Unlocking The by nikeborome

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									                                                                                                            By AIMEE E. NEWELL

Unlocking
The
                                                               Masonic and fraternal aprons
C-O-D-E

W
                                                        have more meaning than meets the eye


           hat runs through your mind
           when you put on your Ma-
           sonic apron? Do you remem-
ber the first time you wore it? Or per-
haps you think of the teachings of your
degree rituals?
   Have you ever considered the history
of Masonic aprons – how they were
made prior to sewing machines or how
the symbols and designs evolved?
   Among all Masonic symbols, to out-
siders the most recognizable is the
apron.
   Images of Masons from the late 1700s
through the present day are instantly
identifiable when they show a man
wearing his apron, whether it is George
Washington or a current Master.
   While the idea of a man wearing an
apron seems odd to many, Masonic
aprons extend from a long European
tradition of tradesmen donning a
                                                          Masonic apron worn by Theodore Roosevelt at the cornerstone laying

leather apron to protect their clothing
                                                              of the Provincetown Pilgrim Monument, August 20, 1907,

and their bodies as they worked.
                                                                   made by Miss Rose Lipp, Boston, Massachusetts.

   Opening June 30, at the National Her-
                                                               Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

itage Museum’s Van Gorden-Williams
Library and Archives, the new exhibi-             In addition, the museum is the cur-       countless Masonic aprons used for cen-
tion, “Unlocking the Code: Masonic and         rent home of the apron collection from       turies in American lodges.
Fraternal Aprons,” will feature a selec-       the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massa-             However, one that is now part of the
tion of aprons from the museum’s pre-          chusetts, with hundreds of aprons of its     Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collec-
eminent collection in order to explore         own. These combined collections form         tion is made special by the handwritten
their history and design.                      an unparalleled resource.                    card attached along the bottom.
   With over 400 aprons, the National             The aprons span the globe, as well as        The signature is easy to make out,
Heritage Museum has gathered the best          the centuries, and have many lessons to      “Theodore Roosevelt.” And at the top
collection in the country.                     teach about Masonic history and tradi-       right corner are the words, “The White
                                               tion, American history and culture, and      House/Washington.”
                                               personal stories.                               The handwritten lines along the bot-
                                                                                            tom tell a story: “Apron worn by the
                                                                                            President at the laying of the Corner
                                                                                            Stone of the Pilgrim Memorial Monu-
                                               A History of Masonic Traditions
                                                 A plain white apron with a simple          ment at Provincetown, Aug. 20. 1907.”
                                               purple (or blue) border resembles               This one simple object preserves in-
                                                                                            formation about U.S. President
                                                                                            Theodore Roosevelt, American Freema-
                                                                                            sonry, local history and even early 1900s
                                                                                            apron production — it has a maker’s
                    AIMEE E. NEWELL, is the Curator of Collections, National Heritage
                    Museum at Supreme Council headquarters in Lexington, MA.

4   THE NORTHERN LIGHT / MAY 2007
                                                                                            A second apron suggests another tra-
                                                                                         dition that aprons help us understand
                                                                                         — Masonic symbols. That Scottish Rite
                                                                                         apron dates to about 1830 and was
                                                                                         probably made in New England, possi-
                                                                                         bly in Connecticut.
                                                                                            The pink silk apron is embroidered
                                                                                         with gold thread and sequins and
                                                                                         shows the symbols of the 16°, or Prince
                                                                                         of Jerusalem Degree.
                                                                                            Over time, the silk has faded; under-
                                                                                         neath the edge of the flap the original
                                                                                         color of the silk is still visible — a much
                                                                                         darker, richer red tone.
                                                                                            The body of the apron includes a de-
                                                                                         piction of the Second Temple, along
                                                                                         with “D” for King Darius and “Z” for
                                                                                         Zerubbabel. The symbols come from
                                                                                         the story of the rebuilding of the temple,
                                                                                         made difficult by outside forces who
                                                                                         wanted Zerubbabel to fail.
       Masonic Scottish Rite apron for Prince of Jerusalem degree, circa 1830,
                                                                                            Today, the story offers an allegory
          possibly Connecticut. Collection of National Heritage Museum.
                                                                                         about the trials we face when we at-
label attached on the back reading,          the state’s Grand Lodge, and it carries     tempt to build a better life by following
“Miss Rose Lipp Society Regalias             a maker’s label as well as a handwritten    an ethical code and helping others.
Boston, Mass.”                               note with Roosevelt’s signature.               Aprons such as this one will be in-
  Rose Lipp was a dealer and manu-             While photographs of the ceremony         cluded in the museum’s exhibition in
facturer of Masonic regalia working in       exist to assist us in learning about the    order to identify some of the common
Boston at least until the mid-1920s. The     events of that day, the apron adds to       fraternal symbols, drawing non-Ma-
National Heritage Museum has a num-          our knowledge in a way that the pho-        sonic visitors into the rich tradition of
ber of regalia items with her labels.        tographs cannot. All of the photo-          Freemasonry and introducing them to
  Provincetown’s Pilgrim Monument            graphs, at that time, were black and        its philosophy and values.
had its cornerstone laying on August         white.
20, 1907, with a great deal of ceremony        We cannot tell whether the aprons         The Influence and Spread of
and fanfare, including the participation     worn by those pictured had blue trim-       Freemasonry
of the Grand Officers of the Grand           ming or purple, or other colors – and, as     Aprons help to illustrate the influ-
Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.            readers of this publication know all too    ence and spread of Freemasonry, not
  Grand Lodge Proceedings include            well, the different colors convey very      only throughout America, but also
the text of the main address by R.W.         different symbolic meanings.                throughout the world.
William B. Lawrence, which recounts
                                                                                                                             ®

the first time the Mayflower anchored –
not in Plymouth, but in Provincetown
Harbor.
                                                               Masonic apron, circa 1815, possibly New England.

  The ceremonies also included music
                                                       Collection of National Heritage Museum, Gift of Armen Amerigian.

by the “Harvard Quartette.” The Grand
Officers of the Grand Lodge of Massa-
chusetts made the trip to the tip of Cape
Cod by train and arrived one hour late
to find President Roosevelt already
speaking to the crowd.
  This apron, offering insight about
how the Grand Lodge collection was
formed, what types of items were im-
portant, and why certain objects were
presented to the lodge, was probably
given to the Grand Lodge of Massa-
chusetts immediately or shortly after
the ceremony.
  In this case, the apron was prized for
several reasons: it was worn by the U.S.
President at an important ceremony for
a uniquely American monument
presided over by the Grand Officers of

                                                                                                  MAY 2007 / THE NORTHERN LIGHT   5
® A purple, white and gold apron from
the mid-1940s (now in the collection of
the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts) has
an emblem at bottom center showing
the symbol of the District Deputy
Grand Master — a compasses and rule
with a crescent moon in the middle.
   Around the top of the symbol is ap-
plied braid spelling “China.” Indeed,
the apron has a maker’s label under the
flap reading, “Kong Sun General Tailor
and Masonic Regalia Specialist Shang-
hai.”
   The first lodge in China was char-
tered in 1865 in Shanghai by the Grand
Lodge of Massachusetts. By 1920, there
were five lodges in that country.
   After initial success and increasing
membership, World War II brought
dark days to the Chinese lodges. All of
the country’s lodges went into recess
after Pearl Harbor with worse to come.
                                                   Masonic apron owned by Sovereign Grand Commander Walter E. Webber

Lodge properties were seized by the
                                                       (1943-2006), circa 1980-1990, Macoy Publishing and Masonic

Japanese and many Masons were ar-
                                                          Supply Company, Inc., Richmond, Virginia. Collection of

rested, imprisoned or put into intern-
                                                             National Heritage Museum, Gift of Leslie Webber.

ment camps.
   After the war, many of these same        to China to work on bringing the Broth-    apron, that same regalia was supple-
Masons worked to re-establish the fra-      ers back together.                         mented by aprons, and perhaps other
ternity in China and to rebuild the tem-       According to the June 12, 1946, Grand   items, made by Chinese regalia mak-
ples. This apron was worn by District       Lodge of Massachusetts Proceedings,        ers.
Deputy Grand Master Franklin C. Fette,      “new regalia for each of the five [Chi-       In addition, this apron helps illus-
the last District Grand Master of China.    nese] Lodges is now being made in this     trate the resiliency of Freemasonry in
Fette was installed in that position in     country and will be sent forward as        China by showing that there was
Boston in 1946.                             soon as possible with the compliments      enough demand and resources to sup-
   After reviewing the lodge’s records      of the Grand Lodge.”                       port at least one regalia maker so soon
housed in Massachusetts, he returned           Judging by the label sewn to this       after the defeat of the Japanese.

                                                                                       Freemasonry’s Relationship to
                                                                                       American Industry
                                                                                         From the 1700s through the present,
          Masonic District Deputy Grand Master of China apron worn by

                                                                                       Masonic aprons illustrate the rise and
       R.W. Franklin C. Fette, circa 1946, made by Kong Sun, Shanghai, China.

                                                                                       innovations of American manufactur-
              Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.

                                                                                       ing. They employ prevalent decorative
                                                                                       and manufacturing techniques of their
                                                                                       time.
                                                                                         Many late 1700s and early 1800s
                                                                                       aprons were printed using an engraving
                                                                                       plate and then hand-painted to fill in
                                                                                       details.
                                                                                         Other early aprons were painted free-
                                                                                       hand, using published books and
                                                                                       broadsides for inspiration. One popular
                                                                                       design was engraved by Edward Hors-
                                                                                       man around 1815 and was particularly
                                                                                       popular among New England Freema-
                                                                                       sons.
                                                                                         The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts
                                                                                       considered the emblems to be arranged
                                                                                       with “taste and propriety.”
                                                                                         The Van Gorden-Williams Library
                                                                                       and Archives includes many printed
                                                                                       certificates and books with designs that
                                                                                       were also adapted for aprons.

6   THE NORTHERN LIGHT / MAY 2007
                                                                                        Personal Stories
                                                                                            Finally, each apron in the National
                                                                                        Heritage Museum collection was
                                                                                        owned and worn by a specific Mason.
                                                                                        Although we may not always know the
                                                                                        name of that person, sometimes the
                                                                                        apron can suggest information about
                                                                                        where it was made or used, who made
                                                           Masonic apron,

                                                                                        it, and what type of degree or office the
                                                           circa 1836,

                                                                                        owner achieved.
                                                           possibly New

                                                                                            Another featured apron is a more
                                                           England, probably

                                                                                        modern apron and we do know who
                                                           made by Mary

                                                                                        owned it — former Sovereign Grand
                                                           King. Collection

                                                                                        Commander Walter E. Webber (1943-
                                                           of National

                                                                                        2006). The National Heritage Museum
                                                           Heritage

                                                                                        collects and interprets artifacts up to
                                                           Museum.

                                                                                        the present day in order to tell the full
                                                                                        story of Masonic and fraternal organi-
                                                                                        zations in America.
                                                                                            Sovereign Grand Commander Web-
                                                                                        ber ’s apron reflects his status as a
                                                                                        Mason while also offering a way to re-
   The upcoming exhibition will include      aprons — watercolor, theorem painting      member his achievements. Bro. Web-
several examples of aprons with the          and embroidery — were those taught at      ber ’s widow, Leslie, donated three
printed source of their design, illustrat-   female academies in New England and        aprons to the museum that were worn
ing the multitude of such treasures in       the Mid-West.                              at meetings and ceremonials.
the collections of the National Heritage        The National Heritage Museum col-           Not only do these aprons show late
Museum.                                      lection includes several aprons that are   20th and early 21st century style, mate-
   Aprons continued to adapt and             documented as being made by a              rials, symbols and manufacturing tech-
evolve during the late 1800s and into        woman for her Masonic relative.            niques, but they also provide evidence
the 1900s. As the clothing industry             For example, one apron is accompa-      of the present-day Masonic hierarchy
mechanized and standardized sizes            nied by a handwritten card explaining,     and illustrate how Masonic leaders
after the Civil War, aprons followed         “John McFarlane Present from his           emerge, by representing the many of-
suit.                                        Daughter Mary King 1836.” The same         fices and memberships that this Sover-
   Regalia catalogs from the late 1800s      information is also inscribed under the    eign Grand Commander held as he
and early 1900s, including a circa 1915      flap.                                      gained leadership experience.
catalog from The C.E. Ward Company              Some historians have suggested that         Bro. Webber became Master of his
of New London, Ohio, offer a variety of      women viewed Freemasonry in an ad-         blue lodge, Casco Lodge No. 36, in
Masonic aprons.                              versarial way since they were prohib-      Yarmouth, Maine in 1979.
   The C.E. Ward catalog includes plain      ited from membership.                          A year later, he served as District
white cloth and leather aprons, printed         However, aprons like this one, sug-     Deputy Grand Master for the Grand
aprons, aprons bound in silk ribbon,         gest a more balanced view of this his-     Lodge of Maine. In 1987, he received
silk embroidered aprons (including a         tory. Recent studies show that women       the 33°, eventually becoming an Active
hand-embroidered option), and officers       supported Freemasonry’s goals and          Member and Deputy for Maine before
and presentation aprons.                     philosophy.                                assuming the post of Sovereign Grand
   By that point, aprons were selling as        Historian William D. Moore studied      Commander in 2003.
“one size fits all,” a distinct difference   19th-century fundraising fairs held to         This apron undoubtedly reminded
from the early 1800s when many aprons        benefit the construction of Masonic        Grand Commander Webber — as it re-
were custom-made at home for specific        halls and temples, finding that these      minds us — of his early leadership role
Masons.                                      fairs were largely put on by women. He     and the lessons he learned at that time.
   Even today’s aprons continue to in-       explains, “Women not only affected the         “Unlocking the Code: Masonic and
corporate manufacturing advances             fraternity’s functioning, but they were    Fraternal Aprons” will be on view at
such as fabrics that are more stain-re-      also actively committed to its existence   the National Heritage Museum’s Van
sistant and less apt to fade.                and supported its material welfare.”       Gorden-Williams Library from June 30
                                                Moore points out that women partic-     to December 9, 2007.
                                             ipated in the Masonic world because it         In order to protect and preserve the
                                             “taught morality, ethics and charity” —    collection, there will be a rotation of
Women Were and Are Involved

                                             virtues that American women were           aprons on display.
in Freemasonry
  Although only men can join Freema-                                                        For more information about the
                                             charged by society to champion on a
sonry, the wives and daughters of Ma-                                                   National Heritage Museum, its
                                             household level. Masonic aprons made
sons have a long tradition of their own                                                 exhibitions and programs, please call
                                             by women offer additional evidence to
in supporting the membership of their                                                   781-861-6559 or visit our website at
                                             support these ideas.
husbands, fathers and brothers.                                                         nationalheritagemuseum.org.
  The techniques used to decorate early

                                                                                                 MAY 2007 / THE NORTHERN LIGHT   7

								
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