At the 166th Annual Communication, the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry unveiled a new exhibit, “Diverse, Yet United: California’s Masonic Mosaic.”
Inspired by the foreign-language and ethnicity-based lodges that have dotted the California landscape since Masonry’s 1850 inception, this exhibit celebrates the rich cultural heritage of Freemasonry in our state and beyond. Viewers will experience a fascinating journey through historic Masonic cultural influences – from the early years of Freemasonry to the golden age of fraternalism following the Civil War, up to the 1930s. In addition to a special focus on California Masonic culture, it includes references to Anti-Masonic conspiracies and the persecutions of Freemasons.
The exhibit is accessible now in a modified capacity, and will be reopened in full during the XIV World Conference of Regular Masonic Grand Lodges in November. The Library and Museum is located at the California Masonic Memorial Temple in San Francisco. View current hours.
Featured documents include German ritual books from the now-defunct Hermann Lodge, and never-before-seen surviving documents from Belgium’s Loge La Parfaite Union. They are complemented by a 1786 book about the Bavarian illuminati by the order’s founder, Adam Weishaupt, and a 1723 first edition of the seminal “Constitutions of the Freemasons” by James Anderson.
Of special note is the inclusion of three artifacts that have not been displayed together since the early days of the California Grand Lodge:
• The “Miner’s Bible” of Connecticut Lodge No. 75 (now Tehama No. 3), which was used during the first opening of the Grand Lodge of California in April, 1850
• The original hand-written charter of California Lodge No. 1, which was issued by the District of Columbia in 1849
• The original hand-written charter for Benicia Lodge No. 5
Additional documents include rare Masonic certificates from Pennsylvania (1765) and New York (1805).
The exhibit also includes regalia, including Swedish Rite aprons from Denmark and an apron from the Order of Free Gardeners, which illustrates Masonry’s influence on other fraternal orders.
Other displays explore California Freemasonry’s role in establishing lodges in the Philippines – including a letter from General Douglas MacArthur; extravagant Masonic parades during the Belle Époque of the 1880s; and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.
While the exhibit’s primary focus is a celebration of the fraternity’s diverse cultural influences, it also delves into its more difficult past with items from the American Anti-Masonic period and postage stamps advertising a 1942 Anti-Masonic exhibition in Nazi-occupied Belgrade.
To learn more about the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry, visit masonicheritage.org.
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