Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Collections Overview

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Digital Collections

Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Collections

The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives has one of the world’s most comprehensive collections on the subject of American Freemasonry. The collection comprises over 60,000 books, 1,600 serial titles and 2,000 cubic feet of archival materials related to Freemasonry, fraternalism, and American history.

Library Collections

Masonic Collection

The Masonic collection contains primary and secondary resources dating from the 18th century to the present. The rare book collection has some of the most important Masonic titles published in English, including the first Masonic book published in North America, James Anderson’s The Constitutions of Free-Masons, printed by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia in 1734. The Masonic collection includes material written by and for Masons as well as current scholarly publications on the subject of Freemasonry.

Strengths of the Library’s Masonic collections include material on the history of Scottish Rite Freemasonry, published Proceedings of various Masonic bodies, individual lodge histories, anti-Masonry, rituals and early Masonic ritual exposés. The library’s Masonic periodical collection contains rare Masonic magazines and newspapers as well as a large number of contemporary Masonic magazines.

General Collection

Strengths of the Library’s general collection include American history, fraternal (i.e. non-Masonic) groups, decorative and applied arts, current and historic journals, magazines, and other periodicals, as well as a small but strong collection of historical maps and sheet music.

Archives Collections

The Archives collections are comprised of the institutional archives of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, which date back to the 18th century; the institutional archives of the Museum, which date back to its founding in 1975; as well as a number of other important collections pertaining to Freemasonry, fraternalism, and American history. Highlights from the Archives collection range from the founding documents of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction to the “Lexington Alarm” letter, a letter written on April 20, 1775, just twenty-four hours after the Battle of Lexington, which carried news of the battle that had taken place the previous day in Lexington, the first battle of the American Revolution.

Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction Collection

This collection includes founding documents of the organization, including many which pre-date its official founding in 1813. Highlights of this collection include correspondence of earlier officers of the Supreme Council, documents related to the Union of 1867 – which consolidated two competing Supreme Councils to the current-day Northern Masonic Jurisdiction – and over 500 manuscript rituals from the 18th and 19th centuries –including the 1783 Francken Manuscript.

Masonic and Fraternal Collections

Highlights of these collections include Masonic and fraternal certificates, charters, ledgers, minute books, programs, correspondence, as well as ephemera such as programs, notices, reports, and invitations. The collection also includes Masonic and fraternal manufacturer’s regalia catalogs, over 8,000 Masonic and fraternal postcards.

U.S. History Collections

Highlights include the Galford Collection of WWI and WWII posters, Uys Family Collection of material pertaining to teenage hoboes in America, and the G. Edward Elwell, Jr. Collection of autographs. The Elwell collection includes several letters and documents signed by U.S. presidents such as Jefferson, Lincoln, Taft, and Franklin Roosevelt.

Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Institutional Archives

The Archives are the repository for the institutional archives of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library and contain architectural plans, records, photographs, and slides that document the founding and activities of the Museum. These records include files from the more than 180 Museum exhibitions since its founding.

Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts Extended Loan

Approximately 200 eighteenth-century letters, 200 photographs, and 900 Masonic certificates, as well as other material are part of the archival portion of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts extended loan of over 11,000 objects and documents.

Circulating Collection

The Wallace M. Gage Collection is a circulating collection of approximately 800 volumes that is part of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives. Read more