Is this a Masonic artifact?
October 27, 2009 11:52 PM   Subscribe

Is this piece of finished cloth related to Masonic membership in any way?

Ten years ago I inherited a chair from my grandmother, that I later learned was the chair that my grandfather, who died when I was five, used to sit. Some time after that I was cleaning my apartment, and while vacuuming this chair pulled up the cushion and discovered this piece of cloth folded underneath.

There is not much about it that seems handmade. It is gold and purple, and if anything the trim could have been hand-sewn, but that's about it.

I don't know much about my grandfather as it would relate to anything like this, and my mom doesn't know what it could be, but we do know that he was a Mason of some degree, so I'm wondering if this is related to that in some way. He never went to college and there's nothing to indicate that it could have been my grandmothers.

I've perused various Masonic artifact catalog websites and have noticed that much of what they cover is quite a bit more elaborate than this is, but it's hard to figure out what else it could be. I supposed it could have been related to his foundrywork, but I don't know. My mom had never seen it before.
posted by rhizome to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You could try emailing the Museum of our National Heritage, which is a Mason-run museum (in Lexington, MA) with a great research department and lots of resources. They also have some materials on various other orders (Goodfellows, etc.) is their contact form.
posted by modernhypatia at 4:47 AM on October 28, 2009

Re: above. Oddfellows, not Goodfellows. Danger of posting when not quite awake.
posted by modernhypatia at 4:48 AM on October 28, 2009

Do you remember the chair ever being upholstered in a similar fabric? It looks like it could have been an antimacassar that got left under the cushion when the chair was reupholstered.
posted by TedW at 5:28 AM on October 28, 2009

It looks like a duster to me. A fancy, stylised one used for ritual cleaning. The only time I visited a Lodge it looked like they'd had the Brasso out.
posted by hawthorne at 7:15 AM on October 28, 2009

I am a Master Mason, it doesn't look like anything special to me. Most masonic items are going to be white or blue. Could be locally important, but I really doubt it.

Lodge furniture and the vast majority of art work (I can only think of a few items), wouldn't normally be secret or kept from view - a lot of masonic lodges are/were held in public buildings or even places like ships at sea. General Rule of thumb: Masonic secrets are passwords, secret handshakes, and minutes of meetings... masonry is mostly, but not entirely an oral tradition.
posted by Deep Dish at 9:59 AM on October 28, 2009

Do you remember the chair ever being upholstered in a similar fabric?

No, never. He had a similar chair that was replaced with this one shortly before he died. It was just a regular chair with this thing inexplicably under-butt.

The antimassacar idea is possible, in that maybe it was on the chair and was placed under the cushion when my grandma moved out of that house, after which she forgot about it or left it underneath because, to tell the truth, it doesn't hang right on this chair. There's no residue on it from his liberal use of Brylcreem-like substances.
posted by rhizome at 12:27 PM on October 28, 2009

It doesn't look like any sort of Masonic regalia that I've seen. There are variations from state to state, but I like the antimacassar idea too... definitely the kind of thing that gets stuck under a cushion and forgotten. An old Masonic apron is more likely to be stuck in a closet or attic and forgotten. Or given to the decedent's lodge, then stuck in a closet or attic and forgotten.
posted by usonian at 1:57 PM on October 28, 2009

Hi Rhizome,

Not Masonic :) at least not any kind of "official" Masonic regalia or ritual item. Now if someone in your family knew for a fact it came out of a Masonic lodge hall, I wouldn't argue with them -- a lot of homemade stuff accumulates in the old lodge halls. Doesn't sound like that's the case though.

I'm a Freemason myself and have a pretty widely read blog on Masonic stuff, and so I get the occasional request to identify various pieces of masonica. A good rule of thumb when it comes to fraternal artifacts: if the item in question doesn't have a fraternal symbol on it -- say, the square and compasses for Freemasonry or the three chain links for Oddfellows -- then it probably isn't a fraternal item. I say this because fraternal orders (and Freemasons in particular) love to put Masonic symbols on everything! I mean everything from money clips, to matchbook cases, to lighters, ritual regalia, etc. etc. So most identification, really, is a matter of recognizing the symbol.

And if doesn't have a symbol on it, then the thing itself might be an item that has ritual significance -- and there is a finite number of those types of things -- and they are immediately recognizable. A Masonic ballot box, for example, or gavel.
posted by Toecutter at 10:32 PM on October 28, 2009

Great, thanks all. "Random something-or-other" it is!
posted by rhizome at 9:14 AM on October 30, 2009

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