Spanish American War

Admiral George Dewey Inspires the Autograph Collection of a Young Mason

Dewey_002 Dewey_003

In December of 1898, twelve-year-old George E. Elwell, Jr., received this letter from Admiral George Dewey. Elwell, who had been inspired by the Admiral’s victory at the Battle of Manila Bay, had written to the Admiral earlier in the year asking for a souvenir from the war, a common practice of the day. This letter from our collection here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library  is Admiral Dewey’s response to the young boy’s request, and it served as the inspiration for Mr. Elwell’s life-long hobby. Soon afterward,  and over the course of more than half a century, Mr. Elwell began to assemble an impressive collection of over 100 letters or documents, each containing the signature of a well-known figure from American and European history.

In 1958, the “Elwell Autograph Collection” was donated to the Caldwell Consistory (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania) which in turn was donated to the newly established Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library in April of 1974. Among the Elwell Collection’s many highlights is an appointment letter signed by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain (1489), a document signed by Queen Elizabeth I (1559), an Oath of Office signed by the Council of the Massachusetts Bay Colony (1650), the passport of a ship’s captain signed by Louis XIV of France (1701), three documents signed by George Washington (1783, 1789, and 1792), a payroll order signed by Major General Alexander Hamilton (1781), a letter signed by Queen Victoria (1843), a thank-you note signed by Winston Churchill (1945), and a letter signed by United States Senator John F. Kennedy (1959).

Scan_2015-01-12_19-39-43 George Edward Elwell, Jr., 33°, was born in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, on April 19, 1886. A graduate of Trinity College, Mr. Elwell received the Scottish Rite degrees in the Valley of Bloomsburg in 1909. During the course of Elwell’s life and career, he actively served his community and the fraternity of Freemasonry until his death in May of 1969.


Correspondence File from George E. Elwell, Jr. and Caldwell Consistory, Folder USM 009 [no date], Archive Control Files, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library.


Letter from Admiral George Dewey to Twelve-Year-Old George E. Elwell, Jr., December 9, 1898. Gift of Caldwell Consistory, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, USM 009.

Register Now! April 11, 2014 Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

UN2000_0131_49DS1Don't miss out!  Register now for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library symposium on Friday, April 11, 2014 - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism.  This day-long symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.

The day will include:

"Mid-Nineteenth Century Lodges: Middle-Class Families in the Absence of Women," Kristen M. Jeschke, DeVry University

"Bragging Brethren and Solid Sisters? Contrasting Mobilization Patterns Among Male and Female Orders During the Spanish-American War," Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussels

"Painted Ambition: Notes on Some Early Masonic Wall Painting," Margaret Goehring, New Mexico State University

"Pilgrimage and Procession: The Knights Templar Triennial Conclaves and the Dream of the American West," Adam G. Kendall, Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, Grand Lodge of California

"The Colored Knights of Pythias," Stephen Hill Sr., Phylaxis Society

"'The Farmer Feeds Us All': The Origins and Evolution of a Grange Anthem," Stephen Canner, Independent Scholar

Participants will also have their choice of a tour of our exhibition, "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction," a behind-the-scenes tour of the Museum collection, or a tour of highlights in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives.

Registration is $65 ($60 for museum members) and includes morning refreshments, lunch and a closing reception.  The day runs from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.  To register - BY MARCH 21 - visit our website and complete a registration form.

The symposium is funded in part by the Supreme Council, N.M.J., U.S.A.