Shrine

New to the Collection: Native American Shriner Blankets

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Blanket with Shrine Symbol, 1921. Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon. Museum Purchase, 2018.001. Photograph by David Bohl.

In 2018, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added to its collection two 1920s wool blankets with Native American-inspired patterns and Shriner emblems as their featured central design. One of these, pictured at left (and the reverse, below), was manufactured by Oregon’s Pendleton Woolen Mills. It bears a label reading “Copyright 1921.” At that time, in fact, blankets of this style enjoyed popularity in American culture.

From the late 1800s to the early 1900s—ending right around the Great Crash of 1929—a vogue for Native American goods held sway in the U.S., for art collectors and fashionable types all the way down to Americans of more modest means. Popular magazines touted domestic displays that ranged from just a few items, to entire rooms arrayed with Native American baskets, bowls, and blankets. Known as "Indian corners," these displays became a common feature in home design, with many of the goods used in them created specifically for the market by Native artists. Merchants and makers sold these goods in department stores, “Indian stores,” and other commercial outlets.

Blankets like this one—called trade blankets, since they were originally exchanged between Native Americans and European settlers—were among the most popular collectors’ items. Pendleton Woolen Mills was the first American company established solely for their manufacture. Although there were other mills that also produced this kind of blanket, Pendleton took the craft to a new level. This was thanks in part to its employment of loom artisan Joe Rawnsley (d. 1929). Rawnsley toured the West to work with Native populations in creating specific designs and color schemes inspired by different tribes’ traditions. He used the Jacquard process in which punched cards guided automatic looms to produce blankets of much greater variety and detail than previously possible.

But what about that Shriner emblem, with its familiar crescent and scimitar? Around the time of this blanket’s design copyright, the Shriners—and Freemasons in general—were growing in strength and number throughout the country. National membership in the Shrine had grown to approximately 500,000 by 1921. Possibly this blanket was created to attract the purchasing dollars of this Masonic group. Regardless of what prompted its creation, this blanket reflects the popular interest in both Native American objects and Freemasonry in the 1920s.

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Reverse, Blanket with Shrine Symbol, 1921. Pendleton Woolen Mills, Pendleton, Oregon. Museum Purchase, 2018.001. Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 

References:

Crazy Crow Trading Post, “American Indian Trade Blankets: The Rise of Pendleton Woolen Mills as the Primary Trade Blanket of Contemporary Native Americans,” https://www.crazycrow.com/site/rise-of-pendleton-native-american-trade-blankets/, (accessed Feb. 14, 2019).

The Henry Ford, “Sparking Innovation: The Jacquard Loom,” https://www.thehenryford.org/explore/blog/sparking-innovation-the-jacquard-loom/, (accessed Apr. 16, 2019).

Elizabeth Hutchinson, The Indian Craze: Primitivism, Modernism, and Transculturation in American Art, 1890-1915 (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009). 3, 11-13.

William D. Moore, Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006). 106-7.

Pendleton, “Indian Trading Blanket History,” https://www.pendleton-usa.com/indian-trading-blanket-history.html, (accessed Feb. 14, 2019).

 


In Keeping with the Holiday Spirit

In the spirit of the holiday season, the staff of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library would like to thank the readers of the museum’s official blog for their support and to wish all our patrons happy and healthy Holidays. In this last post for 2017, we would like to highlight this festive panoramic document from the collection, a 1924 Christmas program created by the Al Malaikah Temple Shriners of Los Angeles, California.  

[obverse panel 1] A2016_086_DS1

 

[obverse panel 3] A2016_086_DS3

[obverse panel 2]
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[obverse panel 4]
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[obverse panel 5] A2016_086_DS5

[reverse panels]
Panel 2

If you happen to be in the metro Boston area during the holidays, please consult our website for more information regarding the museum's current exhibitions, including a wonderful exhibition of World War I posters, which celebrates the one-hundredth anniversary of America’s entry into the First World War. If you cannot make it to Lexington during the busy holiday season, please explore the Library and Archives' Digital Collections or the Museum's online collections.


Captions

Christmas Ceremonial and Cornerstone Ceremony program, 1924. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 014.

 


The Shrine Circus

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The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will shut down “The Greatest Show on Earth” this May, after 146 years. In light of this upcoming closure, we wanted to highlight the history of another famous touring circus still active today, the Shrine Circus. On February 26, 1906, the Moslem Shrine Temple premiered the Mystic Shriners’ Yankee Circus in Egypt at the Light Guard Armory in Detroit, Michigan. The Shrine Circus, associated with Shriners International, also known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, currently travels to over 120 cities in the United States. Different local Shrine Temples sponsor and host the circus in their respective communities. No two Shrine Circuses are the same and a circus can feature anywhere from one to forty performances.

This 1956 photograph shows performers from the Arabia Temple Shrine Circus in Houston, Texas. The circus features a variety of clown performances, acrobats, and trained performing animals, including elephants and tigers. Although we have not yet identified the performers pictured in the photograph, there is a good  chance that some members of the Arabia Clown Jewels, an officially recognized unit of "good-will ambassadors" within the Arabia Temple, participated in the circus. The art of clowning is a significant part of Shrine fraternal history and is intertwined with the Shrine parade and circus traditions. The Shrine Circus, sometimes called "The Circus with a Heart" is often a fundraiser, not only for the Shriner organization, but also for the hospitals and charitable organizations the Shrine supports. To learn more about the Shrine visit our previous blog posts here. To see this photograph and others related to the Shrine on a map visit us on HistoryPin.

Do you have memories of a Shrine Circus you attended? Were you or a family member involved in the Shrine Circus? Let us know in the comments section below. 

Caption:

Masonic Arabia Temple Shrine Circus, 1956. Ace Photographers, Houston, Texas. Museum Purchase through the generosity of Helen G. Deffenbaugh in memory of George S. Deffenbaugh, 2010.024.1.

References: 

John H. McConnell, Shrine Circus: A History of the Mystic Shriners' Yankee Circus in Egypt (Detroit, Michigan: Astley & Ricketts, 1998) 

 

 

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Another Mystery to Be Solved...

2009_022DP1 In 2009, the National Heritage Museum was given a fez for its collection. Normally, we consider the prospective gift of a fez very carefully, because we are fortunate to have an extensive collection of these regalia items and we try not to collect objects that duplicate our existing holdings. However, this fez was unusual. As you can see in the photo to the left, it is green and embroidered with a camel and the words “Caliphs of Bagdad.”

As I cataloged it in our computerized database, I did some research trying to determine what group might have used it originally. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about when or where it came from and the donor could only tell me that it was passed down in his wife’s family. So, in November 2009, I turned to the readers of The Northern Light, the quarterly magazine of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., and asked for their help with identifying it.

I received a number of responses, including several that offered plausible leads. A reader from Springfield, Massachusetts, told me that the Association of Shrine Oriental Bands of North America has a subsidiary group of Past Presidents called the Caliphs, but admitted that he never saw a fez for that specific group. A man from New Jersey asked how I knew that this fez was Masonic. And, as I was quick to tell him, I do not know if this fez is Masonic.  It may well have been used by a non-Masonic fraternal group.

Indeed, several readers suggested that it might come from other groups. One mentioned the Phi Delta Kappa fraternity explaining that the group often tried to come up with new ideas to promote interest over the years and that this fez might be one of those ideas. A Pennsylvania reader called in to tell me about the Princes of Bagdad, a group associated with the Knights of Malta, but research into their logo did not turn up any similarities. And, a reader from Iowa suggested that perhaps the fez was associated with the fraternal group, the Order of Camels, which was founded in Milwaukee in 1920. If anyone knows of regalia from that group, I would love to hear about it or see a photograph.

Perhaps the most exciting response to my query was the arrival in the mail of a second green “Caliphs of Bagdad” fez! A reader from Pennsylvania had received the fez from a friend thirty years previously and generously decided to donate it to the Museum (while we try not to collect multiple copies of the same item, we often make an exception with textile items because it is helpful to have a second piece that can rotate into an exhibition and protect them both from overexposure to the lighting in the gallery). Unfortunately, like the donor of the first fez, this donor did not know where his friend had originally found the fez.

From my perspective, two of the leads I received were the most plausible. The first came from two different Northern Light readers, one from Michigan and one from Ohio, who called in and told me that they knew of green fezzes being awarded as honorary gifts in their respective communities. One man said that it was the Knights of Columbus that did this, while the other cited an example of a Shrine Temple doing the same. The second came from a reader in New Jersey who tracked down a newspaper account of the 1937 Shrine convention in Detroit, Michigan. That article, from the June 23, 1937, issue of The Detroit News reads “The Chicago unit, the largest delegation, was next with a pink and white striped group of caliphs drawing a golden sphinx and a live camel and a band of 110 musicians wearing white and green and flying yellow pennants…” A green and yellow fez seems like it might have been just the right headwear for this group.

What do you think? Have you ever seen a fez like this? Do you know when and where it was originally worn? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

Fez, early 1900s, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Stanley A. McCollough, 2009.022. Photograph by David Bohl.

 


The Talented Charles Buckles Falls

76_59_2DI1 Falls painting For many years, I have wanted to know more about a group of graphically charged and boldly colored paintings in the museum’s collection by the artist Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960). In making selections for “Curators' Choice: Favorites from the Collection,” I had the perfect opportunity to explore them further.

The talented Falls illustrated books and designed posters, advertisements, invitations, book bindings, stage sets, fabric and furniture in a career that spanned from the late 1890s through 1960. He produced some of his best-known work for the Division of Pictorial Publicity during World War I. You can see several examples here. Falls executed much of his work for paying clients, including Masonic publications such as The Shrine Magazine and The New York Masonic Outlook. In 1927 editors at The New York Masonic Outlook described Falls as “one of the distinguished artists of the day.”

Based on the topic, size, style and information from the donor, we believe Falls made nine paintings in76_59_10DP1 Falls Feb 1927   the museum’s collection (7 oils and 2 watercolors) for The Shrine Magazine. At least five of the paintings eventually graced the cover of the publication, all in 1927. This February cover and Falls’ related painting offer an opportunity to compare the artist’s original artwork against the magazine that arrived in subscribers’ mailboxes.

Editors shaped “The Shrine Magazine,” published from May 1926 to December 1928, to appeal to not only to male Shrine members, but also to their families with attractive covers, short fiction, a women’s department and general interest articles. To capture readers' attention, editors hired several popular illustrators, such as Falls, to create artistic covers for the magazine. Their cover art did not often relate to stories or articles in the magazine, nor were these artists necessarily associated with Freemasonry. Falls, for example, does not appear to have been a member.

Commercial artwork is ephemeral--sold to a client, who may use it as he likes, for a fee. The end product, a magazine or advertisement, might be read once and then thrown away. However, in this case, as suggested by information from the donor, Falls’ wife, Bedelia, preserved these examples of her husband's work.  Eventually, they came to the museum for visitors to enjoy.

If you have any questions or information about Falls and his association with “The Shrine Magazine,” please get in touch or leave a comment, we'd love to hear from you. 

Photo credits:

Rider on a White Horse, ca. 1927. Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960). New York, New York. Gift of Dorothy H. Trower, in memory of Ralph E. Trower, 76.59.2.

Cover, The Shrine Magazine, February 1927. Charles Buckles Falls (1874-1960). New York, New York. Gift of Dorothy H. Trower, in memory of Ralph E. Trower, 76.59.10.  Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Wayne G. Hammond, The Graphic Art of C. B. Falls: An Introduction, Chapin Library, Williams College, 1982.

Norman Kent, “C. B. Falls, 1874- 1960: A Career in Retrospect,” American Artist, Februrary, 1962.

Thanks to Wayne Hammond, Assistant Librarian, Chapin Library, Williams College and Thomas M. Savini, Director, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge for their help in providing information about C. B. Falls to the museum.


A Nod to Freemasonry

SC83_19_5DP1 Bobblehead dolls – do you love them or hate them?  Do you have any in your office or your house?  Recently, the National Heritage Museum received two Masonic bobblehead dolls – both depicting Shriners (members of the Masonic group Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine) – joining two others already in the collection.

Our Collections Committee – which reviews all objects offered to the Museum by gift or purchase – was charmed by these toys.  Bobbleheads, also known as “nodders” or “bobbers,” seem to date back to at least 1842.  In his short story, The Overcoat, published that year, Nikolai Gogol described a character as having a neck “like the neck of plaster cats which wag their heads.”  In the 1920s, a New York Knicks basketball player bobblehead was produced and enjoyed some popularity, but it quickly waned.  In the 1960s, sports figure bobbleheads came into vogue once again and since that time, innumerable popular figures have been immortalized with their heads on springs.

Three of the Museum’s Shriner bobbleheads date from the 1960s, including the one shown at left.  These dolls have plaster heads on springs.  The figure wears a black suit with a white shirt and a typical maroon fez with a black tassel and a yellow and green Shrine symbol.  Unfortunately, we do not know exactly when or where this bobblehead originated.  It may have been a souvenir from a specific Shrine event, or perhaps just a whimsical toy that the original owner purchased.  Bobbleheads seem to be a perfect fit for Shriners – the group is known as “the playground of Freemasonry.”

We also have a Shriner bobblehead from about 2003, which a museum staffer purchased at our Heritage Shop and recently donated to the collection.  This newer doll has a plastic head and body, but shows remarkable similarities to our earlier ones.  Compare the photo of the plastic one at right to the plaster-headed bobblehead above.2008_043DP2

Do you have any other Masonic or fraternal bobbleheads?  If so, we’d love to hear about them in a comment below!

Top: Masonic Shrine bobblehead doll, 1960-1970, National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. James A. Wieland, SC83.19.5.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Masonic Shrine bobblehead doll, 2003, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Jennifer G. Aszling, 2008.043.  Photograph by David Bohl.