Shriners

A Family Affair

2020_023_3DS1cropped
Ralph and Elizabeth Schoenherr, 1953. New York. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.3.

Sometimes the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library receives donations that help to tell the story of an entire family’s history, complete with personal remembrances. Such is the case with the Schoenherr family of Schenectedy, New York, who had a long standing connection to Freemasonry. Since 2007, Florence E. Connor, daughter of Armin W. Schoenherr (1909-1949), has donated items related to these Masonic family connections. Armin L. Schoenherr (1880-1926), born in Germany, immigrated to New York at a young age and joined Corlaer Lodge No. 932 in Schenectady in the 1920s. His wife Emmy L. Canzan Schoenherr (1875-1954) was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star George Hope Chapter No. 271 and involved in the Order of Amaranth. They passed on their Masonic interests  to their three children, Armin W. (1909-1949), Ralph H. (1912-2002), and Florence Schoenherr Grubey (c. 1918-2004).

2007_012_23DS
Florence Margaret Schoenherr Grubey, 1994. Mary Lou Bentley, Louisville, Kentucky. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2007.012.23.

Armin W., a Mason and Shriner, owned a local jewelry store that sold and repaired not only traditional jewels but fraternal pins and other material designed to appeal to Masonic consumers. His younger brother Ralph (pictured above with his wife Elizabeth) was a Mason for over fifty years and involved with the Royal Arch, Knights Templar, Shriners, and Jesters. He served as Potentate of Albany's Cyprus Shrine in 1959 and ran the Shrine circus for several years. Their sister Florence was a member of the Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America and is pictured at right with a fellow member in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1994.

Aside from donating a number of objects related to her father and brother's jewelry store, Florence most recently donated charm bracelets, one is pictured below, that belonged to Elizabeth Schoenherr, Ralph's wife, a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

Florence shared some information about the family’s history and related this memory of her father, who passed away suddenly at the age of 43 in 1949, the same year he became a Shriner. She remembered the day he joined the Shrine as “one of his proudest days,” adding, “I remember the Shriners at the wake putting an apron in his coffin and having a service. It meant a lot to my mother (41 with 3 children, 8, 10 and 12). My mother continued the business...My brother (Armin, Jr.) later took over the store.” Armin Walter Schoenherr, Jr. (c.1941-1987) was also a member of Corlaer Lodge No. 92 in Schenectady. 

Do you have a Masonic family tradition to share? We want to know about it! Leave a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, at ylaxton[@]srmml.org. 

2020_023_1DI1
Bracelet worn by Elizabeth Schoenherr. United States. Gift of Florence E. Connor, 2020.023.1.
Armin jr
Armin Schoenherr, Jr. (back row, third from left) with other officers from Corlaer No. 932, 1967. "Corlaer Trestle Board "(Schenectady, NY), February, 1967.

New to the Collection: Native American Shriner Blankets

2018_001DP1DB
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.

2018_001DP2DB
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).

 


New Year's! Shriners! Football!

East West Shriner game cover 1948 - smallerSince 1925, the Shriners - one of the appendant orders in Freemasonry - have sponsored an annual all-star East-West Shrine football game. Two teams of senior-year football players, one comprised of players from colleges in the Eastern U.S. and the other with players from the West, meet in January to compete. Pictured here is the cover for the 1948 program for the game that was played on New Year's Day at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium (the first home stadium to both the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders).

Cartoonist Wiley Smith (1906-1994) illustrated the 1948 cover in a whimsical style reminiscent of his “Football Follies” comic. The cover depicts two smiling football players representing the West and East teams, as well as a fez-wearing Shriner handing off the football to a young boy wearing a leg brace, who has tossed his crutch aside.

Shriners Hospitals started providing free care to children with neuromusculoskeletal disabilities in 1922 when they opened their first hospital in Shreveport, Louisiana. Starting in 1962 they expanded services to also treat children with burn injuries and then broadened their services again in 1978 to treat children with spinal cord injuries. The East-West Shrine Game is still around today and benefits the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Players from both teams visit a local Shriners hospital and meet with patients during the week leading up to the game.

Up until 1986, the East-West Shrine game was played on or around January 1. Because of the schedule of various Bowl games in early January, the date was moved up later, to take place after the bowl games are done. Up until 2005, the game was played in the San Francisco Bay area. In 2006, the game moved to Texas and then again in 2010 to Florida where it is played today. This year's game - the 94th - takes place on Saturday, January 19, at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

But what about that 1948 game? The East won, 40-9. You can view the roster here

This program and one from the 1943 East-West game are on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room through June 1, 2019.

 

Caption:

Souvenir Program for Shriner’s East-West All-Star Football Game, 1948
Probably San Francisco, California
Museum Purchase, MA 110.003


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]
A2016_086_DS2

[obverse panel 4]
A2016_086_DS4

[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

2010_024_1DS2

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) 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save


Masonic Revelries and the Roaring Twenties

A recent acquisition to the Scottish Rite Masonic Library & Museum reminds us of the Fraternity’s adoption of Orientalism, its passion for revelry, and captures the lively spirit of the 1920s.

Mecca_Temple_Band_1922

After the opening of trade with Japan in the late 19th century, America’s consumer desire for all things “Oriental” grew exponentially, and of all the groups associated with American Freemasonry, the Shriners, noted for their use of the red fez, embraced the symbols and spirit of Orientalism to the fullest. This broadside addressed to New York State Assemblyman Alexander G. Hall, a member of both the Mecca Temple Shrine and the York Commandery, No. 55, invited Hall and his wife to the Colorful Oriental Durbar sponsored by the Mecca Temple Band of New York. The Durbar or reception was held at the 71st Regiment Armory on 34th Street and Park Avenue and highlighted by the music of the Mecca Temple Band, conducted by Arthur H. Hoffman.

 Scan_2015-05-15_17-07-33


Captions

Colorful Oriental Durbar Broadside and Envelope, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum Purchase, MA 430.

The Mecca Temple Band of New York City, undated. The Masonic Postcard Collection. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Museum Purchase, MM 025.


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.

 


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.