"The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection"

New to the Collection: Nathan Lakeman's Masonic Aprons

2016_005_3DP1DBSeveral generations of the Hill family, all members of Liberty Lodge in Beverly, Massachusetts, passed down this apron and two others painted with a strikingly similar design. A descendant from the family recently donated all three aprons to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  The apron shows a common arrangement of symbols: three steps up to a mosaic pavement (symbolizing the good and evil in life), with two columns and a square and compasses (signifying reason and faith) with a “G” (an emblem for God or geometry or both) above an open Bible in the center. Other symbols are painted on each side, and an all-seeing eye decorates the flap.

While this particular apron does not have a label on the back, one of the other very similar-looking aprons in the gift does.  The almost identical appearance and the aprons' history suggest that the same maker who labeled one apron made all three: Lakeman and Hooper in Salem, Massachusetts. Nathan Lakeman (1804-1835) and Stephen Hooper started advertising their partnership in the local Salem newspapers in early 1824. An ad in the Essex Register in February 1824 explained that the men “have taken rooms in the building on the corner of Essex and Washington streets, where they will execute Masonic, Portrait, Sign, Fancy and Glass Tablet Painting with neatness and despatch.”

Later newspaper advertisements featured their Masonic work more prominently. Lakeman joined Jordan Lodge in Danvers in 1827, serving as Secretary from 1828 to 1832.  One ad, which appeared in 1824, began with the bold heading “MASONIC” and then specified, “Knights Templars, Royal Arch, and Master Mason’s Aprons and Sashes, For sale by Lakeman & Hooper.”  However, by June 1825, the two men seem to have gone their separate ways, judging by an advertisement in the Essex Register offering “Masonic Aprons of the newest and most elegant patterns, constantly for sale by N. Lakeman … Floorings, Royal arch Dresses, &c. furnished at short notice.”  Lakeman continued advertising alone throughout the 1820s.  A fourth apron in the Museum & Library collection (see photo at right; it is not part of the recent gift) also has a label for Lakeman & Hooper on the back, but “Hooper” is crossed out, suggesting that it was made (or sold) after the men dissolved their partnership. 94_003_1T1

In 1831, Lakeman married and took a job as cashier of the Danvers Bank. He seems to have stopped advertising as a painter, but it is unknown whether he continued to paint on the side.  Sadly, Nathan Lakeman died of consumption in 1835 when he was only thirty-one years old.   His obituary noted that “a wide circle of acquaintance lament his death—the aching hearts of more intimate friends are the melancholy testimonies of his worth.”

This selection of four aprons by the same maker in the Museum & Library collection offers a unique opportunity to study the choices made by the artist and the customer. While the design is essentially the same on each apron, they show small differences that could suggest the personal preferences of the customer or the growing skill of the artist.  For more on Masonic aprons, check out our book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which can be ordered here.  The apron at top left is currently [July 2016] on view at the Museum & Library as part of our exhibition of Recent Acquisitions.  For more about our exhibitions, location and hours, visit our website, http://www.srmml.org/.

Master Mason Apron, 1824-1830, attributed to Nathan Lakeman (1804-1835), Salem, Massachusetts, gift of Jon Gregory Adams Hill, 2016.005.3. Photograph by David Bohl.

Master Mason Apron, 1825–1830, Nathan Lakeman (1804–1835), Salem, Massachusetts, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 94.003.1. Photograph by David Bohl.


Lecture: “Embroidery and Economic Opportunity in Early Federal Period America”

Pamela A. Parmal
Pamela A. Parmal, Chair and David and Roberta Logie Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

June 11, 2016

2 PM

Lecture by Pamela A. Parmal, Chair and David and Roberta Logie Curator of Textile and Fashion Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

As part of our 2016 Linn Lecture Series “Enterprise and Craft in the Young Nation” the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library will welcome Pamela A. Parmal for a lecture on June 11, 2016. Parmal is a leading authority on historical needlework. Parmal has curated many exhibitions and published numerous books and papers on quilts, embroidery and fashion.

In her lecture on June 11, Parmal will discuss how women’s embroidery work fueled commerce and offered an opportunity for women to earn income to support themselves and their families in early America.

During this time young women from well-to-do families were often taught different kinds of needle arts, including embroidery. Mastery of these skills was seen as a reflection of a family’s gentility. Many of the embroidered pieces these young women created were treasured and passed down for generations.

Women entrepreneurs who possessed skills in embroidery arts opened schools to teach fashionable stiches and techniques. Many of the women who ran these schools also had shops that imported and sold embroidery supplies to their pupils and the public. These schools helped to generate trade by creating a demand for the imported silk and cotton thread needed to craft the detailed designs in vogue at the time.

Schoolgirl embroidery techniques can be seen in our newest exhibition, "The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection." Aprons such as the one below show evidence of embroidery techniques that were taught in the early 1800s at female academies. 

Embroidered apron 87_36DP1DB
Masonic Apron, ca. 1800. Probably New York. Museum Purchase, 87.36. Photograph by David Bohl.

This lecture is made possible by the generous support of the Ruby W. and LaVon P. Linn Foundation and is part of the lecture series, “Enterprise and Craft in the Young Nation.”


Workshop: “Up Close and Personal with…Masonic Aprons”

Aimee E. Newell, Director of CollectionsSaturday, April 9, 2016

10 AM-12 Noon

Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library

Fee: $15/members; $20/non-members. Register by April 7 by emailing programs@monh.org or online at www.monh.org.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library holds over 400 Masonic aprons in its collection. This symbol of a Freemason is widely recognized and can communicate a lot about a man’s Masonic career. This is especially true of the historic aprons in our collection. These bespoke works of art include many Masonic symbols and often represent collaboration between a Mason and the maker of his apron, often a non-Mason or a woman.

On April 9, Aimee, E. Newell, Director of Collections at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, will offer a unique opportunity to get “up close and personal” with these historic aprons. Participants in this workshop will examine the materials, construction and design of several aprons. Drawing on research from her book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Newell will discuss what is known about the aprons, their stories and the unanswered questions that remain.

 

Master Mason Apron
Master Mason Apron, 1846-1862, A. Sisco Regalia Company, Baltimore, Maryland, Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.125. Photograph by David Bohl.

Many of the aprons are a mix of materials; often made of leather, linen or silk, the aprons are then decorated with embroidery, ink or paint and include sequins or bullion edging. Newell will discuss how to preserve these aprons and tell participants how best to care for textiles in their own personal collections.

After the workshop, be sure to tour the new exhibition, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection. With over 50 aprons on view ranging from the late 1700s through the 1900s, the information from the workshop will provide a new appreciation of these unique objects.


"The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection" Now Open

Installation 3-17-16
"The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection," on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library through March 25, 2017.

Visitors have commented on the striking image at the entrance to our newest exhibition “The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Collection.” The exhibition will be on view through March 25, 2017. This image of an arch, the letter G, a mosaic pavement, three candlesticks and an open Bible with a square and compasses was taken from an engraved Master Mason’s apron made in the United States between 1815 and 1830.  This apron is pictured below. Images of columns from the same apron also ornament the walls in the exhibition. You can learn more about this apron, as well as other aprons on view in the exhibition, in The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library by Aimee E. Newell, the Museum’s Director of Collections. 

Reproduced at over thirteen times its original size, the image clearly shows some of the intriguing details visitors can see on aprons in the exhibition. These details include finely delineated engravings of Masonic symbols, glittering gold paint highlighting elements of the design and hand-inked details. 

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Master Mason Apron, 1815-1830, United States. Gift of Armen Amerigian, 90.19.15. Photograph by David Bohl.

The exhibition features over 50 Masonic aprons dating from the 1700s through the 1900s as well as related artifacts from the Museum’s rich collection, such as tracing boards, books, regalia catalogs, prints and photographs. Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to learn about the history, symbolism and workmanship behind Masonic aprons as well as the intriguing stories of the people who made and wore them. 

Interested in deepening your knowledge of historic aprons?  Be sure to read some of our recent posts about aprons. You can also attend gallery talks in the exhibition. For an in-depth look, order your own copy of The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, published by the Museum & Library. It is available for $39.95 plus shipping and tax (if applicable) at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.  The book is also on sale at the Museum.