Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library | Spring 2015  

  7

T

he custom and etiquette surrounding 
the use of calling cards in the United 
States was well established by the 
mid-1800s. Often simply printed  

with the owner’s name, these cards formed part 
of an elaborate ritual of visiting friends’ and  
acquaintances’ homes. The timing of visits, who 
might leave a card for whom, and even folded 
card corners allowed people to send and receive 
socially coded messages.
 Although similar in form, the Masonic  
calling cards on view in the Van Gorden- 
Williams Library functioned somewhat differ-
ently. The Masons and printers referred to cards 
as emblem and exchange cards; names that  
reflected both the cards’ decoration and their 
use. Most of the cards on view were explicitly 
made for and used at Triennial Conclaves,  
conventions of thousands of Masonic Knights 
Templar that took place every three years. These 
gatherings often involved cross-country railroad 
journeys—called pilgrimages—of large groups 
of Masons and their families. 
 Although mostly created for York Rite events, 
the cards often list all of a man’s Masonic affili-
ations, including Blue Lodge, Scottish Rite, and 
Shrine. Women and children participated in  
social events surrounding the Conclave and 
sometimes had their own cards. On view are 
examples of not only Mason’s cards, but   
those of wives, sons, and daughters. 
 Unlike traditional calling cards, which were 
usually left by a visitor to a home, these emblem 
cards were likely exchanged in person between 
Masons. Recipients valued them as souvenirs. 
The cards are a window on past social practices 
and a reminder that the urge to connect and  
collect is not new. Today many Masons carry 
“Masonic business cards” which detail Masonic 
affiliations. They exchange them with other  
Masons, at meetings and social events, continu-
ing the tradition established over a century ago.

Have a Masonic business card? Want to donate 
it to the library & Archives? Drop one off in 
the container on the reference desk.

maSonic emBlem caRDS

victorian Tradition in a Fraternal World

austin bulman Card, 1880–1900. scottish rite Masonic Museum & Library, 

Collection of Knights Templar Calling Cards, Ma009, Museum purchase.

Charles b. Calvert Card, 1880–1900. scottish rite Masonic Museum & Library, 

Masonic Calling Cards, Ma056, Museum purchase.

ThROugh JuLy 18, 2015

J. grove porter Card, 1880-1900. scottish rite Masonic Museum & 

Library, Masonic Calling Cards, Ma056, Museum purchase.