scottish rite masonic museum & library | summer 2013 


Masonic Jurisdiction adopted a new 
constitution, consolidated existing 
local groups (called Valleys), and  
established new ones. The exhibition 
also explores the ritual regalia used by 
Scottish Rite members in the 1800s 
and 1900s. Israel Thorndike Hunt’s 
hand painted illustration of a member 
dressed for the 7th degree, “Provost 
and Judge,” from The Rituals of the 
Ancient & Accepted Scottish Rite of 
, 1869, allows visitors  
to see how the regalia from the mid 
1800s looked. 
 During the late 1800s and early 
1900s, the Northern Masonic Jurisdic-
tion crafted new, elaborate theatrical 
rituals for which they became well 
known. Instead of initiating a few men 
at a time, the staged degrees were 
viewed by hundreds of men at once. 
 These new ritual productions, as 
well as a membership that had grown 
to over 213,000 brothers, prompted 
local Scottish Rite leaders throughout 
the Jurisdiction to find or build new 
structures that would accommodate 
their increasing membership. The Ma-
sonic Cathedral built in Bloomsburg, 
Pennsylvania, in the early 1900s is 
reflective of this trend. A 1908 post-
card of the Cathedral’s grand stage on 
view in the exhibition speaks to this 

vibrant period of growth within the 
Scottish Rite. 
 The Great Depression adversely 
affected the Jurisdiction’s impressive 
membership gains made during the 
early 1920s, leading to a decrease of 
100,000 Scottish Rite members by 
1941. The fraternity, however, soon 
recovered. Melvin Maynard Johnson 
(1871–1957) took the reins of the 
Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in 
1933 and led the fraternity through 
the Great Depression and World War 
II. Johnson also made great contribu-
tions to the Supreme Council’s chari-
table programs. By the time Johnson 
retired in 1953, the membership of 
the Scottish Rite rebounded from 
208,393 to 422,051.
 During the early 1970s, the Scot-
tish Rite Supreme Council moved  
its offices from downtown Boston to 
Lexington, Massachusetts. The new 
location allowed space for a house for 
the Sovereign Grand Commander and 
to construct the Scottish Rite Masonic 
Museum & Library. Scottish Rite 
leaders continued to pursue charitable 
projects during the 1980s and 1990s. 
A membership-sponsored college 
scholarship program was introduced, 
as well as a network of learning cen-
ters to help children overcome the 

challenge of dyslexia. Recently, the 
fraternity has renewed its focus on its 
members and worked to strengthen 
the fund which helps brothers and 
their families when they encounter 
unexpected obstacles. Member loyalty 
to the fraternity is seen in the charm-
ing sculpture by Robert Burdette, 
which depicts a Scottish Rite Mason 
wearing a cap signifying his status  
as an Active Member. 
 Current Sovereign Grand Com-
mander John William McNaughton 
has called attention to the fraternity’s 
need for change. Technology is used 
to enhance convenience for members, 
with some degrees now available on 
DVD. This allows Valleys to present 
the degrees more frequently and  
more cost-effectively. 
 Said Sovereign Grand Commander 
John William McNaughton, “The 
Scottish Rite remains focused on 
strengthening the bonds of brother-
hood. Just as the founding members 
did in 1813, today’s members come 
together for fellowship and fun. 
While we cannot see what will hap-
pen over the next 100 years, members 
will stay true to the basic principles 
behind the Scottish Rite while we 
adapt, evolve, and grow with the 

scottish rite rose Croix apron, 1820–1850.  

unidentified maker. france. Gift of the supreme 

Council, The netherlands, 81.30. Photograph  

by David bohl.

scottish rite 33rd Degree ring, 1998. irons and russell  

Company, new York, new York. Gift of John H. Glenn Jr. in 

memory and honor of Vern riffe, a good friend, 33° mason, 

and the longest serving speaker of the ohio House of repre-

sentatives in history, 2000.018a. Photograph by David bohl.