New to the Collection: Scottish Rite Rose Croix Apron

Scottish Rite Rose Croix apron, 1810-1840, unidentified maker, France or United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.053.

Recently, we were able to add this Masonic apron to our collection.  It shows symbols associated with the Rose Croix degree of the Scottish Rite, which is the fraternity that founded and supports the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Many people, Freemasons and non-Masons alike, assume that the fraternity’s name, “Scottish Rite,” honors the roots of the group and that it originated in Scotland.  Some historical sources have fostered this story by suggesting that Scottish supporters of the Stuarts of England invented the Scottish Rite degrees in the 1600s to advance their political cause.  The Scottish Rite was actually established in France in the 1700s, followed trade routes to the West Indies and was then imported to North America.

Once a man becomes a Master Mason, he may choose to join additional Masonic groups, such as the Scottish Rite.  Today, members perform a series of twenty-nine degrees (4th-32nd) as morality plays.  Freemasons often call the Scottish Rite “the University of Freemasonry,” as the degrees are designed to supplement and amplify the philosophical lessons of the first three degrees by exploring the philosophy, history and ethics that guide members.  A 33rd degree is conferred as an honorary degree on selected members.

The Rose Croix degree, for which this apron was used, is the 18th degree in the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.  It tells the biblical story of the building of the Temple of Zerubbabel on the site of Solomon’s Temple, which had been destroyed.  The apron shows the symbols used in the ritual: the pelican piercing her breast to feed her children with her blood; a cross with a rose; and several symbolic tools along the side.  As the symbols on the apron suggest – note the implements of the crucifixion at bottom center – the ritual explores the idea of resurrection and alludes to the story of Jesus Christ.

The design of this apron is probably French, although it can be hard to tell if an apron was actually made in France, or was influenced by French style and made in the United States.  The motif of the ribbons along the sides with tools is often seen on French aprons.  For more examples of Rose Croix aprons, see our recent publication, The Badge of a Freemason: Masonic Aprons from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, which can be ordered here.


Rethinking Zoeth Knowles

A sharp-eyed and knowledgeable blog reader recently got in touch with us to suggest that a previous post about a Civil War era photograph in our collection was due for re-examination.

96_045_3DP1DBBased on the information provided to the museum by the Cloues family, who donated the photograph in 1996, staff had identified the subject of this and the previously posted photograph as Zoeth Knowles (b. 1843).  Research undertaken for our 2007 exhibition, “Remember Me:  Highlights from the National Heritage Museum”, told us that Boston resident Knowles served in the Civil War as a member of the Signal Corps.  A late 1800s history of this group included an interesting reminiscence that at their instruction camp in 1862, “Members were collected from all points of the compass….Those who were present at the camp will recollect the varied uniforms, Zouave and others, worn by the various members.”  The case for Zoeth Knowles as the subject of the photograph seemed strong, until a new opinion came our way.

Our blog reader told us that, based on the portrait subject’s particular uniform, this soldier could not have been a member of the Signal Corps but was, in fact, part of Company K of the 19th Massachusetts Regiment of the Infantry, known as the “Boston Tiger Fire Zouaves.”  A history of the regiment noted that members of this company wore light blue baggy trousers, dark blue jackets with buttons and dark blue fez caps.  This may be the uniform depicted in the photographs.96_045_1T1

These photographs came to the museum with a quilt made for Mary Eliza Knowles (b. ca. 1844) in recognition for her service as president of the Massachusetts Women’s Relief Corps.  The Women's Relief Corps was an auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization for Union veterans of the Civil War.  It also carved out its own areas of interest and action. In the 1890s the WRC promoted "patriotic instruction for our public schools" and the related project of displaying flags in schools and other public places. Each of the 64 blocks in this quilt bears the identification number of a Women's Relief Corps' local chapter and, in some cases, the chapter's name and location.

Mary Eliza Knowles married former Signal Corp member and cabinetmaker Zoeth Knowles in 1866.  Prompted by our reader’s suggestion, I looked into the connections between the Knowles and Cloues families.  Soon, a feasible explanation for the donors’  probably incorrect identification of Zoeth Knowles as the subject of the photograph emerged.  In making the gift of the quilt and photographs to the museum, the donor related that Mary Eliza Knowles was her great aunt (she was actually her great-great aunt). As generations passed, it appears the Cloues family lost sight of which uncle the images that accompanied the quilt portrayed.  Both the husband and the brother of the quilt-recipient served in the Civil War, so it would be easy to mistake one for the other!  Like his brother-in-law, Mary Knowles’ brother, Theodore Cloues (ca. 1832-1919), fought in the Civil War.  He served in Company K of the 19th Massachusetts Regiment of the Infantry--the “Boston Tiger Fire Zouaves.” Before the war and after he earned his living as a sail maker in the Boston area.  Based on the question and information posed by our reader, Theodore Cloues is likely the subject of this photograph and the other view posted earlier. 

Regardless of this mix-up, we are grateful to the Cloues family's gift to the museum as well as to our knowledgeable blog readers.  Please keep your comments coming!


J. Willard Brown, The Signal Corps, U. S. A. in the War of the Rebellion, Boston, Massachusetts:  U. S. Veteran Signal Corps Association, 1896, pages 59 and 812.

Ernest Linden Wiatt, History of the Nineteenth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865, Salem, Massachusetts: The Salem Press, 1906, pages 2-3.

Photo credits:

Theodore Cloues, ca. 1864. Unidentified Photographer, Probably Boston. Gift of the Cloues Family, 96.045.3.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Quilt, 1890-1891. Various Makers, Massachusetts.  Gift of the Cloues Family, 96.045.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.


Pronouncing "Zerubbabel" in 1914

AASR_Pronouncing_Dictionary_webScottish Rite ritual abounds with names that might trip up even the most well-read Mason. A number of Hebrew, Latin, and Greek names and phrases show up in the rituals of the Scottish Rite's Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. What's a man to do when faced with memorizing lines that might contain Biblical names like Adoniram, Nebuchadnezzar, and Zerubbabel?

How about a handy reference book?

In 1914, the Scottish Rite's Northern Masonic Jurisdiction saw a pressing need for providing guidance on the pronunciation of a number of words that show up in the staged productions that are the Scottish Rite degrees. The Supreme Council published a Hand-Book of Pronunciation of Words Used in the Ritualistic Ceremonies and Work of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., "for the purpose of securing uniformity in the pronunciation of words used in the Rituals, Ceremonies, and Work of the various Degrees of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America," according to the book's introduction.

The introduction continues,

"It is not intended to indicate the classical pronunciation or to supply the frequently obsolete forms of the languages from which the words may be derived. The work of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in this Jurisdiction is rendered in the English tongue, and where Hebrew, Latin, Greek, or other proper names and words have been authoritatively represented by English substitutes or by English forms it appears pedantic and unwise to adhere to original forms or to attempt pronunciation often impossible to English utterance.

For the same reason compromise has been sought between conflicting schools of pronunciation of Latin words and phrases, and the pronunciation here given, it is believed, will avoid the extremes of the classical scholar while being in full accord with polite usage."

Today, there isn't a single book that contains a pronunciation guide for all of the Scottish Rite degrees. Instead, the introductory material to each of the individual degree rituals [pdf] includes a pronunciation guide for the difficult words found in that particular degree.

As for Zerubbabel, who appears as a character in the 15th and 16th degrees, the name was pronounced the same in 1914 as it is today: accent on the second syllable.

Hand-Book of Pronunciation of Words Used in the Ritualistic Ceremonies and Work of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. Published by the Supreme Council for the use of the Bodies of the Rite, 1914.
Call number: 00 .S959d 1914