This is one of my favorite things in my collection.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the really interesting, even engrossing, factors that guides and inspires my collecting is the personal connection that so many of my pieces represent. A fez, which is little more than a used man’s hat with no monetary value when considered objectively, was a badge of fraternity and pride to the man that wore it. A photograph was a keepsake, a frozen memory of some event taken part in by one guy and all of his friends. Good times captured and kept.
This piece, this Corn, Wine & Oil set, exemplifies this quality. Not only is it a rare and unusual thing (I’ve never seen anything else like it in all my years), but it has an intensity engrained within it. Right off, I have to say that there are really two things here, and I have no reaon to think that they were kept together during the useful life of each. The letter and AASR pouch are really one thing, and the vials are another. But they came to me together, and I keep them together. Whether he did, is doubtful, but possible.
The Corn, Wine and Oil would be an important keepsake for this gentleman, reminding him of a very particular part of his Fellowcraft degree night. Quite on another level, though, is the letter. It identifies the carrier as a Mason and asks that he be given assistance if found in distress:
MYSTIC ART LODGE, NO.899, F&AM
Feb 20, 1918
Dear Sir and Brother:
We present herewith Bro. Roy F. Shults , as a Master Mason and worthy member of this Lodge. We recommend him to the brotherly love and care of any Mason who may find him in distress or need incident to his service as a member of the United States Expeditionary Forces. Any courtesy extended to our Brother will be deeply appreciated.
The message, on an oiled paper, and signed at the bottom by the Master and Secretary of the Mystic Art, is repeated in French, Italian and German. Of course, this is logical, those being the primary languages likely to be encountered by a member of the Expeditionary Force. But it is notable that in including German, there is a recognition that regardless of combatant status, regardless of whose side the man might be fighting for, it would be perfectly reasonable to expect relief from a German brother. And carrying such an object on one’s person would also, as a corollary, remind Bro. Shults that in like manner he is charged to relieve any Brother in distress, also regardless. It is a profound expression of the spirit of Freemasonry, to carry this document in good faith.
Catalog listing: Corn, Wine and Oil Set with Serviceman’s Masonic Credentials