Sometimes a simple certificate or scrap of paper can reveal a wonderful history. This is certainly the case with the Masonic certificates of John Blade, pictured here.
The story of Blade’s initiation is a fascinating one. Likely a British merchant – no details are confirmed of his true occupation – Blade was imprisoned by the French during the Napoleonic War. By happenstance, his fellow prisoners included the troops of the British 9th Regiment of Infantry, some whom were members of Royal Arch Lodge No. 183.
On Nov. 12, 1806, in the city of Valencienne, where the regiment was imprisoned, Blade became a Mason, as well as a member of the Royal Arch and Knights Templar – all on the same day.
At the time, Royal Arch Lodge No. 183 was working under a charter from the Athol Grand Lodge (more popularly known as the “Antients”). Its records, which confirm the names and events recorded on Blade’s certificates, are preserved at the Library & Museum of Freemasonry in London.
And, today, these certificates are held safely within the archives of the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry in San Francisco – a world away.
Unfortunately, it is not known what became of Brother Blade upon his release from prison. Yet, because of these certificates, we are able to have a rare glimpse into the Masonic experience of one of our early brothers. Our knowledge of this fascinating story is available to us because the Masons who came before us were thoughtful about saving their important documents. To find out more about how your lodge can preserve documents safely, read “Storage Solutions for Your Lodge”.
Access more archival documents and artifacts at masonicheritage.org
Photo courtesy of the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
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