About the Museum
Founded in 1908, the Museum was dedicated by Brother John Wanamaker, a prominent Philadelphia merchant who served as the first Chairman of the Library Committee. The Museum’s collection consists of more than 30,000 items including Brother George Washington’s Masonic Apron, which was presented to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in 1829, and Brother Benjamin Franklin’s Masonic Sash, worn in 1782, when he was Venerable (Worshipful Master) of the Loge des Neuf Soeurs (Lodge of the Nine Sisters or Muses) in Paris and when he Guided Brother Voltaire.
Masonic Artifacts in the Museum
Masonic Documents & Prints
Masonic documents and prints.
Masonic Folk Art
Masonic folk art from the early- mid 19th century.
Masonic Aprons & Pouches
Masonic aprons and pouches from the late 18th - mid-19th century.
Masonic Ceramics & Glass
Masonic pitchers, plates, glasses and flasks made of ceramics and glass.
Masonic sundial marked “Henry Mvall London” (Muall).
From the grave of a Crusader who was buried under Crusader's Hospice at Tyre, a town on the southern coast of Lebanon.
Statues of Osiris the god of fertility, agriculture, the afterlife, the dead, resurrection, life and vegetation in ancient Egyptian religion. Seen here seated, standing and from the waist up.
Brother George Washington’s Apron
This Masonic apron was one of two owned by Brother George Washington. When the young Marquis de Lafayette came to America at the age of 20 and joined George Washington's army for the Battle of Brandywine in 1777, the American cause had become his cause.
Michael Comfort shares with us the trowel that was used in 1874 to dedicate City Hall in Philadelphia at their cornerstone ceremony.
Mike Comfort shares the solid gold invitation sent to President William McKinley in 1901 from the Knights Templar Commandery of California, only a few months before McKinley was assassinated.
Michael Laskowski, head archivist, shares some of the many aprons in the archive at the Library and Museum.
Architecture of the Museum
The architecture and decorations of the Museum room are intricate Byzantine. Educational virtues are illustrated by the inscriptions on the frieze and by the 20 allegorical figures. Those Latin inscriptions are: “Quodcumque facere potest manus tua, instanter operare; quia nec opus, nec ratio, nec sapientia, nec scientia erunt apud inferos, quo tu properas. Ecclesiastes Cap. IX 10” (Whatsoever, thy hand findest to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest. – Ecclesiastes 9:10). “Sola perpetuo manent, subjecta nulli, mentis atque animi bona. Seneca. Oct. 548.” (The virtues of the mind and soul, subject to no one, alone remain forever. –Seneca, Octavia, 548). “Viamque insiste domandi, dum faciles animi juvenum, dum mobilis aetas. Virgilius G. III.164” (Begin early the course of education, while the mind is pliant and age is flexible.–Vergil, Georgics, 3, 164).
The departments of human knowledge decorate the Museum’s north wall. Medicine: Aesculapius, the ancient Greek physician, sits teaching the science of medicine to the coming generations. Philosophy rests with her hand to her brow, trying to fathom the riddle propounded by the sphinx. Poetry: a young poetess gazing abstractedly, seeks the right word to write upon her scroll. History: Memory in the form of an old chronicler searches in the Book of History for the records of a bygone time. Astronomy is depicted by the first astronomers, the Persian and the Arab, measuring the distance of the stars. Mathematics stands musing upon the geometric principles of the triangle in his hand.
Figures on the south wall show the sources of natural happiness: Charity gives a drink to a wounded soldier supported on the arm of his comrade. Peace holds a green branch signifying plentiful crops. A child is at her knee; she wears a helmet and carries a sword to defend and preserve these blessings. Industry holds a wheel and has an axe beside her. An Oriental merchant represents Internal Trade. International Commerce considers the model of a ship. Reflection or Meditation gazes at a human skull.
On the east wall, Rome sits erect and ready with helmet, spear and shield. Her foot is on the globe, signifying that she rules the world. Alexandria, named by Alexander the Great, whose bust is in the background, is elaborately dressed, symbolizing the Oriental luxury of that city. The book reminds us that Alexandria once had the greatest library in the world. Corinth is seated on a Corinthian capital. Behind her is the winged horse, Pegasus, who was supposed to carry thoughts to heaven. Corinth holds an olive branch to crown the victorious athlete at the Isthmian Games. Athens is symbolized by the goddess Minerva (Athena). Her signs are the owl, the breastplate and the Gorgon shield which turned the beholder to stone. A philosopher’s statue in the background shows that Athens was the “mother of art and eloquence.”
The symbolized cities continue on the west wall. Byzantium, heir and successor to Rome, holds the orb and scepter of the empire. She guards it well so that the power will pass to the young and vigorous races of Europe. Ravenna, the Gothic imperial city, received and disseminated in Italy the learning of the perishing Byzantine Empire. Her costumes are rich with the jewels of learning. She wears a crown of authority and holds the horn of plenty.
Symbols of two great Masonic principles decorate the other division of the west wall, over the entrance. Fidelity has a wand entwined with ivy in one hand, grasping an evergreen branch in the other. A Saint Bernard dog – the breed trained to search for perishing travelers in the Alpine snows – guards her. Virtue holds the shield of Purity and the sword of Courage, with the lion of Fortitude and Strength of Character crouched beside her.
The Panels above the north wall (from the west) represent: the Seal of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; Arms of the Free Masons from the Gateshead Charter, 1671; and the Seal of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina; the old Seal of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania along with the Arms of State; the Seal of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Massachusetts; Arms of the Stone Masons at Strassburg, 1725; the Seal of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Maine; the Arms of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, Grand Lodge of England; the Seal of the Grand Lodge of British Columbia; Arms of the Sculptors or Marblers from the Gateshead Chapter, 1671; the Seal of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the District of Columbia.
The Panels above the south wall (from the east) are taken from: the Seal of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire; Arms granted to the Carpenters’ Company of London, dated 6 Edward IV, 1466; the Seal of the Grand Council of the State of Iowa; the Seal of the Grand Lodge of Germany (Berlin) with Arms of Germany; the Seal of the Grand Lodge of Alabama; Arms of the Grand Lodge of Scotland; the Seal of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Vermont; Arms granted to the Masons’ Company, dated 12 Edward IV, 1472; the Seal of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Pennsylvania; the Grand Lodge of England, Arms of the “Moderns”; and the Seal of the Grand Holy Royal Arch Chapter of Rhode Island.
Origins and Value of Masonic Artifacts
As a general policy, we can only do minimal research on Masonic artifacts and paraphernalia. There are many fine pieces of Masonic regalia, jewelry, artwork, China, furniture, medallions and commemorative gifts. There are also many items of great sentimental value, but which have no intrinsic worth. The Masonic Library and Museum is not in the market to purchase or broker the sale of Masonic artifacts. Further, we are not permitted to provide an appraisal service on such items, whether for sale or given as gifts to the Masonic Library and Museum. Antique dealers are best equipped to serve these needs.
Returning Masonic Regalia
If you want to return Masonic regalia – swords, Past Master jewels, aprons, etc. – to the originating Masonic organization, we can connect you with the appropriate official. Please understand that, as a rule, these items will not be purchased, but will gladly be received for their sentimental value.
Rare and Historical Items
Occasionally, we acquire extremely rare, historically significant pieces for our collections. Researching most of these items without visual examination is difficult and virtually impossible. If you have an item which would interest us, please forward a color photograph to us via the contact information found at the bottom of this page.