Regalia catalogs

Odd Fellows Props: David's Harp

2016.021 AutoharpRecently, a generous donor presented this autoharp (at left) to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library for our collection. The donor was intrigued by the label visible inside that mentions the Masonic Temple in Chicago, Illinois.  The reference to the Masonic Temple on the label relates to the location of the autoharp’s retailer rather than any implied Masonic ritual use.

A “Pianoette” like this one was first patented in 1916. For more on its development, see this website.  As the label indicates, Samuel C. Osborn was selling these instruments for $25 apiece.  While these were produced and sold for general musical use, there are similar autoharps that appear in catalogs for Odd Fellows lodges (see photo on right from a 1908 Pettibone Brothers Mfg. Co. catalog).  The catalog explains that it could be "very easily learned by anyone having any musical ability."Pettibone harp catalog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2001_084S1NPIn Odd Fellows ritual, a “self-playing harp” is a prop for the character of David in the fraternity’s First, or Friendship, Degree. The ritual traces the biblical story of David and Jonathan teaching that “Odd Fellows…should maintain their feelings and friendship to a brother under the most severe tests.”  David was known for his musical ability, which “had a pleasant effect upon the mind and a soothing effect upon the heart of King Saul.”  In our collection we have another autoharp (at left) that closely resembles several that are illustrated in Odd Fellows regalia catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The harp shown on the cover of the 1910 C.E. Ward Company catalog (see photo at right) shows a very similar crescent shape and decoration (called the “chaldean design”) and sold for $6.50. Harp on Ward Catalog Cover

“Pianoette” Autoharp, 1916-1940, United States, gift of Larry W. Toussaint in memory of Allison Howard Toussaint, 2016.021.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Self-Playing Harp, 1900-1930, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2001.084. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Rev. T.G. Beharbell, Odd Fellows Monitor and Guide, Indianapolis: Robert Douglass, 1881.


Aprons, Robes, and Thrones: Fraternal Regalia Catalogs in the Library & Archives Collection

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This eye-catching cover depicts Hiram Abiff, the protagonist of Freemasonry’s first three degrees. A legendary character, Abiff is King Solomon’s chief architect. The character of Abiff is depicted heroically on this cover, standing next to a drafting board with his arm raised and his hands holding the most recognizable Masonic symbols—the square and compasses. Imaginative images such as this, as well as the costumes for sale in the catalog, could help members and candidates enter into the theatrical drama of Masonic initiation.

"Aprons, Robes, and Thrones: Fraternal Regalia Catalogs in the Library & Archives Collection" is currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. The two catalog covers shown here are among the objects on display.

Between 1865 and 1900, more than 235 fraternal organizations were established, comprised of nearly six million members. Participation in these groups played a large part in American life, with one in every five American men belonging to one or more fraternal societies from 1870-1910. Most of these groups communicated their ideas and symbols through ritual. Regalia, including fraternal aprons and costumes worn to portray kings, knights, and other figures were integral to some fraternal orders’ elaborate degree rituals.

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The Order of the Eastern Star is a Masonic women’s auxiliary group. “Eastern Star” refers to the biblical passage found in the Book of Matthew in which the Three Kings travel to Bethlehem to pay homage to the newborn Jesus: “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” The cover of this catalog depicts this scene.

American fraternalism boomed when theater was an increasingly popular form of entertainment. Nineteenth-century Americans enjoyed live theatrical performances that ranged from biblical re-enactments to vaudeville revues. Fraternal initiation degrees mirror this part of culture. Participants in fraternal ritual degrees wore costumes and used props and theatrical lighting to create a rich, dramatic experience that was different from everyday life.

Following the end of the American Civil War, regalia companies marketed and sold their factory-made regalia and supplies to fraternal lodges throughout the United States. Companies produced catalogs that advertised everything necessary to furnish a lodge, including regalia, furniture, minute books, and jewels. Costumes for characters portrayed in fraternal degrees could be purchased in an array of styles and prices. To make their products as attractive as possible, manufacturers produced catalogs illustrated by drawings, engravings, and photographs.

The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection holds over 300 Masonic and fraternal regalia catalogs, dating from the late 1860s to the present. Today, researchers and curators use regalia catalogs to visualize fraternal lodges and help identify historical regalia in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. For everyone, regalia catalogs are a visually sumptuous step back in time.

 

 

Captions:

Masonic Supplies Catalog No. 228, ca. 1920, Henderson-Ames Co., Kalamazoo, Michigan. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2000/56/1.

Catalog No. 620, Eastern Star Catalogue, ca. 1938, Ihling Bros. Everard Co., Kalamazoo, Michigan. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, A2016/003.


Fraternal Mysteries: Knights of Pythias Degree Lodge Team

 

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Knights of Pythias Degree Lodge Team, ca. 1890, Unidentified Maker, Parkersburg, West Virginia, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.116.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns over a thousand photographs. A number of these photographs feature unidentified men and women in mystery locales, performing unidentifiable group rituals, or at unknown meetings and events. We are starting a series called “Fraternal Mysteries” in order to crowd source potential information about photographs that are difficult to identify. The museum staff conducts extensive research on our collection but is sometimes left stumped when the only potential clues about a photograph or artifact are a few illegible handwritten notes on the back of the object, a small sign, or an element of clothing. We hope to get these and other images in our collection in front of as many history enthusiasts and fraternal members as possible in order to help us build richer and more accurate stories about our collection objects.

Recently the collections team made some progress in identifying one of these mystery photographs. In 1988, the Museum & Library purchased the Grant B. Romer Fraternal Photographic Collection. Grant B. Romer was the conservator of photographs at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, N.Y., for many years. The collection numbered over 180 items and included a wide variety of ambrotypes, ferrotypes, daguerreotypes

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Knights of Pythias Degree Lodge Team, ca. 1890, Unidentified Maker, Parkersburg, West Virginia, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.115b.

and silver gelatin prints of members of fraternal organizations. Fraternal organizations represented in the collection include, the Improved Order of Red Men, Ancient Order of Hibernians, Loyal Orange Institution, Odd Fellows, Knights Templar and Knights of Pythias.

There are three photographs in this collection identified as a “Knights of Pythias lodge degree team.” These photographs feature a group of about thirty men dressed in demon costumes in a rural outdoor setting. In the above photo they are posed in a group photo and in the other two they are standing in what appears to be a cross and circle formation. A handwritten note in pencil identifies the location as “Parkersburg, W.VA.” Typed notes included with the photographs state that this Knights of Pythias degree team photo is “showing Mephistopheles costumes (Mephisto suits) used in the Amplified T----- Rank for the character PL.” Part of the name is redacted.

The photos are highly intriguing. The collections team wanted to verify the group as the Knights of Pythias and determine the ritual or event in the image. After some research in our own library and archives we found two references that seemed to describe the depicted ritual and match the typed notes on file. In an 1872 Knights of Pythias ritual book titled Amplified version of the Knight degree, a character named Pluto is mentioned and seems like a plausible match for the "character PL."  The character Pluto was also referenced in relation to the Amplified Rank degree. In an 1882 M. C. Lilley regalia catalog titled Lodge paraphernalia for all three ranks including the Amplified Third we found a ritual name and costume descriptions matching the information in the file. Advertisements for related ritual paraphernalia included Mephisto costumes, facial hair, and masks for PL (again probably for the character of Pluto). The catalog marketed the paraphernalia to Knights of Pythias lodges “working the amplified third rank degree” because it seems apparent that not all Pythian lodges practiced it.

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Knights of Pythias Degree Lodge Team, ca. 1890, Unidentified Maker, Parkersburg, West Virginia, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.115a.

The Knights of Pythias Phoenix Lodge No. 72 in Mill Valley, California, mentions the 1930 authorization of a new degree called the "Pluto Degree" on the history section of their website. They write "it is likely the Pluto Degree was a reintroduction of the 1872 amplified version of the Knight Degree." We could not find reference to the Amplified Third degree in later ritual books from our collection and it is unclear when the degree stopped being practiced.

As of now, based on the information we have found, we believe these photographs depict a Knights of Pythias degree team practicing the Amplified Third Rank degree for the character Pluto sometime in the 1890s.

There are quite a few uncertainties; why are they practicing the ritual outside? Do these images really correspond with the information from the previous owner?

Do these images or men look familiar to you? Do you have any information about this Knights of Pythias degree ritual?  Please write a comment below or contact Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator at ylaxton@srmml.org with information or if you have any questions.

To see these photographs and more from our Knights of Pythias collection, visit our Flickr page at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalsrmml/

Want to help us identify or research more mystery photos in our collection? Stay tuned for our Fraternal Mystery Flickr album launching in January 2016.

 

 

References:

Ritual of the Knights of Pythias, containing the forms for opening and closing, and the ceremonies of the different ranks, together with other forms of ceremonial work by order of the Supreme Lodge, S.l. : the Supreme Lodge, Knights of Pythias, 1882

 


Exhibition Curator to Trace the Fashionable Roots of Masonic Regalia, 10/29

Join the Museum's Director of Collections Aimee Newell, Ph.D, for a tour of the exhibition, “Inspired by Fashion: American Masonic Regalia,” on Saturday, October 29 at 2 p.m. Newell, curator of the exhibition, will trace the fashion antecedants behind traditional Masonic costumes and regalia.

2008-039-27Popular television programs and movies have been known to poke fun at fraternal groups by featuring characters that belong to made-up fraternities with goofy names and even funnier hats and costumes. Do you remember Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble who were members of the “Royal Order of Water Buffaloes” on The Flintstones cartoon? Even among Freemasons, Masonic costume has been perceived as weird, funny or outlandish.

And, indeed, Masonic regalia can have an element of wackiness. But, we may think the same thing about the clothing we see in historic prints, paintings, and photographs from the 1700s and 1800s. Even people of the era reacted to what they perceived as the extremes of fashion by publishing cartoons and satires. Then, as now, fashion itself was as wacky, if not more so, than the regalia worn by Masonic groups.

Furthermore, when we start to look more closely, comparing Masonic costumes and photographs with clothing and images from the same time periods, we can see that regalia manufacturers often took their cues from fashion houses. Come and see garments and images from the Museum’s collection that demonstrate the four different design sources for Masonic garments – contemporary fashion, the military, Orientalism, and theater. Learn how there have always been connections between everyday style and Masonic fashion!

To participate in the gallery tour, meet Aimee Newell in the “Inspired by Fashion” gallery at 2 p.m. For more information, please call the Museum reception desk at 781 861-6559 or visit our website.

Image credit:

George S. Anderson, Grand Commander, Masonic Knights Templar of Georgia, 1860-1869. Smith and Motes, Atlanta, Georgia. National Heritage Museum, gift in memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.039.27.


Dressing Up Like a Crusader: Knights of the Golden Eagle

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The Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives has hundreds of regalia catalogs, for both Masonic and other fraternal groups.  The image on the left is one example of an illustrated catalog for the Knights of the Golden Eagle.  These catalogs provide images, descriptions, and prices for regalia. The Museum's curators often use these catalogs to identify fraternal costumes and accessories, including coats, trousers, chapeaus, swords, belts, badges, in addition to other lodge supplies. This particular regalia catalog was published by Louis E. Stilz & Bro. of Philadelphia in 1906.

Examples of the coats and chapeaus for the Knights of the Golden Eagle can be seen below.  The regalia of the Knights of the Golden Eagle was influenced by the style of Civil War uniforms and the Knights Templar uniforms. KGE_coat


The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal benefit society founded in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1873.  At the peak of membership in 1900, this organization was active in 20 states with approximately 20,000 members. It began to decline about 1943-1944, during World War II. Some historians believed that this fraternal organization had become extinct.  This is untrue and this group was still active in 2001 in three states:  New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.  One of their charities is maintaining scholarships for college students. Another focus of the organization is to provide mutual relief for its members in finding employment, as well as relief during sickness or death and providing for widows. The headquarters for the Knights of the Golden Eagle has moved from Philadelphia to Wales and back to Pennsylvania at Doylestown. Many of their lodge (or "castle") minute books are in a collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

A2010_29_1_DS_chapeauThis Knights of the Golden Eagle bases its ritual and ceremonies on the pageantry of medieval Crusaders. Unsurprisingly, the themes of the the three degree rituals - Pilgrims (or Golden Chain), Knights, and Crusaders - emphasize the Crusades from a Christian point of view.  The Knights of the Golden Eagle maintained Commanderies that were organized in a very similar manner to the Knights of Pythias and Knights Templar. 


Image Captions:

Illustrated Catalogue of Uniforms for the Knights of the Golden Eagle, Louis E. Stilz & Bro. Co., Philadelphia, 1906, cover, p.4, and p.9, Museum purchase, A2010/29/1