cloSeS SePtemBer 27, 2014

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library | Fall 2014  


Tracing board, 1818, Jonas Prentiss (1777–1832), 

West Cambridge, Ma, gift of Hiram lodge, a.F.  

& a.M., arlington, Ma, 91.048.  Photograph by 

David bohl.


he Museum is pleased to 
have three tracing boards 
from its collection on view  
in the exhibition “Tools  

and Implements Most Expressive:  
The Masonic Art of Education” at the  
Henry W. Coil Library and Museum  
of Freemasonry at Grand Lodge of  
California in San Francisco. Through-
out its history, the emblems and symbols 
of Freemasonry are the most recogniz-
able, if not the most misunderstood  
aspect of the Craft. Yet the symbols have 
been depicted since the early 1700s 
when Freemasons began drawing them 
on the floor with chalk and charcoal in 
order to instruct initiates in the lessons 
of each degree. This practice gave rise 

museum lends tracing Boards to exhibition  

at the grand lodge of california

to an evolving visual tradition consist-
ing of artistic floor cloths, tracing 
boards, degree charts, glass and cellu-
loid slides, films, videos, and now 
web-based applications. These educa-
tional tools—particularly the old floor 
cloths and tracing boards— are peren-
nial objects of fascination for both 
Masons and non-members as they 
depict the seemingly arcane and im-
penetrable symbols employed by   
the fraternity.
 The Museum’s tracing boards   
on loan were painted by John Harris 
and Jonas Prentiss, two artists whose 
vision still influences Masonic art and 
ritual to this day. The tracing board 
by Prentiss was used in a lodge in 

Tracing boards for First and Third Degrees, 1823-1845, John Harris (1791–1873), England,  

gift of the Judy and Michael Cheteyan Educational/Charitable Foundation in honor of brother 

Pierre Mousselli, 97.065.60-61. Photograph by David bohl.

West Cambridge, MA (now Arling-
ton), in the early 1800s. The two 
boards by John Harris each present 
symbols associated with a specific 
Masonic degree—the Entered  
Apprentice, or first degree, and the 
Master Mason, or third degree. The 
visual representation of the degrees 
helps the candidate associate the 
symbols with larger ideas.
 “Tools and Implements Most  
Expressive: The Masonic Art of  
Education” is on view through  
April 1, 2015 in San Francisco.