York Rite Freemasonry

Digital Collections Highlight: Frederick P. Wahlgren's life-long Masonic membership

A1996_041_9aDS1_webBetween 1902 and 1909, Frederick Peter Wahlgren (1859-1935) made a lifetime commitment to Freemasonry by paying for lifetime memberships in the eight different Masonic bodies of which he was a member. Wahlgren was a 24-year-old Swedish immigrant when he arrived in the United States in 1883. He owned a house painting business and lived in the Roslindale neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1899, at age 40, he became a Master Mason in Prospect Lodge in Roslindale. A few years later he joined all four Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Boston, as well as Boston's York Rite bodies.

A1996_041_6aDS1_webA small collection of certificates and receipts in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection show evidence of Wahlgren's decision to become a lifetime member of his Blue Lodge, all four subordinate bodies in the Scottish Rite, as well as all three subordinate bodies of the York Rite. By becoming a lifetime member in these organizations, Wahlgren paid a larger membership fee up front, with the guarantee that he would not have to pay any other membership fees for the rest of his life. One receipt in the collection shows that in 1902 Wahlgren paid $180 to become a lifetime member of all four subordinate bodies in the Valley of Boston: Lafayette Lodge of Perfection, Mount Olivet Chapter Rose Croix, Giles F. Yates Council Princes of Jerusalem, and Massachusetts Consistory. Wahlgren received attractive lifetime membership certificates for each of the four bodies, two of which are shown here. In 1904, he became a life member of the York Rite bodies and, finally, in 1909, he became a life member of Prospect Lodge.

How were the life membership fees calculated? In 1900, the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation unanimously adopting a resolution which stated that

the minimum fee for life membership in any of the subordinate bodies shall be fifteen times the annual fee of that body, and shall in no case be less than thirty dollars in a Lodge of Perfection, a Council of Princes of Jerusalem, and a Chapter of Rose Croix; nor less than forty-five dollars in Massachusetts Consistory, provided, however, that in the Consistory, the fee for the life membership of a member who resides more than ten miles from Boston shall be ten dollars less than the fee herein established.

The 1900 resolution further mandated that the total fee to belong to all four Scottish Rite bodies in the Valley of Boston should be no less than $135. Two years later, Wahlgren paid $180. Nonetheless, it still would have made financial sense for Wahlgren to pay the fee, as he lived for another 33 years. Wahlgren died on April 30, 1935, just four days after his wife, Ida S. (Dufva) Wahlgren (1855-1935). His lifetime commitment to Freemasonry is evidenced by the life member certificates he was issued. We have digitized and made available most of the Frederick Peter Wahlgren certificates in our collection. You can view them at our Digital Collections website, along with hundreds of other documents that we have digitized and made available.

Captions:

Life membership certificate issued by Massachusetts Consistory to Fredrick Peter Wahlgren, 1903. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Mrs. Lucian D. Warner, A1996/041/009a.

Life membership certificate issued by Boston Lafayette Lodge of Perfection to Fredrick Peter Wahlgren, 1903. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of Mrs. Lucian D. Warner, A1996/041/006a.


A Baseball-Playing Mason in 1887

Harry Wellington Davis markI was recently looking at a volume of Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter's Book of Marks, which is in our Library & Archives collection. The book contains the "marks" of 175 members of Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter, between January 21, 1867 and October 6, 1897. I was particularly intrigued by Harry Wellington Davis's mark, pictured here, which suggests that when Davis joined the Chapter in 1887, he had a strong interest or connection to baseball.

The Mark Master degree is conferred in Royal Arch Chapters. As part of the degree, each candidate selects a unique, personal “mark,” an allusion to the marks that working stonemasons left on medieval stone work. Marks selected for the Mark Master degree often represent or incorporate a Mason’s name or occupation, or feature Masonic symbols. Sometimes they reveal an interest, hobby, or other avocational passion.

Curious about Davis's baseball emblem "mark," I dug a little deeper to see what I could find.

Harry Wellington Davis (1863-1943) was a salesman who was born and lived in Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1886 he petitioned Simon W. Robinson Lodge, the local Masonic lodge, and was raised a Master Mason on February 7, 1887. In 1887, Lexington did not have its own Royal Arch Chapter, so Lexington Masons would have to have joined Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter in Arlington, the next town over. Menotomy Chapter was named after the old name for the town it was founded in - Menotomy, later known as West Cambridge, renamed itself Arlington in 1867, as a memorial to the Civil War dead buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Davis was one of only six members who joined the Chapter in 1887.

But what about those baseball emblems? A quick internet search turned up an 1887 photograph of the Lexington Baseball Team. The photograph - which is part of the Worthen Collection at Cary Memorial Library in Lexington, Massachusetts - reveals that Harry W. Davis was, in fact, a member of the team in 1887. He is pictured in the middle row, far right, in the 1887 photo.

Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter was chartered on June 12, 1866. In 1993, Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter effectively came to an end when it merged with Belmont Royal Arch Chapter and the chapter in Belmont became the surviving chapter.

When Davis died in 1943, he had been a Mason for fifty-six years. He was posthumously awarded the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts' Veterans Medal.

Caption:

Mark of Harry Wellington Davis, from Book of Marks for Menotomy Royal Arch Chapter, 1867-1897. Gift of Mystic-Woburn Royal Arch Chapter, Woburn, Massachusetts.


New to the Collection: A Royal Arch Apron

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Masonic Royal Arch Apron, ca. 1820, Henry Parmele, probably Connecticut, Museum purchase, 2014.115.4. Photograph by David Bohl.

With over 400 Masonic and fraternal aprons in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection, we can be choosy when we add to our holdings.  But we are always intrigued when an apron with a different style or decoration shows up.  This was the case with this one, which we purchased at auction last fall.  The engraved design was new to us and we were very excited to add it to the collection.  The central archway with the ark of the covenant, columns, drapes and the figures in the center and to the sides all relate to the ritual for the Royal Arch degree.  The (originally) red trim also helps identify this apron as one that would have been worn to Royal Arch chapter meetings.  Unfortunately, the history of this apron has been lost and we do not know who originally owned it.  It also does not have any markings identifying the engraver or the printer.

Many engraved designs used on aprons were also used on certificates.  As far as we know, we do not have a copy of this certificate – yet.  But, our friends at the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry in San Francisco do have a copy of a certificate decorated with this engraving.  That certificate does have some information about the publisher and sellers.  Printed along the bottom of the certificate is “Pub[lishe]d by H. Parmele.  To be had of [Comp[anion]s?] S. Maverick N. York A. Doolittle New Haven and J.W. Clark Albany.”  Presumably the apron was printed from the same plate, or at least a plate engraved by the same person who cut the plate for the certificate.

Printer and publisher Henry Parmele (ca. 1781-1821) was active in Connecticut.  He reportedly came up with the idea of an illustrative Masonic chart of symbols before Jeremy L. Cross’s (1783-1860) The True Masonic Chart, or Hieroglyphic Monitor (1819), but Cross beat Parmele to the press and his book, with its groundbreaking illustrations, was available first.  Cross’s book became a best-seller and Parmele’s chart languished.

The other men named on the certificate were all active engravers in their respective locations.  Doolittle worked with Cross on the illustrations for his The True Masonic Chart.  Maverick (b. 1789), Doolittle (1754-1832) and Clark (dates unknown) inevitably both engraved and sold Masonic certificates, along with many other types of documents.

To learn more about our apron collection, see our new book, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, available June 2015 at www.scottishritenmj.org/shop.  Members of the Museum & Library or of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction can pre-order the book now (April 2015) through May 31 at a discounted price, by mailing this form with a check.


New to the Collection: Masonic Jewels

2006_015_3aDP1 At the National Heritage Museum, opening up the prospective donation of a box of Masonic or fraternal badges and jewels kept for decades often leads to “oohs” and “aahs” of excitement as we find a badge that we’ve never seen before.  Personal items like badges offer an intriguing way to learn about the history of fraternalism, providing a range of insights such as how the style of the badge reflects the era in which it was made or offering a glimpse inside the life story of specific members. 

A recent gift to the Museum tells the story of one man’s Masonic career.  Robert Baker visited the Museum a few years ago to present a collection of five jewels that belonged to his grandfather, Julius O. Christensen (1875-1947) of Kansas City, Missouri.  The jewels were handed down in the family, accompanied by an Eastern Star medal owned by Christensen’s wife, Elizabeth.  Christensen immigrated to the United States from Odense, Denmark, coming through Ellis Island in 1893.  After attending Beloit College in Wisconsin, he married Elizabeth Strack in 1900 at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Batavia, Wisconsin.  The couple moved to Kansas City, where Julius was employed by the Independent Electric Machinery Company.  They had one daughter, the donor’s mother, Vera (Christensen) Baker.

Christensen petitioned Ivanhoe Lodge in Kansas City in 1906 and was raised on January 17, 1907.  He served as Junior Steward in 1908 and was Worshipful Master in 1912.  The earliest of this group of jewels is Christensen’s Past Master jewel (seen here at left), from 1912.   

Julius Christensen did not rest on his laurels after serving as Worshipful Master of his lodge.  In 1917, he was named Secretary of the Ivanhoe Masonic Temple Company (the Temple was completed in 1921).  Christensen was also active in the York Rite.  One of the jewels (seen below) is dated 1920, the year he became High Priest, and is engraved, “Shekinah Council.”  The familiar all-seeing eye symbol on this jewel is formed with a small diamond.  The symbol takes up the center of a shield with crossed swords behind it.  An elegant archway shapes the body of the jewel and the pin at top is engraved with Christensen’s name.  2006_015_2aDP1

Christensen continued his Masonic service for several decades.  In December 1933, he became Secretary of Ivanhoe Lodge while also filling the post of Recorder of the Kansas City Commandery of the Knights Templar.  Julius O. Christensen died at the age of 72 in 1947.

Top: Masonic Past Master’s Jewel, 1912, probably American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Robert C. Baker, 2006.015.3a-b.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Masonic Royal Arch High Priest Jewel, 1920, probably American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Robert C. Baker, 2006.015.2a-c.  Photograph by David Bohl.


New to the Collection: Mourning McKinley

2008_021_5DP1 Commemorative glass and ceramic platters, mugs and pitchers were popular during the late 1800s and early 1900s – particularly those bearing the likeness of one of our presidents.  But, this glass platter, which was donated to the National Heritage Museum in 2008, the gift of Robert and Edith Zucker, seemed somewhat eerie to me given its inscription, “It is God’s way / His will be done.”

A quick search of the life dates on the platter, “Born 1843 / Died 1901,” confirmed that the man depicted is William McKinley, 25th president of the United States.  McKinley was assassinated while attending the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.  So, I initially attributed the rather severe verse to vestiges of somber Puritanism or to Victorian mourning ideals.

However, additional research turned up a far more pertinent explanation for the words on this commemorative platter.  According to the New York Times on September 14, 1901, McKinley’s last words as he died that day were “Good bye.  All good bye.  It is God’s way.  His will be done, not ours.”

Born in 1843 in Niles, Ohio, McKinley became a teacher until the Civil War broke out.  He enlisted in the Union Army, eventually achieving the rank of brevet major.  After the war, he became a lawyer in Canton, Ohio.  He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives and held two terms as governor of Ohio.  In 1896, McKinley was elected president of the United States, and was elected to a second term in 1900.  Unfortunately, his life was cut short on September 6, 1901.  On that day, despite the presence of Secret Service agents, anarchist Leon F. Czolgosz shot McKinley while he was shaking hands at a public reception at the Pan-American Exposition.  Despite quick medical attention, gangrene set in around McKinley’s wounds and he died on September 14, 1901.

In addition to his distinguished political career, William McKinley was a Freemason.  He received the first three degrees from Hiram Lodge No. 21 in Winchester, Virginia, during his Civil War service.  After the war, McKinley affiliated with Canton Lodge No. 90, Canton, Ohio, later becoming a charter member of Eagle Lodge No. 431 in Canton, Ohio.  He was also active in Royal Arch Masonry and the Knights Templar.

President William McKinley Commemorative Platter, ca. 1901, collection of the National Heritage Museum, gift of Robert and Edith Zucker, 2008.021.5.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Boston Turns on the Lights for the Knights Templar in 1895

GL2004_2057 GLMA bldg KTScan At the end of August 1895, the city of Boston greeted 20,000 Masonic Knights Templar from around the country.  These men, and their wives, gathered in the city for their Triennial Conclave (see our previous post on this event).

While the parade on August 27 must have been quite a sight, it was not only the Knights Templar members that dressed for the event.  As part of the celebration, the Grand Commandery of Massachusetts and Rhode Island decorated the exterior of the Boston Masonic building with a spectacular display of bunting and electric lights. 

This photograph shows just how conspicuous the building was, with the large central Templar cross, Masonic keystone and square and compasses symbols.  Across the top of the building, the words “fraternity,” “fidelity,” and “charity” are spelled out in lights.  At night, when the lights were turned on, the building glowed for all to see.

Sadly, less than two weeks after the Conclave celebrations concluded, the Boston Masonic building caught fire and had to be torn down.  This was the second devastating fire on this site in thirty years.  In 1864, the previous building at the corner of Tremont and Boylston Streets, which housed the Winthrop House Hotel as well as the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, caught fire.  Both times, no one was trapped in the building, but the Grand Lodge did lose treasured objects, regalia and papers. 

The Grand Lodge rebuilt their Masonic building at the same location – now 186 Tremont Street – and dedicated the new building in December 1899.  Today, that building is home to the Grand Lodge administrative offices, the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library, five lodge rooms and a theater. Twenty Masonic groups regularly meet in the building.

To learn more about the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the 1895 Triennial Conclave, visit the National Heritage Museum to see our exhibition, "The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts: Celebrating 275 Years of Brotherhood."  The exhibition runs through October 25, 2009.

Boston Masonic Building, August 1895, Massachusetts, courtesy of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, GL2004.2057.  


New to the Collection: Ezekiel Bascom's Mark Medal

P1030275 In previous posts, we’ve shared the King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter mark book, one of the treasures of our archives collection, and our discovery of its artist.  The excitement around this book continues as the National Heritage Museum announces the recent acquisition of a silver Masonic mark medal originally owned by one of the members of King Hiram Chapter!

Mark medals were often made to order for men who received the Mark Master degree, part of the York Rite, a Masonic organization through which a Freemason may pursue additional degrees.  The degree is named after the marks that stonemasons chiseled into the stones of buildings to identify their work.  Like medieval stonemasons, Masonic Mark Masters create their own symbol, which they register in their chapter’s Mark Book.P1030277

Originally owned by Ezekiel Bascom (1777-1841), this medal was made in Massachusetts around 1816.  Ezekiel Lysander Bascom was born in Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1777 and pursued a vocation as a Congregationalist minister.  In 1806, he married Ruth Henshaw (1772-1848), who is known today for her prolific work as a rural artist.  Ruth Henshaw Bascom drew profile portraits in pencil, pastel and watercolor (follow this link to see an example of her work).  Ezekiel joined Boston’s St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter in 1806.  Ten years later, in 1816, when King Hiram Chapter was formed in Greenwich, Massachusetts (much closer to his home than Boston), Bascom became its initial High Priest, or leader.  The design on the mark medal closely resembles the depiction of Bascom’s mark in the Chapter’s mark book (as you can see in the photo below). 

Mark Book Ezekiel L. Bascom The medal was purchased with the assistance of the Kane Lodge Foundation and the Cogswell Beneficial Trust.  The National Heritage Museum deeply appreciates their support.

Masonic Mark Medal (front and back), 1816, probably Boston, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum, acquired through the generosity of the Kane Lodge Foundation, Cogswell Beneficial Trust and William W. Lewis, 2009.031.

Mark of Ezekiel Bascom, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1.


Calling All Masonic and Fraternal Scholars!

91_033T1 The National Heritage Museum announces its first symposium, to be held at the Museum on Friday, April 9, 2010 - New Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

We are now seeking proposals for papers to be presented at the symposium.  As one of the largest repositories of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources.

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American Masonic and fraternal groups from the past through the present day.  By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members.  The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture.  Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods are welcome.

Possible topics include:

• Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of  fraternalism
• Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups
• Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups
• Fraternal groups for women or teens
• Role of fraternal groups in social movements
• The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism
• Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups
• Fraternal symbolism and ritual
• The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature
• Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives;  the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism

Proposals should be for 30 minute research papers; the day’s schedule will allow for audience questions and feedback.

To submit a proposal: Send an abstract of 400 words or less with a resume or c.v. that is no more than two pages.  Be sure to include full contact information (name, address, email, phone, affiliation).

Send proposals to: Aimee E. Newell, Director of Collections, National Heritage Museum, by email at anewell[at]monh.org or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA  02421. 

Deadline for proposals to be received is August 15, 2009.  For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.

Masonic checkerboard, ca. 1890, Collection of National Heritage Museum, Special Acquisition Fund, 91.033.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Exciting Discovery - Artist of Mark Book Identified!

A92_001_1T1Tabbot One of the staff’s favorite objects in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection at the National Heritage Museum is the mark book for King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter (see Archivist Catherine Swanson’s previous post about the book).  For several years, we theorized that the artist of the book, an “M.S. Harding” who signed several pages, might be a young woman.  The technique exemplified in the drawings and the use of watercolors to create them suggest the kind of work taught in numerous New England academies for young ladies during the early 1800s (see an image of one page on the left).

New research has led to the exciting discovery that “M.S. Harding” was indeed a young woman, Martha S. Harding of New Salem, Massachusetts.  Born in 1813, Martha was the daughter of Alpheus Harding (1780-1869) and Sarah Bridge (b. circa 1788).  Her father belonged to King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter, which was established in nearby Greenwich, Massachusetts in 1815.  Massachusetts history buffs will recognize Greenwich as one of the towns submerged in the 1930s to create the Quabbin Reservoir.  Alpheus Harding, the pastor of New Salem Congregational Church, chose a mark that reflects his vocation.  It shows a lamb holding a Christian cross.  Two other pages from the book are shown here; the one on the right depicts the mark chosen by Thomas Thwing and shows Martha’s signature at the bottom.A92_001_1Thwing

Alpheus also served as a preceptor at New Salem Academy.  School records show that his children - including Martha, who was a pupil from 1822 to 1829 - attended.  It is possible that she learned to draw and paint while at the Academy, perhaps even making the mark book while she was a student.  When she was 25, in 1838, Martha married Asarelah M. Bridge (1810-1865), who was a student at New Salem Academy in 1830.  Sadly, Martha contracted consumption soon after her marriage and died in 1841 at the young age of 27.  But her drawings live on in the King Hiram Chapter mark book, allowing us to admire her artistic skill and teaching us that the families of 19th-century Freemasons were familiar with the symbols and values of the fraternity.

Left: Mark of William K. Talbot, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Mark of Thomas Thwing, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.


What is a Knights Templar Conclave?

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Originally meetings of Knights Templar were called conclaves and those of the national organization, Grand Conclaves.  In the United States, these meetings or conventions are now called commandery, Grand Commandery, and Grand Encampment.

In the collections of the VGW Library and Archives is an example of the use of the older term conclave.  In 1880, the Knights Templar Twenty-first Triennial Conclave took place in Chicago, Illinois.  We hold a copy of the Daily Illustrated Conclave Souvenir published by P. W. Barclay & Company (MA 001.065). These souvenirs were produced every day during the conclave—August 16 through 19, 1880.  They gave a description and featured engraved illustrations of what had happened the previous day during the Chicago Conclave. Our copy of the August 18, 1880 souvenir gives details about August 17, 1880. Each copy cost 10 cents in 1880.

On August 17, 1880, the Knights Templar had their Grand Parade and Review by the Most Eminent Grand Master, Vincent L. Hurlbut.  Then the procession headed toward Lake Michigan to Lake Front Park where the Sir Knights had laid out tents for their lodging during the conclave (upper left).  In the afternoon, excursions aboard steam vessels had been arranged.  Later that evening there was a Grand Musical and Dancing Reception at the Grand Exposition Building (shown below).

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The Daily Illustrated Conclave Souvenir also includes short articles about the decorations put up by Knights Templar in the city of Chicago, competitive drilling or marching, and important Knights Templar of the time period including Albert Pike, Albert Mackey, and Robert Morris.  There are also many other illustrations, including the dining room facilities in the Grand Exposition Building, and various views of the Grand Parade.

A couple of books from our library collection that might be of interest are:

Brown, William Moseley. Highlights of Templar History. Greenfield, Indiana:  William Mitchell Printing Co., 1944.
Call number: 14.5 .B881 1944

Carson, Enoch Terry. History of the Organization of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States in 1816.  Dayton, Ohio: Press of the Groneweg Printing Co., 1895. 
Call number: 17.973 .U58k C37 1895