Saturday, December 31, 2022

‘Scottish Freemasonry Symposium, Part III’

One of many slides, packed with dazzling facts, on the screen.

I’ll wrap up an enjoyable year with this overdue post on the George Washington Masonic National Memorial’s Scottish Freemasonry in America Symposium (the title seems to vary here and there, so I’m going with what’s on the front cover of the program) eight weeks ago. An enjoyable year mostly because of the more-than-the-usual travel, compensating, I guess, for the period of pandemic lockdown. There was Masonic Week in Virginia in February; Royal Arch Grand Chapter in Utica in March; the Railroad Degree in Delaware in April; Masonic Con in New Hampshire in June; and back to Virginia for this conference on November 5—which happened to have been the twenty-fifth anniversary of my Master Mason Degree. That whole weekend was the perfect way to celebrate the milestone.

This actually is the third in a series of Magpie posts about the events, and there are sidebars also, if you care to scroll through the posts from November. Pardon the poor quality of the photographs. So, here we go.

At the Washington Memorial, introductions, welcomes, and remarks were tendered by Executive Director George Seghers, President Claire Tusch, and Director of Archives and Events Mark Tabbert. The roster of presenters was a balance of Masonic and non-Masonic speakers who gave explanations of how Scots impacted British North America by emigrating to the colonies and bringing their Freemasonry with them. I think it is a neglected subject thanks to our anglocentric understanding of early American history. We think of things “Anglo-American” at the exclusion of the Scottish people, philosophies, religion, and more that also came to the American colonies.

Professor Ned Landsman
Professor Emeritus Ned Landsman, of SUNY-Stony Brook, discussed “Mobility and Stability in Scottish Society and Culture in the Eighteenth Century.” The Scottish influx into North America was not as large as England’s, he explained, mostly because the Scots were as likely to emigrate to Ireland and other destinations, and many who did cross the Atlantic were apt to return home after earning some money. But shifting economic and political fortunes in Scotland prompted enough to make the journey to find work, to trade, and to secure greater freedom. In the eighteenth century, it was Highlanders mostly, representing a “broad segment of intellectual life” (including a number of medical doctors) who established in America societies for sociable, charitable, and convivial pursuits.

Professor Hans Schwartz
Professor Hans Schwartz of Northeastern University in Boston presented “Migration and Scots Freemasonry in America, from the Stamp Act to the Revolution.” Schwartz is a Freemason and, more importantly, he is the liveliest and funniest lecturer I possibly have ever seen. I don’t know his availability to travel to lodges, but if you can book him, you’ll be a hero in your lodge. He explained how Scots lodges in British America were fewer than English lodges, but the Scots were influential beyond their numbers. George Washington’s lodge, Fredericksburg, was a Scottish lodge, as were others in Virginia, such as Port Royal and Blandford. The rolls of their memberships in the 1700s and beyond are filled with Scottish names. In Boston, Lodge of St. Andrew, which met in the Green Dragon Tavern, was the first lodge in British North America chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. In only Fredericksburg and St. Andrew, you have George Washington, Hugh Mercer, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and a host of lesser known revolutionary patriots and local heroes. And there were Scottish lodges on the length of the Atlantic seaboard, even down into the Caribbean.

Bro. Bob Cooper
Bob Cooper was next, but sadly his talk was cut short. We learned later that he was in pain (his bad knee) and had to get off his feet. From what I can recollect about his talk from eight Saturdays ago, he spoke of the importance of there being a Grand Lodge of Scotland after the union of Scottish and English parliaments as Great Britain in 1707, and that the Grand Lodge served as something of an extension of Scottish nationhood, particularly when it issued warrants to lodges in America.

Next up was Jim Ambuske from the Center for Digital History, Washington’s Library, at Mount Vernon, who brought to light an aspect of American Revolution history unknown to most. He explained the War of Independence as a civil war among Scots living in America. Citing a family named McCall as an example, Ambuske explained how Archibald McCall settled in Virginia in the 1750s and became a successful merchant and farmer. Politically, he sometimes sided with Washington and Jefferson, but he also supported the Stamp Act. When the war started, he placed himself on the side of the Loyalists, and so the rebels deemed him a traitor and eventually seized his properties. McCall appears to have been a supporter of Lord Dunmore who, of Scottish heritage, was colonial governor of Virginia and a very active agent of British policy. (When Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death,” he was speaking at Dunmore.) This was bad enough, but it also put him in the uniquely shameful position of asking the Crown for financial relief due to the loss of his wealth and income. As I understand it, he spent the rest of his life trying to square away these financial disasters, but, in death, he was able to bequeath his daughter two plantations.

Bro. Gordon Michie
The fifth speaker was Gordon Michie, another Mason, who spelled out the migration of Freemasonry to the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. I scribbled some notes, but most of what he told us is well known Masonic history so I won’t transcribe it here. I think the important historical information from Michie’s talk comes from Scottish Masonic Records, 1736-1950 by George Draffen, if you can lay hands on it.

And that was it for Saturday. There was a black tie banquet with a whisky tasting later, but I skipped it, preferring to get downtown for a meal and to duck into John Crouch Tobacconist, Alexandria’s oldest cigar and pipe shop, established 1967. I haven’t been there in ages, and somehow it looks like a smaller shop now that all the floor space is cleared of the Scottish souvenirs and tchotchkes. I bought some pipe tobacco: two ounces of Virginia Currency and, keeping with the Scottish theme, two ounces of Hebrides, a Latakia-heavy mixture that I’m smoking right now.

The conference resumed Sunday morning with Heather Calloway, Executive Director of Indiana University’s Center for Fraternal Collections and Research, who spoke on “Aye, Right Beyond the Haggis Dinners, Old Nessie, and Yonder in America.”

Dr. Heather Calloway
Speaking from not only a Masonic perspective, but from a broader American fraternalism outlook, she told of how Scottish culture was filtered into America through certain fraternal orders, like the Benevolent Order of Scottish Clans, the Daughters of Scotia, and others. (Back in the day, there were more than 300 fraternal societies in this country, with aggregate membership of about 6 million, she said.) Heather shared a few anecdotes, including one of a visit to Federal Lodge 1 in the District of Columbia, which invited her to look at some “cool old stuff.” The lodge didn’t know it had one particular item they found in a closet: the Bible used at George Washington’s funeral.

Bro. Ewan Rutherford
And the final presentation brought to the lectern Ewan Rutherford, Deputy Grand Master of the Royal Order of Scotland, who gave a Scottish history of Freemasonry. Beginning in 1475, with the incorporation of masons in Edinburgh, and continuing through more familiar facts about William Schaw, the Mary’s Chapel minute book, and to the Royal Order of Scotland, Rutherford brought the affair to a tidy conclusion, making clear how Scotland has been central to the identity of Freemasonry.

It was a great event that Claire Tusch, the Memorial Association’s President, said he hoped could be the first of more such conferences. And I agree! (Easy for me to say. I don’t have to do any of the work.) But I’ll be back in Alexandria in February for the Memorial’s centennial anniversary celebration. More on that later.

I’m sorry for the lack of content and detail on the presentations, and, as always, any errors or omissions are attributable to me.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2022

‘Joyeux anniversaire, mes frères!’

Click to enlarge.

Just a quick and belated happy anniversary greeting to l’Union Française Lodge 17 on its recent 225th anniversary. I should have attended the gala last week.

RW Bro. Francis shares this proclamation from the Mayor’s Office. (I don’t know what to make of the absence of a mention of Freemasonry.)

Joyeux anniversaire, mes frères!

Wednesday, December 28, 2022

‘Research lodge launches home study course'

In an email sent yesterday, Illinois Lodge of Research revealed its new self-study course for Master Masons. Called simply the Masonic Education Program, it is a three-level progression intended to “assist Master Masons with their search for further Light in Masonry.”

The three parts are:

What Is Freemasonry?

Required reading:
  • The Exemplar
  • A Pilgrim’s Path
  • Freemasons’ Guide and Compendium

Freemasonry Throughout the Ages;
Freemasonry in Illinois

Required reading:
  • The Rise and Progress of Freemasonry in Illinois, 1783-1952
  • The Story of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Illinois: An Afro-American Tradition, 1852-1982
  • The Anti-Masonic Party in the United States, 1826-1843
  • Freemasonry in Black and White

Introduction to Esoteric Masonry

Required reading:
  • Esoterika
  • The Masonic Ladder

The Pine Cone is
the lodge’s symbol.
There is a fourth tier in conclusion. It challenges the newly accepted Masonic Scholar to write a paper to show a philosophical understanding of Freemasonry. In addition to a certificate upon completion, each participant will receive the lodge’s Pine Cone Jewel.

I’m not clear on who is permitted to enroll. I’m assuming it is limited to Illinois Lodge of Research members, but lodge membership is open beyond Illinois.

I wish everybody involved perseverance and success!

Monday, December 26, 2022

‘Reprints of Secret Teachings coming to market’


I hope you are enjoying this unique time with the people and in the traditions that are most important to you.

Speaking of people and traditions, new editions of Manly Palmer Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages are hitting the market courtesy of both the Philosophical Research Society and Taschen. There’s something for everyone.


From the PRS come reprints of the classic hardcover and paperback versions you know well. This is the 1977 Diamond Jubilee edition as reprinted this year. The hardcover is available for $110, and the reduced size paperback is yours for $95.

What’s new—well, not exactly new, but newly made available to us—is A Study Guide to The Secret Teachings of All Ages. $25 per copy.

Originally simple mimeographed pages shared with students at the PRS in Los Angeles, the text now is in book form for your edification as you approach the daunting and dense volume from 1928.

From Taschen comes a Secret Teachings in a lavish format that you would expect from this publisher in a run of 5,000 copies at $500 each. Actually, this isn’t due out until next month, but orders are being taken now. What you get for the money is the hardcover (356 pages) inside a slipcase and with foldout art; a companion book (256 pages); and four prints in a folio.

The companion book contains summaries of the chapters in the main text, plus art you’ve never seen, photos taken by Hall, and essays by Mitch Horowitz and Jessica Hundley. Those four special edition prints are based on art created by J. Augustus Knapp and M.K. Serailian, Hall’s collaborators, and come from the PRS archives. Read all about that here.

Sunday, December 18, 2022

‘Masonic service announcement: Hanukkah edition’

Every year I am tempted to post something like the following, but either something distracts me or I simply forget it, but the repetition of this photo, in Happy Hanukkah greetings, on social media tonight reminds me anew:

This is the perfect photo not to use in Hanukkah greetings. This is a panel on the Arch of Titus in Rome, erected after Emperor Titus’ death in 81, commemorating his defeat of the Jewish people in Jerusalem. The art depicts the looting of the Jewish Temple, not a Jewish celebration of any kind. I saw this several times on social media today, posted by at least one person who ought to have known better.

So, as a Masonic Service Announcement, I give you The Magpie Mason Hanukkah Style Guide. It’s a tricky subject. Believe me, there are plenty of Jews who don’t know some of what I’m explaining here. And let me say it is very greatly appreciated to be remembered on our holidays by our Masonic brethren of other faiths.

Close, but not quite there.
But it’s the thought that counts!

Freemasons exhibiting knowledge of, and respect for, each other’s religious traditions is as old as our form of Freemasonry itself. The inspiration for that originates in Anderson’s Constitutions for the first English grand lodge, a document that will reach its 300th anniversary in the New Year.

I’ll keep it short.


I believe standard contemporary American English has it Hanukkah. There is nothing incorrect about Chanukah, but I’d say that today that is an alternative spelling, one that seems to invite a stab at an ethnic pronunciation. Don’t trouble yourselves. And there are additional spellings, but rest easy and stick with Hanukkah.

The Menorah

Trust me on this. I was made a Mason (twenty-five years ago!) in a lodge named Menorah.

There are two styles of menorah: one of seven branches, and the other of nine. For Hanukkah, you want the whole nine. To wit:

The seven-branch candelabra, you Royal Arch Masons may be pleased to know, was constructed by Moses per specs from God, and this was the menorah (the word means “lamp”) that was lit in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.

Judaism’s Hanukkah story tells of a tiny quantity of oil burning for eight days, so the correct candelabra for this holiday has eight tapers, plus a “helper” in the center from which the others are lighted.


You knew Jason wouldn’t let us down.

Religious life is organized on a lunar calendar, so it may be that Hanukkah approximates Christmas each year, but you won’t find it on the same dates in our secular Gregorian calendar. In my experience, this isn’t much of an issue in Freemasonry, but if your lodge or other group thoughtfully displays a menorah amid a nice Yuletide display (I hope you’re not surrendering to a generic “winter holiday” banality), then please refrain from lighting the menorah until the first night of the celebration. This year, that arrived tonight, but next year, look for December 7. And that’s at sundown (again, lunar calendar).

I hope this helps.

‘Azim elections and a month of Grotto goodness’


UPDATE: Azim will initiate new Prophets on Saturday, March 25 in the Jacobean Room. No hour announced yet, but last time we kind of got started at around noon.

With my schedule last weekend (see post below), I regretfully had to miss Azim’s elections and installation of officers, which the prophets held on City Island, which, I think, is upstate somewhere. Our leaders (Brethren, let us pray, etc.) as we enter our 130th year are:

Monarch Eric Z.
Chief Justice Brian D.
Venerable Prophet Joe M.
Treasurer Victor(!)
Secretary William N.

Congratulations, everybody! The photos are on the Faceypage.

In other news, National Grotto Day is no more. It’s now International Grotto Month! The graphic above explains it all. I’ll let you know when Azim sets a date.

Monday, December 12, 2022

‘A busy weekend!’


Wow! That was one busy weekend!

Actually, I guess it was only the twenty-six or so hours between Friday and Saturday nights, but there were three meetings packed in there.

Scott Council 1 of New Jersey’s Cryptic Rite hosted its Annual Assembly Friday. Not just elections and installation of officers, but a palpable “do or die” night. The grand master wanted to see the officers were proficient in the Opening, Closing, and the NPD form of balloting. Hardly unreasonable, but the atmospheric tension changed a deservedly festive evening into something ruinously uncomfortable.

Had this been my first meeting in Freemasonry, I wouldn’t be back for another. It was like Dean Wormer at Delta House cashing in the Double-Secret Probation. Except we knew it was coming.

The grand master has had the goal of reducing the Grand Council from ten subordinate councils to four. I don’t believe he was elected for that purpose. I’m not aware that he made this a campaign promise. I do know this goal has not been revealed to the membership at large, but only to the hundred or so guys who keep everything afloat statewide. Basically, if you didn’t attend Grand Council’s Annual Assembly in March, and if you’re not among the few who heed the Silver Trumpet, as it were, in your local council, then I doubt you’d have firsthand knowledge of the plans to reorganize the Cryptic Rite in New Jersey thusly.

On our end at Scott Council, we were presented a Hobson’s choice: We would merge with a council twenty-two miles away in an arrangement that would rob us of meeting place, meeting schedule, our money (I suspect that was key in all this), and our name.

The upside? I don’t know. Gaining the wisdom that comes from being burned?

The plan was written in ink before we knew what was happening. No negotiation. No common ground. Just a “join or die” sales pitch that would have created a new council to be another division in the Atlas-Pythagoras Corporation. A perfect deal for them, but we weren’t getting anything out of it—and did I mention we never asked for any of this, that eliminating Scott Council would have doomed Scott Chapter, the Royal Arch chapter with whom we’ve been conjoined since 1860?

I could go on and itemize the various nefarious components of that entire process, but I’m determined to remain positive.

In truth, Scott Council did have one option: to vote down the obnoxious merger scheme, and that’s what we did, to persevere into the future, which is what we’re doing.

Congratulations to T.I.M. Frank, for steering us into the safe harbor of the end of the year, and to new T.I.M. Rob for organizing the team that will see us through the ensuing Anno Depositionis. Everyone did a strong enough job with the ritual to stave off the all-but-threatened arrest of our warrant (ergo the uneasiness in the room), and we’ll have to improve on everything moving forward.

I felt much better the next morning, even though I had to trek all the way back to the same place where my council met twelve hours earlier. It was time for the Biannual Meeting of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786! Elections/installation, etc.

Josh Barnett photo

Cheers to Worshipful Master Marty, who led us through a time blemished by the pandemic; to Matt, who served in the South, but now must take leave for personal reasons; and to Mike, who helmed the secretary’s desk. Our new Master is Craig, who was installed by Grand Master David Tucker, himself a Past Master of our research lodge.

Upon receiving the gavel of authority, Craig installed his own officers, something I haven’t seen done since Marco’s day.

Exhibiting the wisdom of Solomon, Craig is letting his veterans do their thing. Matt has planned our visit to Princeton Lodge 38 for January 23, where he and Howard and Scott will show our hosts what a research lodge is all about. I am working on another visit for February, which I’ll tell you all about if it comes together. And I’m arranging an utterly mind-roasting day of Masonic culture for June. Bob is expanding on his John Skene Day for August. Don remains in the West, where he schedules the presenters at our Regular Communications. It’s going to be a great year.

While most present in the room had to race to other installations around the state, about a dozen of us adjourned to the steakhouse around the corner for one hell of a hearty meal.

“May I have a Guinness?” I said at the drinks order. “Small or large?” the young waiter countered. Accustomed to the universal measurement of the pint, I was vexed. “Large, please,” said I, like a confident blackjack player. It took almost thirty minutes, but the kid lurches toward me heaving a glass grail containing what must have been forty or more ounces of the malty medicant. Everyone looked at me like an intervention might be forthcoming.

I was careful to match it with a lot of food, and I downed every drop in an hour. It made no effect on my sobriety; I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. No, it must have been good because we were back in the car and Byron navigated us to Don Francisco Cigars, a smoking oasis apparently very popular with local Masons.

Seated in the back were half a dozen hailing from the several lodges in the area. I enjoyed an El Rey del Mundo (that’s the Honduran El Rey) Robusto Larga—the first time I’ve smoked one of those since I worked for Lew Rothman fifteen years ago. It was great. A little on the dry side, but still a pleasure. They could use ventilation in that place.

After a few hours it was back on the road because my AMD council was holding—that’s right—its installation of officers. I was still stuffed from the steakhouse so I skipped dinner, but Chef Andy served a three-course meal of soup, kielbasa with kraut, and a baked ham the size of a Buick small block. I had fun watching everyone eat while I scrolled through the research lodge installation photos on Facebook.

With both our master and our secretary out sick, Bill saved the night by having printed copies of the ritual in hand. (Come to think of it, he handled our council installation the night before.) There were about twelve of us for the meeting, of whom almost everyone had to exit for the qualification, but it went without a glitch and V. Bro. Nick is the new Master of J. William Gronning Council 83. Huzzah!

I’m done and extremely ready for bed. After driving about 250 miles in the past day, I’m less than three miles from home when I pass some local cop eying the traffic for whoever he can nab. He likes me, naturally. Pulls me over with his George Lucas light show and, with the face of a fifteen-year-old, informs me the light at my rear license plate is out.

I didn’t even know I had a license plate light, so I said to him “I didn’t even know I had a license plate light.”

“Pretty reasonable, if you think about it,” I helpfully added, “because it doesn’t work.” With too much passion in his voice, he also said he thought my car registration had expired. “No sir,” I said, producing the document as a card sharp might flip over the ace of spades to cinch the blackjack hand. He let me go “with a warning.” Twerp.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

‘Ashlar symbolism at research society’

Dan Hrinko
Maryland Masonic Research Society has a great meeting planned for Saturday. Author Dan Hrinko will be the speaker, and if you can’t attend, you can watch it online. From the publicity:

Maryland Masonic
Research Society
Saturday, December 10
Lunch at noon, meeting at one
Dan Hrinko on “The Symbolism
Associated with the Rough
and Perfect Ashlars”
Freedom Lodge 112
2253 Liberty Road
Eldersburg, Maryland
RSVP here

The presentation will be a variation of a program he gave at Lodge Vitruvian in Indianapolis, which subsequently was developed into an article for The Journal of the Masonic Society.

Dan Hrinko was made a Mason in 1977 in Clark Lodge 101 in Ohio. He penned The Craft Driven Lodge, a book on the process of forming Arts & Sciences Lodge 792 as it grew from the Goose and Gridiron Social Club to become the thriving lodge it is today.

I’ve heard Dan speak several times, including in Arts & Sciences Lodge, and I can promise you an informative and engaging talk that makes the meaning of Masonry manifest. Don’t miss it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

‘The Plumb of Beauty ornament’


I admit to not buying a holiday ornament every year (I don’t need no more Eastern Star paraphernalia!), but I definitely will snag this year’s.

Being in the South of The ALR, the Plumb is my jewel of office, and for 2022, Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22 offers the Plumb of Beauty Holiday Ornament.

Order it online or buy one in the gift shop at the Washington Memorial. The price is still twenty-five bucks. Hasn’t gone up in years.

Click here.

I don’t even have a tree. Sometimes I just wear them on a garish gold chain around my neck.

Sunday, December 4, 2022

‘Reclaiming a Revolutionary Brother’s reputation’

Thursday, at last, was the long-awaited joint meeting of West Point Lodge 877 and The American Lodge of Research. The former, naturally, is a historic Masonic lodge, and the latter, of course, a lodge that studies Masonic history.

The two also have an ethereal link that occurs to me. West Point was set to labor Under Dispensation by Grand Lodge in 1909, and that was the year when the first rumblings (or at least the first I can pinpoint) of establishing a lodge of Masonic research and education were heard. It took only 113 years for the two to get together.

And it was worth the wait. We enjoyed two presentations. First, Worshipful Master Conor of The ALR did what he does best and treated us to biography-history of one of his ancestor lodge brothers. William Malcom (1745-91) was a Scots-born hero of the American Revolution who held memberships in a few lodges and was Master of St. John’s Lodge 2 (now No. 1) in New York in 1783.

In “The Misunderstood Mr. Malcom,” Conor aims to “do a solid” for the under appreciated warrior, business success, and Freemason by explaining how he came to be shunted unjustly by historians. That reasoning is two-fold, being based on a pair of letters that, interpreted outside context, could cleave Malcom from the pantheon of Revolutionary immortals despite his distinguished service among them. Conor’s paper corrects the record.

This paper will appear in our upcoming book of transactions (I’m working on it!), which will go to our members in early ’23.

W. Conor commissioned a portrait of Malcom from Bro. Travis Simpkins, who obliged with his usual excellence. The art, duly matted and framed, was presented to West Point Lodge where it hopefully will join the impressive menagerie of historical items displayed about the lodge building.

Here, I’ll just sketch the highlights of this presentation. Malcom, even setting aside his military career, was a very interesting man who accomplished much before his death at age forty-six. He emigrated to British North America, arriving in New York at eighteen. His father was a baron in the old country, so Malcom was no hungry urchin seeking any employment upon arrival. He became an importer/exporter headquartered on what we today know as Pearl Street, and he ingratiated himself into New York society quickly. This included membership in Union Lodge, where he served as Worshipful Master in 1767 (if I got that right). That is a significant date in New York Masonic history, being the year when the Rite of Perfection’s Lodge of Perfection was established at Albany. And Malcom, Conor explains, had business connections who were central to that group.

Malcom had other impressive networks. By marriage, he was related to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. (I think it’s largely true that in early America people of a certain strata knew each other, if they weren’t actually related. It was a small place of few people.)

Malcom’s politics when Revolution erupted placed him squarely among the Patriots, but New York was not a safe place to be a Patriot. As a member of St. John’s 2, he was among neutral and Loyalist lodge brethren, and, as an importer/exporter, he surely was at some risk, especially when the British invaded and seized the city in 1776.

During the war, Malcom held high rank, spent his own money to equip his unprepared troops, organized a network of spies, and was in proximity to two officers who would proceed to ignominy: Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr. In the former’s case, Malcom was sent to West Point to complete construction of fortifications that went neglected by Arnold, who at that time was plotting to hand over the fort to the British. I don’t think it is known whether Malcom was suspicious of Arnold, but he didn’t fail to see something there was not right. And Burr? He was Malcom’s second in command for a time, an eventuality that would factor into one of the aforementioned letters that diminish Malcom’s war service.

But back to Freemasonry: While Malcom was stationed at West Point, St. John’s Lodge 2 happened to have been nearby in Fishkill. Seventy-eight American soldiers, if I remember correctly, signed the lodge’s book of bylaws at that time. The end of the war and the formation of the Grand Lodge of New York were somewhat concurrent. While we may assign a date for the end of British military activity in New York at Evacuation Day (November 25, 1783), the organization of amorphous Freemasonry into what we today understand as a grand lodge remains hard to explain, as far as I’m concerned.

Sir John Johnson was, nominally at least, the Provincial Grand Master in New York, but his side lost the war and he skedaddled to Canada. Malcom was named to the committee that would form our Grand Lodge of New York.

Malcom remained engaged in the military after the war, being appointed to head the militia in points around New York City. He was elected to political office, a natural fit for many heroes of the Revolution, and he was welcomed into the Society of the Cincinnati in New Jersey, despite not having resided there. (He did serve in the battles at Trenton and Princeton.) As head of the militia, he commanded the military escort of George Washington to his first presidential inauguration at Wall Street in 1789. His funeral in 1791 was accompanied by military and Masonic honors.

About those two letters: A 1778 communiqué from Washington, in reply to a note from Malcom, states the commanding general was displeased at that time with Malcom and would not stop him from exiting the service if he desired to leave. Not a good look for a notable officer in wartime. The other letter is from 1814 and was sent by Malcom to the New York legislature lobbying for financial compensation for Aaron Burr. Burr, of course, had killed Hamilton in their duel a decade earlier, so, again, not a good look.

Worshipful Master Tom Horn, right, accepts the Malcom
portrait from W. Bro. Conor of The ALR.

The next presentation to the two lodges was delivered by Bro. Bob McLoughlin, who told us about “Free and Accepted Masons, Family Legacies, and the Hudson Valley.” Unfortunately, the hour was late and Bob had to zip through what appeared to be a detailed tour of the local area with many stops where Masons through history left their marks by building infrastructure, much of which remains in use.

The gist of his talk, I’ll say, was graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, a significant number of whom were initiated into our fraternity in this lodge (did I mention West Point is, figuratively speaking, a grenade’s throw from the lodge?), took their engineering knowhow around the world. Literally. From the campus of the Academy to Central Park (pre-Olmsted) to the Canal Zone and points everywhere, they brought forth order from chaos.

I’m sorry to shortchange his compelling research, but it passed by my eyes and ears quickly and, not being versed in the subject myself, it all was a blur. My notes aren’t that helpful. I think Bob said this talk can be found on Craftsmen Online, but I’m not seeing it and can’t provide the link.

This World War II era poster was added recently to the lodge’s decor by a Past Master who acquired it through an auction. By weird coincidence, the December trestleboard message from the Master of New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 focuses directly on the Masonic War Chest and includes an image of the poster.

As always, any errors or omissions in the above are attributable to me and not to the speakers.

In lodge business, The ALR elected three to Active Membership, including Bro. Erich, who we at New Jersey’s research lodge have shanghaied into the secretary’s chair. (Or at least we will at our installation this Saturday.) (Don’t tell him.) And we had an introductory reading of several much needed bylaws amendments that will be brought to a vote at our next meeting on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 in our home—the Colonial Room of Masonic Hall. See you there.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

‘Perfect Square to host Doneraile Court author’

Okay, I’m late with coverage of the Scottish Masonry conference in Virginia from early November, but it’s coming. In the meantime, let me promote this speaking event. Kathleen Aldworth Foster, author of the novel Doneraile Court (told you about it some time ago), is on the Masonic speaking circuit.

She’ll appear December 14 at Perfect Square Lodge 204 at Masonic Hall, after the lodge meeting. I think this has all the details:

Click to enlarge.

Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall. If you want to attend the lodge meeting, bring your Masonic ID, etc. and be in the Colonial Room at seven.

Also, she will appear at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Masonic Temple in Philly on Saturday, December 17 in the Masonic Library and Museum Speaker Series, which will be streamed also. (And we at New Jersey’s research lodge are hoping to book her for a date in 2023. Her talk concerns the process of researching and writing her novel, after all.)