Ulysses S. Grant

New to the Collection: Odd Fellows Gavel

 2014_036DP2DBBy 1900, over 250 fraternal groups existed in the United States numbering six million members.  To fully understand and appreciate Freemasonry in America, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collects objects and documents associated with all types of fraternal organizations.  Many of these groups were inspired by Freemasonry and adopted similar structures and rituals.  We recently acquired this carved gavel with the three-link chain symbol of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  The gavel represents fifty years of American history.  An inscription on the head of the gavel reads “Presented to Grant Lodge No. 335 by H.W. Swank Lookout Mtn. April 29, 1914.”

In November 1863, Lookout Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, was the site of the Civil War’s “battle above the clouds.”  Under the leadership of General Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), the Union Army was able to attack the Confederate troops who occupied the mountain and drive them away.  The following day the Union forces continued to Missionary Ridge and broke the Confederate lines around Chattanooga.  Unfortunately, H.W. Swank’s connection to Lookout Mountain is unknown.  Was he one of the soldiers that fought in that battle?  Did he have a relative that fought there?  Did he just enjoy the natural beauty of the site?  The mountain continued to be a tourist destination, as shown in this cabinet card from the Museum’s collection.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Americans began to visit Civil War sites as they healed from the war and remembered those who were lost there. 85_80_29DS2

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share some symbols, as well as the three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  Presumably, Swank was a member of Grant Lodge No. 335, which was located in Redkey, Indiana, a town about halfway between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.  Thirteen members instituted Grant Lodge No. 335 in Redkey in September 1869.  According to a 1922 local history, Oddfellowship “prospered in Jay county [where Redkey was located] and…several lodges are reported to be doing well.”

The gavel is currently [September 2014] on view in our lobby as part of a changing display of recent acquisitions.  Consider coming by to see it – or leave us a comment below about whether you have been to Lookout Mountain!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Gavel, 1914, Tennessee, Museum purchase, 2014.036.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Unidentified Group at Lookout Mountain, 1870-1920, J.B. Linn, Tennessee, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 85.80.29.

Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?

78_75_6 Henry Boese In the summer of 1885, the nation mourned the passing of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885), the much admired general and president.  His family decided to bury him in New York City, where he had lived for some years.  A supporter donated a plot on the western edge of upper Manhattan and friends formed an association to fund and build a suitable memorial.  On the day of the funeral, over two weeks after Grant's death, sixty thousand marchers processed along Broadway. Citizens draped buildings along the route in black.  One million people viewed the miles-long procession. 

Memorial organizers constructed a temporary brick vault to hold Grant's remains.  Days after the former president was placed in the tomb, a local newspaper voiced concerns that mourners and relic-seekers might soon strip the surrounding trees of their leaves and remove all the gravel from the drive. Guards watched the tomb and helped keep order. 

Sited in a part of the city that was, at the time, more like the countryside, the vault's location featured expansive views of the Hudson River.  During the 12 years that organizers planned and constructed a permanent monument, the temporary brick tomb proved a popular destination for holiday-makers.  So much so that a New York landscape artist, Henry Boese (1824-1897), composed this peaceful scene of people at leisure strolling in the area on a sunny day.  His view emphasizes the picturesque location of the vault as well as the patriotic nature of the site with its flag and uniformed guard.  You can click on the image of this painting to see more detail, or come view it in person in Curators’ Choice: Favorites from the Collection at the National Heritage Museum.

81_26_19a_24DS1 cropped and edited for blogEventually, after many years of fundraising, design and building, workers completed the permanent memorial. At hundred and fifty feet high, making it the largest mausoleum in North America.  Building the structure required 8,000 tons of granite. The finished, permanent tomb continued to attract visitors, as seen in this amateur photograph taken by a member of the Gilman family in the early 1900s that is now part of the Museum's collection.  You can still visit Grant's Tomb today.

 Grant’s Tomb, 1885–1897. Henry Boese (1824-1897), New York, New York. National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Manney, 78.75.6.

Grant’s Tomb (from a negative). Member of the Gilman Family, New York, New York. National Heritage Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Martin A. Gilman, 81.26.19a.24.