Brethren and Friends,
2023 has been a fantastic year for the Alexandria – Washington Lodge, No. 22, Foundation, Inc.
Brethren and Friends,
2023 has been a fantastic year for the Alexandria – Washington Lodge, No. 22, Foundation, Inc.
We went into the year with a challenge from Wor. Bella to double the Foundation’s giving. We are just a $8,000 away from hitting our $50,000 goal. That is because of your generosity. Thank you. If you have the capacity for one more gift to round out 2023, we are hopeful of getting across Wor. Bella’s finish line before December 31. Visit our updated website and give by clicking the link below (and remember every gift helps!).
The Foundation Board and the Lodge’s Stationed Officers enlisted the professional support of Executive Coach Karen Shrum to layout a thoughtful path forward. Mrs. Shrum donated her time and expertise to support the Foundation. We now have a defined plan for 2024 and strategic goals for five and ten years out. We are committed to the preservation of the Lodge’s collection and to spreading the Light of Masonry. However, we need you, our brothers and friends, Masons and non-Masons, to help us in our efforts.
On this Giving Tuesday, I ask that you help us wrap up 2023 by hitting our $50,000 goal and preparing us for a strong 2024. Thank you for your support. Thank you for getting the Lodge’s museum collection out into the world to educate and inspire. Thank you!
Wor. Nik Nikolov, PM
The Third Painting by Mavrov is the Master Mason Tracing Board, like the Entered Apprentice and Fellowcraft it has a Plethora of Symbolic meaning which we shall now investigate.
Seen in the middle left of Mavro’s work depicted below. No discourse on the Trowel can be had without first noting the iconic George Washington Trowel kept in the archives of Alexandria-Washington 22 Lodge. This Trowel was used by Brother George in the laying of the corner stone of the Capitol Building and many other iconic and significant American buildings.
The Working Tools “Of a Master Mason are all the implements of Masonry indiscriminately, more especially the Trowel. The Trowel is an instrument used by operative Masons to spread the cement which unites a building into one common mass or whole; but it is used symbolically for the far more noble and glorious purpose of spreading the cement of brotherly Love and Affection, which unities us into one sacred band or society of friends and Brothers – a Temple of living stones, among whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who can best work and best agree.”
“The Trowel does become the chief Working Tool of the Master Mason. He is taught to use it differently than his operative brethren. Instead of spreading cement, the Master Mason uses it symbolically to spread Brotherly Love and Affection. By doing this the Mystic Tie of Freemasonry becomes more binding. Its members are truly united into a Temple of Living Stones.”
Put simply, we as Masons should be examples among our neighbors, friends and loved ones on how to unite everyone by what we have in common, not what separates us. As such we should hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard, so we can strive to achieve that noble goal.
“Time, Patience, and Perseverance will accomplish all things, you are told. These are three of the virtues stressed in all training courses for leadership today…These virtues are emblematically represented by a monument of a beautiful Virgin, weeping over a broken column. She holds a sprig of acacia in her right hand, an urn in her left. A book rests upon a broken column. A winged man, representing time, holds the virgin’s hair.
“It is impossible to say exactly at what period the idea of the Monument in the Third Degree was first introduced into the Symbolism of Freemasonry…The Monument adopted in the American System, consists of a weeping virgin, holding in one hand a sprig of Acacia and in the other an urn; before her is a broken column, on which rests a copy of Book of the Constitutions, while Time behind her is attempting to disentangle the ringlets of her hair. The explanation of these symbols will be found in their proper places in this work”
“Is an emblem of a Pure Heart, which is always an acceptable sacrifice to Deity; and as it glows with fervent heat, so should our hearts continually glow with gratitude to the great and beneficent Author of our existence, for the manifold blessings And comforts we enjoy”
“The use of incense as a part of the Divine worship was common to all the nations of antiquity. Among the Hebrews, the Egyptians, and the Hindus it seems to have been used for no other purposes; but the Persians burnt it also before the King…It has in Freemasonry a similar signification; and hence the Pot of Incense has been adopted as a symbol of the Third Degree, typifying the pure heart from which prayers and aspirations arise, as incense does from the pot or incensorium.”
“Is an emblem of Industry, and recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest Seraph in heaven to the lowest reptile of the dust. It teaches us that as we came into the world rational and intelligent beings, so we should ever be industrious ones, never sitting down contented while our fellow creatures around us are in want, when it is in our power to relieve them without inconvenience to ourselves.”
“Because the Bee is such an energetic insect, never appearing to rest from sunup to sundown, the bee and, hence, the beehive have long been symbols of industry or work. In former times, when more work had to be done by hand and every large piece of construction had to be carried on by great numbers of men, they seemed at a distance to be going and coming as bees”
“Reminds us that we should ever be watchful and guarded in our words and actions, particularly when before the enemies of Masonry; ever bearing in remembrance those truly Masonic virtues, silence and circumspection.”
I understand this not just to mean that we should be guarded in giving up the secrets of Freemasonry, but also being circumspect in our own behaviors and speech when in front of Brothers and those who are not Masons. After all, we are representatives of Freemasonry, and represent our Craft, our Lodge and our Grand Lodge when we interact with others.
“The Tiler’s Sword is symbolic of a need in the days when this instrument was the principle means of offense or defense. It may have been used during the days of the operative masons to protect the secrets of the master builder…To Speculative Masons, the Tiler’s Sword should act as a reminder of moral lessons/ It should admonish all of us to “set a guard at the entrance of our thoughts, to place a watch on the door of our lips and to post a sentinel at the avenue of our actions, thereby excluding every unqualified and unworthy thought, word, and deed, and preserving the consciences void of offense toward god and towards man.
“The book of Constitutions, mentioned earlier, is not a symbol of secrecy. It contains the laws of Masonry. It is published for all to read.”
“When a Sword Pointing to a Naked Heart was added to the ritual is uncertain. It is referred to as a symbol of Justice. It pointedly reminds us that God will reward us according to what we do in this life. But we know the rewards – the justice – will be tempered with mercy and understanding.”
“Thomas Smith Webb says that “the sword pointing to the naked heart demonstrates that justice will, sooner or later, overtake us”
Located in the center of the tracing board, this symbol above all others (minus likely the Square and Compasses) is one of the most recognizable Masonic Symbol. I do like the added touch that it is ensconced within the celestial bodies above.
“This is naturally a symbol of watchfulness, having the connotation both of solicitude and detection. Thus, it has been the idea of assurance to the good and true, but vengeance to the evil. Hence it is a symbol of omnipresence and watchfulness of the Supreme Being…It is a very old symbol and was used by the Egyptians to represent Osiris. In Preston’s Lecture of the Master Mason degree, the following appears: “The Sword, pointing to a Naked Heart, demonstrates that justice will sooner or later overtake us; and, although our thoughts, words, and actions may be hidden from the eyes of man, yet that All-Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon, and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care, even the Comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human Heart, and will reward us according to our merits.” Preston’s lecture is the oldest Masonic doctrine Freemasons have regarding the All-Seeing Eye, though we do have other sentiments expressed by others in the Craft.
“Was an invention of our ancient friend and Brother, Pythagoras, who, in his travels through Asia, Africa, and Europe, was initiated into several orders of Priesthood, and raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. This wise Philosopher enriched his mind abundantly in a general knowledge of things, more especially in Geometry or Masonry. On this subject he drew out many problems and theorems; and among the most distinguished he originated this, when, in the joy of his heart, he exclaimed, – Eureka, – meaning – I have found it-; and upon the discovery, is said to have sacrificed a hecatomb.”
“It is said that when Pythagoras discovered this problem, he sacrificed a hundred oxen, Why? As a mathematical theorem it is of no more importance or interest than fifty or seventy-five others in Euclid; and of much less than most of them. The explanation is a simple one. He styled it “a great symbol.” Mathematical theorems are not ordinarily symbols. He never styled any other theorem a symbol, great or small. A circle, a triangle, a square, a cube are symbols, but I do not know that any other problem has ever been so styled…Only one which represented the numbers 3, 4, 5 was a symbol for him. Its symbolism consisted in its representation of these Numbers, and he called it a symbol, and used it as such, because he could, by means of it, express to adepts, and entrust to his pupils some great philosophical or religious truth or creed, by the use of the measures 3 and 4, and the sum of which is the always sacred number 7.”
Can be seen in several different sections of the painting, and so we can break them up as such.
“These emblems force upon us the solemn thought of Death, which without revelation is dark and gloomy; but the Master Mason is suddenly revived by the ever green and ever living Sprig of Faith in the merits of the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, which strengthens him with confidence and composure to look forward to a glorious immortality beyond the grave.”
“An emblem of the passage of time or the brevity of life, and for the purpose, better than a clock, for one can see the sand slowly but steadily wasting away. It is one of the 8 hieroglyphical emblems which came into lectures late in the 18th century. Being coupled with the Scythe, it makes a most impressive symbol, the certainty of death.”
“As a Masonic Symbol it is of comparatively modern date, but the use of the hour-glass as an emblem of the passage of time is older than our oldest known rituals.”
While this same image shows time and the weeping virgin, if you look closely enough time is holding the Scythe.
“The Scythe, too, is ritualistically a gloomy instrument, and you were told it is an emblem of time. It is interesting to note that the Hour Glass and Scythe were not symbols employed by Operative Masons. They are, in fact, of comparatively recent origins… The Scythe too is a symbol of Time. It is also a symbol of Learning, and of Immortality.”
“The Sprig of Acacia symbolizes Faith- faith in the immortality of man, faith in the promises made by God in His Volume of the Sacred Law.”
“There is some difficulty in retracing the symbolic use of Acacia, though certain it is that some evergreen has been used for many years, possibly centuries, as a symbol of immortality or of a resurrection.”
Are emblems of a well-grounded hope and well-spent life. They are emblematic of that Divine Ark which safely wafts us over this tempestuous sea of troubles, and that Anchor which shall safely moor us in a peaceful harbor, where the wicked cease from troubling and where the weary shall find rest.”
“The Ark pictured in the ritual of Freemasonry is a representation of Noah. Masonically, it symbolizes the passing of the spirit of man from this life to one that is better and everlasting… Those who spent their lives in the service of their God, their country, and their fellow man could hope, and expect, to be safely wafted “Over this tempestuous sea of troubles.”
Brothers, I certainly feel this Symbol is one we should take to heart, ever being servants of our community and country and to the Supreme Architect. Temporal awards may or may not abound, but the rewards to be found in that Temple, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens surely will be worth our labors in the quarries of this life.
Written by Bro. Robert Swanson, Lodge Education Officer
Last month we took a quick trip through the history & origins of Tracing Boards. We also introduced the three Tracing boards within the Lodge room of Alexandria-Washington 22 and provided a brief summation of the symbols to be found in the Entered Apprentice Tracing board. Let us now look more deeply into the Fellowcraft Tracing board and the symbols to be found within. If you see any other symbols of relevance or import, please share!
The Two Pillars, surmounted by the Globes – Celestial and terrestrial.
What is exquisite about this particular frame which can be seen in the Tracing board bottom right are actually the Two Pillars surmounted by the Globes that exist in the AW-22 Lodge room as seen from the West-Gate whence the candidate enters the Lodge room. However, at AW22 when not enacting the FC Degree they are stationed around the Junior Warden’s station.
“Next, the doctrine of the Spheres as illustrated in the Sciences of Astronomy and Geography by the Globes of Celestial and Terrestrial”[i]
“the newly-obligated Fellow Craft is conducted to a site representing the porch of K-S-T. Thereupon, the first objects to which his attention is drawn are the Brazen Pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which are said to be representations of those that stood on the porch, flanking the entrance to the Temple. The word Jachin is said to denote establishment, and Boaz signifying strength. Taken together, they may be interpreted as “In strength shall this house be established.” [ii]
The Winding Staircase
“we are now about to make an ascent through a porch, by a flight of winding stairs, consisting of three, five and, seven steps, to a place representing the Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, there to receive instructions relative to the wages due, and the jewels of a Fellow Craft”[iii] “Symbolically, the Winding Staircase represents a journey- it implies motion, evolution and transformation. That the staircase winds is symbolic of the time, effort and dedication required of the Fellow Craft in his pursuit of knowledge”[iv]
“As a Fellow Craft, he has advanced another step, and as the degree is emblematic of youth, so it is here that the intellectual education of the candidate begins. And therefore, here, at the very spot which separates the porch from the sanctuary, where childhood ends and manhood begins, he finds stretching out before him a Winding Stair which invites him, as it were, to ascend, and which, as the symbol of discipline and instruction, teaches him that here must commence his Masonic labor – here he must enter upon those glorious though difficult researches, the end of which is to be the possession of Divine Truth.”[v]
The Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple
“This journey to the Middle Chamber, like many of the ceremonies of Freemasonry, is based upon one of the legends connected with the building of King Solomon’s Temple…On the evening of the sixth day those who had proved themselves worthy by a strict attention to their duties, were entrusted with certain mysterious words, signs, and grips, by means of which they were enabled to work their way to the Middle Chamber of the Temple to receive their wages”[vi]
“The so-called Middle Chamber is believed to have been in fact the middle story, extending around the main building as far as the second floor extended, as was used, it is supposed, for the priests and their vessels…used in sacrificial and other ceremonies. For ritualistic purposes, the Middle Chamber is appropriated to the Fellow Crafts.”[vii]
The Five Orders of Architecture – Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite.
However only three are depicted in the painting: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
“The ancient and original Orders of Architecture revered by Masons. Are no more than three – the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian, which were invented by the Grecians”[viii]
The Five Senses
“The Five Senses of Human Nature, to-wit: Hearing, Seeing, Feeling, Smelling, and Tasting, come next in order-the first three of which are most revered by Masons, for reasons which must be apparent to every enlightened Craftsman”[ix]
Though the Lambskin apron is not discussed in the 2nd Degree in Masonry Albert Mackey makes a wonderful allusion to the 5 senses compared with how an Entered Apprentice wears their Apron.
Mackey notes than as an EA “we wear it with the flap raised, forming a “five cornered badge” which is an allusion to our five senses that we use in relation to this physical world. When we combine the triangular flap with the quadrangular portion below it, it symbolizes a connection between the soul and body.[x]
The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences
“the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, to-wit: Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. Passing Over most of these, each of which affords a large field for the accomplished Scholar and Mason to dilate upon, we are arrested by the fifth Science, or Geometry, which treats of the powers and properties of Magnitudes in general, where length, breadth and thickness are concerned, from a point to a line, from a line to a superfice, and from a superfice to solid.”[xi]
The Mosaic Pavement
“The Mosaic Pavement is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon’s Temple; the indented Tessel, of that beautiful border or skirting which surrounded it; and the Blazing Star is an emblem of Deity or an overruling Providence…The Mosaic Pavement is emblematical of human life, checkered with good and evil; the beautiful border which surrounds it, of the manifold blessings and comforts which surround us, and which we hope to enjoy by a faithful reliance on Divine Providence, which is hieroglyphically represented by the Blazing Star in the center”[xii]
The symbol of the sheaf of wheat or ear of Corn, suspended at or near a Water-ford
Orientation on the wall
The lessons of the Corn, Wine and Oil
“You have now arrived at the Middle Chamber where you are received and recorded a Fellow Craft. You are now entitled to wages, as such; which are, the Corn of nourishment, the Wine of refreshment, and the Oil of joy, which denote peace, harmony, and strength”[xiii]
“Corn, meaning “seed of a cereal plant”…was used to refer to oats, wheat, barley, and others generally”[xiv]
“Corn, Wine, and Oil are the Masonic elements of consecration. The adoption of these symbols is supported by the highest antiquity. Corn, Wine and Oil were the most important productions of Eastern counties; they constituted the wealth of the people, and were esteemed as the supports of life and the means of refreshment David enumerates them among the greatest blessings that we enjoy, and speaks of them as “wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth mans heart” (Psalm civ.,15)”[xv]
[i] Presentation Volume Grand Lodge of A F & AM of the Commonwealth of Virginia page 80
[ii] Jamie Paul Lamb Approaching the Middle Chamber page 50
[iii] IBID page 69
[iv] Ibid page 69
[v] Mackey’s Encyclopedia Volume II page 1108
[vi] Mackey’s Encyclopedia Volume II page 665
[vii] Coils Masonic Encyclopedia page 416
[viii] Presentation Volume Grand Lodge of A F & AM of the Commonwealth of Virginia page 81
[ix] IBID 83
[x] Wilmshurst’s “Meaning of Masonry” Page 31
[xi] Presentation Volume Grand Lodge of A F & AM of the Commonwealth of Virginia page 82
[xii] Presentation Volume Grand Lodge of A F & AM of the Commonwealth of Virginia page 66
[xiii] Jamie Paul Lamb Approaching the Middle Chamber page 387
[xiv] Ibid page 388
[xv] Mackey’s Encyclopedia Volume I page 245
Written by Bro. Robert Swanson, Lodge Education Officer
The genesis of the Tracing Board is at the heart of Freemasonry’s humble beginnings. Before our structures and places of meeting became more permanent, lodges would meet in Taverns and other public places.
“so it was the practice to draw the lodge on the floor, that is, to mark it off on the floor with chalk or charcoal showing the various stations, representation of furniture , and symbols necessary to illustrate the lecture.”[i]
The symbolic drawings which once were drawn every meeting to “create” the lodge became works of art that evolved into the “Floor-Cloth” and then later became “Tracing Boards.”
What is a Tracing Board? According to Mackey a Tracing Board, otherwise known as Floor-Cloth[ii] is:
“A framework of board or canvas on which the emblems of any particular Degree are inscribed, for the assistance of the Master in giving a lecture. It is so called because formerly it was the custom to inscribe these designs on the floor of the Lodge-room in chalk, which were wiped out when the Lodge was closed. It is the same as the Carpet or Tracing-Board” [iii]
Brother Dimitar Gueorguiev Mavrov was commissioned in 2008 by the Brothers of AW-22 for the production of 3 Tracing boards, in accordance to traditions and customs of our Craft. In total the creation of these beautiful works of art by Brother Dimitar Mavrov took 9 months. However, in 2022 all three of the Tracing Boards were given improvements, and/or redesigns including additional “Masonic Symbols, Virtues and Knowledge.”[iv]
“This tracing board is designed with the idea to ignite spiritual seekers in their quest for Knowledge and Light. The young apprentice will learn the symbols of the First Degree, building the foundation for further improvement. The Four Cardinal Virtues, the mysterious Ladder of Jacob, the lights and furniture of the Lodge, the Holy Saints John, and various tenets are shown.”[v] Designed on a Medium of “Oil on Canvas”[vi]
[i] Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia page 119
[ii] Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Volume 2 Page 1045
[iii] Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry Volume 1 Page 359
From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington Lodge’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.
Written by Chris Ruli, Archives Committee
In the early morning of May 19, 1871, the townspeople of Alexandria awoke to the sounds of alarms. A fire erupted inside the city hall, which also served as a lodge space and museum operated by Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (AW22). The lodge’s members quickly arrived at the scene to help suppress the conflagration, which had spread to most of the building and threatened to destroy the entire lodge hall and museum – home to one of the earliest museums in the United States. They worked quickly to secure hundreds of priceless relics and documents on Freemasonry, politics, science, art, and popular culture. Although they were able to save a significant number of items, including the lodge’s proceedings and much of the Washingtoniana – the collection of memorabilia associated with George Washington, much of the museum’s natural science and art collection was lost.
Six days later, on May 25, members assembled in a temporary lodge space to discuss their future. In lieu of the standard minutes usually recorded, the lodge’s secretary drafted a powerful recollection of the fire, written in compelling prose.The following is a full reproduction of his remarks, which provides readers with an emotional account of the May 19 fire and the lodge’s attempt to rescue their history from total destruction.
In sorrow the Craft assembled this Thursday evening (May 25th) in the hall of Andrew Jackson Lodge No. 120 owing to the destruction of their own time-honored hall by fire on the early morn. of May 19, 1871.
At an hour when nature’s calm repose gave a seeming safety,
To all the works of genius and skill that man had proudly built,
And lingering night her quiet vigils kept,
While the workmen in life’s busy scenes found refreshing rest,
And made slumbers’ soothing hours.
Fire’s dread alarm upon the midnight air was borne,
Awakening, ere the time for rest expired,
By nature’s laws allowed the slumbering craft who hurrying to the scene,
Beheld with grief the mad carnival of rain the Fire King had made,
Hope for a season, bright promise, gave for the safety of the temple,
Bound to their hearts by a thousand ties,
Whose very walls when danger threatened most,
Bore silent witness to many a pleasant scene,
But alas! In vain,
Apprentice and fellow craft with master masons,
In mighty efforts vied, their hall, to save!
For soon the towering spire, which for years,
Had like a faithful guardian stood in proud majesty at the temple porch,
Sounding its own death knell at the hour of one,
From its brazen thatch gave taken by its mighty fall,
That the unchecked demon gathering new strength from the harm it had made,
With ere long enwrap beneath its fiery arms all within their reach,
Near and near still it’s heated breath, porch and temple approached,
Which soon in burning shrouds helpless victims lay,
With madly darking flames,
The only lights for sepulcher,
Which high to heaven ascends,
As if in mockery of the feeble efforts of the craft to avert their doom,
Soon the blackened walls, like grim specters remained,
Sad monuments of the joys and pleasures,
The Craft had known within their honored hall,
Whose falled altars, the new born day, a silent language gave,
That in gloomy ancients words of sorrow spoke,
To the heart of every brother that lingered there,
As if loth to leave the mournful scene,
Where once with kindred spirits they had happy been.
One ray of comfort they cherished then in that hour of gloom,
The safety of all they prized beyond the temple they had lost,
Whose value association gave,
And whose loss the wealth of India could ne’er replace,
The charter, that bore the immortal name that was not “born to die,”
The chair in which our first illustrious master sat,
Crowned by a diadem of glory woven by a nation’s love,
And letters of fraternal council by him to our fathers sent,
Portraits of the honored dead,
That adorned the temple walls,
And objects held most dear,
were from destruction’s grasp,
By anxious daring brothers saved.
To serve again as mementos of the past,
Valued once but two fold cherished now,
That they are linked in memory’s chain,
With objects forever lost.
And soon we hope shall severe again,
That temple to adorn,
Which willing hearts and active hands,
Shall build a glorious Phoenix,
Magnificent in design,
A fit monument to keep,
Alive the Glorious of the past,
That filled the fallen temple,
From whose ashes it shall arise.
Due to the building’s importance in local business and civic affairs, lodge members joined the town’s council and merchants to fundraise and immediately rebuild the hall. Adolf Cluss, a prominent local architect and Freemason, was selected to lead the project and rebuilt the edifice exactly as it stood before the incident with few notable exceptions. Cluss reinforced the hall’s interior with steel beams and stone to make it fireproof and worked with AW22 to build an expanded museum and lodge room. Alexandria-Washington occupied this space until 1945 when it moved over to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.
Written by Chris Ruli and Aaron Habibipour
December 16 marks the 223rd anniversary of Alexandria Lodge’s meeting to announce the death of George Washington and plan for his funeral service. The lodge’s museum and archives is fortunate enough to have the original meeting minutes from the occasion.
Dr. Elisha Dick, the lodge’s Master, called for an Emergency meeting “for the purpose of taking into consideration and adopting certain measures relative to the burial of our late worthy Brother General George Washington.” Thirty-eight members of the lodge attended the meeting along with two visitors – Charles Lesebre of Fredericksburg Lodge 4 of Virginia, Washington’s mother lodge, and James Bacon of Philadelphia Lodge 7, Pennsylvania. In fact, the meeting became so noteworthy that the lodge’s secretary David Wilson Scott, embedded a note directly onto the center of the page for future reference: “Funeral Lodge called for the burial of Gen. G. Washington, 1st Master of this lodge No. 22.
Dick opened the meeting and “delivered a suitable address to the brethren on the occasion.” They then proceeded to discuss funeral arrangements with Alexandria Brooke Lodge 47, the other Masonic lodge that met in Alexandria at the time.
“No. 47 being convened on the occasion a committee consisting of Bros Peterkin and Neale were appointed to wait on them and inform them that No 22 were ready to receive their committee and jointly with them to adopt such measures as might appear most proper for carrying into effect the purposes for which our lodges were convened – a committee from lodge no 47 consisting of bro’s Jones and Bouge came in and agreed with lodge no 22 upon the manner in which the funeral should be conducted and then withdrew.”
The lodge then discussed plans for their upcoming St. John’s Day, which traditionally served as the lodge’s installation of officers. “Ordered that Bro’s Deneale, Ramsay, and Jamisson be appointed a committee to wait on Bro Davis and request him to deliver a discourse on St John’s Day and in case he should be engaged to preach a funeral sermon they are requested to wait on Bro Maffitt and request him to deliver a discourse on that day.”
Dick then ordered that Peter Colton “wait on the Federal City Lodge and invite them to join in the funeral procession on Wednesday at Mount Vernon at 12 O’clock if fair or on Thursday at the same hour and that the lodge pay him his expenses for going to and returning from the city.” The lodge referenced here is Federal Lodge 1 of the District of Columbia, then originally chartered as Federal Lodge 15 of Maryland, which participated in the US Capitol cornerstone ceremony together with Alexandria-Lodge and George Washington in September 1793.
The minutes conclude with orders that the deacons prepare the lodge’s equipment and “furnish spermaceti candles” for the funeral ceremony. Alexander McCormick, Federal Lodge’s Master, held one of the candles during the ceremony and kept it as his personal memento. The candle is now on display in the GWMNM’s Washington museum. The Secretary was also ordered to “take the case in which the [lodge’s] charter is deposited and have it repaired and new guilted in time for the procession the expense of which the lodge will pay.” The lodge concluded their business that night around 9 o’clock and gathered two days later at Mount Vernon to perform their solemn duty in Masonic tradition.
The record of the December 16th meeting provides valuable insights into the preparations made by Alexandria-Washington Lodge and other local lodges to prepare for Washington’s funeral. Due to the nature of their business, the meeting became one of most well attended and brethren seemed eager to lend their support or assistance in planning. This not only speaks to Washington’s legacy as a public figure but as a trusty and loyal brother.
From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.
Alexandria-Washington Lodge, No. 22’s archives contain over 4,000 items related to the history of Freemasonry in Alexandria, Virginia, George Washington, and American history. One of the most important items in our collection is the lodge’s meeting ledgers, which begin in February 1783, during the lodge’s formation, and span well into the twenty-first century. The first set of rules governing the lodge, or bylaws, appears in the earliest meeting ledger. Let’s take a brief look back at the lodge’s first set of rules to better understand how early members conducted their activities and engaged with other Freemasons during this early period of American history.
In early 1783, Freemasons from Alexandria petitioned the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for a charter to establish a lodge in their town. Their request was granted on February 3 of that same year and they received a charter to work as Alexandria Lodge No. 39. To form a new lodge the members were required to draft up a set of bylaws, which were written into the secretary’s meeting ledger for reference. The bylaws contained twenty-one numbered articles that outlined lodge governance, fees, and membership duties. As the document’s preamble notes, the bylaws were intended “to prevent feuds, controversies, and illegal debates, and to promote the harmony and good order of the lodge.”
The first two articles determined the lodge’s meeting date and time. Members met “regularly on the Friday after the third Monday” each month. Evening meetings began promptly at 7 o’clock between March and September and 6 from October and February to account for daylight savings. Meetings are now scheduled for the second Thursday of each month.
Article three detailed the tiler’s duties. In addition to his responsibilities while a lodge is in session, the tiler distributed meeting notices and other correspondence around town. This duty often entrusted him with sensitive and important information concerning lodge affairs. While not explicitly mentioned in the bylaws, tilers often maintained the lodge’s meeting room, prepared refreshments, and ensured the space had enough firewood for winter meetings. Today, most of our communications are performed electronically through email, social media, and membership databases.
Article four required members to attend all meetings unless they provided an acceptable excuse. Common excuses included illness and travel. Members were fined 1 shilling, about $4-$5, for each unexcused absence, which the secretary tracked in his ledger. Members were required to pay any outstanding debts prior to each St John’s day in June and December. Fines were eventually phased out by the early nineteenth century.
Article seven prohibited members from “raising angry disputes” with each other. Fines increased in severity after multiple offenses. The first offense resulted in a vocal reprimand by the master and the second resulted in a 5 shilling fine. The fine doubled to ten shillings for the third instance and the offender was “solemnly excluded” from the meeting for the night and would only be admitted again after a formal apology. Similar fines were levied for inappropriate language (article eight) and improper dress (article nine).
Article eleven covered fees and regular payments owed to the lodge. Each member was required to pay 1 shilling each month towards the lodge’s operations, which they referred to in the bylaws as “the Fund.” The Secretary collected all monies during each meeting and transferred over to the Treasurer for his deposit. Prior to the Coinage Act of 1793, which officially designated the dollar as the national currency, states issued their own currency along with foreign currencies that remained in circulation. Therefore, the lodge’s affairs were often conducted in British and colonial state issued pounds, shillings, and dollars. Today, masons can remit their annual dues payment through electronic means, which do not require their attendance to meetings.
New membership is covered in article sixteen. Petitions required a single member to propose a candidate for membership. The lodge assigned two other members to “make inquiry into the merits, character, and circumstances of the candidate and report the succeeding lodge night.” Furthermore, the proposer paid the petition fee. “The brother who proposes (the candidate) shall at the same time deposit one dollar of his money (along with the petition) to ensure (the candidate’s) attendance.” This ensured that both the proposing member and candidate were serious with their intentions and financially invested in the process. Once approved, the candidate paid his initiation fee and the tiler received the petition fee – perhaps as regular payment for his duties in and outside of lodge. The candidate’s fee was returned if the lodge rejected his candidacy. The bylaws also note that if the lodge elected the candidate for membership but he later declined to proceed, the tiler would keep the dollar from the proposing brother. Today, candidates pay the petition and degree conferral fees.
Candidates paid four pounds and sixteen shillings to receive the three degrees of Freemasonry, which equates to around $835.00 in 2022, adjusted for inflation. That said, early salaries were much lower than today. A Virginia school teacher, for example, garnered around sixty to seventy pounds each year. If he sought membership to the lodge, he would spend 6-7 percent of his annual income for his initiation. Most citizens were self-employed and many worked as farmers, which garnered less than sixty pounds each year. Thus, the lodge’s membership was effectively composed of men from Alexandria’s upper-middle to upper class
Other articles covered lodge voting procedures, committee membership, and duties related to the Grand Lodge. The document ends with a list of signatures by the lodge’s earliest members, who by custom signed the book to affirm that they abide by the lodge’s rules. Articles were regularly updated, dropped, and added throughout the lodge’s history to adapt to changes in the fraternity, society, and the economy.
What do the first bylaws tell us about Alexandria lodge and Freemasonry? First, the lodge’s membership mostly consisted of upper-middle to upper class Alexandrians. Second, they took their membership seriously and imposed
fees and penalties for those who violated their obligations. Members were expected to attend each meeting, dress appropriately, and find ways to resolve conflict without devolving into anger or slander. Third, proposing a new candidate for membership required a financial commitment from the proposing brother. This ensured that both parties were serious about who would join the lodge. Fourth, members were obligated to invest into the lodge regularly, to ensure the lodge had funds to cover its expenses and distribute charity to deserving brethren and their families. These founding rules and principles enabled the lodge to proposer well into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Brother Chris Ruli is a masonic researcher and historian who focuses on the history of Freemasonry. He is a member of Alexandria-Washington Lodge 22, Virginia and Federal Lodge 1 of Washington, D.C.
by David Bella, Senior Warden
From an early age, George Washington recognized the importance of the American South and American West. He knew that they were new frontiers with unlimited possibilities.
At the age of sixteen, he was invited to survey the western Virginia lands owned by Thomas, Lord Fairfax. This first exposure sparked a lifelong intertwinement with the lands that lay to Washington’s west. Washington’s first fame came from his ill fated attempt to push the French out of the Ohio River Valley at the age of twenty-one. Upon his return, the detailed notes he took in his journal were published in several newspapers which made him a household name in the colonies as well as in political circles in England. At the time of his death, he owned over forty thousand acres in the outer western edges of European settler influence.
Washington also had significant experience with the American South. He was a southerner by birth. The only foreign country he visited was a journey south to Barbados in hopes of curing his brother’s tuberculosis. Washington marched into southern Virginia to defeat the British at Yorktown in 1781. And in 1791 he visited the southern states as our first President, going as far south as Savannah before heading back to Philadelphia.
Wardens’ Night is upon us: it is a time for the lodge to get to know their Wardens a little better. I am so honored and flattered to be asked by Worshipful Deni to sit in the East and I know that Brother Allen is equally honored and flattered to sit in the West at our wonderful lodge. In our conversations throughout the years, a dominant theme has always been our reverence for our dearest brother, George Washington, and the legacy he has given to our lodge.
Brother Allen and I both have significant ties to the cardinal directions we represent. I was born in Wasington state, our Western most lower forty-eight state. He was born in Alabama. We both hail from a state west of Virginia, growing up on opposite ends of Jackson County, Mississippi, which is one of the southernmost counties in the Deep South.
I would like to thank the Worshipful Master for allowing the officers to “move up” at Wardens’ Night, and I’ll speak for brother Allen and the other officers in saying that we are all looking forward to seeing you on the third.
By Wor. Nikola N. Nikolov, PM, Foundation Board Chairman
In this blog, our Senior Warden Bro. David Bella, has presented a strong argument for your participation in Lodge and supporting our efforts for 2023. I echo his sentiment. Alexandria – Washington Lodge has a storied past, which presents us with a unique platform to represent Craft Freemasonry to the world. To adequately execute the plans laid forth for the Memorial’s Cornerstone Centennial Celebration and update our educational/museum exhibits in the Lodge Room and Replica Lodge Room, funds are required. The Foundation was established specifically to support the Lodge in telling the story of Freemasonry and the story of Washington as a Freemason. We are in the process of working with the Archives Committee and Officers to determine how much updates to the Lodge and Replica Lodge will cost. Initial estimates are about $60,000. This is a great deal of money, but it is not insurmountable. You can assist in raising these funds through the support of the Foundation.
Since launching the Foundation, nearly $50,000 have been raised. Thank you to everyone who has already demonstrated their support for the Lodge and Foundation thus far. To ensure the financial health of the Foundation, and to support 2023 activities and beyond, we need to double this amount through our Cornerstone Campaign. I challenge each of you to consider how much you might be able to invest in the Lodge’s future. Consider becoming a Charter Member of the Foundation with a $1,000 contribution. Some brothers question why we need to raise this money, especially when the Lodge accounts are not insignificant. The answer is twofold. First, to continue to offer strong programming and high-quality meals at each of our Stated Communications, support Lodge participation in the District Masters and Wardens Association, attendance at Grand Lodge, and participation in the Committee on Work’s Reid J. Simmons Masonic Ritual Academy – among other activities – we need to leave the Lodge accounts as intact as possible. Annually, the Lodge withdraws about three percent of its invested funds to support these activities. Taking a significant chunk from those funds will reduce our annual draw and diminish our capacity for regular activities. Continue reading
By Bro. David Bella, Senior Warden
Two hundred and forty years ago, six Alexandrians – Robert Adam, Michael Ryan, William Hunter Sr., John Allison, Peter Dow, and Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick – submitted a petition to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania requesting a warrant to operate a Masonic Lodge in Alexandria. The combined imaginative talent of those six men could never foretell what lay in store for their town’s first lodge.
The lodge they founded has hosted Presidents, dignitaries, and Grand Masters from countless jurisdictions. It has laid nationally significant cornerstones such as the United States Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Institution, and Library of Congress to name a few. It has led important funeral services. It has practiced incalculable charity in the community which has positively impacted generations of Alexandrians. It has been a leader in the international masonic community. And perhaps, most importantly, it has created life-long friendships among its members. There is no denying the lodge they created has blossomed into a truly unique and special institution. Looking around the lodge and at our historical records, I am always struck by the astonishing quality of our members. I believe that the “specialness” of the lodge is in direct parallel to the greatness of our members. Over one hundred years ago, one of the most exceptional generations of our membership banded together to set in motion the construction of the most architecturally impressive masonic structure ever conceived: an august monument to our lodge’s most august member. Continue reading
By Bro. David Bella, Senior Warden
I watched HBO’s, The Wire, for the first time in 2018. What I loved about the show was its ability to depict the realism of our society. What made the show special was its ability to accurately depict the experiences of the forgotten in our society and demonstrate how their lives affect the larger society. I remember thinking that it was remarkable how the show tied the drug dealer’s experience on the corner to the politician having to decide between tough policy choices at city hall.
I finished the show again a few weeks ago and came away from this viewing with an even greater appreciation of the show because I was able to understand that it was really about how individuals are confined to the institutions they belong to. Each season highlights dysfunctional institutions-the drug trade in season one, the dying stevedores union in season two, the Baltimore political machine in season three, the public school system in season four and the local newspaper in season five. Each institution is uniquely different, but all fall prey to similar problems-individual egos, societal pressures, changing environments, corruption, and most importantly systematic limitations. I think the most important lesson of the show is that just because an institution is set up to serve a specific purpose, it might fall short if not watched carefully. It got me thinking about an institution that I belong to: Freemasonry.
Masonry has been an American institution before America became America. It has hierarchies, norms, goals, and principles just like any other institution. It also has its problems, such as: dwindling membership, poor retention, political infighting, poorly managed programs, etc. How do we become less dysfunctional and more effective at accomplishing our goal of making good men better? In the following paragraphs I lay out several systematic changes that I believe could improve our performance.
Master Masons don’t become Master Masons by simply going through a Master Masons degree. There is a process of educating, coaching, question answering, motivating, supporting, and showing up that is required by another individual to move a brother through the degrees. If our job is to make masons, isn’t mentoring how we do it?
At the finality of the Master Mason degree, each brother is given the Presentation Volume-a book that lays out Virginia Freemasonry’s history, degree work, ceremonies, and mentoring. Before looking at the graph below, rank those categories in ascending order based on how many pages you think the book dedicates to each section.
Mentoring is the second largest category at almost thirty percent. Obviously, the craft thinks that mentoring is important enough to dedicate almost a third of its seminal text to mentoring new members. But outside of pages in a text, what is the craft systematically doing to foster good mentorship? I would venture to guess that we are not dedicating anywhere near thirty percent of our efforts to bettering our mentoring abilities.
We have lodges dedicated to our history. Schools on degree work and ceremonies. I propose we have at least one statewide mentoring summit every year, similar to what college fraternities are increasingly doing. The summit should focus on three areas: mentoring new masons, mentoring as a lodge officer, and mentoring as a past master. Each of these areas would have unique methods, techniques, and programs but would all concretely contribute to mentoring good men and making them better. I also believe that it would be a wonderful selling point for potential members because it would be a tangible event that would signal that the craft places an emphasis on mentoring and development while also equipping experienced masons with a wonderful leadership skill.
I believe that an increased focus on mentorship would result in better member retention; it would deliver a higher quality product to men going through the degrees which would result in better retention and more involvement. This increased buy-in would ward off some of our problems: more member involvement would result in not only more vibrant lodges, it would also result in high quality members.
The District Deputy Grand Master (DDGM) role is designed to be an impactful part of our organization. He is responsible for communicating the Grand Master’s message and theme to each masonic district. A regular mason may be lucky to see the Grand Master once or twice a year. A District Deputy, however, is able to interface more frequently with local masons throughout the year because of his proximity to the membership. Unfortunately, I believe that due to the fact that their terms are limited to one year, DDGMs are largely symbolic in nature and have little systemic impact on local lodges and districts.
I believe that the DDGM role should be a three year progressive line that starts with the District Education Officer position, followed by the District Membership Officer position, and culminates in being appointed as the District Deputy Grand Master. Incoming Grand Senior Wardens would make the appointments instead of waiting until they become the incoming Grand Master.
This would have four benefits. One, it gives each potential DDGM important training and forces them to focus on two of our most important focus areas. It would create a consistency of purpose among all DDGMs by forcing each to incorporate education and membership into their goals as DDGM. Two, it would enable the brother who occupies the office of Grand Senior Warden and then Deputy Grand Master to evaluate how effective their subordinate would be as a DDGM. Is their potential pick doing a good job? Is he conducting good programs and making an impact on his local lodges? If not, the Grand Officer has time to make a change. Three, it removes the assumption that the DDGM office is a ceremonial one. To get the esteemed job of DDGM, a potential brother would have to roll up his sleeves and earn it by conducting programs and adding value to his district’s lodges. Finally, it gives the brethren of the district time to get to know the eventual DDGM. Only incredibly active masons in the district know next year’s DDGM if the pick is from outside of their own lodge. A three year commitment would allow the eventual DDGM to get to know the brethren of the district and vice versa.
This structural change would ensure that we are driving toward better education and membership services and remove the ceremonial nature of the DDGM office. I believe that this would result in better prepared masonic leaders.
Is lodge x better than lodge y? Maybe, but how would we prove it? We use the Hillman award and the District Deputy’s Official Visit Checklist to evaluate lodge health, but the data collected in these forums never gets collected and aggregated to glean insight. Maybe someone in Richmond does all sorts of analysis that us normal masons don’t get to see, but I doubt it. I recommend the Grand Lodge come up with a set of simple metrics that are used to measure lodge health and publish the rankings at Grand Annual Communications.
I believe that three metrics should be steadfast year to year, and two metrics should be introduced by the new Grand Master based on his priorities. The three core metrics should be yearly membership increase, dollar per member, and how many of the three lectures can be given by a lodge member. This would enable masonic leadership to be able to measure membership health, financial health, and ritual health.
Ignoring the two Grand Master measures, suppose we have this data:
To weigh each measure equally, we must normalize the data by doing a simple calculation where Zi=(Xi-min(X)) / (max(X)-min(X))
We are now able to see that Lodge A is the healthiest of the three lodges and that Lodge B is struggling in comparison to the other two. What an easy, insightful approach that requires only four data points. This approach could easily expand if the Grand Master wanted to add his own measures.
OK, now that we have this data, what do we do about it? I think individual lodges deserve to know how well they are performing in relation to their neighbors. Publishing the list allows for public praise…..and public admonishment. Who in the world wants to be the Master of a lodge that is at the bottom of the list? And if you were, wouldn’t you do everything in your power to get out of the basement? This data would also allow the Grand Lodge to put resources toward getting those lodges off the bottom of the list through various means like sending Grand Lodge Membership Committee Members to those lodges for improvement seminars or asking accomplished masons in the area to start helping build the lodge back up.
Going back to The Wire, one of the things that is shown is that all institutions “juke the stats” so we need to be vigilant about unintended consequences of using metrics to assess performance. Though they can be misleading, “stats” are imperative to continuous improvement and diagnosing institutional problems. We must implement some tracking mechanism to diagnose and measure our progress , because without measures we will never know if we are getting better or worse. The simple measures I highlighted above should be used as building blocks by the Grand Lodge to assess lodge health, learn from high performing lodges, and assist struggling lodges to rebound.
I’ll conclude by saying that I believe Masonry is still a relevant institution that has a critical role to play in our community. With slight tweaks like the ones I presented above to our historic craft, I believe we could reverse the negative trends I highlighted.
But as I learned from The Wire, if institutions do not ask tough questions and refuse to take bold action in order to live up to their founding principles, they tend to sink into mediocrity, or worse
At the time of writing, David Bella serves as the Senior Warden of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 where he is a Life Member in Perpetuity. He is involved in various local appendant bodies and takes great pride in being a member of the Alexandria community. The views outlined in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 or the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, A.F. &A.M. of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Wor. Daniel E. Froggett, Master in 2020, is featured in the latest installment of the AW22 Past Master Series. This documentary project highlights and preserves the sage wisdom and fond memories of the men chosen as servant leaders to their brothers at Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22.
Wor. Froggett currently serves as our Lodge secretary. Thank you for your tireless efforts and the countless hours of hard work you put in for our Lodge!