As 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.
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.