MAY2007/THENORTHERNLIGHT

7

Theupcomingexhibitionwillinclude

severalexamplesofapronswiththe

printedsourceoftheirdesign,illustrat-

ingthemultitudeofsuchtreasuresin

thecollectionsoftheNationalHeritage

Museum.

Apronscontinuedtoadaptand

evolveduringthelate1800sandinto

the1900s.Astheclothingindustry

mechanizedandstandardizedsizes

aftertheCivilWar,apronsfollowed

suit.

Regaliacatalogsfromthelate1800s

andearly1900s,includingacirca1915

catalogfromTheC.E.WardCompany

ofNewLondon,Ohio,offeravarietyof

Masonicaprons.

TheC.E.Wardcatalogincludesplain

whiteclothandleatheraprons,printed

aprons,apronsboundinsilkribbon,

silkembroideredaprons(includinga

hand-embroideredoption),andofficers

andpresentationaprons.

Bythatpoint,apronsweresellingas

“onesizefitsall,”adistinctdifference

fromtheearly1800swhenmanyaprons

werecustom-madeathomeforspecific

Masons.

Eventoday’sapronscontinuetoin-

corporatemanufacturingadvances

suchasfabricsthataremorestain-re-

sistantandlessapttofade.

WomenWereandAreInvolved
inFreemasonry

AlthoughonlymencanjoinFreema-

sonry,thewivesanddaughtersofMa-

sonshavealongtraditionoftheirown

insupportingthemembershipoftheir

husbands,fathersandbrothers.

Thetechniquesusedtodecorateearly

aprons—watercolor,theorempainting

andembroidery—werethosetaughtat

femaleacademiesinNewEnglandand

theMid-West.

TheNationalHeritageMuseumcol-

lectionincludesseveralapronsthatare

documentedasbeingmadebya

womanforherMasonicrelative.

Forexample,oneapronisaccompa-

niedbyahandwrittencardexplaining,

“JohnMcFarlanePresentfromhis

DaughterMaryKing1836.”Thesame

informationisalsoinscribedunderthe

flap.

Somehistorianshavesuggestedthat

womenviewedFreemasonryinanad-

versarialwaysincetheywereprohib-

itedfrommembership.

However,apronslikethisone,sug-

gestamorebalancedviewofthishis-

tory.Recentstudiesshowthatwomen

supportedFreemasonry’sgoalsand

philosophy.

HistorianWilliamD.Moorestudied

19th-centuryfundraisingfairsheldto

benefittheconstructionofMasonic

hallsandtemples,findingthatthese

fairswerelargelyputonbywomen.He

explains,“Womennotonlyaffectedthe

fraternity’sfunctioning,buttheywere

alsoactivelycommittedtoitsexistence

andsupporteditsmaterialwelfare.”

Moorepointsoutthatwomenpartic-

ipatedintheMasonicworldbecauseit

“taughtmorality,ethicsandcharity”—

virtuesthatAmericanwomenwere

chargedbysocietytochampionona

householdlevel.Masonicapronsmade

bywomenofferadditionalevidenceto

supporttheseideas.

PersonalStories

Finally,eachapronintheNational

HeritageMuseumcollectionwas

ownedandwornbyaspecificMason.

Althoughwemaynotalwaysknowthe

nameofthatperson,sometimesthe

aproncansuggestinformationabout

whereitwasmadeorused,whomade

it,andwhattypeofdegreeorofficethe

ownerachieved.

Anotherfeaturedapronisamore

modernapronandwedoknowwho

ownedit—formerSovereignGrand

CommanderWalterE.Webber(1943-

2006).TheNationalHeritageMuseum

collectsandinterpretsartifactsupto

thepresentdayinordertotellthefull

storyofMasonicandfraternalorgani-

zationsinAmerica.

SovereignGrandCommanderWeb-

ber’sapronreflectshisstatusasa

Masonwhilealsoofferingawaytore-

memberhisachievements.Bro.Web-

ber’swidow,Leslie,donatedthree

apronstothemuseumthatwereworn

atmeetingsandceremonials.

Notonlydotheseapronsshowlate

20thandearly21stcenturystyle,mate-

rials,symbolsandmanufacturingtech-

niques,buttheyalsoprovideevidence

ofthepresent-dayMasonichierarchy

andillustratehowMasonicleaders

emerge,byrepresentingthemanyof-

ficesandmembershipsthatthisSover-

eignGrandCommanderheldashe

gainedleadershipexperience.

Bro.WebberbecameMasterofhis

bluelodge,CascoLodgeNo.36,in

Yarmouth,Mainein1979.

Ayearlater,heservedasDistrict

DeputyGrandMasterfortheGrand

LodgeofMaine.In1987,hereceived

the33°,eventuallybecominganActive

MemberandDeputyforMainebefore

assumingthepostofSovereignGrand

Commanderin2003.

Thisapronundoubtedlyreminded

GrandCommanderWebber—asitre-

mindsus—ofhisearlyleadershiprole

andthelessonshelearnedatthattime.

“UnlockingtheCode:Masonicand

FraternalAprons”willbeonviewat

theNationalHeritageMuseum’sVan

Gorden-WilliamsLibraryfromJune30

toDecember9,2007.

Inordertoprotectandpreservethe

collection,therewillbearotationof

apronsondisplay.

Formoreinformationaboutthe

NationalHeritageMuseum,its

exhibitionsandprograms,pleasecall

781-861-6559orvisitourwebsiteat

nationalheritagemuseum.org.

Masonicapron,
circa1836,
possiblyNew
England,probably
madebyMary
King.Collection
ofNational
Heritage
Museum.