Brother Grant Wood (1892-1942), of Mount Hermon Lodge 263, Cedar Rapids, painted the acclaimed "American Gothic." Released in 1930, the painting shocked many when Wood said it was a portrait of a married couple. The scene depicts an elderly man holding a pitchfork standing next to a much younger woman. The age difference caused the scandal, so Wood eventually said the woman represented the man's daughter. He would, in fact, change that story and say she was his wife, depending on how he perceived the audience would react.
Four Too Many
Anthony Butler (1787–1849) was a lawyer, a politician, a diplomat, the ward and friend of Brother Andrew Jackson and, yes, a Freemason. Jackson appointed Butler his secret agent in a surreptitious plan to purchase Texas for the United States. Upon arriving in Texas, Butler crossed swords with Brother Stephen F. Austin who was establishing colonies there. While there, Butler became interested in and began courting the daughter of a prominent Mexican family. Austin was a friend of the family. Upon hearing what Butler was up to, he exposed him as a man who had a wife and three children back in the US., thwarting the plan to purchase Texas and fueling a lifetime of animosity between the two Masonic Brothers.
Charles P. "Chic" Sale (1885-1936), Urbana Lodge 157 (IL), was an actor and humorist in vaudeville and a character actor in movies. He never achieved a great amount of fame, however, until he became an author and published "The Specialist." The book sold 200,000 copies in three months and went on to be a million-seller. Its subject: outhouses. Considered risqué for its time, the book was nearly banned, but Brother Sale chose his words just carefully enough to avoid having it censored.
A Grand Lodge of California account from the mid-1960s describes a crime in which a Brother had been convicted of the theft of clothing, including 181 pairs of women's undergarments. The official police report described the incident as a "panty raid," stemming from the popular (and self-explanatory) hi-jinx occurring on college campuses at the time. The Brother came up on Masonic charges. In order to distinguish his serious crime from some youthful indiscretion, the Grand Lodge of California Proceedings for that year included the following: "We do not wish to be misunderstood as overemphasizing the gravity of that specification against the accused in which he is charged with a ‘panty raid.' Indulgence in such conduct by boys of college age for the purpose of displaying either skill or courage, if that be the purpose, differs from the conduct of the accused here, in that the theft of 181 pairs of ladies pants is not merely a playful prank."
The Presbyterian Church in 1831, sanctioned Nathaniel Beverley Tucker (1784-1851), second Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, for shocking "unchristian conduct." Certain parties, it seems, claimed he "partook of the amusement of dancing" on three occasions. There is no record of any action taken against him, but shortly thereafter MWB Tucker became an Episcopalian.
Brother Will Rogers asked his wife Betty to marry him in 1906. Betty, apprehensive about a life in show business, turned him down. A year and a half later the persistent Rogers changed her mind and they married. In the meantime`, Rogers dated every one of Betty's six sisters.
Note: Many of the accounts above are excerpted from Brother Harrison's book, "Freemasons: Tales From the Craft."
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.