A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words
December 27, 2011
Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library staff and volunteers are currently working to digitize our entire collection of historic photographs. This part of the collection includes over 1,000 images from the 1800s and 1900s, many showing men and women in their Masonic and fraternal regalia.
You can browse and search the images that have been digitized by visiting our website. Click on “Collections” and then click on “Online Collections” and “Click here to start a search of our online collection.” You will be taken to a new window where you can search for all of the photos by typing “photo,” or you can search for specific subjects, photographers, places or any other term. To date, we have almost 300 photos scanned and available for viewing, with more added each month.
The photograph above is just one example of the images now available online. It shows members of Boston Commandery, Knights Templar, during a visit to Mount Vernon in Virginia. When we first scanned the photo, we did not have any information about the date the photo was taken. But, with a little research, we learned that it depicts the group of Knights who visited George Washington’s home during their attendance at the 1889 Conclave (or triennial meeting) in Washington, D.C. Indeed, a Boston newspaper account of the trip notes that on October 10, 1889, the group traveled to Mount Vernon on a boat and “from the wharf they marched to the tomb where resides all that is mortal of that most eminent Mason, Brother George Washington.” The newspaper goes on to explain that “the knights then went to the portico of the famous old mansion and were photographed…” According to their own history, “on arrival [the Knights] formed a square about the tomb of Washington, when an impressive service was held…The old mansion was visited, and pleasant hours were spent on this historic estate.”
Pilgrimages to Mount Vernon seem to have been popular during the late 1800s. Another image in the Museum’s collection, seen below and taken in 1859, shows St. John’s Commandery No. 1, from Providence, Rhode Island, during their visit to Washington’s tomb at Mount Vernon. According to a published account of the visit, the men marched off the boat “to the sounds of mournful music” and first visited Washington’s tomb, as seen in the photograph. They next visited the house itself, which had fallen into disrepair. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association had purchased the estate the year before St. John’s Commandery’s visit, in 1858, and would open it to the public in 1860, after beginning a careful refurbishment.
Please tell your friends and family about our photo collection – and keep checking back to see new images as we add them. We hope not only to be able to share our wonderful collection with visitors near and far, but also to encourage scholars and researchers to use these images in order to better understand the history of Freemasonry and fraternalism in America.
Boston Daily Globe, October 7 and 11, 1889.
Historical Sketch of St. John’s Commandery No. 1 of Knights Templars. Providence: Rhode Island Printing Company, 1875.
History of Saint Johns Commandery Number One, Providence, 1902.
Memoir of the Pilgrimage to Virginia of the Knights Templars of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, May 1859. Boston: A. Williams and Company, 1859.
A Sketch of Boston Commandery of Knights Templars. Boston: Triennial Committee, 1895.
Boston Commandery at Mount Vernon, 1889, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Gift of Harvey B. Leggee Collection of Shrine and Fraternal Material, 96.005.3.
St. John’s Commandery No. 1 at Mount Vernon, 1859, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, Special Acquisitions Fund, 93.019.