In occasion of the Grand Lecturer Convention held at the Grand Lodge of New York. We are excited to present the special exhibit featuring Masonic artifacts from two historical figures of Latin America: Simón Bolívar and Antonio López de Santa Anna.
The rumor said that General Sam Houston, who was a freemason, spared Santa Anna after the battle of San Jacinto after he recognized his Masonic sign of distress. It sparked the speculation and debate over the legitimacy of Santa Anna‘s Masonic membership, as there was no solid evidence of his Masonic affiliation. Only until the curator of Robert R Livingston Library, Catherine Walter, discovered Santa Anna’s Scottish Rite certificate in the collection, confirming that Santa Anna was indeed a Freemason.
The certificate was donated to The Grand Lodge of New York by Gustavo Ferrer, Past Master of Americus Lodge No. 535 (now Publicity Lodge No. 1000).
Simón Bolívar was the great liberator who fought to liberate Latin America from Spain. His Scottish Rite apron and collar were donated to the Grand Lodge of New York in 1934 by Francisco Reiguera of La Union Lodge No. 9, Madrid, Spain. Bolívar was initiated in Spain and received his Scottish Rite Degree in France.
The special exhibit will be on display in Robert R Livingston Library from Monday January 23rd to January 30th 2023. Please note that the certificate on display is a reproduction.
We are delighted to introduce the featured exhibit of the antique Masonic Medals, displaying the selection from our antique Mark Master Medal collection.
The precursor of chapter penny, Mark Master mason would own a Mark Master medal as their personal badge. Mark Master medal is usually a silver piece, with engraving of the owner’s name and his lodge or chapter on the obverse. On the reverse, the ‘Mark’ of the owner would be encircled by the letters: H. T. W. S. S. T. K. S., resembling the keystone symbol of the Royal Arch Masons.
Mark is a tradition derived from operative masons who each had their own mark as the unique signature to identify themselves in their masonry works. After receiving their Mark Degree in Royal Arch Chapter, Mark Master Mason would create their Mark, commonly an imagery or symbol which associate with themselves personally. Their mark would then be recorded in the “Mark Book”. The mark they have chosen would be assigned to them til the end of their Masonic journey.
The Mark Master Medal exhibit is on display at the library and is available on the online museum.
Hamilton, John D. Material Culture of the American Freemasons. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, 1994.
Mackey, Albert G. Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, edited by Robert I. Clegg, vol. 2, Macoy Publishing And Masonic Supply Company, New York, New York, 1946, pp. 621–625.
We are pleased to introduce the artifacts of the Masonic Home in Utica that are on the online museum. The collection is currently on display at the Library’s branch site at the Utica Masonic Temple, and now they are also accessible to the public online. One of the highlights of the Utica location displays is the collection of trowels from the cornerstone ceremonies of the remarkable buildings within the Masonic Care Community campus.
50 years after the Masonic Home and Asylum Fund was formed, the history of Masonic Home at Utica began when MW John W. Vrooman laid the cornerstone of the first Masonic Home building in 1891. From then, throughout the years, the campus kept expanding and more buildings and facilities were built to accommodate the residents.
Below is the collection of the historic trowels that were used to lay the cornerstones of the buildings at the Masonic Home.
The Masonic Home Building (Old Administration Building)
The trowel of the Old Administration Building, also known as the Masonic Home, was presented to MW John W. Vrooman by the Trustees of the Masonic Hall and Asylum Fund to lay the cornerstone on May 9th 1891. It is beautifully engraved with a picture of the building, along with the names of the Trustees.
The Masonic Home Building was the very first building erected in Utica to be a care facility for aged Masons and deceased Masons’ widows and orphans.
Memorial Building for Children
The trowel of the cornerstone of the Memorial Building for Children was presented to MW John Stewart by the Trustees of Masonic Home and Asylum Fund on June 29th, 1896. The trowel is not only engraved with a picture of the building, but is also decorated with an ornate handle.
The building was built to serve as the care and education facility for the children of the Masonic Home.
Daniel D. Tompkins Chapel
Named after Daniel D. Tompkins, U.S. Vice President and Governor of New York, the Chapel was built to provide religious services to the residents of the Masonic Home after the Chapel room in the Administration Building had become too small. The cornerstone was laid on April 10th, 1910 by MW Samuel N. Sawyer.
Knights Templar Educational Building
Also known as just the Knights Templar building, it was a gift from the Grand Commandery of New York to the Masonic Hall and Asylum Fund. It was built to be the girl’s dormitory to accommodate the increasing number of residents. The cornerstone was laid by MW John B. Mullan on May 8th, 1915.
Masonic Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Hospital
The trowel of Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Hospital was used by WM William S. Farmer to lay the cornerstone of the hospital on September 20, 1919.
The hospital was proposed to provide free healthcare to soldiers and Masonic members in need. The architect was Harry P. Knowles, the same architect who worked on the Grand Lodge of New York Building. The elaborated story of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Hospital and its cornerstone can be read here.
Isaac R. Stewart Memorial Wing
This trowel used to lay the cornerstone of Isaac R. Stewart Wing by MW Harry Ostrov on June 22nd, 1963. The wing is an expansion of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Hospital to accommodate the increasing numbers of the residents. Its cornerstone was recovered in 2021. More of the Isaac R. Stewart Memorial Wing and its cornerstone can be read here.
The New Administration Building
75 Years after the first Masonic Home building in Utica campus was dedicated, it was replaced with the New Administration building to meet the functionality needed for the now populated Utica campus. The cornerstone was laid by MW Clarence J. Henry on June 19th, 1965.
At the end of April 2022, the rehousing project of the Grand Lodge Collection was complete. In the process of completing the Collection, I drafted a basic finding aid of the Collection. This finding aid will be used for staff reference, but when it is revised, it will be uploaded to the Library’s website for patrons’ reference.
Upon completion of the Grand Lodge Correspondence Collection, many new and interesting letters were discovered. For example, discovered were correspondences relating to the schismatic New York Grand Lodges of the 1840s and 1850s, including rare letters from the St. John’s Grand Lodge and many letters relating to the Phillips Grand Lodge. Furthermore, there were letters in the Collection that documented the Grand Lodge of New York’s establishment of lodges in Columbia, Cuba, Haiti, and Panama. These letters were not in the exhibit for Grand Lodge Week but are filed in the Grand Lodge Correspondence Collection.
For Grand Lodge Week, an exhibit was created of some of the letters from this Collection that were signed by noteworthy New York Masons who all served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York. The first three letters in the exhibit were signed by Chancellor Robert R Livingston and document his acceptance of his election as Grand Master in 1784, his appointment of his new Grand Secretary in 1799, and the letter of appreciation to the New York Freemasons for the gift of a Masonic jewel. There were four letters on display signed by New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, documenting his decision to be re-elected as Grand Master and his reception of petitions to form lodges in various parts of New York State. Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins also had a signed letter in this exhibit, which revealed his list of Freemasons who he selected to be his Grand Lodge Officers.
These letters were on display at the Library, throughout the month of May.
In the museum’s store room, there was a massive stash of Royal Arch Mason chapter pennies which had been sitting on the shelf for decades. These chapter pennies were put together in display panels and glued or sealed within a plastic case. As the space in the Museum’s collection cage is growing scarce, the Museum staff agreed to dismantle them to free up storage space and to properly store the pennies.
We did not realize how damaged the pennies were until we removed them from the displays. While most had adhesive residues, the ones stored in plastic sleeves were covered in sticky plastic flakes and green residue. We reached out to expert coin conservators, and they helped us confirm that what was happening to the pennies was PVC damage.
It is not uncommon that some practices that were acceptable and considered “modern” in the past are now considered harmful by modern-day curatorial standards. In the numismatic world, PVC is one of the materials that is most damaging to coins, and yet it was commonly used for coin storage decades ago.
PVC, or Polyvinyl chloride, over time, can breakdown and react to metal, leaving permanent damage on the coin’s surface. As the damage takes years to develop before the consequences start to show, it was fairly recent that coin experts and collectors have been aware of PVC’s hazards on coin collections.
The experts instructed us to use acetone solvent to remove PVC from the pennies, which is also effective for removing adhesive. The pennies had been exposed to PVC and adhesive for at least 70 years, causing various degree of damage to the pennies; some were more severe than others.
Even with the PVC removed, the damage from it is irreversible. The treatment, at least, removed the PVC residues from the penny’s surface, and thus it would stop or slow down further damage. After the conservation, the chapter pennies are now properly stored in proper archival storage. Even with all the damage done, the New York chapter pennies are still a valuable collection of the Grand Lodge of New York, as the representatives of the Royal Arch Chapters across New York State.
Special Thanks to:
William Eckberg Former President of Early American Coppers (EAC)
Pippa Pearce Senior Conservator of The British Museum
The Grand Lodge of New York Library and Museum has many rare Masonic medals featuring George Washington, the first President of the United States, and one of the most well-known Masons. His strong connection with Freemasonry is well recognized, and resulted in numerous Masonic memorabilia celebrating his Masonic connection.
This article selects and showcases a sample of rare and memorable Masonic medals from various origins in the collection.
This medal is by George H. Lovett and published by Isaac F. Wood. The bust on the obverse is believed to be based on John de Mare’s engraving “Washington at the age of 25”. The reverse displays the timeline of his Masonic milestone, from his Entered Apprentice Degree, Fellowcraft Degree, and Master Mason Degree at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 in Virginia.
Part of the four medal set issued by Congress to commemorate the centennial of Washington’s death. The set of four medals celebrated his life as a citizen of Alexandria, Virginia. One of them is a Masonic variant, displaying a Masonic apron and commemorated his duty as Master of Alexandria lodge No. 22 of Virginia. This is possibly the only Masonic medal issued by the U.S. Congress.
150th Anniversary of Washington’s initiation as a Mason by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
This medal was issued in 1902 by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to commemorate the 150th of Washington’s initiation as a Mason. The die was made by Joseph K. Davison. The obverse depicts Washington’s bust with his Masonic milestone. The reverse depicts the seal of Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
Magna Est Veritas Medal
This is the Magna Est Veritas or “I cannot tell a lie” medal, by Robert P. Laubenheimer. The obverse displays a bust of Washington and the phrase: First in war, First in peace, and First in the heart of his countrymen. The small Masonic square and compasses is at the bottom. The reverse depicts the scene of young Washington and his father’s cherry tree, now a debunked story. Inscribed is the phrase Magna Est Veritas et Prævalebit (Truth is great and shall prevail), which is the motto of the Order of the Red Cross of Constantine.
Initiation of George Washington into Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4
This medal commemorates Washington’s initiation into Freemasonry at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 of Virginia. It is an extremely rare medal as only 10 were struck in silver and 25 in brass and copper before the die was broken.
Centennial of Washington’s death medal by Alexandria Lodge No. 22
This is the centennial commemorative medal of Washington’s death issued in 1889 by Alexandria Lodge No. 22 of Virginia, the lodge where Washington served as master.
Marvin, William T. R. Medals of the Masonic Fraternity Described and Illustrated. Privately Printed, 1880.
Baker, William Spohn. Medallic Portraits of Washington, with Historical and Critical Notes and a Descriptive Catalogue of the Coins, Medals, Tokens and Cards. R.M. Lindsay, 1885.
Committee on Antiquities of the Grand Lodge of New York. Collection Made by Committee on Antiquities of the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons, of the State of New York. The Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, 1905.
The Freemasons’ Hall that once stood at Broadway between Duane and Pearl Street was also known as Gothic Hall. In 1824, the New York brethren purpose the idea of a Masonic Hall in New York City to the Grand Lodge to accommodate the members. Then, the project and fundraising began, and Hugh Renagle was the architect in charge. The cornerstone was laid by the Grand Master MW Elisha W. King, on June 24th, 1826.
The Masonic Hall was completed and dedicated in 1827. It had three stories and had served New York Masons for 30 years. During the rise of Anti-Masonic movement, the hall’s name was changed Gothic Hall, given its Gothic architecture.
The items deposited in the cornerstone were not discovered until 1857, after the demolition of the building. Various items recovered from the cornerstone consisted of a copy of the Grand Lodge of New York’s Constitution, several Masonic newsletters from 1826, business cards, coins, blank certificates, and a wax seal.
While working with the collection, I have come across a square copper plate among the artifacts, which is engraved “laid by the Brothers Lodge no.147”, the date September 6th 1826, and has a list of important names:
Worshipful Brother Salem Town
A. Fay, Master of the Lodge
Stephen van Rensselaer, MW Grand Master (spelled Rensalaer on the plate)
De Witt Clinton, Governor
John Quincy Adams, President of the United States
J. Goodell, Principal Architect
To learn more about the context behind the plate, I searched the library’s archive and found a letter in the Brothers Lodge’s folder written by Salem Town, the person mentioned on the plate, to MW Stephen van Rensselaer, the Grand Master. The letter was written on August 9th 1826, about a month before the date on the plate, mentioning the villagers of Fort Ann erecting their new church in the village and requested the cornerstone to be laid by the members of Brother Lodge. It is safe to assume that the church in Fort Ann mentioned in the letter is the building where this plate came from. Is it possible to find out more about this?
Unfortunately, the Grand Lodge Proceedings didn’t mention anything about this event. On the other hand, the plate was listed in the report of Committee of Antiquities as “Copper-plate from foundation of the Baptist Church at Fort Ann, N.Y., 1826. From Bro D. N. Empey, Fort Ann, N.Y.”1
Now that the donor is identified, I discovered that D. N. Empey was a member and the Junior Warden of Mount Hope Lodge no. 2602 (now Mount Hope-Phoenix Lodge no. 96) which is also located in Fort Ann. The Brothers Lodge no. 147 itself surrendered in 18333, presumably suffered from the anti-Masonic movement during that time. Later in 1852, Mount Hope Lodge no. 260 was chartered in Fort Ann. It is reported that the last Master of Brothers Lodge no. 147, John T. Cox; was also one of the charter members and the first Master of Mount Hope Lodge no. 2604, and the bible used in Mount Hope Lodge no. 260 is also the same bible used in Brothers Lodge no. 147.5
According to the town’s history, the most likely church would be the Union Church built in 1827 to served the Baptist and Methodist Congregation6 (the other source said Baptist and Universalist). 7 In 1836, the church was incorporated as the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Fort Ann, and interestingly, James T. Cox of Brothers Lodge was elected as its trustee.7
Presumably, the copper plate was taken out of the foundation, possibly when it was incorporated, and later was presented to the Grand Lodge of New York at one point by D. N. Empey, a member of Mount Hope Lodge no. 260. It is also possible that James T. Cox’s relationship with the church had a part in the plate’s journey to the collection.
“Report of the Committee on Antiquities.” Transaction of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Mason of the State of New York, 1887.
“The Jubilee: Celebration in the Lodges Under the Jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, to Commemorate the Freedom of the Craft from Debt.” Mount Hope Lodge no. 260, Fort Ann, 1889, p. 297.
Abstract of the Proceedings of the Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of New York and the Grand Stewards Lodge: from September 5 5832 to June 9 5833. 1833.
“Report of the Grand Historian.” Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, 1911, pp. 335–336.
Heinmiller, Gary L., and William G. Peacher. “Craft Masonry in Washington County, New York.” Onondaga & Oswego Masonic Districts Historical Societies (OMDHS), Mar. 2011.
Johnson, Crisfield. History of Washington Co., New York: with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Everts & Ensign, 1878, Google Books, books.google.com/books?id=rt9EAQAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false.
The use of copperplate printing technique can be dated back to the middle ages. A plated copper is engraved in fine detail by a skilled engraver, creating a mirrored illustration. By pressing the inked copperplate on parchment, it can create prints in large volume. Prior to modern printing technology, Masonic certificate was largely produced with this technique.
The copperplate is a much rarer artifact compare to the certificate and lithograph. Nonetheless, the four copperplates in the collection came from different origins and they were the significant parts of Masonic history. They are available on exhibit display and online museum.
Harry Percy Knowles was the renowned Masonic architect who was recognized for his works of various Masonic buildings, including our current Grand Lodge of New York building and the Masonic Home campus buildings at Utica. The generous donations from his grandson, John Knowles Copelin, help us learn his Masonic legacy with his architectural renderings.
Masonic Temple at Colon, Panama
Sojourners’ Lodge No. 874 was chartered in 1898, in the city of Colon, Panama, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Consisting of mostly American Masons, the Sojourners’ Lodge later chose Knowles as the architect of their first building in 1910. The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1911, in the northeast corner of the Canal Zone. The building was completed in June of 1914. It is a three-story building with stores on the first floor, offices on the second floor, and lodge rooms on the third and mezzanine floors.
Grand Lodge of New York Building
The Grand Lodge of New York Building is one of the most recognizable architectural works of Knowles. The building was erected in 1911 on 24th Street and 6th Avenue to replace the previous Grand Lodge building and later extended to 23rd Street to have office space for tenants. This building is also known for its sophisticatedly decorated lodge rooms.
Toronto Masonic Temple
Being from Ontario himself, Knowles submitted his design for the planned Toronto Masonic Temple in 1914 and it was chosen by the committee. The project was later canceled due to funding issues.
Masonic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital
The Masonic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Utica, New York, was built to care for soldiers and Masonic members as a hospital on the Masonic Care Community campus. The Grand Master MW William S. Farmer laid the cornerstone in 1919 and the hospital building was dedicated in 1922. The in-depth article on the hospital building can be found here.
Daniel D. Tompkins Memorial Chapel
The Daniel D. Tompkins Memorial Fund was started in 1904 by Grand Master MW Frank H. Robinson to raise money to build a chapel in honor of Daniel D. Tompkins on the campus of the Masonic Care Community. The chapel was dedicated in 1911, and it is known for its impressive set of Tiffany’s stained glass windows.
Schenectady Masonic Temple
Very little is known about Knowles’ Schenectady Masonic Temple rendering. The design of the Schenectady Masonic Temple, which had its cornerstone laid in 1919 and was erected on the corner between Erie Boulevard and State Street in Schenectady, suggests that his design was not chosen.
Prince Hall Masonic Temple
According to The American Contractor and Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide in May of 1921, Knowles was reported to be working on the Prince Hall Masonic Temple on the corner of 144th street and 7th Avenue in New York City. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, however, had not laid the cornerstone of the building on this corner until 1926, three years after Knowles’ death. The enlisted architect was changed to Vertner W. Tandy. Presumably, Knowles’ design of the temple was never used.
The beautifully decorated Moorish revival building was once the home to the Shriners known as Mecca Temple. In 1921, the Shriners organized the Mecca Temple Holding Company and then purchased the plots between 55th and 56th Street. They chose Harry Percy Knowles, who was a member of Mecca Temple, to design the building. The cornerstone was laid on October 13th, 1923 by MW Arthur S. Tompkins, the Grand Master of New York. Unfortunately, Knowles died in 1923 before the completion of the building. This Mecca Temple rendering is presumably the early design where the second building on the left was included in the draft.
After the Great Depression, the building became the City’s property in 1940 and it was changed into a performing arts center, an idea of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The building is now known as the New York City Center.
Knowles was a member of Pyramid Lodge No. 490, Union Chapter R.A.M., and York Commandery No. 55 Knights Templar, and served a term as the Past Grand Sword Bearer of the Grand Lodge of New York. In addition, he once worked for Napoleon Le Brun, the well-known architect who designed the previous New York Masonic Temple in 1870.
Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District. “Harry P. Knowles.” 2015.
Moore, William D. Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes. The University of Tennessee Press, 2014.
Skazin, Paul R. A. E. A Tale of Two Temples. https://web.archive.org/web/20110927085432/http://webhome.idirect.com/~skazin/new_page_2.htm.
“The American Contractor.” 28 May 1921.
“Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide.” 28 May 1921.
Prince Hall Masonic Temple – New York City. New York City Chapter of The American Guild of Organists, http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/PrinceHallTemple.html.
“The Masonic Standard.” 6 Jan. 1923.
Beam, Walter Irvin, and John Layard Caldwell. Masons and Masonry on the Panama Canal, 1910 – 1914. Masonic Club of Empire, 1914.