Vermont

Square and Compasses in Wax

74_1_53DP1DB A square and compasses with a G at the center is one of the most identifiable symbols in Freemasonry. The square and compasses represent reason and faith. The letter G in the center stands for God, geometry, or both. This symbol was and is still used on all types of objects, from furniture and ceramics to textiles and jewelry. Artisans and craftsmen portrayed the symbol from a number of different materials,  including the modeled wax paper flowers illustrated here.

This example in the Museum collection is a wax flower composition crafted in 1890 by Chrissie Taisey Whitehill (1855-1937) of Vermont. Whitehill was married to John F. Whitehill (1844-1912), a member of Pulaski Lodge No. 58 in Wells River, Vermont. She mounted her wax flower creation on black velvet and likely made it to memorialize an–as yet–unidentified member of the fraternity. 

In the Victorian era, wax flowers enjoyed immense popularity as decorative elements included in ornamental household wares, personal accessories, and memorial or mourning pieces. Most often crafted by women, wax flower modelling was "a gendered and class-linked accomplishment, promoted as a welcome activity for women of social standing or pretension to social standing."

 Making wax paper flowers was an intricate process in which makers first disassembled a real flower, tracing each component on paper. They then used those pieces as templates to create paper petals which were carefully cut out, shaped to achieve a realistic look, and glued or wired onto stems. The flowers were often finished by applying wax on each petal. By the 1850s, manufacturers also produced wax flower kits and models with ready-made flower parts that could be shaped and assembled. Do you have a family heirloom made with wax flowers? Let us know in the comments below.

Caption:

Square and Compasses, 1890. Chrissie Taisey Whitehill, South Ryegate, Vermont. Gift of the Supreme Council, 33º, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 74.1.53. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Elegant Arts for Ladies: Comprising Bead Work, Bead and Bugle Work, Calisthenic Exercises... (London: Ward, Lock and Co., 1856), 184-197.

Ann B. Shteir, "'Fac-Similes of Nature": Victorian Wax Flower Modelling," Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 35, no. 2, 2007: 649-661.


New Acquisition Highlights Masonic Political Resistance to the Anti-Masonic Period in Vermont

Research into a new acquisition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, an 1830 letter written by a Freemason to the Past Master of his lodge, reveals a much more complex and interesting story of the Anti-Masonic movement in America. The movement began well before the death of William Morgan in 1826, and may be divided into two distinct periods: the moral opposition to Freemasonry, which began around 1790, and the political opposition to Freemasonry, which began after the election of President Andrew Jackson in 1828. 

This basic timeline for the birth and evolution of Anti-Masonry was typified in the state of Vermont, the home state of both the author and recipient of the Archives’ 1830 letter. Moral opposition to Freemasonry arose as early as 1798 by members of the Baptist Church, and it continued in this form in the state of Vermont until 1829, when President Jackson’s use of the spoils system to remove Democratic office holders prompted the Anti-Masons to form a political party. This letter from the collection provides one Mason’s response to the growth and threat of Anti-Masonry as a political movement. It represents the opinion of a political insider and provides us with a fascinating insight into American politics. 

The letter, written by Justus Burdick (1793-1849) of Burlington, Vermont, to Vermont Secretary of State Norman Williams (1791-1868) of Woodstock, Vermont, is reproduced below, along with a transcription.

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Burlington. Oct. 3 1830

Dear Sir,

I received yours by [Mr. Brown?] last evening who left in the Boat at 9 o’clock for his majesty’s dominions. -- I am well aware that the election in yr [your] town must have been [a] matter of deep regret among you, as well as in other parts of the state. -- We here regretted it the more on account of the effect it would have in favor of the Antis. -- And we see those effects which were anticipated now making their appearance.  -- How it is expected that the “[?]” is coming out, and I believe that Jno N. Pomeroy and Gam Sawyer the partner of Jno. C. broke ground yesterday + we shall be disappointed if it does not turn out that Hon Jno. C. himself and Bill Griswold are at the bottom  of it. -- The state will become Antimason, beyond doubt. The thing will be cut + carved at Montpelier, many very many will act with that party, who wish for office, who we have not yet suspected. There are various reasons for [guessing?] so. -- In the first place, our party expected nothing not even civil treatment from the hands of the Adams men therefore it is six of one and ½ doz of the other with us

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which of the parties rule the State. -- the Antis can do no more than proscribe all of us, and that much the nationals will do. -- Then again, the Clay men must be satisfied that their party can never here after alone make any election in this state, and their troops will desert by dozens + scores. -- The parties will stand at 90 Adams, 80 Antis, 50 Jackson and on the election of Gov. Crafts can get only a part of the Adams men + now the others. -- I therefore set him down as defunct. -- Meech is also out of the question -- his party will sooner go for an Anti candidate than Crafts. -- Then what is to be done? -- We hope that there will some arrangement be made between Crafts + Meech’s friends to go together for some person and elect him. -- If they will join forces the state is saved from disgrace. -- They can make the Gov. Senator, and Supreme Court and if they will act together on these questions this fall, they can go together also in one ticket in 1831 which will insure success. -- but if no overtures are made and accepted between those parties, then the State becomes Antimason -- certain -- Unless we are very much deceived Palmer stands a good chance for Senator as he will have the support of our people in preference to [your?] neighbor. We shall run a Jackson man but without expecting to elect him. -- I have no doubt should the Antis get the reins they will another year at least

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None of those persons, masons, who went with the Antis in [your?] election have disgraced themselves. except [B. F.M.?] the others had no character to lose --

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Turn you out [?] + [?], + Maj. Swan Also -- now I apprehend that if the plan of uniting the two parties should come from [your?] county backed up by the most able men say Mr. Swan, Mr. Marsh, Wyllys Lyman, Mr. Everett + [co?]. You would succeed -- We are willing to do anything which is consistent and honorable, as I believe, to put down Anti-ism. -- I have nothing to lose thank God -- but I would rather lose my liberty one year than Titus should ride into the Senate on the Antimasonic hobby. I have not the least doubt of [your?] election this year. But I think you would stand better another year, if this union of parties can be brought about. And if you are of the same way of thinking you can do much. -- And as I believe risk nothing. -- The train must be set at home and when arrived at Montpelier. Then must be our great caucus, made up of all the members opposed to the Antimasonic rule, and they must agree who shall be Gov. and who shall be senator also and who shall be the Supreme Court. -- [There?] would be no trouble in convening a sufficient number to carry any measure and they would then stand pledged to draw to-gether. -- The measure however must be proposed by Adams men and not by us -- Mr. Marsh must come to Montpelier in good season too. He is no mason and can do much -- say to him so if you please -- these remarks are merely hints for your consideration, I may be wrong.

Yours truly
J. Burdick
 

Captions

Letter from Justus Burdick to Norman Williams, October 3, 1830. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 600.001.


Research into Masonic Dance Card Reveals a Vibrant Fraternal Community in late 19th-Century Vermont

Scan_2015-08-05_19-35-05Outside Cover

Scan_2015-08-05_19-36-49Inside Text



Built along the historic and now-defunct Rutland Railroad line, Todd’s Hotel in Wallingford, Vermont, attracted tourists from Boston and New York who wished to escape the summer heat and desired to experience the rustic scenery or to fish for trout in streams that surrounded the hotel.  Under the proprietorship of Joel Todd, the Hotel enjoyed an enviable reputation, and its dance hall, reputed to be the largest hall connected with a hotel in the state of Vermont, was the site of many elegant balls (including the Masonic ball described in the above dance card) and game suppers, which Todd gave with increasing frequency.

Sadly, Todd’s Hotel was gutted by fire in 1888, but research into this small dance card held in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has revealed the presence of a very active and growing fraternal community in late 19th century Rutland County, Vermont. In addition to the 12 Masonic Lodges listed in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Vermont for 1882, Rutland County hosted 4 Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) Lodges and 6 Grand Army of the Republic Posts.

The proprietor of Todd’s Hotel, Joel Todd, was active in fraternal circles, as well, and in 1871 Todd and his older brother Horace, along with several other men, founded Pico Lodge, No. 32, I.O.O.F, in Wallingford, Vermont. As for Todd’s possible ties to Freemasonry, records held at the Grand Lodge of Vermont reveal that Todd took his first Masonic degree on January 7, 1878, in Anchor Lodge, No. 99, but did not continue any further.



Captions

Masonic Dance Card: Masonic Ball at Todd's Hotel, 1882. Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 015.

References

Smith, Henry Perry, and William S. Rann (1886). History of Rutland County, Vermont: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. (Vol. 2) Syracuse, New York: Heritage Books. https://archive.org/details/historyofrutland00smit 18 August 2015.

Thorpe, Walter (1911). History of Wallingford, Vermont. Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle. https://archive.org/details/historyofwalling00thor 18 August 2015.