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MASONS, Free. A secret fraternal organization of worldwide celebrity, and one credited by enthusiastic writers with great antiquity. The Order, however, is now conceded to have been instituted about the early part of the eighteenth century — the pretensions put forth to a date coeval with the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, with King Solomon as the first grand master, being considered by those who have thoroughly investigated the subject as not worthy of credit. The attempt also made to establish a connection between the fraternity and many of the secret cults and organizations, such as the Eleusinian mysteries, the Pythagoreans, the Rosicrucians and others, in the early stages of its existence, has also failed, the utmost accomplished in that direction being the detection of a certain similarity between the symbols and ceremonies of these older institutions and the system of ritual and rule observed by the Masonic Order — circumambulation, the use of aprons, the forty-seventh problem of Euclid, etc. Another consideration which tends to discredit any connection between these older associations and the Freemasons is the fact that the conception of Masonry implies a cosmopolitan brotherhood, which would have been impossible of realization in the earlier ages of the world's history. The more rational and the generally accepted theory regarding the origin of the society of Freemasons is, that it is the successor of the building associations of the Middle Ages of which the Steinmetzen or stonemasons of Germany were a representative. The term Freemason has also been a puzzle to philologists, some claiming that it is Norman French — Frère Maçon (brother mason) — while others maintain the second part of the title to have been derived from the German word Metzen, having the same signification. These early building societies, the precursors of the Masons, are found to have been grouped in the eleventh and twelfth centuries for the most part around the Benedictine monasteries, the abbots being the architects who employed the masons on ecclesiastical buildings and repairs. The development of architectural taste and the acquisition of greater wealth by the Church led to the erection of buildings on a larger and more imposing scale, requiring the association of craftsmen in the various branches of construction for longer periods together. This led to the formation of societies known as the Bauhütten, so called from the wooden booths, where, during the continuance of the work on any particular building, the craftsmen kept their tools, took their meals, and held their meetings. By the latter part of the thirteenth century these societies had increased so in number that a general association of the Bauhütten was formed in Germany, governed by one code of craft laws, acknowledging one set of secret signs and ceremonies, and working under one central authority, the Haupthütte of Strassburg. That there is a certain connection admitted between this organization and the Masonic fraternity may be inferred from the fact that the trade customs and symbolic forms of the Bauhütten have been described by Masonic writers in Europe and America. (See Fort, Early History and Antiquities of Freemasonry, Philadelphia, 1887). The requirement most rigidly enforced from the earliest period was secrecy, which was enjoined in the most solemn manner, both journeymen and apprentices being sworn, before initiation, on the Bible, Square and Compasses, to preserve inviolate the secrets of the brotherhood. Membership was at this early period confined strictly to the operative class, who were supposed to preserve the old secrets of Gothic Masonry, but later, in the seventeenth century, it no longer was deemed necessary to restrict membership to craftsmen alone, and, the bars being lowered, gentlemen became eligible. The Haupthütte went out of existence in 1731.

From the Continent of Europe England derived much of her lodge organization. The earlier English associations of operative builders were first called Freemasons in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, because of the freedom granted them to carry on their occupation. From 1607 to 1618 Inigo Jones, under the patronage of Lord Pembroke, was actively engaged in Masonic work, but the civil wars and the agitation caused by the Reformation so materially broke up the Masonic connection that it was not until 1663 that definite steps were taken to put the fraternity on a permanent basis. A general assembly of Masons was held in London in that year, new rules were formulated and statutes enacted, and a formal resolution was passed that Masonic privileges should be no longer confined to the operative Masons. Professional and literary men, those learned in astrology, or alchemy, as well as theoretic geometricians and architects, now identified themselves with the fraternity. This class of membership at first was honorary, whence the term Free and ‘Accepted’ Masons.

The historic period of Freemasonry begins with the formation of what is known as the premier Masonic Grand Lodge of the world in London, England, in 1717. This is generally styled the ‘revival’ of Freemasonry. Prior to that time a Masonic lodge was composed of “any number of brethren assembled at any place for the performance of work, and, when so assembled, were authorized to receive into the Order brothers and fellows, and to practice the rites of Masonry. The Ancient Charges were the only standard for the regulation of their conduct. The master of the lodge was elected pro tempore, and his authority terminated with the dissolution of the meeting over which he had presided, unless the lodge was permanently established at any particular place.” Such lodges are known in Masonic history as time immemorial lodges. On June 24, 1717, four of the old lodges then existing in London constituted themselves into a Grand Lodge, the first Masonic Grand Lodge ever organized, and elected Anthony Sayer their first grand master. George Payne succeeded Sayer as grand master in 1718, and Dr. John Theophilus Desaguliers followed in 1719. In 1720 George Payne was again grand master, and in that year compiled for the first time a set of ‘General Regulations,’ which were subsequently revised by Dr. Desaguliers and Rev. James Anderson, a Scotch Presbyterian minister, and were first published in 1723, under the title of “The Charges of a Freemason, extracted from the ancient records of lodges beyond the sea and of those in England, Scotland and Ireland, for the use of lodges in London.” After 1717 new lodges could be created only under a warrant from the Grand Lodge. In 1724 the Grand Lodge of England came into conflict with a time immemorial lodge at York, claiming to have originated at an assembly of Masons in 926. This led to the formation in 1725, by the old Lodge of York, of the ‘Grand Lodge of All England.’ The Grand Lodge of all England, however, appears to have maintained friendly relations with the London Grand Lodge. In 1751 nine lodges owing allegiance to the Grand Lodge of England seceded from that body on the ground that the Grand Lodge suffered subordinate lodges of its jurisdiction to depart from the ancient landmarks of Freemasonry, and organized a ‘Grand Lodge of England, according to old Institutions.’ They styled themselves ‘Ancients,’ and called the members of the Grand Lodge of England ‘Moderns.’ In 1750 Laurence Dermott, the leader of the seceders, published the “Ahiman Rezon,” or Book of Constitutions, which he copied from the constitutions of the original or ‘Modern’ Grand Lodge, and addressed it to ‘The Ancient York Masons in England.’ The Grand Lodge of All England, at York, died in 1792. There then existed in England but two Grand Lodges, the ‘Ancients’ and the ‘Moderns.’ After negotiations extending over a number of years, finally, in 1813, through the efforts of the Duke of Sussex, grand master of the ‘Moderns,’ and his distinguished brother, the Duke of Kent, grand master of the ‘Ancients,’ a permanent union was established under the title of the ‘United Grand Lodge of Ancient Freemasons of England,’ by which the fraternity has since been known. Freemasonry has always been favorably considered in England. In 1799, when an act of Parliament was passed directed against seditious societies, an exception was made in favor of Masonic lodges, which were credited with meeting solely for benevolent purposes. Jews were admitted to membership on the same footing as other religious denominations. The growth and progress of the fraternity has been so marked that there are now in the Grand Lodge of England more than 2000 lodges, a Grand Lodge, sixty provincial Grand Lodges, a Grand Lodge of Mark Masters, a Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, a Great Priory of Knights Templars, and a Supreme Council of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite. A few years after the revival a Committee on Charity was formed and since then Masonic schools have been founded for boys and girls and institutions for the aged and infirm.

In Scotland the early history of the Masons differed in no essential respect from that of other trade crafts. In 1598-99 the statutes and ordinances of the Order to be observed “by all Master Masons as set down by William Shaw, Master of Work to His Majesty, and general wardent of the craft” (see Lyon, History of Freemasonry in Scotland), were published. These ordinances, however, are largely concerned with trade relations. The system of degrees was not developed, but a ‘pass-word’ was adopted. In 1736 a final effort, set on foot fifteen years before by Desaguliers, the organizer of the English Masonic movement, to consolidate the various lodges into a representative body, was successful, and on November 30, 1736, the first general assembly of symbolical Masons was held and a Grand Lodge for Scotland formed. The representative of the family of Saint Clair, which was patron of the Masonic Lodge, was elected first grand master; provincial grand masters were appointed, a general adhesion of Scotch lodges to the new organization was effected, and Saint Andrew's Day was substituted for the day of Saint John the Baptist, the fête day in England. Freemasonry was introduced into Ireland in 1730, when the first lodge was opened at Dublin. The English system and ritual were adopted, but, owing to the fact that the religion of the country is so largely Roman Catholic, Masonry has not made a very marked progress. At the close of the nineteenth century its representation consisted of one Grand Lodge and about 350 lodges.

The first Masonic lodge in France, according to Clavel and other well-authenticated authorities, was established at Dunkirk on October 13, 1721, and was styled ‘L'Amitié et Fraternité.’ The second was organized by Lord Derwentwater in Paris in 1725. It was at first largely patronized by the nobility, but its purpose does not seem to have been of an elevated character, and this, supplemented by the vigorous opposition of the Catholic Church, tended to invest the institution of Masonry with a very unstable character. In 1736 a Grand Lodge was formed, and in 1766 a new Grande-Loge Nationale of France was created (subsequently altered in title to the Grand Orient), and a representative system adopted under which the various lodges were brought into a degree of subordination to the central and authoritative body. Considerable hostility, however, was manifested toward the new organization by the original Grand Lodge, and there was, besides, a conflict between the rituals in use, the Grand Orient following the Scottish rite, while the original Grand Lodge had adopted a wildly superstitious form, fathered by the impostor Cagliostro. The Revolution practically suspended both organizations, which subsequently were revived and in 1799 became united in one national organization. Hardly had this union been effected when another entering wedge was inserted by the introduction of two new systems of ritual, one the Scottish Philosophical Rite, including the luminous ring and the white and black eagle, and the other the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of thirty-three degrees. Finally, in 1804, a union was again effected between the Grand Orient and the Supreme Council, but since that period the cause of Freemasonry in France has not been as progressive as in other European countries. At the close of the nineteenth century the number of lodges in existence was only about 350. The Grand Orient has ceased to require belief in a personal God as a test of membership. The introduction of Freemasonry into other European countries, notably Spain, Holland, Italy, Austria, Germany, and Russia, took place between 1725 and 1750, but with varying results. In Russia the Masonic lodges have been suppressed, while in Austria-Hungary they merely preserve an existence, owing to the ban of the Church being placed on them.

The introduction of Masonry into America was under the deputation to Daniel Coxe of New Jersey, from the Grand Lodge of England, dated June 5, 1730, which appointed him provincial grand master for Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey, ‘for the space of two years.’ While Coxe does not seem to have been active in establishing lodges in his territory, reliable evidence that Saint John's Lodge was founded in Philadelphia in the latter part of 1730 or early in 1731 is found in a letter written by Henry Bell, dated November 17, 1754, in which he speaks of a charter being granted by Daniel Coxe to a number of Philadelphians. The existence of the lodge in 1731 is further proved by the account books of Benjamin Franklin, who sold stationery to and did printing for Saint John's Lodge. The entries bear dates in 1731. Another corroborative proof is found in a ledger of the lodge discovered in 1884, which is called ‘Liber B.’ Its entries begin with June 24, 1731, and consist of amounts paid into the lodge by members. Franklin was made a Mason in January, 1731. In 1733 the Grand Lodge of England granted a deputation to Major Henry Price of Boston, as ‘Provincial Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons in New England.’ On July 30, 1733, a warrant was granted to form Saint John's Lodge in Boston, Mass. From this beginning, Freemasonry spread throughout the colonies. There also existed a large number of military and traveling lodges, usually attached to regiments or battalions of the British Army, and formed under warrants from the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

When the War of the Revolution came to a successful close the American lodges so created withdrew their allegiance to the parent lodges in England and Scotland and created Grand Lodges in several of the States, and the Order thus became deeply rooted in American soil, where it has continued to grow without interruption other than what is known as the great anti-Masonic movement, which began in 1826 and continued for about ten years, during which period the membership was reduced to a very small number. (See Anti-Masons; Morgan, William.) The Order is also prospering in British America, while in the republics of South America, where the Catholic religion is in the ascendent, the same influences operate to its hindrance as in the European countries where Church influence is powerful.

A system of what is known as Freemasonry exists among the colored people in America, which, while admitted to be regular, is not recognized by white members of the Order, or their grand and subordinate lodges in this country, although receiving full recognition as to the regularity of their organization from some of the foreign Grand Lodges. The parent lodge was opened in Boston, March 6, 1775, through the exertions of Prince Hall, known in the archives of the Order as the father of Freemasonry among colored men. There were fifteen charter members and the lodge was known as African Lodge. It received a warrant from the Grand Lodge of England in 1784 and was organized as African Lodge No. 429 in 1787, with the rank of a Provincial Grand Lodge and Prince Hall as provincial grand master. This lodge became dormant after the death of the charter members, was subsequently revived, but failed to receive recognition from the Grand Lodge of England. The African Grand Lodge of Boston, now known as Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, was organized in 1808, and there are at the present time in the United States twenty-eight colored Grand Lodges, and one in Ontario, Canada. These are distributed as follows: Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia. There also exist among the negroes bodies of the higher degrees of Masonry, viz. Chapters of the Royal Arch, Councils of Royal and Select Masters, Commanderies of Knights Templars, subordinate bodies of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, a Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General, and Temples of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

Concerning the rites, ceremonies, and principles of Freemasonry it should be said that the underlying principle is a belief in a Supreme Being and the immortality of the soul. Next to that is the recognition of fraternal obligations among members of the Order. The duties of a Mason are always to be held subordinate to his duty to his God, to his country, and to his fellowmen, a fact not generally credited outside the fraternity, and ignorance of which has led to much of the opposition it has encountered, on account of its being a secret institution. It differs from other secret and beneficial societies in the matter of its beneficiary features, for there is no obligation expressed in the order of procedure set forth as part of its fixed policy. The measure of relief to be extended to fellow members in distress and the participation in any work of charity are matters implied rather than commanded. Some of the lodges voluntarily create funds for charitable purposes, but this is a matter which rests with the particular lodge, which is independent in any line of action it adopts not antagonistic to the objects or principles of the Order. As a rule, the dispensing of relief is entirely governed by circumstances, and is not circumscribed by conditions of membership in any particular lodge. A sojourning or visiting Mason, in any locality where he may be temporarily staying, if in distress, has a claim on his brother Masons, in accordance with the spirit and teaching of the Masonic fraternity. A system of benevolence has been adopted in many of the American jurisdictions which is characteristic of the fraternity. It is the establishment in different jurisdictions of Masonic homes and infirmaries for the needy and distressed of the Order. The first of these homes was established in 1807 at Louisville, Ky., as the ‘Masonic Widows and Orphans Home and Infirmary.’ Other institutions have been founded in Philadelphia, Chicago, Saint Louis, Nashville, Springfield, Ohio, Wichita, Kan., Waterford, Conn., Burlington, N. J., Richmond, Va., and in Michigan, Texas, and California. Funds have been established in many other jurisdictions either to found homes or to provide a systematic administration of charity. The homes are, like the English institutions, largely supported by voluntary contributions, but in some States a per capita tax is levied upon each Master Mason within the jurisdiction.

The teachings of Freemasonry are symbolical, ceremonial, and allegorical. Rites, almost without number, were formed by degree-makers during the past one hundred and fifty years, but most of them had but a short existence. There are now ten Masonic rites or systems in use throughout the world, all having as their foundation the three symbolic degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. The two rites that are ranked as universal are the York or English rite, and the Ancient Accepted Scottish rite of thirty-three degrees. The English rite comprises the three fundamental symbolic degrees, and the Royal Arch degree, appended in 1813. The English rite has been enlarged and changed in this country and Canada and is known as the American rite. It consists of thirteen degrees, grouped as follows: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason, conferred in symbolic lodges; Mark Master, Past Master, Most Excellent Master, and Royal Arch, conferred in chapters of Royal Arch Masons; Royal Master, Select Master, and Super-Excellent Master, conferred in councils of Royal and Select Masters; and Orders of the Red Cross, Knight Templar, and Knight of Malta, conferred in commanderies of Knights Templars. Of the thirty-three degrees of the Ancient Accepted Scottish rite the first three or symbolic degrees are never conferred, all control of them and right to use them having been relinquished by the Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite to the Grand Lodges of the United States and Canada. The degrees from the fourth to the fourteenth are conferred in the Lodge of Perfection; these are Secret Master, Perfect Master, Intimate, Secretary, Provost and Judge, Intendant of the Building, Knight Elect of Nine, Knight Elect of Fifteen, Sublime Knight Elect, Grand Master Architect, Knight of the Ninth Arch, and Perfect and Sublime Mason. The degrees Knight of the East or Sword and Prince of Jerusalem are conferred in councils of Princes of Jerusalem. The degrees of Knight of the East and West and Knight of Rose Croix are conferred in chapters of Rose Croix. In consistories of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret are conferred the following degrees: Grand Pontiff, Master ad vitam or Master of All Symbolic Lodges, Noachite or Prussian Knight, Knight of the Royal Axe or Prince of Libanus, Chief of the Tabernacle, Prince of the Tabernacle, Knight of the Brazen Serpent, Prince of Mercy, Knight Commander of the Temple, Knight of the Sun or Prince Adept, Knight of Saint Andrew, Knight Kadosh, Inspector Inquisition Commander, and Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret. The thirty-third and last degree, that of Sovereign Grand Inspector-General, is conferred in the Supreme Council upon Masons who have rendered distinguished services to the craft. The English and the Scottish rites are the only two that are practiced in the United States and are recognized by Masons generally. The Scottish rite in the United States is controlled by two bodies, the Supreme Councils of the Northern and Southern Masonic jurisdictions. They are in fraternal communion with each other and with the Supreme Council of France as well as those of England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Italy, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Central America, Greece, Canada, Cuba, Switzerland, Egypt, Tunis, and Spain. The number of subordinate bodies in these jurisdictions is: Northern Jurisdiction, 239, with a membership of 34,035; Southern Jurisdiction, 267, with a membership of 14.867. There are in addition to the foregoing a number of societies in the United States, which, though not in any sense Masonic in character, yet require as a prerequisite to uniting with them membership in Masonic bodies. The largest and most popular is the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. (See Mystic Shrine, Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the.) Minor organizations are the Mystic Order of Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, with headquarters at Hamilton, N. Y., and the Independent International Order of Owls, with headquarters at Nashville, Tenn. These societies are purely social organizations, founded for amusement and recreation.

The only society allied to Masonry that receives women into membership is the Order of the Eastern Star. It is not a Masonic body, nor has it ever been recognized by the Masonic fraternity, but its members are composed of Master Masons in good standing, their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters, together with the widows of such Master Masons. The system which admitted women to membership in bodies allied to Freemasonry originated in France about 1730. The bodies were called ‘Lodges of Adoption,’ because each organization was required to be adopted by a Masonic lodge and was under its control. Lodges of adoption are said to have been introduced into this country about 1778, but they never flourished to any extent. As early as 1793 there was an ‘Order of the Eastern Star’ in existence in this country. This organization disappeared early in the last century. The system at present prevailing in the United States was founded in 1868 by Robert Macoy of New York, upon the basis of a ritual developed by Robert Morris, an eminent Masonic writer. There are now in the United States thirty-two Grand Chapters and over 250,000 members.

The Sovereign College of Allied Masonic and Christian Degrees of America is a body of Masons clothed with power to confer academic as well as ritualistic degrees, the former being given for honorable cause. The highest academic degree conferred is that of Doctor of Universal Masonry, which has been conferred on only five distinguished members of the Order. The ritual of the college comprises the degree of Ark Mariner, Secret Monitor, Tylers of Solomon, Saint Lawrence the Martyr, Knight of Constantinople, Holy and Blessed Order of Wisdom, Trinitarian Knight of Saint John of Patmos. The Order is in fraternal communication with the Grand Council of the Allied Degrees, and the Grand Ark Mariners Council, both of England.

The following table gives the Grand Lodges in the United States and British America, with their respective and total membership brought down to a recent date:


Masonic Grand Lodges in the United States and
British America, with their Respective
Membership at the Close of 1902

Alabama 12,788
Arizona 939
Arkansas 13,305
British Columbia 11,978
California 22,776

Colorado 8,895
Connecticut 17,730
Delaware 2,364
District of Columbia 6,257
Florida 4,623

Georgia 20,844
Idaho 1,410
Illinois 59,689
Indiana 33,604
Indian Territory 4,024

Iowa 30,324
Kansas 22,388
Kentucky 20,627
Louisiana 6,361
Maine 23,224

Manitoba 3,238
Maryland 8,278
Massachusetts 42,093
Michigan 45,304
Minnesota 17,528

Mississippi 10,531
Missouri 34,707
Montana 3,325
Nebraska 12,767
Nevada 885

New Brunswick 1,894
New Hampshire 9,387
New Jersey 19,150
New Mexico 1,079
New York 111,365

North Carolina 12,012
North Dakota 3,742
Nova Scotia 3,574
Ohio 48,349
Oklahoma 3,291

Ontario 26,939
Oregon 5,598
Pennsylvania 57,266
Prince Edward Island 559
Quebec 4,019

Rhode Island 5,471
South Carolina 6,532
South Dakota 4,887
Tennessee 17,770
Texas 29,680

Utah 982
Vermont 10,235
Virginia 13,842
Washington 5,795
West Virginia 7,421

Wisconsin 18,210
Wyoming 1,167

Total membership 933,022


The above American and British American Grand Lodges maintain fraternal relations with the Grand Lodges of Belgium, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Eclectic Union (Frankfort-on-the-Main), England, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, New South Wales, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Porto Rico, Royal York (Berlin), Saxony, Scotland, South Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Tasmania, Three Globes (Berlin), Victoria (Australia), Zur Eintracht (Darmstadt), and Zur Sonne (Bayreuth).

Besides what may be called orthodox Masonry there are two other bodies operating in the United States known as those of the Cerneau rite and the Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis, which differ in ritual from the older Orders. The Cerneau Masons, or Sovereign Grand Consistory, founded in 1807 by Joseph Cerneau in affiliation with the Grand Orient of France and enrolled under the Scottish rite, has two consistories in New York City, and a ‘Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General of the Thirty-third and Last Degree.’ It is not in affiliation with Masonic bodies generally in America and Canada, owing to its connection with the Grand Orient of France, which does not require for admission to membership the necessity of a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being. It has jurisdiction over seventy subordinate consistories of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret, which are subdivided into Lodges of Perfection, Councils of Princes of Jerusalem, Chapters of Rose Croix, and Consistories. The Ancient and Primitive Rite of Memphis was established in Montauban, France, in 1814, by Jacques Etienne Marconis and others. On November 9, 1856, the first organization of the Ancient and Primitive Rite in America was created in New York under the title of ‘A Supreme Council Sublime Masters of the Great Work Ninetieth Degree’ by Jacques Etienne Marconis. On March 1, 1857, he organized a ‘Sovereign Grand Council-General Ninety-fourth Degree’ and granted a charter with full authority for the administration and government of the Order, and on June 21, 1862, a ‘Sovereign Sanctuary Ninety-fifth Degree’ was created in and for the continent of America in affiliation with the Grand Orient of France. The ‘Mystic Temple Grand Council-General Ninety-fourth Degree’ has charge of the State of New York. There are branches in existence for the government of other countries under titles of Sovereign Sanctuaries, viz. for Great Britain and Ireland, Egypt, Rumania, Naples, Palermo, and India.