Masonic Aprons

Masonic Aprons

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is a great source of information about masonic aprons. There is a lot of information that can help identify the Masonic apron in the Fredericksburg Area Museum. With this book it is possible to give a more accurate description of when this apron was made. It most likely dates between 1790 to mid-19th century, before designs were standardized. By identifying the meaning of the symbols on this Masonic apron, there can be more incite into the first owner of the apron.

 

 

- Typical symbols of decoration for Freemasons:

ladder

Beehive

Candle Heart

- Masonic aprons – the more decorated the higher up in degree of Masons

- 3 levels of Masonry:

Apprentice

Fellowship

Master Mason

- Symbols that Mason’s would have for ranks:

Master represented by Ionic column

Senior Warden represented by Dorian column

Junior Warden represented by Corinthian column

 

This information was gathered from our tour of the Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia. It is helpful to get some more information about Freemasons, the degree of masons, and the some of the symbols that were important. This can be used to give more information about the Masonic apron’s symbols. This Masonic apron must have been owned by a Master Mason when Washington was initiated in the Fredericksburg Lodge because of the great amount of decoration.

 

- Ancient writings on the walls of temples, in cities, and on papyri can now be read:

- Allows us to better understand the origins of the signs, symbols, and rituals of the Freemasons, which can be traced back to Ancient Egypt – the old Egyptian Cult (p. 6)

- At the principle entrance of the Temples there were always two pillars:

- The Pillar of Set and the Pillar of Horus: represent the two divisions of Heaven, North and South (p. 25-26)

- The two columns stood at the porch entrance – this was the form of every Temple in the world, as was as the form of a Masonic Lodge (p. 25-26)

- The triangle was sacred because it represented Heaven (p. 26)

- The old Brothers of Egypt wore leather aprons and collars – the Freemasons of the present also wear aprons (p. 30)

- The Egyptian apron was shaped like a triangle with strings/ a sash attached to the top (p. 30)

- An example of one Egyptian apron: leather, yellowish white color, gold tassels, emerald in the center (p. 30)

- One of the earliest Ideographs: the two Eyes (p. 33)

- Symbols of the two Pole Stars, North and South (p. 33)

- Originate at the Mount of the Equinox (p. 33)

 

The symbols and their meanings that are described in this book give a more in depth idea of where the symbols of Freemasonry came from. This book also gives more history about the tradition of Freemasons wearing aprons coming from Egypt.

 

 

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT: LOCAL MASONIC LODGE – Masonic Apron

 

Heron, James Henry. A Historical Sketch of the Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4. Fredericksburg, VA: Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, 1932.

 

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War of the Revolution, War of 1812, Civil War (p.

- No listed member, officers, or active Past Masters with the last name “Bridwell” in 1932, when this book was published (p. 31)

 

This source has information on the significance of the Fredericksburg Lodge itself and its history, and shines more light that the oral history of a member of the Bridwell family being present for the initiation of George Washington in the Fredericksburg Lodge and that they wore a specific apron is most likely untrue.

 

 

Bespangled, Painted, & Embroidered: Decorated Masonic Aprons in America, 1790 – 1850. Lexington, Massachusetts: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library Inc., 1980.

 

- “Records of the Lodge at Fredericksburgh, Virginia, for 1754, list ‘drest deer skins bought, a charge for dressing the skins,’ suggesting that the lodge was making aprons locally from available deer hides.” (p. 30)

 

From this book, there is a direct quote of records from the Fredericksburg Lodge about the acquisition of supplies for making aprons in 1754. This relates to the Masonic apron and clarifying its history.

 

 

C.W. Jones. “George Washington Made a Mason at Fredericksburg.” The Free Lance-Star, Feb. 22, 1932, p. 15.

 

- “ ‘The Lodge at Fredericksburg,’ as it was originally designated, now Lodge No. 4, is one of, if not the oldest lodge in Virginia, claiming Masonic authorities from Scotland.”

- “So far as we can learn the early history of this lodge is partially based on tradition, as many of the old records were lost of destroyed.”

- “A copy of the lecture delivered in 1880 before the Lyceum Club of Fredericksburg by Robert Reid Howison, a well known historian of Virginia, mentions this Lodge as being in existence in 1735, supposedly under authority from Scotland direct or through a provisional Grand Master.”

- “There being no Grand Lodge in Virginia until 1778 ‘The Lodge at Fredericksburg’ acted in the capacity of a Grand Lodge and issued dispensations for the institution of other lodges one at Falmouth, Virginia, the other Botetout Lodge is still in existence working now under the Grand Lodge of Virginia as is Lodge No. 4.”

- “The officers of the lodge at the time he received his Master Mason’s degree were:

- Daniel Campbell, Worshipful Master, who was recorded then as Grand Master

- L. Neilson, Senior Warden

- Robert Balkerson, Junior Warden

- Alexander Woodrow, Secretary”

- “George Washington remained a member of Lodge No. 4 until his death, which occurred December 14 1799.”

- “The present lodge room is not the room in which George Washington was made a Mason; the room in which he received his degrees was on the second floor of the old Market House located in what is now the rear of E. Goldsmith building was torn down in 1813. The present Masonic building was erected 1815-16, the exact date not being certain.”

- “All other records from 1771 to 1886 were lost, destroyed or carried away when the lodge room was sacked by Union soldiers (not Masons) during the Civil War, December, 1862. No recorded meetings of the lodge existence from 1882 to June, 1886, are known.”

 

This Free Lance-Star newspaper article gives a lot of information about the Fredericksburg Lodge and information about the Lodge during the time of George Washington’s initiation. This would be very helpful in clarifying the history of the Masonic apron.

 

 

 

RIBBON – Red silk with gold decorations

 

Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons in Virginia. http://www.virginiaroyalarch.org/ (accessed Feb. 10, 2012).  

 

- “Past High Priest” is a term used for the Royal Arch Chapter

- “The presiding body is a Chapter, and the presiding officer is a High Priest (titled Excellent)”

- “This Degree, together with the Master Mason Degree, may have once been exemplified as one large or “super” Degree, with the Master Mason Degree explaining the loss of the Master’s Word and the Royal Arch explaining the recovery of the Master’s Word.”

- Past Master Degree: “This Degree is conferred because ancient custom required that a Mason must be a Past Master in order to be exalted to the Royal Arch. The Degree confers no actual rank upon the recipient, but is exemplified to maintain the ancient custom.”

- 60 different Chapters of the Royal Arch Masons in Virginia

- First Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter – Robert Brough elected on May 4, 1808

- “Robert Brough of Norfolk Chapter, was elected and installed as the First Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons of Virginia.”

- The Royal Arch was first attached the work of the regular Lodge, but “because of the growing numbers of Chapters and the increasing membership, some specific rules and regulations were needed for the internal government of Royal Arch Chapters.”

 

The website of the Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons in Virginia provided information about the fact that the Grand High Priest is a term used for the Royal Arch Chapter, rather than the term Master Mason. This website also lists all of the names of the Grand High Priests since the first one was elected in 1808. This information would be very helpful if there was a possible date on the back of this ribbon. The owner of this ribbon was a part of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons because of the title that is on the ribbon, “Past Grand High Priest.” The term “Grand” was only used for the Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons. The word “Virginia” is also imprinted on the gold decorating this ribbon, so it is from Virginia’s Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons.

 

 

“Masons Celebrate Bicentennial of Washington’s Initiation.” The Free Lance-Star, Nov. 4, 1952, p. 3.

 

- “Edward H. Cann, a past master and present secretary of the Fredericksburg lodge, wore, during today’s ceremonies, a past master’s jeweled pendant which Washington will to one of his nephews.”

 

This article from The Free Lance-Star gives an example of the use of a past master’s jeweled pendant, which could also describe the type of ribbon in the Fredericksburg Area Museum, during a ceremony in 1952.

 

 

Goliath: Business Knowledge on Demand. http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/product-compint-0000606447-page.html (accessed Jan. 28, 2012).

 

- The C.G. Braxmar Co.: this is a private company that specializes in manufacturing jewelry and precious metals. Their headquarters location is now on 11th St., Long Island City, NY.

 

The information about this company is helpful to know because they manufactured this ribbon. There was also very limited information that could be found about this company online, and the email that I had sent was never answered.

 

 

The Public Ceremonies of Freemasonry: of The Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Virginia: The Grand Lodge of Virginia, 2001. (Pamphlet)

 

- “Our members usually wear symbols of their membership and our Lodges are openly marked.”

This statement from a pamphlet by the Virginia Grand Lodge shows that this ribbon was once an important symbol of their membership of Freemasonry.

 

 

Masonic Temple, in Alexandria, Virginia.

 

- Blue Lodge – basic

- Order of the Royal Arch is part of York Rite

- York Rite wasn’t popular yet in Washington’s time

 

This information from our tour of the Masonic Temple in Alexandria, Virginia connects the Royal Arch to George Washington, and how it was not yet popular during his time.

 

 

Callahan, Charles H. Washington: The Man and the Mason. Washington, D.C.: Press of Gibson Bros., Inc., 1913.

 

- Washington was appointed to the position of National Grand Master in 1779 (p. 267)

- Washington was given “ornaments” by the Fraternity to acknowledge him

- From a letter written to Washington by his “brothers” Watson and Cassoul:

- “ ‘It is to you, therefore, the glorious orb of America, we presume to offer Masonic ornaments as an emblem of your virtues.’ ” (p. 277)

- “ ‘In certain locations, to wear a Masonic emblem amounted virtually to social ostracism.’ ” (p. 277)

 

This book gives information that shows that ornaments and decorations were given as a sign of respect and admiration. This ribbon in the Fredericksburg Area Museum was used as a sign of respect when it was worn by a Mason.

 

 

Dumenil, Lynn. Freemasonry and American Culture, 1880 – 1930. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1984.

 

- Hierarchy of Masonry: one advances through three initiatory degrees in the Blue Lodge, which in the basic unity of Masonry

- Blue Lodges in each state were governed by a Grand Lodge (p. 9)

- One branch of Masonry was York Rite, which included Royal Arch Masons, Royal and Select Masons, and Knights Templar (p. 15)

 

This book states how the Royal Arch is situated within Freemasonry and compared with the basic unity of Masonry, the Blue Lodge.

 

 

 

BACKGROUND

 

Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons in Virginia. http://www.virginiaroyalarch.org/ (accessed Feb. 10, 2012).  

 

- “The first documented evidence of the conferring of the Royal Arch Degree to be found in the world is in the minutes of Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 in Fredericksburg, Virginia and bears the date of December 22, 1753.”

 

This information about the very first Royal Arch Degree being connected to the Fredericksburg Lodge on December 22, 1753 is very important related the ribbon in the Fredericksburg Area Museum to the local Lodge.

 

 

C.W. Jones. “George Washington Made a Mason at Fredericksburg.” The Free Lance-Star, Feb. 22, 1932, p. 15.

 

- “An entry on the old records December 22, 1753, of the conferring of the Royal Arch degree by this lodge is the oldest record of this degree being conferred anywhere in the world.”

 

This article from the Free Lance-Star confirms the statement that the Fredericksburg Lodge has the oldest record of the Royal Arch degree being conferred anywhere in the world.

 

 

 

HISTORICAL CONTEXT: LOCAL MASONIC LODGE – History of Lodge

 

“Old Lodge No. 4 is Rich in History.” The Free Lance-Star, Apr. 19, 1939, p. 6.

 

- “It is especially significant that the local lodge should be selected to lay the cornerstone of [Mary Washington] college’s impressive new Washington Hall.”

- “It is perhaps the only lodge in America to produce two Presidents of the United States – Washington and James Monroe.”

 

This article from The Free Lance-Star newspaper gives more details as the why the Fredericksburg Lodge is significant.

 

 

Wrenn, Tony P. “Masonic Lodge has ties to Washington.” The Free Lance-Star. May 8, 1999, p. 13-14.

 

- “Washington never saw this building at 803 Princess Anne St. in Fredericksburg – it was not built until 1816, 17 years after his death.”

- “Construction on the current lodge building was started by the Charity School of Fredericksburg, a school for males, in 1815.”

 

This article from The Free Lance-Star newspaper gives more information about the actual current building of the Fredericksburg Lodge.

 

 

Callahan, Charles H. Washington: The Man and the Mason. Washington, D.C.: Press of Gibson Bros., Inc., 1913.

 

- Thomas Oxnard, who had become the Provincial Grand Master of Massachusetts, issued the warrant constituting Fredericksburg Lodge (p. 253)

- The Lodge where George Washington first initiated, Nov. 4, 1752

- Passed to the degree of Fellowcraft, March 3, 1753

- Raised to degree of Master Mason, Aug. 4, 1753 (p. 253)

- “The records of [Washington’s] mother Lodge, covering a part of the early period of his Masonic life, were lost or destroyed, and as that old institution was one of the first established and among the very few existing in the colony when Washington became a Mason, information relating not only to Washington but to a large number of his fraternal contemporaries, who in after years rose to distinction in both military and civil life.” (p. 265)

 

This book gives general information about the history of the Fredericksburg Lodge and its connection to George Washington.

 

 

 

 

Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge No. 4 AF&AM. http://masoniclodge4.org/

 

- 1752: Past Masters Fredericksburg Lodge listed as “Unknown (Pending)”

(Would have been useful information for who was wearing the Masonic apron at Washington’s initiation into the Fredericksburg Lodge in 1752)

 

 

Goolrick, John T. The Life of General Hugh Mercer. New York & Washington: The Neale Publishing Company, 1906.

 

 

Vaughn, William Preston. The Antimasonic Party in the United States, 1826 – 1843. Kentucky: The University Press of Kentucky, 1983.