ISSUE 22, July 2007
Quarterly Communication: Speech of the Grand Master : Address of the Pro Grand Master : Report of the Board of General Purposes
Historic: Architect to a King
Young Masons: Value of a warm welcome
Faith and Freemasonry: The twin supports
Supreme Grand Chapter: Speech of the Pro 1st Grand Principal and Report of the Committee of General Purposes
The Grand Secretary: Notes
   Travel: In the footsteps of the pharaohs
Inventor: Voice of the people
Human Rights Court Judgement: Landmark victory for Masons
International Conference: Masonic history unveiled
The Grand Chancellor: Special overseas role
Specialist Lodge: Prior Rahere and his legacy
Public Service: Serving the famous
Education: Events : Importance of the cable tow
Lbrary & Museum: Fraternal art
Masonic Charities: RMTGB : Grand Charity : RMBI : NMSF
Letters, Book reviews, Gardening

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© The Library & Museum of Freemasonry

Clockwise from top left

Two walking sticks, one with a secret Masonic message, the other decorated with Masonic symbols in fine pokerwork and carving.

A nautilus shell, with a stand made from another nautilus shell, engraved with Masonic and royalist emblems.

A horn cup with a silver rim showing Chartist symbols engraved on one side and Masonic symbols on the other.

Carved coconut incorporating Masonic symbolism.

A naďve, painted apron, depicting Adam and Eve.

A horn cup with silver rim, engraved with Masonic symbols and rhyme.

An engraved cow’s horn showing a ship and a parade of kangaroos and ostriches around the top.
    In homes, sale rooms, antique shops and Lodge rooms, objects were bought and made by Masons and members of other fraternities. These are the mass of men who lived, contributed to their communities and Freemasonry, but are remembered only by their families and, sadly, in some cases there is no family remaining.
    The objects they chose to buy, make or decorate give us some indication of their tastes and character and a glimpse into their unwritten lives. The summer show at Freemasons’ Hall – Tokens of Unwritten Lives – the Folk and Popular Art of Fraternity – showcases these items: often of low monetary value, but invaluable in historic terms.
    In private life, simple engraving on horn beakers, coconut shells and ivory allowed members to document their lives, never imagining they would be preserved 200 years later as a valuable record of who they were.
    A horn cup shows its owner to have been a member of the Chartists, radical campaigners for parliamentary reform, as well as a Mason.
    An engraved horn has a humorous procession of kangaroos and pack animals on an expedition, while another object contrasts peaceful Freemasonry with the belligerent army. Vesta cases for sulphur matches are another commonplace for decoration with symbolism and names combined.
    Folk Art demonstrates levels of skill that vary widely as do the techniques.
    Coach painters were employed to make coats of arms such as the wonderful example of the Ancients. Before photography, the same painters would set themselves up as portrait painters and capture the members in their regalia.
    Poker work, where a heated piece of metal is used to mark an object, is often found as it is relatively easy to do. Simple scratched engraving appears on many objects, with even shepherds’ crooks being marked and personalised by the owners. Cheap materials can be used to great effect by more skilled hands, with tracing boards made from straw chips to simulate more expensive marquetry.
    Sometimes Masonic humour is incorporated as in a ‘two-ball cane’.
    Early regalia was often hand-made, especially in friendly societies, and some examples will be on show, including a spectacular Forester outfit worn for 50 years at processions until the owner’s death in 1919. In this age of mass production and standardization, they are a reminder of a simpler time.
    With industrialisation and mass production, came the advent of Popular Art, items made and designed for people to buy and decorate both home and Lodge room.
    Here, too, the objects are a clue to the taste and wealth (or lack of it) of members.
    Where the prosperous bought silver and fine porcelain, the less well-off relied on transfer printed ceramics.
    Many variations on lustreware are known, bearing doggerel verses and images of Solomon’s Temple. The patterns on the more expensive items migrated to these, and preserved designs from the 1700s well into the Victorian era, long after the ‘fashionable’ had rejected them.
    The Victorian home was (in)famous for clutter and ornamentation. Fraternally decorated items include tablecloths, bedspreads, smoking caps and trivets for the fire. Even household objects like rolling pins, cream skimmers and bed-warming pans bear the marks of fraternal ownership.
    Membership certificates, icons of popular art, were first made available through the skills of copper-plate engravers to be handcoloured, such as those produced by Cole for the Freemasons.
    Certificates of fraternal, trade and benefit societies, were designed by artists such as Walter Crane. With the introduction of colour litho that maintained many traditional elements, but enabled larger sizes to be produced, they became large and bright for hanging in the parlour of members’ homes, a connecting link with others in the fraternity.
    An object of pride in the household, while technically banned from display in Freemasonry, these certificates were displayed in frames, sometimes ornately produced commercially or hand carved by the owner.
    In Lodges, the use of appropriate materials is also common. St George’s Lodge, failing to find a ready supply of dragon skin, substituted crocodile for the binding of their Lodge photo album.
    The lodge chairs of Argonaut Lodge were created by Putney Bridge Lodge from the oak piles of old Putney Bridge. In working tools, the ashlars are a chance to make connections with history, examples of which exist made from the tomb of Cecil Rhodes, carved from the base of Cleopatra’s Needle or the ruined columns of an abbey.
    Nor is this just a UK phenomenon. In the USA particularly, the very visible presence of fraternal organisations has led to a wealth of objects being produced for them from car number plates and copper lanterns to Masonic Christmas decorations and snow globes.

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