthropy

In a blog post published in September for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we highlighted the Scottish Rite’s vision to be a fraternity that fulfils its Masonic obligation to care for its members. In this week’s blog post, we expand upon this theme by featuring three documents taken from the records of a Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in New London, Connecticut, Jepthah Lodge, No. 11. Taken together, these documents highlight the benevolent hearts of African American Freemasons as they respond to a request for aid from Reverend Octavius Singleton, the superintendent of the National Home Finding Society for Colored Children.

In the first document (see below), a letter from Reverend Singleton to Edward M. Stevens, the Junior Warden of Jepthah Lodge, Singleton recounts the difficult times faced by his organization and asks Stevens to petition his Lodge and church for donations.


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Letter from Reverend O. Singleton of the National Home Finding Society to Edward M. Stevens, June 28, 1922.

 

6-28-1922
Mr. Edward M. Stevens, J.W.
My Dear Friend:

     For 11 years we have been toiling almost single handed and alone to perform the duty every man and woman owes to the homeless child of our race. Our own people have not played the part of the good Samaritan toward these poor unfortunates, and had it not been for white friends, these poor little children would still be hungry and naked, out of doors, abused and mistreated. But through their aid, we have cared for 250 children, and have on hand now 50. We have the home in the city a picture of which I send herewith enclosed, and a farm of 240 acres, near Irvington, Ky., and 22 children down there practically out of doors from January 11th, to September 11th.
     We accidently got burnt out on the farm last January, then we erected another building, but before it was completed, a cloud burst and tornado struck us Sunday, May 30th., and leveled it to the ground.
     Through the kind assistance of Colored Lodges and Churches and the help of white friends –and one of these, Mr. Theo. Ahrens gave $200.00, and raised nearly $200.00 besides among his friends – we have about completed another new building. But we have run behind, we owe for coal, for bread, and groceries, for lumber etc. then too we have got to furnish the building and we’ve got to build a school house.

     My Dear Brother, I know you are a man of influence in your Lodge and church; and I don’t believe there is a Church or Lodge in the whole country, that would refuse to take up a collection to help a work like this, that has just gone through so much distress and suffering.
     Please send names of all giving 25¢ or more that we might publish same in the Colored papers. And know always, that any Lodge, any Church, any Community, in or outside of the State of Kentucky, has the right and privilege of placing children in our institution whether they help or not.
     Please do not pass this by, please don’t put it off but give every member a chance to show his fraternal and christian [sic] sympathy and pity and love for the poorest of the poor and the most needy of all creatures of the earth.

Yours for God’s little lambs,  

Rev. O. Singleton, Gen’l Supt.,
National Home Finding Society
1716 West Chestnut Street
Louisville, Kentucky



A2017_054_009DS1 - Copy (2)

A Picture of the National Home Finding Society's "Busy Bee Farm" taken on July 15, 1922. after the great fire and tornado of 1920

 

Singleton’s letter was read before the members of Jepthah Lodge on July 12, 1922, and a collection was held that raised $4.35 for Superintendent Singleton’s home for orphaned children. The Lodge’s donation was sent by money order to Singleton along with the letter depicted below. In addition to this act of kindness, the minutes of Jepthah Lodge show that at this meeting the Lodge also gave $15.00 to Mrs. Clara A. Burr, the widow of a deceased member. 

A2017_054_017DS

Letter from Jepthah Lodge, No. 11, to Reverend O. Singleton, July 18, 1922.

  July 18th, 1922
The National Home Finding Society
Rev. O. Singleton

Dear Sir:-

      Your letter of June 28th. addressed to Mr. Edward M. Stevens has been referred to Jeptha Lodge No. 11, F. & A. M. for our consideration.
       We wish to assure you that we are greatly in sympathy with any and all enterprises which tend towards the advancement of our colored people as a  whole and any difficulties which any one community has in as deeply felt by us as though we were subject to the same misfortune.
      We greatly commend the “National Home Finding Society” for the work they are doing to assist these little children who you state are practically homeless, and wish that were financially able to assist you more than we are doing just now; however, we have urged each member present to contribute as liberably [sic] as his means will afford and he can obtain the address of the Society from our Sec. should any of them wish to make a personal contribution.
      Enclosed you will find a money order to the amount of $4.35 which was contributed by the few brethren who were present at our last regular communication and trust that it will assist you in your struggle to pay off current expenses.

We trust that you will be successful in all attempts you may make for the proper care of these lettle [sic] children.

Very Sincerely Yours,

Jeptha Lodge, No. 11, F. & A. M.
John Ware W. M.
John R. Leeks, Sec.


Donations from people and organizations, such as Jepthah Lodge, No. 11, kept Octavius Singleton’s ambitious dream of providing a home for Kentucky’s homeless African American children alive for over 30 years in spite of tremendous obstacles.  As Jennie Cole of the Filson Historical Society writes, “World War II brought times of increasing hardship to the Home,” and when “combined with the ill health of” Singleton’s wife Harriet, his great partner and the matron of the home, Singleton was forced “to release the children in his care or find placement for them in other homes.” Yet, in spite of each setback, Singleton persevered; he continued to seek support for his work at Irvington, Kentucky, and for “blacks living in his hometown of Edwards, Mississippi and the surrounding region” until his death in 1950.

A2017_054_009DS1 - Copy (3)










National Home Finding Society for Colored Children pamphlet, about 1922.


Captions

Letter from Reverend O. Singleton of the National Home Finding Society to Edward M. Stevens, June 28, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 130.002.

National Home Finding Society for Colored Children pamphlet, about 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 130.002.

Letter from Jephtha Lodge, No. 11, to Reverend O. Singleton, July 18, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 130.002.

References

Cole, Jennie. “Singleton family Papers, 1907-1983.” Filson Historical Society, last modified August 12, 2015. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://filsonhistorical.org/research-doc/singleton-family-papers-1907-1983/

Kleber, John E., ed. “Civic, Fraternal, and Philanthropic Orphanages.” In The Encyclopedia of Louisville, 682. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=pXbYITw4ZesC&dq

Powell, Jacob W. Bird’s Eye View of the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with Observations on the Progress of the Colored People of Louisville, Kentucky, and a History of the Movement Looking Toward the Elevation of Rev. Benjamin W. Swain, D.D. to the Bishopric in 1920. Boston: Lavalle Press, 1918. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=Vf8-AAAAYAAJ&dq

Slingerland, W. H. Child Welfare Work in Louisville: A Study of Conditions, Agencies and Institutions. Louisville, Kentucky: Welfare League, 1919. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=FFQHAAAAMAAJ

 

 

 


Museum & Library Acquires Richard Theodore Greener's 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Certificate

Richard Greener 33rd Degree CertificateThe Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is pleased to announce that it has acquired the 33rd degree Scottish Rite Masonic certificate of Richard Theodore Greener (1844-1922), the prominent African American attorney, educator, diplomat, and Freemason. Among his many accomplishments, Greener was the first African American graduate of Harvard College, the dean of Howard University’s School of Law, a professor at the University of South Carolina, and the first U.S. Consul to Vladivostok, Russia.

The 33rd degree certificate was among many Greener documents discovered in 2009 in the attic of an abandoned house in Chicago by a cleanout crew preparing it for demolition. Along with the 33rd degree certificate, documents found in 2009 included Greener’s 1870 Harvard diploma (now in Harvard’s collection) as well as his law degree from the University of South Carolina and his license to practice law in South Carolina (now both at the University of South Carolina). Historians have greeted the discovery of the Greener documents – long thought lost – with much excitement. Greener’s Masonic certificate gives us a glimpse into his activities while he was in Chicago in 1896 working for the National Republican Committee’s presidential campaign efforts.

Richard Greener portraitGreener was active in Freemasonry as early as 1876, as evidenced by a Masonic speech he gave which was published that year, An Oration Pronounced at the Celebration of the Festival of Saint John the Baptist, June 24, 1876: At the Invitation of Eureka Lodge No. 1, F.A.M., in the Savannah Georgia Theatre. Twenty years later, on September 8, 1896, the United Supreme Council of the 33d Degree for Southern and Western Jurisdictions of the United States – a Scottish Rite group formed by black Chicago lawyer John G. Jones and others in 1895 – elevated Greener to the 33rd degree in their Council. (Although Jones suffers from a negative reputation within Freemasonry today, he was an activist and lawyer who fought against segregation, served in the Illinois Legislature, and was the eighth African American admitted to the Illinois bar.) The date of Greener’s 33rd degree certificate coincides with his arrival in Chicago and his involvement with the National Republican Committee’s National Colored Bureau in the 1896 presidential campaign for Republican nominee William McKinley. Within the United Supreme Council, Greener served as Jones’ second-in-command, holding the office of Lieutenant Grand Commander in 1896 and 1897. Greener was also a Shriner and held office in the Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, the black Masonic organization established by Jones in Chicago in 1893 during a time when the predominantly white Shriners excluded African Americans as members. The acquisition of Greener’s 33rd degree certificate strengthens the Museum & Library’s holdings related to African American fraternalism and helps tell the larger story of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the United States.

Captions:

33° Certificate issued to Richard Theodore Greener, 1896, United Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree for Southern and Western Jurisdiction of the United States, Washington, D.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2016/001.

Lower right:
Schomburg General Research and Reference Division, The New York Public Library. "R. T. Greener" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed January 13, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-72f8-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99


Commemorating the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth Day

85_41DP1
Ambrotype of Unidentified Man in Masonic Apron and Independent Order of Odd Fellows Collar, 1855-1865, unidentified maker, United States, Museum purchase, 85.41. Photograph by David Bohl.

June 19th will be the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth day, also known as Emancipation Day, in the United States.  Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) issued the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 declaring that slaves in all states still at war with the federal government were free and would remain so.The proclamation was not fully realized until June 19, 1865, when Union General Gordon Granger (1821-1876) announced freedom for all slaves in the Southwest including Texas, the last rebel state to allow slavery following the end of the Civil War. The day is believed to have been named “Juneteenth” by those freed in Texas in 1865.The 13th amendment outlawing slavery everywhere in the United States was subsequently ratified in December 1865.

Since that time, nationwide grassroots celebrations have commemorated this significant moment in American history. In June 2014, the U.S. Senate passed legislation formally recognizing June 19th as “Juneteenth Independence Day” and supporting the nationwide celebration of the holiday.  In light of this anniversary the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is taking a moment to highlight some of the items in our collection related to African American Freemasonry (commonly referred to as Prince Hall Freemasonry) and fraternalism.

The Prince Hall Monument
The Prince Hall Monument in Cambridge, MA was unveiled on May 15, 2010.  Image courtesy of The Prince Hall Monument Project.

African American Freemasonry emerged in 1775 when Prince Hall (1738-1807), an active Methodist and leading citizen in Boston’s African American community, attempted to join Boston’s Masonic Lodges but was denied membership. In response, he and fourteen other African Americans who had been rejected by the established Boston lodges turned to a Masonic Lodge attached to a British regiment stationed in the city. Initiated in 1775, Hall and his Masonic brothers met as members of the British lodge until the Revolutionary War ended. In 1784 Prince Hall and the other members of the British lodge, petitioned the Grand Lodge of England to form a new lodge on American soil. The governing body granted his request, creating African Lodge No. 459.

When Prince Hall died in 1807, African American masons chose to give their fraternity his name to distinguish it from predominantly white “mainstream” lodges that generally excluded blacks throughout the 1800s and early 1900s. Today, there are reported to be over 4500 Prince Hall Lodges worldwide. After the civil war, Prince Hall Freemasonry and other fraternal groups, like the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows and Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World spread throughout the North and South, helping to establish community institutions and benefits for freed families. Prince Hall and other African American Masonic leaders like Moses Dickson (1824-1901) and Lewis Hayden (1811-1889) were  influential activists in the abolitionist and civil rights movements of their era. Their leadership and influence emphasizes how Freemasonry and fraternalism impacted civil rights efforts and afforded African Americans the opportunity to organize toward an equal and free black citizenship in American society.  

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is continuing to look for items related to African American Freemasonry and fraternalism and welcomes inquiries about potential donations. To see items related to African American Freemasonry and fraternalism currently in our collection please visit our museum Flickr page.

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99_044_7DP1DBThis apron originally belonged to an unidentified member of Wilmington, North Carolina’s James W. Telfair Lodge No. 510 who was initiated in March 1915. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina was chartered in 1870. The lodge was named for James W. Telfair Jr. (1837-1914), a slave who later became a reverend at St. Stephen’s African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington, North Carolina. Telfair served as Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of North Carolina.  

 

 

Caption: Prince Hall Master Mason Apron, United States, 1915, unidentified maker, United States, Museum purchase, 99.044.7. Photograph by David Bohl.

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  RARE 90_H414 1866In December of 1865, Lewis Hayden, Grand Master of the Massachusetts Prince Hall Grand Lodge, delivered a stirring address to members of that Grand Lodge, calling into question the continued discrimination of African Americans in some Masonic lodges and American society.

Caption: Caste among Masons; address before Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Massachusetts, at the festival of St. John the Evangelist, December 27, 1865 By Lewis Hayden, Grand Master.(Boston, Massachusetts: Edward S. Coombs & Company, [1866])

Call number: RARE 90.H414 1866.

 

 

 

 

 

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80_9_1DI1 The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was created in Europe and is a fraternal group that includes mutual benefits. Peter Ogden created the American counterpart of GUOOF in 1843 after obtaining a charter from the fraternal society of England. Membership exploded after the Civil War when African Americans were able to organize lodges in the south. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows reported a membership of 108,000 in the late 1990s.

 Caption: Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Chart, 1881, Currier & Ives, New York, 80.9.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 

 

 

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  95_049_2DI2The Improved Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of the World is an African American fraternal order founded in 1897. The IBPOEW offered leadership training, professional networking opportunities, social fellowship, and community service.

Caption: Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World Apron, 1900-1920, USA, Unidentified maker, Museum purchase. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Jeffrey Croteau. "Prince Hall: Masonry and the Man." The Northern Light Feb. 2011: 10-13.

Peter P. Hinks and Stephen Kantrowitz, eds. All Men Free and Brethren: Essays on the History of African American Freemasonry (New York: Cornell University Press, 2013).

Nina Mjagkij, ed. Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations (New York: Garland Publishing, 2001).

Aimee E. Newell, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library (Lexington, MA: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2015), 222-224.

Previous Blog Posts:

Jeffrey Croteau. "Moses Dickson and the Order of Twelve." Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Blog. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. May 26, 2008

Aimee Newell. "A New Discovery about an old photo." Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Blog. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.May 1, 2012.

Aimee Newell. "From Boston to Washington D.C.: Prince Hall Freemasonry." Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Blog. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. February 4, 2010.


Civil War Lecture Explores Black Activists in Boston: March 23 at 2 p.m.

Our 2013 Civil War Lecture Series begins this weekend! Join us for the first lecture in the series. The series explores the history of this divisive war and its meaning for our nation today.

Stephen Kantrowitz KANTROWITZ
A Citizenship of the Heart: Black Activists and Universal Brotherhood in Civil War-Era Boston
Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m., free

Stephen Kantrowitz, Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will explore how the fight to abolish slavery was part of a broader campaign by Boston’s African American community to claim full citizenship. The talk will trace the activities of Prince Hall Freemason Lewis Hayden, a fugitive slave and Boston anti-slavery activist. Hayden’s Masonic engagement reflects the development of ideas and practices of black citizenship as tool to remake the republic into a place where all men could belong. Kantrowitz will be available after the talk to sign his book, More than Freedom: Fighting for Black Citizenship in a White Republic, 1829-1889.

The lecture is made possible by the generous support of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation.

For more information on the Civil War Lecture Series, please refer to the Museum's programs page. For information on visiting the Museum please click here, or call 781 861-6559.

Photo credit: Courtesy Stephen Kantrowitz

 


Prince Hall's Half Century Matrons Club in Los Angeles

A2012_9_1DS1_Web versionAmong the new acquisitions this spring 2012, was a manuscript Minute Book of a Prince Hall affiliated "Half Century Matrons Club" dated from 1950 through 1959.  This club was formed in 1950 by Past Matrons of the Order of Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliation from the state of California.  The club took its name, "Half Century Matrons Club", because it was formed in mid-20th century. 

Marjorie Herbert (President) of Guiding Star Chapter, ran the meetings beginning on December 6, 1950 in Los Angeles, California.  She offered her house as a venue for the first meeting, which was located at 2286 West 22nd Street in Los Angeles.  Other officers included:  Marguerite Norman (Vice-President)-Victory Chapter, Ella Dastey (Secretary)-Starlight Chapter, Gertrude Devers (Treasurer)-Affectionate Chapter, and Roberta Walkins (Chaplain).  Among the other members were:  Gertrude Allen (Electa Chapter), June Harvey (Deborah Chapter), Alberta Parker (Acacia Chapter). 

According to historian Josh Sides, the 1950s in Los Angeles was a postwar economic and industrial boom time. During World War II, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) put constant pressure on the federal government to abolish segregation in the armed forces as well as on the homefront workforce.  However, by the 1950s segregation still existed in Los Angeles in industry, in choosing a home, as well as in fraternal groups. 

On March 31, 1951, Parker reported to the club that she had consulted with Los Angeles Urban League about deciding on a charity project.  They recommended that because of "racial barriers" the club should focus their energy on assisting needy children at the local high school, as a project, rather than as foster mothers to a child in an orphanage. Unfortuantely, there are no more details in the minute book about the orphanage.

In 1951, Herbert and Parker sat in on an NAACP conference in Los Angeles.  The NAACP was and is the nation's oldest civil rights organization.  Herbert reported to the club that speaker Franklin P. Williams had stressed the point that African Americans and people of color must continue to move forward.  According to sociologist Theda Skocpol, Prince Hall Masons had a long history of collaborating with the NAACP.  As early as the 1920s Prince Hall members encouraged and gave financial support to the NAACP. 

According to the minute book, in discussions throughout November and December of 1952, the members of the Half Century Matrons Club decided not to admit Past Patrons from Prince Hall. Herbert reported that she "told P[ast] Patrons as tactfully as she could that the club at this time unless and until the club itself decided to amend its bylaws no past [patron] could be admitted to membership, and that the club hoped he [William Henry] would not feel unwanted or unwelcome."  These women wanted to make their own decisions and keep discussions private.  This was an unusual step at the time, as Past Patrons were admitted to chapters of affiliated OES. 

Prince Hall Masons and the affiliated Order of Eastern Star are alive and well in Los Angeles today.  They recently celebrated Prince Hall Day, in September of 2011. 

Do you have more information about any of the original Half Century Matrons Club members of Los Angeles?  Please leave a comment if you do.   

Caption:

Minute Book for Half Century Matrons Club, Order of Eastern Star, Prince Hall, 1950-1959.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum  purchase, A2012/9/1.

References:

Sides, Josh.  L.A. City Limits:  African American Los Angeles from the Great Depression to the Present. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London:  University of California Press, 2003.

Skocpol, Theda et al.  What a Mighty Power We Can Be:  African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality.  Princeton and Oxford:  Princeton University Press, 2006

 

 


From Boston to Washington, D.C.: Prince Hall Freemasonry

Init Eye PH The National Heritage Museum’s exhibition, "The Initiated Eye: Secrets, Symbols, Freemasonry, and the Architecture of Washington, D.C.," includes the painting seen here, The Good of Masonry Entirely at Heart.  The painting depicts the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, which oversees African American lodges in the district.  Located at 1000 U Street, N.W., the building was designed by Albert Cassell (1895-1969), noted African American architect, in 1922.  But Prince Hall Freemasonry actually got its start in Boston.

A leading citizen in Boston’s African American community, Prince Hall (1738-1807) was an active Methodist who campaigned for schools for black children and created a benevolent society.  Drawn to Freemasonry’s values and opportunities, the former slave tried to join Boston’s lodges in the early 1770s, but was denied membership.

Hall and fourteen other African Americans who had been rejected by the established Boston lodges turned to a Masonic lodge attached to a British regiment stationed in the city.  Initiated in 1775, Hall and his Brothers met as members of the British lodge until the Revolutionary War ended.  In 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England to form a new lodge on American soil.  The governing body granted his request, creating African Lodge No. 459.  When Prince Hall died in 1807, African American Masons chose to give their fraternity his name to distinguish it from the white lodges that excluded blacks.

Prince Hall Freemasonry has been practiced in Washington, D.C., since Social Lodge No. 1 was chartered in 1825.  Social Lodge No. 1 joined with two other lodges in 1848 to form the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.  94_052S1 PH Cornerstone

"The Initiated Eye" exhibition presents 21 oil paintings by Peter Waddell based on the architecture of Washington, D.C., and the role that our founding fathers and prominent citizens – many of whom were Freemasons – played in establishing the layout and design of the city.  The exhibition is supplemented with approximately forty objects from the National Heritage Museum’s collection.  In the show, the painting of the D.C. Prince Hall Grand Lodge building is juxtaposed with the photograph seen here.  Taken by noted photographer James Van Der Zee (1886-1983) in 1930, it shows a cornerstone laying for a Masonic temple in New York City.

"The Initiated Eye" will be on view through January 9, 2011.  The paintings in the exhibition are the work of Peter Waddell, and were commissioned by, and are the property of, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C., with all rights reserved.  This exhibition is supported by the Scottish Rite Masons of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A.

Left: The Good of Masonry Entirely at Heart, 2005, Peter Waddell (b. 1955), Washington, D.C.  Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, D.C.  Right: Cornerstone Laying of Masonic Temple, 1930, James Van Der Zee (1886-1983), New York, New York, National Heritage Museum, 94.052. 


Calling All Masonic and Fraternal Scholars!

91_033T1 The National Heritage Museum announces its first symposium, to be held at the Museum on Friday, April 9, 2010 - New Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

We are now seeking proposals for papers to be presented at the symposium.  As one of the largest repositories of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources.

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American Masonic and fraternal groups from the past through the present day.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.  Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods are welcome.

Possible topics include:

• Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of  fraternalism
• Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups
• Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups
• Fraternal groups for women or teens
• Role of fraternal groups in social movements
• The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism
• Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups
• Fraternal symbolism and ritual
• The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature
• Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives;  the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism

Proposals should be for 30 minute research papers; the day’s schedule will allow for audience questions and feedback.

To submit a proposal: Send an abstract of 400 words or less with a resume or c.v. that is no more than two pages.  Be sure to include full contact information (name, address, email, phone, affiliation).

Send proposals to: Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections, National Heritage Museum, by email at anewell[at]monh.org or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA  02421. 

Deadline for proposals to be received is August 15, 2009.  For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.

Masonic checkerboard, ca. 1890, Collection of National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisition Fund, 91.033.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Prince Hall Memorial on Cambridge Common

Washington_bas_reliefNo, that's not a memorial to Prince Hall shown here, but we've learned that there will be a memorial to Prince Hall erected somewhere near the monument seen here. We recently learned that the City of Cambridge (Massachusetts) is planning to erect a statue of Prince Hall on historic Cambridge Common. Prince Hall is of interest here in the library for much the same reasons that George Washington and Paul Revere are - men who were both actively involved in the American Revolution and actively involved in Freemasonry.  (Prince Hall is buried in Copp's Hill Burying Ground, one of the stops on Boston's famous Freedom Trail.)

The effort to memorialize Prince Hall in Cambridge has been officially in the works for three years. (Read the proclamation that was issued in 2005 by the Cambridge City Council and that officially started the ball rolling to memorialize Prince Hall on Cambridge Common.)

According to the City of Cambridge website the project to memorialize Hall was formally launched this past April 2008: "An effort has begun to place a memorial to Prince Hall, the 18th Century Patriot and Civil Rights Advocate, on the historic Cambridge Common.  A committee formed by Mayor E. Denise Simmons has gained preliminary approval from the Cambridge Historic Commission to design and place the memorial on the Common’s rotunda – near the George Washington Memorial."

Cambridge Common is perhaps now best remembered as the place where George Washington took command of the Continental army on July 3, 1775 - something that was not especially remarkable at the time. I should add that this did not take place under the so-called Washington Elm, a tree that actually existed, but which went from being an ordinary elm tree to iconic symbol (see this postcard) only later when stories were invented, putting Washington directly under that tree as he took command of the Continental army. You can read a bit more about this legend at the Cambridge Historical Commission's FAQ page.

Mythology and inaccuracy have dogged historians interested in learning more about Prince Hall as well. Finding accurate biographical information about Prince Hall isn't easy. It is mostly complicated by the fact that William Grimshaw's 1903 book Official History of Freemasonry Among the Colored People in North America [Call no.: 90.G86 1969] contained a number of factual errors, but which was used as a definitive source, thus spreading the inaccuracies much further beyond this one book. The Phylaxis Society - "an international organization of Prince Hall Freemasons dedicated to studying the life of Prince Hall and researching the history of Prince Hall Freemasonry" - has done an excellent job trying to get at the factual truths of Prince Hall's life, while at the same time refuting the many errors found in Grimshaw's book. Their on-going search for the facts about Prince Hall's life is called the Grimshaw Offensive. Check it out - and learn more about the life of Prince Hall.

If you're interested in learning about Prince Hall or Prince Hall Freemasonry, we have some resources in our library that will get you off to a good start. A great place to start is this book:

Alton G. Roundtree and Paul M. Bessel. Out of the Shadows: The Emergence of Prince Hall Freemasonry in America : Over 225 years of Endurance. Camp Springs, Md. : KLR Publishing , 2006. [Has an excellent annotated bibliography as well.]
Call number: 90 .R68 2006

In addition, we also have a nearly complete run of The Phylaxis Society's magazine, The Phylaxis, which has been published since 1974, as well a number of annual proceedings from various Prince Hall Masonic bodies. That said, we're always interested in building on our collection of Prince Hall Freemasonry here - if you've got something that you'd like to donate, we'd love to consider your donation.

Today's picture, which was taken by yours truly on a recent trip to Cambridge Common, shows a detail of a monument that was erected in 1950 and which is located on the Common. The monument commemorates George Washington assuming command of the Continental forces on July 3, 1775. The detail shown here is from a bas-relief by Leonard Craske that's attached to a larger stone marker. You can see the so-called "Washington elm" depicted on the right-hand side of the scene above; and you can see here that the decision to include this mythological elm in the image above was controversial at the time that the memorial was being designed.


Moses Dickson and the Order of Twelve

Moses_dickson_web Pictured here is Moses Dickson, from the frontispiece illustration of the 1879 book A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle. In 1872, the Rev. Moses Dickson founded the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an African-American fraternal order focused on benevolence and financial programs. Dickson was born a free man in Cincinnati in 1824, was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and afterwards became a prominent clergyman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dickson showed an interest in progressive fraternal organizations early on - in 1846 Dickson, with others, founded a society known as the Knights of Liberty, whose objective was to overthrow slavery; the group did not get beyond the organizing stages. Dickson was also involved in Freemasonry - he was the second Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri.

Dickson's International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor - or Order of Twelve, as it's more commonly know - accepted men and women on equal terms. Men and women met together in higher level groups and in the governance of the organization, although at the local level they met separately - the men in "temples" and the women in "tabernacles" (akin to "lodges" in Freemasonry). The Order of Twelve was most prominent in the South and the lower Midwest. The major benefits to members - similar to many fraternal orders of the time - was a burial policy and weekly cash payments for the sick.

What many people today remember about the Order of Twelve is an institution founded in Mound Bayou, Misssissippi in 1942 - the Taborian Hospital. Michael Premo, a Story Corps facilitator, posted his appreciation for the impact that the Taborian Hospital had on the lives of African-Americans living in the Mississippi Delta from the 1940s-1960s. The Taborian Hospital was on the Mississippi Heritage Trust's 10 Most Endangered List of 2000, and an update to that list indicates that the hospital still stands vacant and seeks funding for renovation. Here are some photos of the Taborian Hospital today.

Want to learn more about the Order of Twelve? Here are a few primary and secondary sources that we have here in our collection (with primary sources listed first):

Dickson, Moses. A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle, including the Ceremonies of the Order, Constitutions, Installations, Dedications, and Funerals, with Forms, and the Taborian Drill and Tactics. St. Louis, Mo. : G. I. Jones [printer], 1879.
Call number: RARE HS 2259 .T3 D5 1879

----. Ritual of Taborian Knighthood, including : the Uniform Rank. St. Louis, Mo. : A. R. Fleming & Co., printers, 1889.
Call number: RARE HS 2230 .T3 D5 1889

Beito, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number: 44 .B423 2000

Skocpol, Theda, Ariane Liazos, Marshall Ganz. What a Mighty Power We Can Be : African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2006.
Call number: 90 .S616 2006