Sunday, April 30, 2023

‘Peninsula’s 20th anniversary’

Magpie file photo

I close the Magpie month of April with happy anniversary wishes to my old lodge, Peninsula 99 over in New Jersey. It was on this date in 2003 when the “grand lodge of New Jersey” issued a warrant to the last of its remaining lodges in the City of Bayonne.

Peninsula was an amalgamation of Bayonne 99 and Menorah 249 (where I had been at labor). Masonic lodges have been active in the city, if I recall correctly, since 1857.

I had the tough job of presiding in the East in 2005. Didn’t have to be difficult. I could have upheld the practice of initiating every vaguely curious man who could fog a mirror and pay a nominal fee, but I recognized the futility of that, and tried to practice what the EA Charge said about considering prospective members. (I was NorthStar ages before the program.)

It didn’t go over well.

But, on the plus side, the “district deputy grand master” threatening me with eviction from the Solomonic Chair led to my induction into the Knights of the North, that unsung think tank that did so much to clear the head of this fraternity. And then KOTN became the Masonic Society, and the rest is Masonic history.

(True story: On the night my successor was installed, the “ddgm” was to present me some kind of certificate of congratulations from the “grand lodge.” Well, he did that, but as he and I stood before a large audience of Masons and families and friends, and as he explained to the crowd what the award was about, he crushed the bottom left quarter of the diploma so it would be crumpled if I framed it. I guess so I’d have something to remember him by. I don’t remember his name, and I didn’t keep the certificate.)

Magpie file photo
Great building. Dedicated in, I think, 1925, with thousands of Masons in procession, it stands prominently in the neighborhood.

Anyway, happy twentieth anniversary to Mighty Peninsula 99! I hope I made a positive contribution. (Something more than the “Mighty” nickname.)

‘Grand Lodge facts and figures’


The big day is tomorrow! On Monday at 9 a.m., the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York will assemble and open its 241st Annual Communication in Masonic Hall in Manhattan with Grand Master Richard J. Kessler presiding. Sorry to say I cannot attend, but someday I’ll be available on a weekday for these things.

I’ve been perusing reports and other documents that are circulated in preparation for the two-day meeting, and there are a few interesting points to share.

Total members as of January 1: 26,383

Number of lodges: 438

Number of research lodges: 4

That’s The American Lodge of Research, Infinity Lodge of Research, Justice Robert H. Jackson Lodge of Research, and Western Lodge of Research. Esoteric Lodge of Research UD is listed as dormant. (I don’t know what or where that was.) Speaking of The ALR, Worshipful Master Conor has his report to Grand Lodge included among all these documents.

In the history department, Grand Historian Gary Heinmiller says: “We have gone from zero lodges reporting lodge Historians appointed to now over 140. This will increase each year until each lodge has appointed an active Historian.” I didn’t know this was a thing until reading Gary’s report, but I did notice long ago that lodges here didn’t have Historians. As soon as I read this report (he and I go back about twenty years via the Masonic Light group), I emailed my lodge’s incoming Master to volunteer to serve as Historian for the ensuing year. Yeah, sure, he said. So make that 141 lodges.

(Click here for How to Serve as Lodge Historian.)

History is one of my favorite fields in Masonic doings, and effective, professional communication is another. There are a number of initiatives coming soon that will help Masons exchange ideas among themselves, and put forth information to the world outside.

You know about craftsmenonline, and in the works is a website for Masonic education named Hiram.

Something else I haven’t heard of previously is the job of District Public Relations Officer. Or maybe I was informed, but I forgot. Anyway, I’m on a Communications Subcommittee, and I’m writing a “how to” manual for publicizing Masonic activities. (I’m from Publicity Lodge, after all.) I don’t think there’s much those of us in Manhattan can do, but lodges in the smaller cities, the suburbs, and rural areas have local media they can leverage. You just have to know how to help them help you. I doubt I’ll finish this booklet before summer, but it’ll be useful.

The Communications Committee has four subgroups, according to the White Book. I really feel like I ought to be more aware of these things, but maybe I need to see it in print for it to sink in. Anyway, there are Social Media, Publications, Press Releases, and Speakers Bureau working groups.

Also coming our way is Our Quarry, described by Deputy Grand Master Steven Rubin as “a digital magazine, published by region, celebrating and promoting the programs, news, and events from around our Grand Jurisdiction.”

Looking abroad, there are some noteworthy happenings in Europe. Last year, a New York delegation visited Finland to join the centennial celebration of Suomi Lodge 1. It was New York Grand Master Arthur Tompkins who set the lodge to labor in 1922 and led a degree team to make twenty-seven men Master Masons, including Jean Sibelius. The centenary of the Grand Lodge of Finland comes next year, and the partying will continue. (Take a minute and google “Finnish jokes.”)

Meanwhile in Romania, they must think they’re French or something because a rebellious faction tried to dismiss the Grand Master, alleging corruption; the National Grand Lodge expelled the rebels; then everybody went to court. I don’t know where it all stands at this moment, but I have canceled my vacation plans. (No matter. They say Sammy’s Steakhouse, the deeply missed old school Roumanian place, will reopen soon on Orchard.)

There are tons more reports, statistics, speeches, and the like. Be sure to read the book of proceedings when it comes out.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

‘A new look for Masonic Hall’


Masonic Hall has been behind scaffolding for so long—I really don’t recall how many years (six?)—that some of us may have forgotten what it looks like!

Bro. John Wayne quotation.

These scaffolding companies that blight the city leave their property on work sites long after the labors are completed because, basically, it’s just cheaper and easier to leave them, rather than deconstruct, truck off, stow away, and relocate & reassemble when needed next. There’s really nothing you can do about it.

Bro. Theodore Roosevelt quotation.

But it’s finally gone, and the coolest building straddling the Flatiron and Chelsea neighborhoods is unobstructed. To celebrate the return to normalcy, the Masonic Hall Trustees, acting through board member RW Michael Siegel and Ms. Nikole Kniesel, Director of Marketing and Special Events at Masonic Care-New Rochelle, have given the facade a new look. And in time for Grand Lodge’s 241st Annual Communication Monday too.

Grand Master Richard J. Kessler quotation.

Photos courtesy RW George Filippidis, Trustee.

Bro. Ray Robinson quotation.

Friday, April 28, 2023

‘For your Brotherly Love’


For Your Love
, Bro. Francis Dumaurier’s biography of Bro. Giorgio Gomelsky, has been available in digital format for more than a year, but the high quality print versions are coming to market now. In fact, on Sunday, Dumaurier will launch his book in London with a celebration at the historic Crawdaddy Club, where the Rolling Stones got their start and the Yardbirds later served as the house band. (A New York City book launch is coming in June.)

Giorgio Gomelsky (1934-2016) was the impresario and record producer who figured significantly in the Swinging Sixties without himself becoming a household name. I mean he was a name in my household—or at least in my bedroom where my record collection was—but I don’t think he ascended into the stratosphere like Brian Epstein, George Martin, Andrew Oldham, et al.

But, did you know it was Gomelsky who introduced the Beatles to the Stones? Sure, they would have met eventually, but that encounter was sixty years ago last Friday at the Crawdaddy Club. Later in 1963, the Stones would have their first hit single with “I Wanna Be Your Man,” penned pretty much for them by Lennon and McCartney.

Born in Soviet Georgia and died in New York City, Gomelsky’s story has ups and downs, all of which are pretty amazing. He was at Masonic labor in l’Union Française 17 in the Tenth Manhattan District, as is Bro. Francis.

Francis Dumaurier

Tickets to the event Sunday can be had here. There will be a book-signing, live music, and more.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

‘Washington inauguration on Sunday’


Have any plans for Sunday afternoon? The corrupt and deranged “president” of the United States just mumbled his plan to seek re-election, so treat yourself to a balm for the spirits by coming to Masonic Hall for a celebration of the greatest President in a family-friendly event that honors U.S. history, Manhattan history, and Masonic history all at once.

Sunday will be the 234th anniversary of George Washington’s first inauguration as President of the United States, which took place downtown on Wall Street at what we today call Federal Hall. The President-elect (not a member of any political party, by the way), placed his right hand on the altar bible (a KJV) of St. John’s Lodge, and was sworn by Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, our Grand Master. Feel free to read more about that here.

Anyway, on Sunday at noon, New York Freemasonry’s George Washington Inaugural Re-Enactment Committee will host its annual tribute to the world-changing event by, well, re-enacting it. Federal Hall is closed on Sundays, so the brethren will get together in Masonic Hall, appropriately, in the Colonial Room on 10.

MW Richard J. Kessler, Grand Master, will be there with an entourage of Grand Lodge officers. The Sons of the Revolution of New York and the Knickerbocker Greys will serve as Color Guard. Family and friends of Freemasonry are welcome, and refreshments will be served afterward. Photo ID is required to enter Masonic Hall.

Make it a family day in the city. Just wear your kevlar, keep your heads down, and run like hell. After the re-enactment, head down to Film Forum to see Bro. Harold Lloyd in his brilliant comedy Hot Water.

Monday, April 24, 2023

‘Lodge of Military History and Holocaust Studies’


Among the dynamics in English Freemasonry is the repurposing of lodges considered at risk of surrendering their warrants. One such lodge revivified is Stebonheath 5521 in London.

Warranted on December 5, 1934, and set to labor at Royal Adelaide Gallery Restaurant in the Strand, its founding was sponsored by Merchant Navy Lodge 781. Stebonheath relocated around London several times until settling at the Central London Masonic Centre (now closed) about a decade ago. I don’t know anything about its ups and downs since then, or during these past nine decades, but word has been getting into social media lately about its current ambitions, namely to become a lodge focused on historic studies. Here is a concise message from Bro. Vern yesterday:

It’s been a long time in the making, but the first real meeting of the Lodge of Military History and Holocaust Studies is here—complete with the installation of the first Worshipful Master, special lecture, and dining at the Connaught Rooms. Spaces will be limited, so don’t miss out.

I pitched a question to see if this will be considered a research lodge, and I’ll update this if I receive a response. In the meantime, best wishes to the brethren behind this. Oh, and feel free to follow them on the Twitter here.

Sunday, April 23, 2023

‘The Henry Price is right’


Pleasant news from within the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, where approval recently was granted for a name change of a Boston lodge. What had been Consolidated Lodge (they do not employ lodge numbers up there in the Commonwealth) until a month or so ago is now The Henry Price Lodge.

I’m a proponent of changing lodge names when one more descriptive and relevant is conceived. I’m guessing the name Consolidated Lodge was, at its invention in 2004, kind of a punt, something everyone in the amalgamation of several lodges could tolerate so they could focus on the other important details of merging. We had a Consolidated Lodge 31, representing a scrum of previous lodges, here in New York City. About a year ago, it changed its handle to the very apt Manhattan 31, a name resurrected from the lodge’s past.

Henry Price
Boston’s Consolidated Lodge was born as a mix of Price-Benton Lodge and Germania-Revere Lodge, themselves, seemingly, earlier mergers. You see “Price” in there; the first Henry Price Lodge received its Dispensation to meet in Charlestown on May 19, 1858. (Its charter came the following year.) Today’s The Henry Price Lodge revives the name, and in doing so, it conveys important history that links today’s brethren to the earliest Masons in British North America. I’ll let the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library Blog explain:

London-born Henry Price apprenticed as a tailor. He arrived in Boston in 1723 to pursue this trade and soon met with success, opening multiple shops. He had become a Freemason in England prior to 1723. In 1733, while in England on business, he approached the Grand Lodge of England with a petition signed by 18 Boston men seeking to form a Masonic lodge. This petition was granted. Price returned home to Massachusetts, where he constituted both the Grand Lodge and St. John’s Lodge, the oldest local lodge in the state.

Congratulations to the brethren at The Henry Price Lodge AF&AM in Boston. Wishing you many years of prosperity!

Saturday, April 22, 2023

’The minutes of history’

Tuckahoe Lodge 347 in Richmond, Virginia shared on social media an activity that sounds really interesting and productive. It was just a few sentences with a humdrum (no offense) photo posted on its Faceypage about a month ago:

Tuckahoe Lodge 347

Several of us have been meeting before practice to review old minutes from the past hundred years. It has been a lot of fun uncovering unique events and programs, special dates, familiar names, and more. Plus, the time together is incredible as well!

Just throwing it out there.

Monday, April 17, 2023

‘Andrew Hammer tomorrow night’


Magpie coverage of the Hudson Valley Masonicon is forthcoming, but while I’m working on that let me promote the appearance Tuesday night of the inimitable Andrew Hammer in New Jersey.

This will be at Essex Lodge 7 in Caldwell, a lodge that has hosted Hammer at least once previously. The graphic above has the details.

Andrew’s message always inspires and is framed in different terms from time to time. He exalts us to achieve the best in lodge practice, and he explains the practical means to get there. Whether you’re familiar with his thinking or not, get there to hear him. And read his book! (My review is here.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

‘Géométrie at 3 on 4/5’

Speaking of geometry (see post below), today will see the release of a new tobacco mixture for the pipe from the prolific Gregory Pease. Géométrie is a Virginia-Oriental mixture which will be perfect for the imminent return of warm weather. Are you excited?

From the publicity, via Cornell and Diehl:
A blend of aged Red Virginias layered with vintage Basma and Izmir leaf, G.L. Pease’s Géométrie reinvigorates the Virginia/Oriental archetype in a pressed, plug-cut format, offering exceptional aging potential and a deep, matured flavor right out of the tin: Notes of freshly baked goods overlap planes of subtle spice, rich, malty sweetness, and a hint of floral zest on the palate.

Géométrie is the second blend in G.L. Pease’s Zeitgeist Collection of pipe tobaccos, a line celebrating the often avant-garde and rebellious themes of the modern era. These are innovative mixtures designed to challenge preconceptions and to incite contemplation through their modern artwork, unique formats, and components.

The online retailers advertising this blend say Géométrie will become available this afternoon at six o’clock our time, which is 3 p.m. on the West Coast. So?

It’s just my theory, because I don’t get out much and I’m tired all the time, but Pease got his start in the tobacco business at Drucquer & Sons in Berkeley, California, ergo the three o’clock. And today, April 5, in American standard notation, is written 4/5. (Every product has its release date, but I’ve never heard of a pipe tobacco being embargoed until a specific hour in the middle of a workweek.)

3:4:5 should remind Freemasons of a certain geometrical theorem we hold dear.

That company was founded in London by Bro. John Drucquer, shown here in an old catalog:

Drucquer & Sons

Is Greg Pease a Mason? I have no idea, but I’m ordering a tin or three of 

Monday, April 3, 2023

‘Free class: Mathematics and Logic’

Hillsdale College

“We do a disservice to young people by not teaching them all the steps in mathematics, because it’s liberating to know. And by discarding Euclid, you have cut them off from a way to understand logic, from which all accurate reasoning comes. And you have cut them off from also understanding the beauty of the relationships in nature.”

Larry P. Arnn, President
Hillsdale College

Hillsdale College offers another free online course to the world: “Mathematics and Logic: From Euclid to Modern Geometry.” From the publicity:

Today, more than ever, we need logic and sound reasoning in defense of truth. And one of the best ways to develop the skills is through the study of Euclidean Geometry.

Hillsdale College

For more than 2,300 years, Euclid’s Elements has provided the foundation for countless students to learn how to reason with precision and pursue knowledge in all fields of learning. This classic text of Western civilization provides profound tools to distinguish truth from error by means of self-evident principles.

In this course, you will study the transformation of mathematics by the ancient Greeks, discover the fundamentals of logic and deductive reasoning, examine the central proofs of Euclid, learn about the birth of modern geometry, and much more.

Hillsdale College

By enrolling in this free online course, you’ll receive access to eleven lectures by Hillsdale’s distinguished mathematics faculty, a course study guide, readings, a course discussion board, and quizzes to aid you in the examination of the fundamentals of good mathematics.

Click here to get going. 

Sunday, April 2, 2023

‘Graham and guns: another day at LORE’

After driving fifty-something miles into New Jersey, I’m three minutes from the lodge when I find myself stuck on an off-ramp for a half-hour thanks to the unconventional driving skills of an unknown motorist who succeeded in a one-car collision. No injuries, as far as I could tell, but after our meeting, an identical snafu confounded some of the brethren headed home.

Two research lodges in five days? That’s my kind of week! It was The ALR last Tuesday (see Wednesday’s post below) and yesterday was a rescheduled meeting of New Jersey’s research lodge.

Known colloquially as LORE, New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 meets quarterly on the second Saturdays of March, June, September, and December. Our March 11 meeting was postponed to yesterday on account of the funeral of our Brother Byron.

Providing the historical insights were two of our early Past Masters: Ben Hoff (2008-10) and myself (2006-08). Ben is the real talent. I was added to the agenda merely to leaven the meeting after the heavy information Ben unleashes.

Reprising a paper he presented more than a decade ago, he spoke of the Graham Manuscript and the clues he believes it provides into the evolution of the Master Mason, Past Master, Mark, and Royal Arch Mason degrees. The Graham MS, from 1726, is little known about the apartments of the Temple. The few who are aware of it know it for the ritual raising that foreshadows the action in the MM Degree we work today, but instead of the Grand Masters at KST, the Graham version involves Noah and his sons.

Before discussing the manuscript, Ben walked us through the necessary fundamentals: differences between rituals and degrees; the gradual development of the MM Degree; a timeline of many of the manuscripts that contain legends and ritual elements; and a description of the Masonic grand lodges of the eighteenth century, to clarify who was doing what in the degree department. Then there was a walkthrough of the other manuscripts and ritual exposures, illustrating how they differ when it comes to important aspects of our ritual work. Painstaking research that surely required a lot of time.

Then it was the star attraction: Bro. Thomas Graham’s manuscript from 1726. It wasn’t brought to modern light until 1936 when a clergyman in Yorkshire, recently initiated, produced the document, which had been in his family’s possession, for review by English Masons.

Among the notable sights in the manuscript are these terms, making their first appearances in early Masonic letters:

  • initiated, passed, and raised by three successive lodges
  • coming from a lodge of St. John
  • an allusion to a hoodwink
  • a ceremony of raising
  • there is a Word, but not for the purpose we use
  • and a good bit more

Ben’s paper is dense with details, and I can’t reproduce it here. The brethren received it with appreciation and some awe. Ben’s overall point is that before domineering grand lodges standardized ritual practice (or tried to), Masons in diverse locales had their own ways and manners—which didn’t always make sense, but the brethren made do.

Then it was my turn at the lectern to tell the story of how the Irish Republican Army waged war on Irish Freemasonry in 1922. You can read the gist of that here.

LORE will meet again on Saturday, June 10 in Freemasons Hall in North Brunswick.