Archival Collections

Special Collections at the Livingston Masonic Library

For more information concerning any of the special collections, or to make a donation to support the Library’s mission, please contact us. All donations to the Library are tax deductible.

Charles Looney Engraving Collection
African-American Masonic Materials
Morgan Affair Papers
Rare Scottish Rite Papers

The Charles Looney Engraving Collection

The Charles Looney Engraving Collection is composed of images, mostly engravings, of individuals and scenes related to the history and culture of Freemasonry. The collection is strongest as a source of portraits of prominent nineteenth-century American Freemasons. Most of the images date from the period between 1850 and 1950, measure approximately 8 inches by 10 inches, and were originally produced as book illustrations. The collection also includes a number of fine engravings produced by the American Bank Note Company which tend to be smaller.

The Charles Looney Engraving Collection largely was compiled by RW Charles Looney of Manhattan’s Continental Lodge No. 287. The Engraving Collection is one component of the larger Charles Looney Memorial Collection presented to the Grand Lodge Library by Mrs. Ida Looney, Charles Looney’s widow, in the 1940s before the Grand Lodge Library became the Livingston Masonic Library in the 1980s. The Charles Looney Memorial Collection also contains significant holdings of Masonic medals and glass. The finding aid for the Engraving Collection was compiled by W Mark Parthemer, Past Master of Holland Lodge No. 8.

For further information about the Charles Looney Engraving Collection, or to order photographic reproductions of images from the collection, please contact us.

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Historic African-American Masonic Materials

A significant collection of documents and published materials related to Freemasonry in African-American communities has recently been catalogued and made available to researchers by the Livingston Masonic Library. These materials were collected, primarily in the 1950s and 1960s, by Edward R. Cusick (ca. 1900 -1971). Cusick was the author of numerous articles published in Masonic periodicals and served as Master of New York City’s prominent Independent Royal Arch Lodge No. 2 in 1945.

Darcus Court No. 18 of the Heriones of Jericho
Springfield, Ohio’s Darcus Court No. 18 of the Heriones of Jericho (1957).
From the Edward R. Cusick Collection.

The Cusick collection includes many printed items created by and for Masonic organizations established in New York State by Americans of African descent. Groups represented include the Alpha Grand Lodge, the Enoch Grand Lodge, the Hiram Grand Lodge, the King Solomon Grand Lodge, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the St. John’s Grand Lodge, and the Universal Grand Lodge, among others. Souvenir journals and other ephemera published by African-American Scottish Rite, York Rite, and Shrine organizations are in the collection as are newspaper clippings and articles from popular periodicals. Although materials from New York State comprise the bulk of the holdings, Masonic bodies from other localities, including California, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio, are also present. The vast majority of the organizations represented in the Cusick collection traditionally had been characterized as clandestine or spurious by the Anglo-American Masonic establishment. Most bodies now enjoy fraternal relations and are recognized by their respective Grand bodies.

Archival material related to Cusick’s research into the history of African-American Freemasonry forms a significant facet of the collection. Noteworthy within this material is his correspondence with writers such as Harry A. Williamson and Harold Van Buren Voorhis.

The Cusick collection, when added to the Livingston Masonic Library’s already strong holdings of African-American Masonic materials, solidifies the institution’s position as a leading center for the study of all aspects of American Masonic history. For more information concerning the Cusick collection, or to make a donation to support the Library’s mission, please contact us. Donations of historic publications related to African-American Freemasonry are particularly welcome.

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Morgan Affair Papers

In 1993 the Livingston Masonic Library added to its archives a series of thirty-two documents related to the infamous Morgan affair. These papers, dating from the years between 1827 and 1831, are manuscript correspondence of Victory Birdseye, the New York State Special Counsel appointed to investigate the disappearance of William Morgan. Witness testimonies and other first-hand information concerning the prosecution of members of the fraternity are included in the papers.

These documents descended in the Birdseye family before they came to the Livingston Masonic Library. They are now available to researchers interested in Masonic history for the first time.

For more information concerning the Morgan Affair papers, or to make a donation to support the Library’s mission, please contact us.

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Rare Scottish Rite Papers

The Livingston Masonic Library acquired a collection of thirty-one pieces of correspondence originally belonging to William H. Peckham of New York City. In the 1880s, Peckham claimed to be the Sovereign Grand Commander of a spurious Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite with authority supposedly descended from Joseph Cerneau. Harry J. Seymour, an important figure in the development of the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis, apparently sold his interest in this Supreme Council to Peckham in 1880 after being expelled from the Hays-Raymond Supreme Council. Peckham’s correspondence, with figures such as L. R. Oronhyatekha, Henry W. Pell, M. W. Bayliss and Robert Ramsey, discusses the politics and day-to-day details of establishing spurious Scottish Rite Valleys in New York State, Delaware, Maryland, Ontario, and Washington, D. C., thus providing significant insights into the dynamics of the development of the Scottish Rite in late nineteenth-century North America.

For more information concerning the Peckham papers, or to make a donation to support the Library’s mission, please contact us.

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