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.
On behalf of the Grand Lodge of New York, Grand Secretary, the Trustees, and Staff of the Robert R Livingston Masonic Library, we are excited to further the mission of the Robert R Livingston Masonic Library in preserving and supporting research in Freemasonry by announcing the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of New York are now available digitally on Odilo (the Library’s digital library).
In my five years since starting at the library, I often reference the proceedings searching for information for patron’s requests or to simply learn more about the vast history of the Grand Lodge and the history of the Library. I hope providing digital access will ease research for Masons unable to visit our physical location while also helping to preserve the original copies, some of which are printed on brittle paper or whose spines have deteriorated with age.
If you would like to access the digital proceedings registered library patrons can visit, nymasoniclibrary.odilo.us/ and log in using your Odilo UserID and password. If you are not registered or would like to check your registration status please e-mail, Jpatzner@nymasoniclibrary.org and I will be glad to help you access the Proceedings and other titles available on Odilo.
Please Note: The digitally available proceedings do not currently include the Proceedings of the St. John’s Grand Lodge, Revived St. John’s Grand Lodge, or Philips Grand Lodge.
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.
The Robert R Livingston Masonic Library has now made a selection of periodicals from various Grand Lodge jurisdictions available to patrons on Odilo for free! In the past, we were only able to provide access to the physical issues; now, thanks to the publishers and editors, we can offer the opportunity to explore the work and research of your fellow Brother Masons from your computer, e-reader, or mobile device.
Below is a list of the periodicals that will be available on Odilo in a digital format.
A curious Masonic artifact in our collection was listed in the old collection catalog index made by the Grand Lodge’s Committee of Antiquities in 1905. It was described as a marble tablet, 20 inches long and 12 inches wide, etched and colored with various Masonic symbols. It also has an ornate monogram “G. B.”, the name Robert Chambers, and Hebrew letters at the bottom. Many symbols on the tablet belong to the Royal Arch degree, such as: a small triple tau at the bottom right, the double triangle or the Seal of Solomon, and the Greek word EYPHKAMEN (usually part of the phrase Eyphkamen Cultor Dei Civis Mundi on the Seal of Solomon).
How it became part of the Grand Lodge’s collection was also mentioned, as follows:
This Tablet was in the attic of the house adjoining the Old Sugar House, on Liberty Street, New York City. It came into the possession of Bro. Isaac H. Gibbs, about the year 1840, and was presented by him to Grand Lodge, about the year 1868.
The Old Sugar House, also known as the Livingston Sugar House, was a five-story tall greystone building erected in 1689, located next to the Middle Dutch Church on Liberty Street. It was built by the Livingston family and used as a sugar refinery before the Revolutionary War. After the British captured New York City in 1776, it was seized and converted into a prison for detaining American prisoners.
The building was demolished in 1840, the same year Bro. Isaac H. Gibbs had obtained the tablet. It is possible that it might have been recovered from the attic before the demolition. The 28 Liberty Street Building (formerly One Chase Manhattan Plaza) now occupies the site where the Old Sugar House once stood.
Regarding the name signed at the bottom of the tablet, it is possible that the marble tablet might be engraved, stained, and signed by Robert Chambers, a recognized operative mason and marble stainer from Gloucestershire, England, who was active from 1750 to 1780. He was well-known among researchers for leaving Hebrew letters in his crafts. In this case, the letter he left was “Giblim”, the word equivalent to master masons mentioned in the building of the Temple of Solomon.
However, the origin story of who was the original owner of this tablet, and how it ended up in the attic of the Livingston Sugar House and later in possession of Bro. Isaac H. Gibbs, is still unclear.
Side note: Brother Isaac H. Gibbs was the first Senior Deacon of Manitou Lodge No. 106 in 1845.
McDowall, Katharine Ada Esdaile. English Monumental Sculpture Since the Renaissance. Hyperion Press, 1927, pp. 98-100.
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.
From our archive, we compiled the correspondence letters sent from the White House, written by various Presidents of the United States, many of which were Masons.
President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909)
Albion Lodge (originally no. 31) of New York was warranted in 1804 and MW John Stewart, Past Master of the lodge and Past Grand Master, invited President Theodore Roosevelt to their centennial celebration banquet in 1904. Regrettably, President Roosevelt wrote back that he appreciated the invitation, but he could not attend the banquet. President Roosevelt was raised in Matinecock Lodge No. 806, Oyster Bay, New York.
Albion Lodge merged with Naval Lodge No. 69 in 1973 and later merged with St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in 1995.
President Warren G. Harding (1921-1923)
President Warren G. Harding was raised one year before his presidency in Marion Lodge No. 70, Ohio. He wrote back to Yonkers Commandery No. 47 regarding the invitation to the Annual Reception which he could not attend, but nonetheless sent his fraternal greetings. He was also invited by the Grand Commandery of New York to the 108th Annual Conclave at Syracuse in 1921, which he declined as well.
President Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929)
President Calvin Coolidge was never initiated into Freemasonry but he retained a great friendship with the Masons during his presidency. He was present at the cornerstone laying ceremony of the George Washington Memorial. MW Charles H. Johnson, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York, was also the Secretary of State of the Board of Charities of New York. In this correspondence, President Coolidge complimented their charity projects and declined MW Johnson’s invitation to the exhibition presumably to display the handicraft of the patients under the care of the State Board of Charities.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)
The Masonic Stamp Club of New York was established in 1934 by a group of Masons with a philatelic interest, sponsored by The Grand Lodge of New York Library and Museum. The club presented President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also an avid stamp collector, their Honorary Membership card. He wrote back a thank you letter to MW Charles H. Johnson, the Grand Secretary, and said he looked forward to meeting him again.
Two weeks before Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote this letter, at an evening meeting of Architect Lodge on November 7, 1934, his two sons, James Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr. were raised as Master Masons.
President Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)
President Harry S. Truman had already been a prominent member of the Freemasons prior to his presidency. During the famous renovation of the White House under his supervision from 1948 to 1952, he and his assistant, General Vaungh, recognized the mason’s mark on the stones among the rubble. He later presented the marked stones to each of the Grand Lodges across the United States. They were accompanied by this letter.
President Truman was raised in Belton Lodge No. 450 of Missouri and he was the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri in 1940, five years before he became President of the United States.
The Grand Lodge Library and Museum has received the Memorial Box time capsule that was once sealed within the cornerstone of the Isaac R. Stewart Memorial Wing at the Masonic Home.
The new hospital wing was erected to increase the hospital capacities for those in need, and it was made possible by Brother Isaac R. Stewart’s contribution. On St. John’s Day, June 22nd, 1963, the Memorial Box was presented by the Grand Treasurer RW Walter Dobler before it was sealed within the cornerstone laid by the Grand Master MW Harry Ostrov. The wing was finished and dedicated on November 23rd, 1963.
When the Isaac R. Stewart Memorial Wing was renovated, the time capsule was uncovered and unsealed at the dedication of the American Orchid Lodge Room at Masonic Care New Rochelle by Grand Master MW William M. Sardone on September 27th, 2021.
The box contained various documents such as: the Grand Lodge of New York’s Proceedings for 1962, a program of the cornerstone laying ceremony, a letter from the Grand Master, Empire State Mason magazines, an annual report, an issue of the Utica Daily Press newspaper and photographs. The by-laws and annual report of Oswegatchie Lodge No. 687 were also included in the box, as Brother Isaac R. Stewart, whom the building wing was named after was a member of this lodge.
The letter from the Grand Master MW Harry Ostrov address to the future brethren can be read as follows:
Reference & Photo:
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. 1964.
“Isaac R. Stewart Hospital Wing Cornerstone Laid June 2, St. John’s Day.” Empire State Mason, 1963, p. 24.
Ceremony of Laying the Cornerstone of the Isaac R. Stewart Memorial Wing at the Masonic Home, 1963.
The Egyptian Obelisk, also known as Cleopatra’s Needle was built by King Thutmes III. Originally erected in Heliopolis, it was moved to Alexandria in 23BC before being transported to New York City and erected in Central Park. In October 9th, 1880, 141 years ago, nine thousand masons marched the parade to Park and 82nd street, escorted by Edward M.L. Ehlers, the Grand Marshal. Then, the cornerstone was laid by Jesse B. Anthony, the Grand Master, and the Grand Line officers
The obelisk baton was carried by Edward M.L. Ehlers, the Grand Marshal of that day. The baton is sophisticatedly ornate and is decorated with amethyst and ivory handle. Carrying the baton, the Grand Marshal escorted the Grand Lodge parade to the ceremony site.
A wooden gavel used in the ceremony, as mentioned in the proceedings “The Grand Master then advanced to the stone, spread cement upon it, gave it three blows with the gavel”. The gavel was made from the wood from the ship Lawrence of the Battle of Erie, plated with gold-color metal. It had been used in several cornerstone laying ceremonies.
In 1928, Admiral Richard E. Byrd launched the much-anticipated expedition to Antarctica. He and his crew settled the base camp as they landed on the continent, and from there, they flew the first flight ever over the South Pole. Boarding the flight, there were Admiral Richard E. Byrd, the expedition leader and navigator, Bernt Balchen, the chief pilot, Harold I. June, co-pilot and radio operator, and Ashley McKinley, the photographer. For the brethren, it is a noteworthy accomplishment that three of the four crew aboard this historic flight over the South Pole were masons.
Richard E. Byrd was raised in Federal Lodge no. 1, Washington D.C. in 1921, and he dimitted to Kane Lodge no. 454, New York in 1928. He had flown Kane Lodge’s flag from the masthead of the ship during the expedition. Kane Lodge members presented him Kane Lodge Gold Medal upon his return from his first Antarctica Expedition, with the greeting from President Hoover via telegram. The Grand Lodge of New York awarded him the Distinguished Achievement Medal later in 1947.
Bernt Balchen was raised in Norsemen Lodge no. 878 in 1927. A few weeks prior to the expedition, the Norsemen Lodge presented the US flag to Bernt Balchen at the Testimonial Dinner at Hotel St. George on August 25, 1928. He carried the flag with him as he flew the plane over the South Pole.
Upon his return to America in 1930, the Norsemen Lodge welcomed him with Homecoming Dinner on June 23rd, 1930, where he presented the flag to Charles H. Johnson, the Grand Master. The flag is beautifully displayed in frame and still in care of Grand Lodge of New York Library and Museum. He was later appointed as the Grand Representative of Grand Lodge of Iceland in 1954 and awarded the Charles H. Johnson Medal in the same year.
Harold I. June was raised in Kane Lodge no. 454 in 1931, very little is known about his Masonic activity. It is reported that he was present along with Richard E. Byrd at the unique communication of Antarctica Lodge no. 777 under the Jurisdiction of Grand Lodge of New Zealand at the Antarctica camp base “Little America” where they settled back in their first expedition.
“Heroes Welcomed From Antarctica.” Masonic Outlook, vol. 6, 1930, p. 370.
We are delighted to announce that our New York Masonic Temples postcard collection is now digitized and available for view in our online museum. This impressive online postcard collection wouldn’t be possible without the generosity of RW Howard J. Lasker, member of Wadsworth Lodge no. 417. His incredible collection of Masonic postcards consisting of 4,250 items was donated to our museum in 2008, and they have contributed exceptionally to our valuable ephemera collection.
Being part of fraternal organizations was highly popular among men in the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, and resulted in numerous Masonic Temples being erected and dedicated to accommodate the members. Around the same time, the popularity of postcard was all-time high. The architecture was one of the popular subjects published on millions of postcard cover and Masonic architectures across the country were no exception. However, as the membership declined in later years, many of Masonic buildings went through change and renovation, change of ownership or were demolished. The images of Masonic buildings published on postcards by various publishers have, unintentionally, preserved the visual history of Masonic architecture in its prime.
The majority of our New York Masonic Temple postcard collection consists of:
Lithographic postcards, known for colorful and eye-pleasing visuals and commonly traced from the real photograph or negative.
The real photo postcards whereas the negative was developed directly onto the postcard paper.
And a reproduction of the photograph printed on the postcard.
The New York Masonic Temple postcards are the first batch of our massive postcard collection that are digitized, as they are the excellent visual resources and references of the New York Masonic Temples history and their diverse architectures. We are hopeful that we will be able to make more of our fascinating Masonic postcards available to the public soon.