Scottish rite masonic museum & library | Spring/Summer 2012 



hreads of Brotherhood:  
Masonic Quilts and Textiles,” 
is a new exhibition of more 
than 25 quilts, coverlets, 

needlework pictures, and hooked rugs 
drawn from the Museum’s collection 
that tell a compelling story of connected 
lives and shared values. 
 In 1900, there were almost one mil-
lion Freemasons in the United States.  
Though often viewed as a secret, 
closed society, Freemasonry was actu-
ally visible in almost every American 
community during the 1800s and 
1900s. And, while only men could be 
members of mainstream lodges, their 
wives and daughters were not com-
pletely excluded. They could join  
Masonic female auxiliaries, recognize 
Masonic symbols, and demonstrate 
this knowledge with their needles.  
 Textiles incorporating Masonic 
symbols, both home made and com-
mercially manufactured, have served 
many functions since the 1700s. They 
have transmitted family memories 
and history as they became heirlooms 
passed down through generations,  
signified family identification with 
Freemasonry, and offered their makers 
a voice to demonstrate knowledge of 
the fraternity. They also function as 
educational tools—teaching other fam-
ily members about Masonic symbols 
and reminding the Mason of the lessons 
he learned in the lodge. Masonic quilts 
and textiles were—and still are—
sometimes used to raise money for 
Masonic projects and charities.
 The quilt featured on our cover 
was probably made in Ohio between 
1880 and 1920. The central motif in 
each block is a square and compasses 
symbol (symbolizing reason and faith) 
with a stylized G in the middle (to  

Threads of Brotherhood: 

Masonic Quilts and Textiles


opeNS JuNe 16, 2012

A new exhibition of more than 25 quilts, coverlets, needlework pictures, and hooked rugs drawn from  

the Museum’s collection that tell a compelling story of connected lives and shared values.

Lady Liberty Lights the Way, 1985. nancy m. Crasco, massachusetts. 

Scottish rite masonic museum and Library, gift of nancy Crasco, 2010.006. 

Photo by DAviD bohL

represent God, geometry, or both).  
Each block also shows five-point stars, 
crescent moons and triangle shapes. 
In the borders are trowels, mauls, plumbs 
and levels. Perhaps this quilt afforded 
its maker a way to learn about the 
values represented by the symbols. Or 
it may have originally been intended 
as a gift to a member Mason.
 The quilt below was made in 1985 
just before the centennial celebration 
of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. While 
the maker did not intend for the quilt 
to have a Masonic connection, it  
does by way of its subject matter.  
The Statue’s designer, Frederic A.  
Bartholdi (1834–1904), was a French 
Freemason. Bartholdi joined Lodge 

Alsace-Lorraine in Paris and remained 
an active member for many years. 
 Freemasonry, although perhaps 
best known for its perceived secrecy 
and its men-only membership, in real-
ity has few true secrets. Masons have 
relied on auxiliary groups of women 
for centuries to help them fundraise, 
to provide refreshments and decoration 
in the lodge, to sew their regalia, and 
even to assist them with learning their 
rituals at home. By stitching a quilt  
or hooking a rug, a woman could sup-
port her husband’s Masonic activities, 
while also learning about it from him 
and feeling connected not only to  
her husband, but also to her larger