Scottish rite Masonic Museum & library | Spring 2013  


collection, this one from 1859, shows 
St. John’s Commandery No. 1, from 
Providence, Rhode Island, during 
their visit to Washington’s tomb at 
Mount Vernon. According to a pub-
lished account of the visit, the men 
marched off the boat “to the sounds 
of mournful music” and first visited 
Washington’s tomb, as seen in the 
photograph below. They next visited 
the house itself, which had fallen into  
disrepair. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ 
Association had purchased the estate 
the year before St. John’s Command-
ery’s visit, in 1858, and later opened 
it to the public in 1860, after begin-
ning a careful refurbishment.
 Please tell your friends and family 
about our photo collection—and keep 
checking back to see new images as 
we add them. We hope not only to be 
able to share our wonderful collection 
with visitors near and far, but also  
to encourage scholars and researchers 
to use these images in order to better 
understand the history of Freemasonry 
and fraternalism in America.

Historic Photographs Digitized and Now Online

boston Commandery at mount Vernon, 1889, Virginia. scottish rite masonic museum & Library 

Collection, Gift of Harvey b. Leggee Collection of shrine and fraternal material, 96.005.3.

st. John’s Commandery no. 1 at mount  

Vernon, 1859, Virginia.  scottish rite masonic 

museum & Library Collection, special  

acquisitions fund, 93.019.


useum & Library staff 
are currently working 
to digitize our entire 
collection of historic 

photographs. This part of the collection 
includes more than 1,000 images from 
the 1800s and 1900s, many showing 
men and women in their Masonic  
and fraternal regalia.  
 Images can be browsed and searched 
by visiting our website. Click on “Col-
lections” and then “Online Collections.” 
Once there, “click here to start a search 
of our online collection.” You will  
be taken to a new window where you 
can search for all of the photos by 
typing “photo,” or you can search  
for specific subjects, photographers, 
places or any other term. To date, we 
have over 600 photos scanned and 
available for viewing, with more   
added each month.
 The photograph above of the mem-
bers of Boston Commandery, Knights 
Templar, during a visit to Mount  
Vernon in Virginia is one example  
of the images now available online. 
When we first scanned the photo,  

we did not have any information 
about the date the photo was taken. 
But, with a little research, we learned 
that it depicts the group of Knights 
who visited George Washington’s 
home during their attendance at the 
1889 Conclave (or triennial meeting) 
in Washington, D.C. Indeed, a Boston 
newspaper account of the trip notes 
that on October 10, 1889, the group 
traveled to Mount Vernon on a boat 
and “from the wharf they marched  
to the tomb where resides all that is 
mortal of that most eminent Mason, 
Brother George Washington.” The 
newspaper goes on to explain that 
“the knights then went to the portico 
of the famous old mansion and were 
photographed…” According to their 
own history, “on arrival [the Knights] 
formed a square about the tomb of 
Washington, when an impressive  
service was held…The old mansion 
was visited, and pleasant hours were 
spent on this historic estate.”
 Pilgrimages to Mount Vernon seem 
to have been popular during the late 
1800s. Another image in the Museum’s