Scottish Rite Freemasonry

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.


A Freemason Strives for Reconciliation as a Supreme Council Splinters

While much attention has been given to Edward A. Raymond, Killian H. Van Rensselaer, and their roles in the Schism of 1860, this document from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library brings attention to a lesser-known figure: William Blackstone Hubbard, 33°, a Freemason from Ohio, who had served as the Grand Master of Ohio and for a year (May 1861 to May 1862) as the Sovereign Grand Commander Elect of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

A2019_158_059DS1List of officers, members, and Sovereign Grand Inspectors Generals, 1862 February 5.

 

As readers may know, Edward A. Raymond’s tenure as Sovereign Grand Commander abruptly ended on August 24, 1860, when Raymond, accompanied by Grand Treasurer General Simon W. Robinson, abruptly closed the Supreme Council’s special meeting sine die, or with no appointed date for resumption. The ensuing chaos led to the formation of three competing Supreme Councils: the newly-formed Raymond Council; the Van Rensselaer Council led by Lieutenant Sovereign Grand Commander Van Rensselaer; and the Cerneau-inspired Atwood Council.

For nearly ten months, from August 25, 1860, through May 14, 1861, the Raymond and Van Rensselaer Supreme Councils traded barbs as both Councils claimed to be the legitimate governing body of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. And while the maneuverings of both Supreme Councils are too complicated to outline fully in this online forum, the proceedings

for both Supreme Councils agree that William Blackstone Hubbard was one of the few, if not the only, men pushing for reconciliation. As Lieutenant Sovereign Grand Commander Van Rensselaer stated in his 1862 Annual Address,

 

The members of the Supreme Council and Sovereign Consistory, are all aware of the efforts made by our Ill. Brother William B. Hubbard, and the Princes of the Royal Secret, at our last session, May, 1861, to induce the late Commander and Treasurer to meet with the Council, resume their seats, and aid in the work. The sittings of the Council were continued for several days, in the hope that the exertions of our Illustrious Brethren would meet with success, and that peace and harmony would be restored. (1862 Proceedings, p. 588-589)

 

Hubbard’s sole intention was to broker peace between his Brothers, and only after his efforts during 1861’s Annual Session were exhausted did Hubbard leave before its closure. As Raymond reported to his Sovereign Grand Consistory on May 22, “On leaving, he [Hubbard] addressed a note to me regretting his disappointment, and declaring that he did not expect ever again to meet any of his brethren in Supreme Council on earth…” (1861 Raymond Proceedings, p. 31)

On the day after Hubbard had left Annual Session, on May 20, 1861, the five members of the Van Rensselaer Supreme Council who were present unanimously voted to depose Sovereign Grand Commander Edward A. Raymond, and elected William B. Hubbard in his place. “The reason for their doing this is plain,” Raymond stated.

 

…[T]hey felt the need of the condition to their cause of the capital which the publication of such an election might possibly bring, and therefore they elected him after he had gone, and consequently, could not decline while they were in session. (1861 Raymond Proceedings, p. 31)

 

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William Blackstone Hubbard

William Blackstone Hubbard would never serve as Sovereign Grand Commander. During the following year’s Annual Session, Hubbard offered “his well wishes to the Supreme Council” but declined “any official honors.” In the years following, Hubbard distanced himself from the Supreme Council, which in the 1865 Proceedings declared his seat as an Active Member vacant, citing his ill health.

William Blackstone Hubbard, 33°, died the following year on January 5, 1866. He never lived to see the unification of the two previously competing Supreme Councils in 1867.

 

 

 


Captions

List of officers, members, and Sovereign Grand Inspectors Generals, 1862 February 5. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.


A DeMolay Certificate Signed by Two Presidents

Doyle DeMolay certificate smallerOn October 14, 1922, a special ceremony took place in Washington, D.C. at the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction’s headquarters building, known as the House of the Temple. Although Scottish Rite members attended, the gathering was, in fact, a DeMolay event. A uniformed degree team of twenty-eight boys from Kansas City Chapter—the original DeMolay chapter—had traveled from Missouri in order to institute Robert LeBruce Chapter of DeMolay, Washington D.C.’s second DeMolay chapter. The Kansas City contingent also included a number of adults, among them DeMolay’s founder Frank S. Land (1890-1959). Those present in the room included 107 boys chosen to receive the degrees, as well as the boys’ fathers. Members of the Southern Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council, who were already in town for their own meeting, also attended.

Among those receiving the two DeMolay degrees that evening was nineteen-year-old Robert Emmet Doyle, Jr. (1903-1988). His DeMolay certificate is pictured here. In anticipation of the institution of the chapter, members had unanimously elected Doyle as the first Master Councilor of the Robert LeBruce Chapter. The founding of the Robert LeBruce Chapter in 1921 was part of a larger trend. DeMolay experienced tremendous growth in its first few years. Although originally located only in Missouri, where it began, by 1922, after only three years in existence, DeMolay boasted chapters in nearly every U.S. state.

Doyle followed the tradition of many Masons, by having his certificate autographed by nearly thirty Masons hailing from California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C. Among these signatures, those of two U.S. presidents, Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) and William H. Taft (1857-1930), stand out. Harding autographed and dated the certificate on April 24, 1922, while he was president. Because he was a Scottish Rite Mason, he added a “32°” after his name. Taft did not date his signature, but did include the name of his lodge, Kilwinning Lodge No. 356. All of the dated autographs are from 1922 and 1923, so it seems likely that Taft’s is also from around this time. In the early 1920s, the former president served as Chief Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Based in Washington, D.C., Doyle also collected signatures from various Scottish Rite Masons from the Southern Jurisdiction, including the long-serving Sovereign Grand Commander, John Cowles (1863-1954).

Just a few years after joining DeMolay, Doyle was raised a Master Mason in his father’s lodge, Lafayette Lodge No. 19. Doyle became a Scottish Rite Mason in the Southern Jurisdiction as part of a fifty-five member class upon which the 14th degree was conferred on October 28, 1924, at the Washington D.C.-based Mithras Lodge of Perfection No. 1. By the 1940s, Doyle had moved from Washington D.C. to California, where he lived until his death in 1988. His certificate, now in our collection, helps illustrate the deep connection between DeMolay and Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

Caption:
DeMolay certificate issued to Robert Emmet Doyle, Jr., 1922. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2017/024/001.


Digital Collections Highlight: Hand-lettered Scottish Rite Certificate of Appreciation

A2016_018_DS_webThe Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives' Digital Collections website features a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

Among these items is this hand-drawn certificate of appreciation issued by the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, to Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, the Mayor of Boston and an Active Member of the Supreme Council. The certificate, dated June 19, 1869, was given to Shurtleff in recognition of the Supreme Council's "high appreciation of the most cordial and fraternal welcome extended" to the Council during the Annual Meeting held in Boston, June 16-19, 1869. (A high-res image of the certificate may be viewed here.)

The 1869 Annual Meeting was held at the Masonic Temple in Boston. According to the 1869 Supreme Council Proceedings, on the second day of these meetings, Friday, June 18, the Supreme Council voted on "an invitation to accept the hospitalities of the Mayor of the City of Boston, the Hon. and Ill. Bro. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff, at Young's Hotel, at 7 1/2 o'clock, this evening." On motion, the Mayor's party invitation was unanimously accepted. Young's Hotel, which had opened in 1860 and would eventually close in 1927, was located in Court Street in Boston.

While the 1869 Proceedings provide no details about the celebration held at Young's Hotel, an article published in the July 1, 1869, issue of The Freemasons' Monthly Magazine gives a brief account of the dinner. It records that the tables for the reception "were furnished with such luxuries as the markets at this season of the year can afford, and were in great abundance." The celebration continued "until late in the evening, when it was increased by the addition of music, by an excellent band from the City of Troy, New York, who had previously been contributing of their skill to the success of the Peace Jubilee."

The National Peace Jubilee, which happened to coincide with the 1869 Annual Meeting, was a five day music festival held in Boston. It began on June 15, 1869, and celebrated the end of the American Civil War four years earlier. Thousands of people attended the Jubilee, and a huge temporary coliseum which could seat 50,000 people was constructed for the musical performances. The event was so attractive that The Freemasons' Monthly Magazine reported that the Jubilee actually delayed the start of the Annual Meeting: 

The session [i.e. the Annual Meeting] was informally opened on Wednesday, at 12 o'clock, noon; but, in consequence of the interest which the members manifested in the festivities of the opening of the Peace Musical Jubilee, the Council was called off until the following morning at 10 o'clock, and no business was transacted.

The celebration hosted by Mayor Shurtleff at Young's Hotel made a great impression upon his guests. The following day, at the Supreme Council's Annual Meeting, Henry L. Palmer, a future Sovereign Grand Commander for the Supreme Council, offered a resolution, the text of which was incorporated into the certificate by its artist, Charles E. Sickels (1841-1927).

In 1869 Sickels was a 28-year-old artist and engraver who executed this certificate entirely by hand. He had only been a Mason for two years. His father, Daniel Sickels, 33°, Grand Secretary General for the Supreme Council, signed and sealed the certificate in the lower left-hand corner. Charles Sickels would later go on to become the head of the Art Department of the American Bank Note Company, which printed currency and stamps for the federal government, as well as stock certificates. By 1875, the American Bank Note Company printed membership certificates, such as this one, for the Scottish Rite.

You can explore more historic Scottish Rite documents at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.


150th Anniversary of the Union of 1867

A2002_113_DS1_web
Proclamation of the Treaty of the Union of 1867. Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A2002/113/1.

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Supreme Council's "Union of 1867." Previous to the Union, two competing Scottish Rite Supreme Councils existed in the northeast and midwest of the United States, the territory covered by the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Despite years of animosity between the two Councils, a spirit of fraternal union moved the two groups to come together. The two Supreme Councils, as they wrote, "were destined, by the power and rapid progress of the beneficent principles governing them, to lose their individuality and become merged in one Grand United Supreme Council."As they stated in the introduction to their published Proceedings of 1867, the Supreme Councils, which had each "claimed legitimacy to the discomfiture of the other," had decided to merge "as one united body with but one soul."

The merged Councils issued a proclamation, pictured here, announcing themselves to the Masonic world. In it, they declared that "all the unhappy differences previously existing among the Brethren of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in this jurisdiction, were harmoniously adjusted through a Solemn Treaty of Union."

Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, the merger of these two organizations presented logistical challenges. Multiple subordinate bodies in close geographical proximity to each other existed throughout the jurisdiction, each of which was now subordinate to the one merged Supreme Council. This led to the consolidation of a number of these subordinate bodies in the early 1870s. (You can read about one of these short-lived bodies that was consolidated in an earlier post on the topic.)

Interested in taking a closer look? You can view a high resolution image of the Treaty of Proclamation at our Digital Collections website, where we also provide access to a number of other documents related to the history of the Scottish Rite.


Digital Collections Highlight: The 1817 Presidential Inauguration and the Scottish Rite

James Madison letter to David Daggett 1817The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website contains a rich collection of digitized documents from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. As we approach Inauguration Day on January 20, it seems worth taking a look at a 200-year-old document in our collection (pictured here), which is related to both Scottish Rite Freemasonry and Inauguration Day. 

In this letter, dated January 1, 1817, President James Madison requests the presence of Connecticut Senator David Daggett (1764-1851) at a special session of the Senate held on March 4, 1817. At this session, Vice President elect Daniel D. Tompkins was sworn into office, just prior to the official inauguration ceremony of President-elect James Monroe. (Inauguration Day used to be in March, until the passage to the 20th Amendment in 1937, which moved it to January.) Tompkins was governor of New York from 1807 until 1817 and then served as Vice President under Monroe from 1817 to 1825. Tompkins’ name may also be familiar to you because of his Scottish Rite connection. He served as the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s first Sovereign Grand Commander from 1813 until 1825.

The Madison letter is among items digitized from the Library & Archives’ G. Edward Elwell, Jr., Autograph Collection which consists of documents collected by G. Edward Elwell, Jr., 33°, (1886-1969) a member of Caldwell Consistory (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania) and a professional printer. The items in the Elwell Collection, which was generously donated to the Museum & Library by the Caldwell Consistory, span nearly 500 years of history (1489-1960), and each contains the signature of a well-known figure from American or European history.


Digital Collections Highlight: Postcard views of Scottish Rite buildings

Scottish Rite Temple, East Saint Louis, Illinois
Scottish Rite Temple, East Saint Louis, Illinois

In a post from the New York Public Library's blog last year called "Using Postcards for Local History Research," librarian Carmen Nigro laid out in wonderful detail the many ways in which postcards might be used for research. While they may not seem to some as exciting as, say, an 18th-century manuscript, they do, in their own way, preserve a visual record of the past.

We here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library have digitized a selection of early 20th-century postcard views of Scottish Rite buildings and made them available at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. These postcards give us a view of some of the magnificent Scottish Rite buildings that were constructed alongside a membership boom in the Scottish Rite.

Indianapolis Scottish Rite cathedral
Scottish Rite Cathedral, Indianapolis, Indiana

Sometimes neighborhoods change so much, it's hard to imagine what was there before. East St. Louis is a difficult reminder of this. The Scottish Rite temple pictured on the postcard pictured above once stood on the corner College Ave. and 14th St. in East St. Louis, Illinois. The cornerstone was laid on August 6, 1910 and the building opened a year later. The site was chosen because it was "conveniently located near a streetcar line in the section of the city of East St. Louis most convenient for the members." Sadly, the building was destroyed by a fire in 2005. To look at the intersection today, it is difficult to imagine that the building pictured on the postcard once stood here, with streetcars passing by.

On a more uplifting note, buildings such as the Indianapolis Scottish Rite cathedral - pictured in a 1929 postcard at right - are still in vibrant use today.


The Mysterious Ladder

94_029DP1DBDo you recognize this ladder? It’s a prop that Scottish Rite Freemasons used during the early 1900s when conferring the 30th degree. Known as the “mysterious ladder,” the words on one side’s rungs call out the seven liberal arts and sciences: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. The rungs on the other side, marked with transliterations of Hebrew, reminded initiates of virtues such as understanding, faith, purity and charity. Writing on the sides of the ladder represents love of God and love of your neighbor. These messages, along with the upward-pointing shape of the ladder reminded the candidate of how he could learn and grow as a Mason.

While this particular ladder dates to the early 1900s, the history of its use in the Scottish Rite degrees goes back to the mid-1700s, when it appeared in the 24th degree. Scholar Alain Bernheim has found evidence that this degree, complete with an illustration of the ladder, originated in France in 1750. The Francken Manuscript in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which dates to 1783, also includes an illustration of the ladder with the text of the 24th degree, then titled “Grand Elected Knight of Kadosh or Knight of the White and Black Eagle” (you can read more about Henry Andrew Francken, the compiler of the manuscript, here). As the degrees were rewritten and reorganized into the present-day system, the ladder remained in what became the 30th degree. Regalia Catalog Ladder 1

Ritual books from 1875, 1904 and 1939 include an explanation of the ladder and required the candidates to mount the steps and climb over it before receiving the degree. The 1904 and 1939 books show a scale drawing of the ladder and indicate its placement in a plan of the room or stage. The ritual explained that “it is the only way of entrance to the Order, and we sincerely trust that the lessons taught on its several steps will make a deep and lasting impression on your mind.” Regalia catalogs in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection from the early 1900s (see illustration on right) offer the ladder “of wood, well made and finished, the proper lettering in both English and Hebrew.” Today, the ladder is no longer used in the 30th degree, but it helps to demonstrate the change from intimate degree ceremonies conferred in the lodge room to elaborate staged degrees during the early 1900s.

Mysterious Ladder, 1900-1910, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 94.029. Photograph by David Bohl.

Ladder illustration from Catalog No. 270, The Lilley Company, 1900-1920, Columbus, Ohio. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.


New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Rose Croix Apron

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Scottish Rite Rose Croix apron, 1810-1840, unidentified maker, France or United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.053.

Recently, we were able to add this Masonic apron to our collection.  It shows symbols associated with the Rose Croix degree of the Scottish Rite, which is the fraternity that founded and supports the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Many people, Freemasons and non-Masons alike, assume that the fraternity’s name, “Scottish Rite,” honors the roots of the group and that it originated in Scotland.  Some historical sources have fostered this story by suggesting that Scottish supporters of the Stuarts of England invented the Scottish Rite degrees in the 1600s to advance their political cause.  The Scottish Rite was actually established in France in the 1700s, followed trade routes to the West Indies and was then imported to North America.

Once a man becomes a Master Mason, he may choose to join additional Masonic groups, such as the Scottish Rite.  Today, members perform a series of twenty-nine degrees (4th-32nd) as morality plays.  Freemasons often call the Scottish Rite “the University of Freemasonry,” as the degrees are designed to supplement and amplify the philosophical lessons of the first three degrees by exploring the philosophy, history and ethics that guide members.  A 33rd degree is conferred as an honorary degree on selected members.

The Rose Croix degree, for which this apron was used, is the 18th degree in the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.  It tells the biblical story of the building of the Temple of Zerubbabel on the site of Solomon’s Temple, which had been destroyed.  The apron shows the symbols used in the ritual: the pelican piercing her breast to feed her children with her blood; a cross with a rose; and several symbolic tools along the side.  As the symbols on the apron suggest – note the implements of the crucifixion at bottom center – the ritual explores the idea of resurrection and alludes to the story of Jesus Christ.

The design of this apron is probably French, although it can be hard to tell if an apron was actually made in France, or was influenced by French style and made in the United States.  The motif of the ribbons along the sides with tools is often seen on French aprons.  For more examples of Rose Croix aprons, see our recent publication, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which can be ordered here.

 


Staff Picks: Jeff Croteau, Director of Library & Archives

RPG Wright title page and ownership label_web
Title page and ownership label from Thomas Smith Webb's The Freemason’s Monitor; or Illustrations of Freemasonry (Salem: Published by Cushing and Appleton, 1816). RARE 14 .W368 1816f. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, Massachusetts.

My favorite object in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection is a copy of Thomas Smith Webb’s book The Freemason’s Monitor, formerly owned by Richard P.G. Wright (1773?-1847).

This book is my favorite object because it tells a fascinating story that is not apparent at first glance. It is one of four copies in the library’s collection of the 1816 edition of Webb’s Monitor, published in Salem, Massachusetts. But it is only this particular copy that is my favorite, because of its history of ownership. I have always loved the idea that marks in books can tell us something beyond the object itself. As the rare books librarian Roger Stoddard observed in his 1985 book Marks in Books, Illustrated and Explained, “When we handle books sensitively, observing them closely so as to learn as much as we can from them, we discover a thousand little mysteries...”

This copy of Webb’s Monitor has both paper ownership labels inside, as well as handwriting, indicating that the book was originally owned by Richard P.G. Wright, who acquired it in 1822. I was not originally familiar with Wright’s name, and it was only when I noticed that someone had pasted a short newspaper article about African-American participation in Freemasonry into the back of the book that I wondered whether Wright himself was black. I asked myself whether, if I dug a bit deeper, perhaps this book might tell a bigger story. And it did.

 

RPG Wright and family ownership marks_web
Wright family ownership marks from Thomas Smith Webb's The Freemason’s Monitor; or Illustrations of Freemasonry (Salem: Published by Cushing and Appleton, 1816). RARE 14 .W368 1816f. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, Massachusetts.

A little investigation revealed that Richard P.G. Wright was a black abolitionist and a Freemason who, along with his more well-known son, the preacher Theodore Sedgwick Wright (1797-1847), was active in predominantly white lodges in Schenectady, NY, as early as 1818 until their deaths in 1847. We can assume that this book held important meaning in Wright’s family since this copy of Webb’s Monitor also contains ownership marks indicating that it was later passed down to Wright’s daughter, Lydia L. Thompson, and then to his grandson,  Samuel Thompson.

Inspired by my curiosity from the markings in this book, I eventually followed a trail that showed that, at the same time that they were active Masons, both Richard P.G. Wright and Theodore Sedgwick Wright were heavily involved in the abolitionist movement. Both men were members of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Committee of Vigilance. Richard P.G. Wright’s Schenectady barbershop was located along the Erie Canal, and was known to be part of the Underground Railroad. Theodore S. Wright came to abolitionism through his father, Richard P.G. Wright, who himself attended abolitionist meetings at least as early as 1816, and who named his son after Theodore Sedgwick, a Massachusetts jurist and legislator who successfully defended an enslaved Massachusetts woman against her master, from whom she had fled.

Richard P.G. Wright, then known as Prince G. Wright, was raised a Master Mason in a lodge of black abolitionists – Boston’s African Lodge No. 459 – in 1799. Yet upon relocating to Schenectady, both he and his son were members of, or visitors to, at least five different predominantly white Masonic lodges or chapters. In Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Wright served as both Treasurer and Tiler in Schenectady’s Delta Lodge of Perfection as early as 1822, serving alongside Giles Fonda Yates (1799-1859), who would later become Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council.

Unlike much archival material, books – even the rarest of books – are not unique. However, individual copies of books, with interesting histories of ownership, like this one, can tell a story different from every other copy of this book in existence. We can be grateful that the Wright family wrote their names in this book so that we can tell their story today.