Victorian Era

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.


A Violation of Our Principles: Political Discussion within Walls of the Lodge

One of the central rules adopted by many fraternal societies is the prohibition of political discussion within the walls of the lodge. Freemasonry adheres to this prohibition, as does the International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT), the fraternity highlighted in this letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

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Utica Oct 27th 1871

E. S. Hughes Esq.
Dear Bro.

It having come to my knowledge that Bro. Lewis H. Babcock the Democratic candidate for Dist. Attorney has been visiting the several Lodges of our order in the county for the purpose of soliciting the votes of Temperance men. I deem it my duty to caution Lodges against allowing themselves to be drawn into any political controversy as Lodges.

At the same time, I would state the facts as they are in relation to the candidates for district atty for the information of such voters of our order as are unacquainted with them. Lewis H. Babcock, the Democratic nominee, and Capt. D. C. Stoddard, the Republican nominee, are both members of Utica Central Lodge, No. 240, and have been for 3 or 4 years. During that time, Bro. Babcock has repeatedly violated his obligation

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and has been disciplined therefor. It is only since his nomination that he has returned to the Lodge. Bro. Stoddard has maintained his standing from the first and is known as a consistent and persistent Temperance Man. Good Templars should consider these facts and judge accordingly.

This circular is not intended to be read in Lodge but is for the information of members outside the Lodge room.


Fraternally Yours,

C. D. Rose
County Chief Templar

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Letter from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27.

​The IOGT, a temperance society which still exists today, was begun by a “few printer boys” or apprentices in Utica, New York, during the winter of 1850-1851. Research into this letter reveals that the author was most likely Corydon D. Rose of Utica. Rose worked as a printer, and Federal Census records for 1870 reveal that he worked for the Temperance Patriot, the official newspaper of the Grand Lodge of the Order of Good Templars of the State of New York, and may have served as an editor. While Rose cautions his recipient, E. S. Hughes, about political discussion taking place within the walls of the lodge, amusingly, he holds no such reservation about such discussions taking place “outside of the Lodge room” and proceeds to provide “the facts” regarding the candidates’ temperance reputation.

As for who won the district attorney’s race of 1871, Henry Cookingham reports in his History of Oneida County that Rose’s choice, David C. Stoddard, a Temperance man and a Freemason, would go on to carry Oneida county by a majority of 845 votes over Lewis H. Babcock, who was also a Freemason.



Captions

Letter and envelope from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27. Museum Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 430.002.

References

Ancestry.com (2011). U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995: Boyd’s Business Directory of Utica, Rome, Sherburne, Norwich, and Intermediate Villages, 1871-72. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Ancestry.com (2009). 1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Chase, Simeon B. (1876). “Section 74.” In A Digest of the Laws, Decisions, Rules and Usages of the Independent Order of Good Templars with a Brief Treatise on Parliamentary Practice. (pp. 236). Philadelphia: Garrigues Brothers.

Cookinham, Henry J.(1912). History of Oneida County, New York: from 1700 to the Present Time. (Vol. 1) Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=oMspAQAAMAAJ&q

Durant, Samuel (1878). History of Oneida County, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, PA: Everts and Fariss.
https://archive.org/details/cu31924100210974

Grand Lodge of New York (1875). “Charges of a Free Mason: Charge VI: 2.” In Constitution and Statutes, Rules of Order and Code of Procedure of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. New York: Thomas Holman.

Heinmiller, Gary L. (2010). “Craft Masonry in Oneida County, New York.” Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society. Accessed: 25 February 2016. http://www.omdhs.syracusemasons.com/sites/default/files/history/Craft%20Masonry%20in%20Oneida%20County.pdf

Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Independent Order of Good Templars. In Cyclopædia of Fraternities. (pp. 404 - 406). New York: E. B. Treat and Company. https://archive.org/stream/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich_djvu.txt

Wager, Daniel Elbridge (1896). “David Curtis Stoddard.” In Our County and Its People: A Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York. (pp. 74 – 77). [Boston, MA]: Boston History Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=ss44AQAAMAAJ&dq


The Magic Lantern

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Magic Lantern, ca. 1900. Gift of the Harrisburg Consistory, S.P.R.S. 32°, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 93.041.1. Photograph by David Bohl.

Magic lanterns, in their most basic form, were invented in the 1600s and are considered a precursor to the modern slide projector and even the motion picture. These lanterns were a mainstay in Masonic lodges throughout the world in the 1800s and early 1900s as they were a useful tool in teaching members about Freemasonry and initiatory rites. The lantern used an artificial light source, which evolved from candles and kerosene lamps to limelight and electricity, and a combination of lenses to enlarge small transparent images or miniature models and project them onto a wall or screen. Lanterns could vary from a simple wooden box with brass parts to ornately designed boxes with multiple lenses. In America, magic lanterns were often referred to as stereopticons so as not to be confused with entertainment that may be provided with more basic toy lanterns. “Stereopticons” were usually biunial or double lens lanterns. The terms “Sciopticon” and “Optical Lantern” were sometimes used in a similar manner.

Several scientists and mathematicians developed projection devices in the 1600s including Thomas Walgenstein (1622-1701) and Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695). Although Huygens is attributed with inventing the magic lantern, it was Walgenstein, a Dutch mathematician, who coined the term "Magic Lantern" and began conducting lantern demonstrations throughout Europe. In the late 1700s Etienne-Gaspard Robertson(1763-1837), a Belgian physicist and stage magician started to “conjure” ghosts for audiences. These shows lay the foundation for the popular late 18th century phantasmagoria lantern shows that featured skeletons, devils, and ghosts. Aside from these entertainment spectacles, the lanterns were used also for science, education and religious instruction by wealthy academics and Jesuit priests. As the lantern became more popular and readily available, traveling lanternists could be found hosting public performances in taverns and public meeting houses.

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Toy Lantern and Lantern Slide (Little Red Riding Hood), ca. 1900, Gift of Dorothy A. and Albert H. Richardson, Jr., 84.18.42a and 43. Photographs by David Bohl.
The lantern was gradually used more often for advertising, propaganda and entertainment purposes as it became more popular in the 1700s and 1800s. The lantern’s diverse range and use made it ubiquitous in churches, fraternal organizations and public institutions in the Victorian era.  Lanterns became more lightweight, began using standardized slide sizes and soon smaller toy lanterns were mass produced, continuing to increase their presence in schools, homes, and public lectures. The advent of cinema and the invention of smaller transparencies and the Kodachrome three-color process led to a decline in the popularity of magic lanterns.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns a collection of magic lanterns and glass lantern slides, many of which were donated by  Masonic and  fraternal groups like the Knights Templar, Knights of Pythias and Odd Fellows. The slides vary from those specific to Freemasonry to those depicting events in world history, literary and biblical stories, folktales, and photographs. Catalogs published in the late 1800s by The M.C. Lilley Company, one of many fraternal regalia manufacturers, included product advertisements for magic lanterns and slides for lodges. According to the 1896 M.C. Lilley catalog no. 195, a Lodge or Valley could purchase a lantern for anywhere from thirty to seventy dollars and lantern slides for two dollars each.

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Masonic Magic Lantern Slide (Master Mason’s Carpet), Gift of Armen Amerigian, 90.19.8a.
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Masonic Knights Templar Magic Lantern Slide, "Emblem of KT", 1906, Harry G. Healy, New York, New York, Gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, Jr., 87.41.16.27.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop by the museum to see a magic lantern on exhibit (Spring 2015). The lantern on display was donated by the family of Knights of Malta former Supreme Commander Gerard Dallas Jencks. Also check out our website and online catalog in the coming months as we scan and share more images of our extensive magic lantern slide collection.

Update: Please visit the online exhibition, "Illuminating Brotherhood: Magic Lanterns and Slides from the Collection" for more information and photographs about magic lantern history.



References:

Borton, Deborah and Terry Borton, Before the Movies: American Magic-Lantern Entertainment and the Nation’s First Great Screen Artist, Joseph Boggs Beale (New Barnet, Herts, United Kingdom: John Libbey publishing, 2015)

Freeman, Carla Conrad. "Visual Media in Education: An Informal History." Visual Resources. Volume 6 (1990): 327-340.

Masonic Lodge Supplies, Catalogue 1893. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library. Found in Collection, A2002/96/1, Box 4, Masonic Lodge Supplies.



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