Welcome to Photos & Fezzes

It’s been a while (*cough*threeyears*cough*) since I’ve done much with this site, but now I am jumping back in and getting it going again. The biggest change is that I am reformatting the catalog entries, so that there won’t be an individual page for each object. Rather, there will be larger pages that contain multiple entries for each category.

initiation stereocard halfThis means that old entries/pages that people have visited (dare I say “bookmarked?”) won’t be there any more, but nearly all of the same objects will be viewable under the same broader headings. Also, comments left on individual entries will unfortunately be lost. Apologies to the authors.

The menus still work like they used to, but they won’t break out all the way down to particular objects. Easier, and much more tablet friendly, in my opinion.

I hope you enjoy!

Fraternal Halls of New Mexico


The Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe. Dedicated 1912, still in use today.

I figured I would start off the new year with a bang and catalog some New Mexico items. It’s my home, it’s my love, and my world. And I’m always excited when I can get something “Fraternal New Mexico.” We have never been a particularly big fraternal state, I think due to factors of population flux and religious demographics.

I knew that I had several postcards with fraternal subjects in New Mexico, I just didn’t really realize how many I had until I got them all together this past weekend to catalog.

Postcards are for tourists, and when New Mexico became a tourist destination is maybe a

bit debatable. It definitely hit the popular imagination in the first third of the 20th Century, when the Harvey Houses opened up a modicum of luxury for potential travelers coming across on the rails, the same rails that started to make towns into cities starting in the 1880s. The tourism was mostly ethnic in those early days, though: you came to New Mexico to see the mysterious Indians and intrude into their homes, you didn’t come for the accommodations or museums or (western) architecture. Artist colonies in the north end of the state also created a certain artist tourism industry which focused on theosophist religious experiences and otherworldly vistas.


Being a small and reasonably poor fraternal state, both in membership and endowments, our number of actually important fraternal buildings is pretty slim. There aren’t many fraternal halls (ahem…) worth taking/selling a picture of throughout our state’s history. Currently, there are two architecturally “important” Masonic structures in the state: the Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe (see above), and the Temple in Las Vegas, the home of Chapman Lodge No.2. I’m kind of surprised and disappointed that I’ve never seen a postcard for Chapman’s Temple—they’re probably out there, I’ve just not come across one yet. There are other quite nice Lodge halls and Temples in the State, they just aren’t in themselves architecturally important. (And we are a fraternal society which forms its ritual around metaphors of architecture!)



Temple 6 used to share this building at Central and 7th with the Grand Lodge, the Shrine, and the York Rite.

These are a few pieces from history, though. Of all of the halls shown in these postcards, ONLY the Santa Fe Scottish Rite Temple survives. All of the rest have burned or been torn down. Such a shame.

The Temple Lodge No.6 building burned in April of 1967. The old Elks’ Lodge—pictured at the bottom of this post—just southeast of there on Gold Ave (once the secret society row for the city) was torn down in the 60s and a dumpy brown concrete skyscraper was built in its place.


Masonic Temple is Roswell, NM

Roswell, down south, has had several pretty swanky Masonic Temples over the past 150 years, and this was probably the first major one. It looks to me like they took an existing building and added the porches to it—kind of awkward. One interesting architectural detail that I noticed, though, is that the crest that runs across the short end of the building has cut-backs suggesting the top of a keystone, one whose dimensions would be the size of the full building. Maybe my brain is grabbing at that, but it’s what I see in this view, anyhow. Romantic for York Rite Masons.

Welcome to 2017, hopefully this will be the first of many posts here on PhotosAndFezzes. New Mexico’s fraternal cosmos has been modest over the centuries, but I’m proud of it. Now to help preserve more of it!

The Patrons of Husbandry: The Fraternity of the American Farmer

The Patrons of Husbandry, more commonly called The Grange, was founded in 1867/68 by a group of eight people—seven men and one woman. The Founders were mostly clerks in various departments of the federal government in Washington, DC. Their backgrounds were generally unremarkable, some having been school teachers, a couple of them had done some farming (only one of the Founders was a “born-n-raised” farmer), one was a retired banker, and another (William Saunders) was actually a nationally known horticulturalist, most famed for designing the Gettysburg Cemetery.

The true Founder of the order, however, Oliver Kelly, had been tasked by President Johnson, after the close of the Civil War, to tour the South and gather data on the agricultural situation there, with a view toward putting the country back together and re-integrating the long-split economies of North and South. While on his mission to the South, Kelly realized that the rural populations were not just hurting from the economic disruptions of the War, their lives had been turned upside down and they badly needed an outlet to join and work together and repair their farms and their communities.

The idea for the Patrons of Husbandry hatched in Kelly’s head: a fraternal organization which would be by and for the American farmer. Kelly was himself a Freemason, and understood the very powerful personal connections which were possible through fraternal memberships. His core idea was to unify the farmers of America under the aegis of shared values and obligations. Very early on, as he bounced the idea off of his niece Caroline Hall, she inserted one of the most important ideas for the future organization, that the new fraternity include both men and women. Except among a very few temperance (anti-alcohol) fraternities, the integration of both men and women into one secret society was genuinely unheard of. But the inclusion of the entire family—Juvenile Granges would develop as a wing of the organization very early on—proved to be genuinely key in the absolutely wild success of the group.

While the Grange evolved quickly to encompass a far broader-reaching program than originally envisioned by Kelly, including major national campaigns which today would be considered proto-lobying on behalf of farmer interests, the fraternal society aspect remained at the core of the organization. As with all American fraternal or secret societies, the Patrons of Husbandry employed a graduated degree system which was practiced in lodge rooms by a membership led by an officer corps. There are a total of seven degrees among the Patrons, the first four of which are conferred at the local (or “subordinate”) Grange, and the other three being conferred at the county, state, and national levels.

In keeping with the inclusion of both men and women in the Grange, four of the officer positions are required to be filled by females, while the others are open to either men or women. Thus, even from the earliest days of the group, women were assured the opportunity to not only participate on equal footing, but regularly ascended the ladder to positions of leadership.

Oliver Kelly and others in the group of Founders were Freemasons, and another (Rev. Aaron Grosh) was a nationally prominent member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, known for a popular book he had written about the IOOF. The Grange ritual and degrees certainly show some surface correspondence to the Masonic and Odd Fellows work, but were developed to have a very unique content. While the Masons take elements of architecture and tools of builders and construct metaphors based upon them for the ritual instruction of their initiates, the Grange ritual does something similar based on tools and tasks of farming. A pruning knife might be used in a literal orchard or field to take samples of growth, to shape a tree, or to excise a broken or diseased branch. But symbolically a pruning knife might suggest that a Patron carefully use the symbolic tool on himself, to examine his own growth and changes, and remember to act prudently and not over-reach in life, which could leave him later spent and troubled. Each Grange degree takes such tools, or tasks like furrowing a field or harvesting a crop, and turns them around to become metaphors of virtue and self-improvement.

While there are certainly biblical allusions and quotations in Grange ritual, there are also strong nods to Classical Mythology. Indeed three of the exclusively female officer positions (and the titles of the three higher degrees) are drawn from Roman mythology. Flora is a goddess of plants and flowers; Pomona is a goddess of fruit; and Ceres is a goddess of grains.

The symbols and regalia of the Patrons are mixed between the bucolic and the Victorian neoclassical, marrying the homey farm-inspired ritual lessons of the subordinate chapter and the dramatic mythological characters and scenes in the later degrees. The Grange never developed the penchant for expensive or flashy jewelry and garb which characterizes many other American fraternal groups. The broad membership early on was made up of local, smallholding farmers across the nation, people with generally less disposable income; so the regalia was prescribed to be made with often simple, common cloths, and very often made at home by the women of the Grange itself. Generally unassuming medals and ribbons were common, but regalia beyond those was not so often seen. As such, collecting historical Grange pieces is surprisingly difficult, especially given the massive size of the Grange membership during its heyday from the 1870s-1940s. (I suspect that retired regalia would have often been recycled as raw material around the home or community, not “wasted” by being kept as heirlooms.)

One occasionally collectible item are the sets of miniature implements which acted pohworkingtoolstafcsimilarly to Masonic working tools sets, or IOOF emblem charts, meant to represent and instruct. As mentioned above, the ritual was hinged to the symbolic explanation of farming practices and tools. These sets include representations of a scythe, plough, shovel, pruning knife, hoe, and axe. (They also include a larger star, which I won’t pretend to know the explanation or use of!)

The Grange is one of the great, purely and truly American fraternal societies which arose and expanded very, very rapidly during the golden age following the Civil War. For some reason—probably because it is primarily rural, and quietly away from the centers of American power and influence (although its national HQ is in Washington, DC, near the Mall)—it is one of the least recognized and studied of the American fraternities. This is a great oversight, and a shame. The Grange is not only unique, but in the beauty of its ritual, its rich history, and its track record of directly impacting the nation, from the local community to the halls of Congress, it is one of the most important and interesting fraternities in our nation’s history. The organization is still active and working in over 30 states, and is currently gearing up to celebrate its 150th Anniversary. Its halls are still to be found all over the country, often standing strange and alone out in rural areas. Watch for them and give them a wave as you pass, or better yet get out and go knock on the door.


“Gate Keeper” by Arthur Rothstein, for the FSA/OWI, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.


Jewel of a Past Master of a Pomona Grange. TAFC (uncatalogued)


“Lady Assistant Steward” by Aurthur Rothstein, for the FSA/OWI, 1940. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Reading Historical Photography

I don’t just have things for the sake of having them. For me, collecting fraternal stuff is a pleasure for the whole process of it. There is the hunt, yes. But then there is getting something home from the antique store, of receiving it in the mail, unwrapping it, looking at it, checking it for condition issues or problems, finding proper housing for it, and then photographing, measuring, cataloging, entering it in my database, and finally posting it on my Instagram or here on photosandfezzes.

Cataloging is the part that I really enjoy, more than anything. I love really getting into a photograph or a medal, pulling out my loupe, finding what all is hiding inside the image or the object. What is there to see? Well…you never know. With photography, especially, I find that images are rarely identified in any way, so I enjoy trying to ascertain a date and determine a location. Throw me a photo of some guy in a funny hat walking past a building, and I might just be able to tell you when and where it was taken. Sometimes. Certainly  not every time.


This original, full photo is 3×4″, so the writing on the building is about .125″, and grainy.

Take this photo of a Tall Cedars member marching in a parade. I got 13 photos in this group, all of them of these chaps in pointy hats either IN the parade, or AROUND the parade. Several of them show the parade passing this building. I got in there with my loupe and realized that the building had words on it, though I couldn’t quite make it out. I popped it onto my scanner and had it scan at extremely high res, and I got results!

TAFC.2012.22.XX TCL parade detail1

Click for a really big version!

The Union Trust Company. I googled, got a couple possible hits, nothing very conclusive. I knew that it was probably going to be somewhere Back East: the Tall Cedars are a primarily East Coast organization (though not exclusively). And then I did a newspaper archive search, and hit gold. Images of the Union Trust Company Building published in a newspaper in Providence, RI. It’s a big building, so it was big news when it was built and opened. And it got its picture in the paper.

TAFC.2012.22.12Okay, so this was Providence. Cool, but when was it? I’m not as good at looking at clothing, necessarily, and figuring that out: that’s not in my wheelhouse. But other photos in the group had cars in the shot, and I was again able to look close at those. And again, Google is my friend. I also don’t know anything about cars, but it’s easier to look at cars and identify them, than dresses or hats. I looked up something silly like “old cars” and scanned the the images, and surfed it out from there.

Of course, there were lots of cars to sift through. So I pulled the old archaeologist trick: it can’t be any OLDER than the YOUNGEST thing that you can see. There could be Model-T’s as far as the eye can see, but if there’s a DeLorean, then it has to be from the 1970s or after. Assuming no time travel took place. Sitting at the curb behind this guy is what looks like could be a Ford Model A, which was in production 1927-1931. That’s the latest model car I see in these photos, so I give the photos a date of ca. 1930.

A little research and time moves these 13 photographs from being a handful of great images of the Tall Cedars marching, to being able to say that Tall Cedars of Lebanon were marching in a massive parade which took place in Providence, RI around 1930. To me, that’s excellent, and that’s what I enjoy about collecting.


Intaglio Attack

IOOF Blocks 3I’ve begun a new area of collection—because I don’t have enough ragged edges in my collection as it is, maybe? It’s one of the things about larger-scale collecting I guess. If you collect red glass roses between 1 and 2 inches across, that’s a really narrow thing, a nearly hermetic collection practice. But if you do something like I do, and can most easily say, “I collect fraternal ‘stuff,'” then the directions available are not easily exhausted. I could (and do) include architectural embellishments, or tie-tacks (which I generally don’t, actually). Ritual clothing, photographs, folk art, symbolic implements. Whatever.

The breadth of it all allows me to weave in other interests, and collect the fraternal versions of those things. Now, I have always found printers’ plates and letterpress blocks to be very interesting. I bought a few letterpress bits when I was a kid, just some elaborate letters, as I recall. But I thought they were neat, and they really are. Working in museums & galleries, I had the opportunity to get up close and personal with printmakers and their tools. And secretly, I very often found the plates themselves to be as interesting or even more so than the very hard-won printed impressions. I think the heft and physicality of the etched or scored metal is what I’m responding to. It’s very aesthetic to me.

IOOF Blocks 1

So I have begun to collect plates and blocks. I received my first larger lot today, and I had a lot of fun unpacking, looking, and then nicely storing the blocks. These are the illustration blocks used to print a 1925 floorwork manual for the installation of officers of “various branches of Independent Order of Odd Fellows.” There are 28 of them—one is missing, the book has 29 illustrations— and they are high-relief, probably zinc, letterpress blocks. They arrived in a  box, wrapped in groups of 4. It looked like a heroin shipment when I first dug in.

The lot came packed in with some decently heavy sheet foam. It reminded me of ethafoam, but I don’t think it is. Considering that these are made of metal and wood, I decided I was much more concerned with damage to the surfaces, rather than outgassing issues. Chopped that stuff up into nice little playing cards and put it all together into a nice little concoction, all stored in another piece from the collection, an old Woodmen of the World trunk!

IOOF Blocks 6


I photographed a few of the blocks, and one I’ve inverted the image on, so that you can get a feel of how the image looks when printed. Except it wouldn’t have all of that noise, it would be just the simple lines, of course. (Maybe that difference somewhat explains my aesthetic interest!) For those with less exposure to how printmaking works, the block would be inked and then probably wiped a bit to take off any excess. The high points—here the brown lines— would have ink of them, and they stand about 2mm above the metal surface behind. Then in a contraption somewhat reminiscent of a waffle press, the secured blocks are lowered down and pressed with rather great force against a piece of paper, imbedding the ink into the fibers of that surface. (Yes, it is pretty much like the potato stamps you made back in elementary school!)

IOOF Blocks 2Now, I’ve participated in a few officer installations in my day, and some of these instructions are frankly insane, in my opinion. But if they were to be executed with precision, they would truly be a sight to behold! It occurs to me that the very close relationship that exists between the IOOF Lodge and its higher, uniformed degrees, might have both informed and also made more possible these elaborate maneuvers. Me and my guys: ask us to stand in a straight line and just step forward one at a time, and…well…



Aprons Aprons Everywhere

Everybody knows that the Masons wear aprons. Well…everybody that knows about fraternal matters knows that. But not many people realize that a a wide array of fraternal organizations, both in the US and abroad, have worn aprons as part of their ritual garb.

Free Gardeners in long aprons. http://www.historyshelf.org/shelf/free/07.php

Free Gardeners in long aprons.

It’s a common mistake of Freemasons to just assume that, “they copied that from us.” The facts may be quite different. Going back, we can trace other equally old groups in the UK and Ireland that have worn aprons for an extremely long time. The Order of Free Gardeners, for instance, which is identifiable coevally with the pre-Grand Lodge Masons in Scotland (late 17th C), wore aprons. The style of their aprons was longer than the typical styles found in Freemasonry. When you spend your day kneeling in a garden, you need something that falls below the knee! And it makes complete sense that there would be other orders with aprons or apron-like garments. We can trace a number of to-be fraternal orders out of the misty meeting places of early trade unions and incorporations (as they were known in Scotland). These orders will have brought with them for the ride, the emblems of the earlier trade that inform the ritual of the later order. That will include aprons in a number of contexts, I imagine.

In some cases, however, there does seem to be a very purposeful copying of Masonic emblems and styles in the use of the apron. One notable example is with the Ancient and Illustrious Order Knights of Malta, whose apron can be seen here in my collection. TAFC.2013.9frontThe AIOK of M were, as their name implies, a “knighthood” fraternity, styling themselves somewhat loosely after one of the several organizations that emerge from the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation who use the same terms for themselves. The original Sovereign Military Order of Malta was a successor order to the Hospitallers, who themselves soaked up the men and money of the crushed Templars. The AIOK of M probably tie themselves to the Order of St. John—Protestant schismatics from the original Papal Military Order—as the AIOK of M were a notably anti-Catholic organization. (cf. private correspondence with S. Anthony, November 2012.)  TAFC.2013.9backTheir regalia is almost indistinguishable from the Knights Templar of the York Rite. The most glaring difference between the two is that AIOK of M wore rectangular aprons, and KTs wore triangular aprons (when they did, these days they don’t wear aprons at all). Otherwise, the black late 18th C. military uniforms with silver decorations, chapeaus, the Maltese cross emblem, the red cross emblem, the skull and crossbones, and even their motto, “In Hoc Signo Vinces”, are nearly identical. The best way to tell an AIOK of M item from at KT item is that the AIO places eagles between the arms of their Maltese cross, whereas the KTs don’t.

Library of Congress.
An Odd Fellow in Apron.

Additionally, the Odd Fellows also wore aprons for a very long time, although they don’t any more. It is recorded in the Complete Manual of Oddfellowship that at least as early as 1797 the Oddfellows utilized aprons, which were given to relieve the nakedness of an initiate, and were meant to recount and symbolize the covering of their own naked bodies by Adam and Eve in the garden. Oddfellows aprons are very widely varied in type, shape, format, and decoration. When they have a flap on the front, it is almost always a rounded flap, or even a double-lobed flap, rather imitating a hanging garland in its form. Sometimes they have no flap at all. They have tended to be extremely colorful, and perhaps more composed in a heraldic sense overall than their older Masonic counterparts (which have a tendency toward a scattershot of emblems reminiscent of tracing boards). Cloth applique is not uncommon, often with borders of colorful or tartan cloth added as framing devices. It was very common on Oddfellow aprons to print the leather with an engraving plate, and then add hand coloring and other elaborations. Reports of such elaborate finery holds up and makes good sense considering that early reports of Oddfellow parades, going back to the early days of the order, when it can be distinguished and discovered in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, mention the group as having a particular penchant for a florid excess of color and decoration. (cf. Victoria Solt Denis, Discovering Friendly and Fraternal Societies. pp.90,91) In what year the Oddfellows stopped wearing aprons—perhaps due to a change in the ritual that referenced them?—I am not certain. TAFC.2013.8Images from just past the turn of the 20th Century show the apron disappearing. There have been quite a few different Oddfellows groups through history, it was a notably schismatic community through the 19th C, and different obediences probably retained their aprons for different periods of time. I bought this IOOF apron because of its beautiful blue field and the colorful contrasting appliqué band around the border. It is a more unusual style of apron for the Odd Fellows, and if the bullion decorations weren’t as precise as they are, I would suspect that it was home-made, rather than commercial.

The Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, or more commonly just “the Elks” wore lambskin aprons for the first 30 years or so of their existence as a fraternity, but the apron was the first of the (almost surely Odd Fellow or Freemason-inspired) fraternal “secret society” aspects of their ritual and function to be done away with, around 1895.

Ultimately it is the Masons, and the constellation of orders that revolve around the Blue Lodge, that have been the ultimate wearers of aprons. Every Mason is presented with his lambskin during his degrees, and no Mason can be in Lodge without a properly situated apron, depending on their degree and station. The two primary appendant bodies in the US, the York Rite and the Scottish Rite, also make extensive use of very particularly decorated aprons in their panoply of degrees. The only York Rite body that does not wear an apron—which makes historical sense, as their allegories stem from times quite apart from the overall Masonic narratives—are the Knights Templar, and even they have occasionally worn aprons. The drill teams (precision marching units) of certain KT Commandries have in times past worn a triangular black apron, trimmed in silver and with silver memento mori emblems on them. These are not regulation to the Templar uniform, however, and seem to have been completely discontinued. (cf. personal conversation with Dickie Winchester, Rt. Em. Gr. Cmdr. of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of New Mexico, April 2013)

TAFC.2013.10insideI collected this Masonic apron recently. The fact that it is an older piece from a New Mexico Lodge made it very attractive to me, to begin with. But as I looked more closely at it, at the hand-calligraphed inscription beneath the flap, I knew I had to have it. Because it’s wrong! Well, that gives a skewed impression. The jurisdictional notation of F&AM is incorrect: New Mexico is an “Ancient” state, we are AF&AM Masons. A nerdy detail which of course made this intensely interesting to me. It is either the work of an indifferent calligrapher, or it could be a purposeful jab of sorts, as the Lodge in Silver City actually stood in revolt against the formation of the Grand Lodge of New Mexico in 1877. They preferred to unite with the Grand Lodge of Arizona, which would have made them an F&AM Lodge.

So, in the end, some orders are aping the Masons…by wearing aprons. Others are not. In the case of the Odd Fellows, Gardeners and other much older groups, I would put forth the totally unsubstantiated theory that similarities—especially in the earliest days of what we now consider to be fraternal orders—might have arisen because they were drawing on common source material. References to the Temple of Solomon would have been common throughout intellectual circles in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries. An image like the All-Seeing Eye might well have been ubiquitous in esoteric symbology of the era. (I will remind us that the Seal of the United States is not a Masonic image, and it uses the All-Seeing Eye!) Similarly, such accoutrements as aprons might have been used by an array of orders in those pro to-fraternal days because such garb might have already been in use by the orders and societies that spawned the groups we now lump together as Fraternal.

Regardless, they are magnificent billboards, are they not?

Collecting Fraternal New Mexico

DSC_8476 - Version 2

I’m not only crazy about fraternal collecting and Lodge life, I’m also crazy about my husband, my pets, sci-fi movies, and (another big one) New Mexico. I am a born and bred New Mexico boy, having grown up my whole life in Albuquerque. I’ve travelled all over the world, pretty literally, but I am always glad to get back to my dusty little city.

No giant shock, then, that I also have a niche in my collection for objects that originate in New Mexico. Even things that I might not otherwise collect become instant must-haves if they are from my fair state. As a result, I have a small but growing sub-collection of objects that are Local. Mind you, there isn’t a huge amount to go on: fraternalism has never been as big a Thing in New Mexico as it is in other states, even states directly adjacent. Many national organizations have only a token presence here, and some are gone from the state altogether.

Central New Mexico, for instance, was once a strong area for Knights of Pythias, centered around Socorro. There was a DOKK Temple in Silver City in 1903. That Temple, christened “Al Kahira,” later seems to have moved up to Albuquerque, in 1941, to be newly headquartered at the Pythian Hall at 3rd and Gold. But KoP is, far as I know, now completely gone from New Mexico, as there is no longer a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction here. That is a shame, in my opinion. (Incidentally, I would go nuts were I ever to find an Al Kahira fez!)

No longer with us, either, in the Land of Enchanment are the Improved Order of Red Men. Usually, I wouldn’t collect a photo in such terrible shape as this one, but this ca. 1930 snapshot of Red Men from Hurley, NM was absolutely not to be missed. The interesting details it contains also make it quite worth it. Is that a plug-in campfire?

TAFC.2012.33 copy

There are Elks here, of course. Not elk…well, yes there are plenty of elk in New Mexico…but Elks. BPOE, that is. I’m uncertain if there are IBPOEW, although down the way, toward the South end of the city, there is a building that appears to be an Elks lodge, but which is not noted on the BPOE website, so I have my suspicions. The Elks are quite big in New Mexico, especially down south. The Carlsbad Lodge is a truly massive organization. I had lunch there once while attending the (Masonic) Grand Lodge Communication being held across the way at a community center.


And they’ve been active in New Mexico for decades. Based on the details of this GSP, I date it to the 50s.


Odd Fellows continue to grace and enrich our state, I am pleased to say. The IOOF Grand Lodge for New Mexico is actually just around the corner from my own AF&AM Masonic Grand Lodge.


The railroad towns of New Mexico—and we have as many as any other place, or we did back when—were heavily IOOF territory. Vaughn, NM these days might not even have a supermarket (I think they do have a grocery), but in the 19-teens it was enough of an iron horse boom town to apparently warrant its own Odd Fellows Lodge, in addition to the one just over the hill in nearby Duran. They consolidated in 1922, as evidenced by this form, which is a beautiful little piece of ephemera.


Freemasonry is actually going pretty strong in New Mexico. Our Grand Lodge was organized in 1877, having descended from Ancients in Missouri, which in turn hearken back to the Ancients of North Carolina, by way of Tennessee (who are Moderns now, which is interesting). In addition to our Subordinate Lodges, we have Shrine (AAONMS), OES, Amaranth, White Shrine of Jerusalem, York & Scottish Rites and all of their myraid appendages, Sojourners, and Allied Masonic Degrees. Who knows what I’ve left off there. The only larger bodies, nationally, that we are missing would be Grotto (MOVPER) and Tall Cedars of Lebanon. Not all of our Lodges are growing, or even holding steady. But overall, we are getting younger and younger as a group. The current incoming lot, which includes me I suppose, filling in behind the lost generation, is largely in its 20s and 30s, and many Lodges in New Mexico have (or recently had) Masters in that age range, as well. Chapman #2, Temple #6, and Sandia #72 spring to mind, and I’m sure that there are others. Our sitting Grand Master is only 38!

I don’t know for certain, but when I bought this photo it was suggested that this might be a portrait of the Brethren of Gate City Lodge No. 11, in Raton, NM. Who knows. Some day I might manage some research that will confirm such a thing (it would be neat). I tried emailing Gate City years ago and their listed email address was dead. Ho Hum. Until then, I’m calling it Gate City 11!


The Great Depression might have throttled American fraternalism, but the Shrine never gave up, and always insisted on continued extravagance and display. Here, the Ballut Abyad Band is pictured at the Silver City train station, looking like they are ready to parade.


And of course…fezzes. Who are you talking to here? I actually entered these two BA pieces into the State Fair last year, in the Antiques and Collectibles competition. The lady at the registration desk looked at me like I was crazy, and said in a deeply condescending tone, “…fezzes?” (My husband almost slapped her.) But I was not to be deterred. I smiled and chirped right back, “Yes, ma’am! Fezzes!” Shaking her head, still kind of sneering at me, “Well…are they at least…old?” “They’re from the 40s, ma’am.” She kinda raised an eyebrow; she’d had a moment to look at them, and they really are beautiful pieces. She shrugged and made out the tags.


TAFC.2011.50 copy

The White Shrine of Jerusalem is a Christian body appended to the (Masonic) Knights Templar. There aren’t many of them still around, although I believe they are still currently active in New Mexico. This fez suggests that at some point they were expert paraders. I gotta watch for photos of these ladies.


Ode to DeMolay

This is a quick and tiny monument to all the guys of DeMolay.

DeMolay is pretty small here in New Mexico, but it is growing, and I’m glad to see it. It is a very cool fraternal organization, for young men aged 12-21. I won’t go into the specific ideas and precepts here, even as little as I know and understand about them. Ultimately, DeMolay is about giving young men a foundation of ethics, morals, civic mindedness, and respect for fellows and family. If you are interested in knowing more, check out links at the bottom of the page. Here, instead and of course, are a few pieces from my collection that come from DeMolay.

One very handy (and kind of odd) thing about The Order of DeMolay for Boys, at least from the collector’s point of view, is that the emblem of the order has changed several times. These changes are well documented, and we know when they occurred. Thus, we can get rough dates of DeMolay objects based on the emblem design they carry. Simple. Frank Land, or “Dad” Land as he was called (adult advisors and chaperones in DeMolay are given the simple honorary title of “Dad”), was the founder of the organization in 1919, with an original compliment of 9 young men. The name comes from the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, who was executed in 1314 for defying the pope and recanting his admission of heresy, which had been secured through torture. The style and schtick of the order revolves around knighthood, and the honors and responsibilities attached. Thus, the emblem of the order has always been heraldic.

There are ten pearls on the shield of the original emblem, which were changed to rubies as each of the 9 original members and Dad Land passed away. (The first to be lost was one of the young men, killed in an accident in 1921.) Far more sweeping were the general changes made to the emblem by Land himself. He was personally interested in heraldry, and probably took great relish and pride in designing and developing the sigil of his order over the years. The first revision came in only the second year of the organization! It was followed by another in 1932, and the current version, which has lasted since 1949, and will probably never be changed again. At least for the first 30 years of the organization, however, you can nail down the period that an object comes from based on its emblem. After ’49, it opens a up a little wider.

Just as it has had several designs of emblem, so has some of the regalia of the order changed over the years. Surely it will come as a massive surprise to anyone who follows this blog to hear me say, “And they wore fezzes!” At one point, anyhow. Back in the 1920s-early 30s, officers (at least, I don’t know about the general membership) wore a couple of different hats. I know this because I have them in my collection. At various turns, and perhaps even overlapping, chief officers wore fezzes, and they also wore Scottish Rite-style caps. Again, I can see that the periods represented by these hats either abut or may even overlap, because of the use of the 1920-1932 emblem on them.

Links to DeMolay Information:

DeMolay International
New Mexico DeMolay
History of the DeMolay Emblem
Kingdom of DeMolay (Trailer for the upcoming DM video game/virtual social world!)

Attack of the Moths! (Why One Should Perform Regular Maintenance Checks On Any Collection)

“Attack” might be a strong word, considering my actual findings. Unfortunately, moths can go from 0 to 60 very, very quickly when given a fertile field in which to play. There are certainly products out there to prevent that, but many are themselves damaging to cloth and other textiles, and most are poisonous. I don’t put poison on my collection.

I went through my fezzes and other hats the other day, just to do a quick and informal count. I’m not certain if I have ever actually counted my hats, and I was curious. (Unofficial tally: 144, by the way.)

By going through and counting, one by one, I also managed a quick condition and maintenance check, throughout. Everything looked good, I moved a couple of pieces from one case to another, re-organized a bit to better fit their spaces. Dandy. Until I got to my large “Non-Masonic” case. Mind you, this is the only case I have that doesn’t have a foam seal around it, a throwback to an earlier generation of storage for my collection. Why I haven’t updated that case, I cannot say. It is the largest of my (7) cases, and the sealed models I use now don’t come in that size. Maybe it was a reluctance to have to break up that grouping into more than one case, and thereby add onto the space necessary for the whole mess. I guess. It makes no sense, actually. I have a sealed case for the Shrine hats that I generally dismiss as my “extra” Shrine fezzes; why don’t I afford the same to my far more interesting and difficult to collect “Non-Masonic” pieces?

Regardless, at the bottom of that Non=Masonic case, I found grit. Hmmm. Why is there grit in here? I swiped it up on my finger, rubbed it between my thumb and fingertip. It was kinda greasy. Ohhhhh…no. It felt like moth damage (to be precise, I guess it would be moth…errr…stool) to me. Disaster! Moth damage is pretty obvious: usually a strange, granular pellet-sized blob, usually next to or within a divot in the wool. It is actually the larvae of the moth that does the damage. A moth lays eggs on wool, the eggs hatch, and the larvae feed on the wool before cocooning and turning into new adult moths. Sometimes you will find the granular mess, occasionally the cocoon or the grub actively feasting on your hat, sweater, or rug.

Fast forward to today, when I have a day off from work and the time to address it. I took each and every hat out, looked them over closely. Weirdly, I only found one hat (my Moose Tah) that had any sign of moth activity. And that, only one small spot. Huh. Of course, MANY of my fezzes arrive to me with moth divots, some of these hats having lived even a century in an attic or old drawer. I always look, to make sure they don’t have any visible critters when they come in the mail! However, if one hat has a problem, there’s a good chance that others are getting there soon enough.

Hello, freezer. I bagged up all of the fezzes and the Tah from my Non-Masonic case, four separate bags so I could fit them in where I could, and put them in my freezer. I will crank down the temp so it bottoms out just below zero, and I will leave them there for about 5 days. That should do the trick.

As always, I cannot tell you the best thing to do with your own collection, I can only report what I do with mine. One of the up-sides of living in the desert is that we have very low humidity, so when I bag up my wool hats and throw them into the freezer (which is also a very dry environment, actually), I don’t have to worry about ice. Were I living in Louisiana, that would be a problem. The high humidity not only around the hats in the bag, but also permeating the wool, could very well condense and form microscopic ice crystals throughout the cloth. Ice is sharp. Ice destroys textiles from the inside out. And when the hats came back out, that condensed ice would melt and add liquid water to the wool, which is also bad. Were I in Louisiana, I would be well advised to somehow de-humidify my hats before I froze them. I have no idea how to do that, however, since de-humidifying is not something we often do in the desert. So I am glad, surely for that reason alone, that I do not live in Louisiana.

My little adventure, however, underscores the necessity to periodically check your collections, whatever they are. Are they safe? Are they clean? Are they properly closed? Are they out of the sun? Are they pest-free? It would be a shame to someday open your box of widgets and find a pile of moist widget-meal crawling with vermin, rather than your wonderful collection. If only you had looked in the Spring, when maybe there was only one widget weevil in residence! Woe to the widget.

What do we have to learn from the Clandestines?

You can take that question any way that you want to. A good portion of Freemasons will scoff at the very idea, actually. That’s okay with me, because it is a question, not a thesis or a positive statement. The question occurred to me when I was spending time with the document/object that is the subject of this post. It is a question worth pursuing, I think, even if the answer is a shrug, or a big red zero. Many will probably be with me, however, in the supposition that such will not the the total answer, almost no matter what.

First off, I want to clarify and simplify. I belong to a so-called “mainstream” Masonic Grand Jurisdiction—I prefer the more current term of State Grand Lodge, a non-loaded distinction from Prince Hall Grand Lodges—and so when I make first person references, whether singular or plural, I am referring to the Masonic constellation to which I belong. And I will refer to other Masonic obediences or groups in the third person. That’s just language. I don’t in any way mean for this to be an “Us vs. Them” discussion, even if those are the pronouns I use. I want to explore this little document objectively; I would be sad if someone were to assume that I am approaching this from a predisposed, dismissive perspective. Just because this document comes from another Masonic obedience, one that my own tradition refers to as “Clandestine,” again—those are the words that I have available to use. I don’t feel the need to coin new terminology for this discussion. Second, for those Masons who sniff in disgust when someone studies something that they feel to be outré, I can only assure you that I am very comfortable with the regulations and laws of my Grand Lodge. More than that, I am very comfortable with my Obligations, and I adhere to them. Even admiration for the Clandestine, if that is where this stream of thought ends up, is no declaration of any wild intention on my part. Chill.

What we have here is a membership document for a gentleman named Otis Jones, who belonged to The August SUPREME ORDER OF MASONIC ARTS, hereafter referred to a SOMA. (Which is very clever on their part.) It dates from 1960, and hails from Brooklyn, NY, where Mr. Jones belonged to Mount Olive Lodge #10, under the jurisdiction of the King Solomon Grand Lodge. It is, so you see marked on the front cover, a Masonic PASSPORT for this gentleman. Which is a cool sort of idea. Anyone who belongs to the Moorish Orthodox Church of America (or even some in the MST of A) will feel their ears start to perk ’round about this point. On the title page it is written:

Grand World Confederation of Rites and Jurisdictions of Universal Masonry, the A:.F:. and A:.M:. and all other legitimate rites, higher Initiatic Bodies and Spiritual Sanctuaries—Great White Brotherhood. World United Supreme Council XXXIII.

The document is absolutely loaded with seals, sigils, stamps, initials, official marks, and other bits of officialdom. By the looks of it, SOMA was the umbrella for a pretty wide-ranging group of organizations, both here in North America and abroad. There’s quite a bit of French here and there throughout the passport, and as you can see above, one of the seals of one of these organizations sports an Eiffel Tower. Now, honestly, this could mean one of a few different things.

  1. It could, to be honest, be a lot of smoke: Sometimes on organization may pump up its stature and credit by claiming international association and jurisdiction, even if that is shaky at best. This is a common behavior, and y’know…okay, big deal.
  2. It could be a matter of lingua franca. This might tie in a little bit with possibility number one, the supposition that it would be necessary and warranted to be using the international language in this document. (For those raising an eyebrow, in times past it was French and not English that was considered the international language. The term itself, for heaven’s sake, literally means “The Frankish tongue.”) You will still find a good deal of French in your US Passport, for that matter. So this might have been done to underline the nature of the thing as a genuine passport, in its own right.
  3. It could be a nod to French Masonry. Freemasonry in France has long been the most “liberal” (a very imprecise term) in the world. I won’t go into it here, but the French (and Belgians, I think) have always been off in left field from the rest of the world (read: UGLE-affiliated) of Masonry. And thus, most of the world actually holds the preponderance of French Masons as Clandestine.

Not being a part of this organization, or constellation of organizations, I must admit to some difficulty navigating the import of some of this. But from what I gather, as Mr. Jones joined various bodies under the SOMA umbrella, his passport would have been updated with a membership registration number from each, next to the respective seal. From the looks of it, Mr. Jones only ever joined the one organization, the one at the top: the World Supreme United Council XXXIII. Kind of cool, actually. I can see how this might have been a very satisfying document to have and live with, as you gathered nods from various organizations and their executives.

At the same time, there is an injunction against the mere collection of titles, rites or degrees. Each page of the passport has an aphorism or adage at its bottom. At the bottom of page 6, the holder is reminded:

“The Great Brotherhood is not a matter of affiliation or documents, but of  personal moral qualifications and character.”

Indeed. This is a point that might be made in any Masonic obedience or community. We all know the Collectors, after all. I once had a guy, in all seriousness, utter the words, “It’s about getting more degrees, isn’t it?” My mouth responded with a sad, “No, it isn’t,” as I shook my head and walked away. I never really spoke to him ever again, and he since has moved away. The aphorism at the bottom of Page 5 of the passport reads,

“UNIVERSAL MASONRY is a guaranty for all. Unworthy Brothers must either amend, or resign. Otherwise they will be excluded.”

Again, worthy of consideration by anyone in any walk.

For all the cool symbols and stamps and seals, I think it really is the aphorisms or maxims at the bottom of each page that are the most particularly interesting part of the Passport. More than all the rest, which might be seen as perhaps a little overblown and postured (there’s a total of 21 different organizational seals/symbols in this little booklet…that’s a lot), the character of the organization is revealed in these phrases. Maybe it’s just rhetoric, who knows. I guess that depends on the individual member to decide and exemplify through their actions. This is true of any organization or group which has a stated purpose and philosophy, including my own Lodge and Grand Lodge. There are those who see the rhetoric of the organization to be merely window-dressing, because hey, they have big plans and ideas of their own, and it isn’t important to them that their activity or point of view is antithetical to the values of the fraternity. And there are those who take those values personally and seriously, and attend to them with vigor.

I think one of the most important and most interesting of the aphorisms is at the bottom of Page 9, seen above.

“True Masons are free from religious prejudice and racial discrimination.”

Younger Masons these days might not really know why that is a truly poignant and affecting turn of phrase. But remember, this is from 1960. The long game of the Civil Rights Movement—which stretched back to the mid 18th C—was just gaining the steam it needed to finally break through and solidify gains. In 1960, four black guys sat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro and were refused service. That’s what was going on in the news when Mr. Otis Jones joined this branch of Freemasonry. The country was gearing up for some serious showdowns, which would develop over the ensuing years. And Freemasonry remained far, far behind the curve on all of this stuff. And in many states is still way behind!

So here we have this Passport, from a Clandestine association of Masonic obediences and organizations, and in 1960 they are putting in print the stated judgement that Freemasonry should adhere to its own rhetoric, and reject discrimination on racial and religious grounds. In this, SOMA aligned with the surging and progressive currents of the nation, in strict and utter contrast to the State Grand Lodges of the time, most of which remained in 1960 at least partially segregated, and many entirely so. And at this time, all of “Black Masonry” was considered Clandestine by the State Grand Lodges, regardless. (Today, most Jurisdictions in the US recognize Prince Hall Masonry as equal and regular. Organizations like King Solomon Grand Lodge, as well the International Masons and several other groups, are still held to be Clandestine. That is not because they are primarily African American in membership, but because they originated spuriously, and/or do not adhere to the Landmarks that we mark and observe.)

If we take this Clandestine group at face value of their maxims, however, we have before us a group that, at least in one matter, was more Masonic than our own Jurisdictions. And they were absolutely right, at least from my reading of the tenets of Masonry. Worth noting.

So I look around at some of the Clandestine groups (the honestly legit ones, not the fly-by-night lodges or the expensive degree-selling scams) and their ideas. I ask myself, “Why did they break away?” Most current Clandestine Masonic groups seem to be formed by regular “mainstream” Freemasons, probably even in good standing, who for some reason feel that their Grand Jurisdictions are not getting it right, and they set off on their own. And I would imagine that in many, many cases, they give up a great deal in order to do that. Like I said, I’m very comfortable with my Grand Jurisdiction and my obligations. But I won’t turn up my nose at the thought of examining the beliefs of others.

This Passport may not represent my accepted world of Freemasonry, but they definitely were getting something right, when my own Masonic forefathers were still laboring, at least in this matter, in comparative darkness.