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Anotherphotographfromthemu-

seum’scollectionpresentsanequally

intriguingstory.

Thiscarte-de-visiteshowsaman

seatedandlookingatthecamera.He

hasamustacheandwearsadarkcoat

andvestwithawhiteshirt.Abovehis

headisaghost-likefigureofawoman.

Called“spiritphotography,”more

unscrupulousphotographersclaimed

thattheyhadcapturedthelikenessesof

deceasedlovedones.

W.H.MumlerofBoston,whotook

thisphotograph,producedthistypeof

imageforeightyears,claimingallthe

whiletobeunitingthedeadwiththe

living.

However,otherphotographersdid

alltheycouldtodebunkMumler’s

claims,evenpublishingdescriptionsof

techniquesthatcouldbeusedtopro-

ducethesepictures,whichusedaddi-

tionallivingpeopleaspartofthe

processandnotvisitorsfromthespirit

world.

Honestphotographerssometimes

usedthe“ghost”techniquesforsenti-

mentalorhumorousreasons,notclaim-

ingthattheywereincontactwiththe

spiritworld.

Ahandwrittennoteonthebackof

thisphotographprovideshelpfulin-

formationabouttheidentityofthesit-

ter,andalsotellsusthatthesubjectwas

hoodwinkedbyhisphotographer,“Por-

traitofTheo.Ross33ºTakenbyaSpir-

itualisticPhotographer+hemadeRoss

believethatwashiswife’sspiritstand-

ingbehindhim.”

Whilewemayfindithardtobelieve

thatRosscouldhavepossiblybelieved

suchastory,ithelpstounderstandthat

thephotowastakenatatimewhen

Spiritualismwassweepingthenation.

Spiritualismwasareligiousmove-

mentaimedatprovingtheimmortality

ofthesoulbyestablishingcommunica-

tionwiththespiritsofthedead.

HistorianshavesuggestedthatSpir-

itualism’spopularitywasaresponseto

thewidespreadeconomic,socialand

culturalchangestakingplaceinAmer-

icainthemid-1800s.

TheodoreRosswasborninDuchess

County,NY,onNov.23,1827,and

movedtoCleveland,OH,atayoung

age.

HewasmadeaMasoninCleveland’s

IrisLodgeNo.229andalsoreceived

YorkRitedegrees,aswellasScottish

Ritedegrees.

HewascreatedanHonoraryInspec-

torGeneralofthe33ºoftheSupreme

CouncilonMay23,1862.

Anaccountpublishedbythe

SupremeCouncilreads,“Bro.Rosswas

anardentactiveMason,andduringhis

residenceatClevelandhewasoneof

theprincipalpromotersandworkersin

theScottishRite,contributingnotalit-

tletothatpermanentsuccesstheRite

hasachievedinthatcity.”

Atsomepoint,RossmovedtoNew

YorkCity,wherehepassedawayon

May30,1875.But,hisphotographre-

mains,allowingusnotonlytoconnect

hisappearancewithhislifestory,but

alsohighlightingafascinatingpartof

thestoryofphotographyinAmerica.

TheNationalHeritageMuseumand

Van-GordenWilliamsLibraryhaveim-

pressivecollectionsofphotographs,

highlightingMasonicandfraternalpeo-

ple,placesandevents.

Wedocontinuetoaddtothiscollec-

tion,butareselective,acceptinggiftsof

photographsthatfillgapsinourcol-

lection,orthathavewell-documented

histories.

Ifyouhaveawell-documentedMa-

sonicorfraternalphotographtaken

priorto1930thatyouwouldliketo

considerdonatingtothemuseum’s

collection,pleasecontactAimeeNewell,

curatorofcollectionsat781-457-4144or

e-mail:anewell@monh.org.

“AnagedMasonicVeteran,”DavidStiles,publishedbyCarson

&Barnard,1872.StileswasborninWoodbury,CT,and

wasamemberofHennepinLodge.

AMason,incollarandapron,withhiswife.ThephotoisprobablyfromMaine.