X-Rated Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Freemasons — those never kiss-and-tell pillars of society always adhere to the values of ethics and high-morals, observing the promises of their obligations. Well... almost always. There have been instances where society, depending upon the social mores of the day, may have judged Brethren harshly for "crossing the line." Some of those occasions by today's standards may seem as tame as a sleeping kitten while others might raise the eyebrows of the most iniquitous among us. Read on, and judge for yourself.

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American Gothic
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
Brother Tom Mix, a member of Utopia Lodge 537 of Los Angeles was one of the earliest film superstars. In an era where moviegoers were unaccustomed to some of the antics of Hollywood actors, they were shocked at what one might call his practice of "serial monogamy." Mix had five wives — at a time when that number was considered just about four too many.

Bare Facts
After visiting the Soviet Union Brother Will Rogers wrote a book entitled, "There's Not A Bathing Suit In Russia, And Other Bare Facts." Suggestive by the standards of the day, the publisher declined to put the second part of the title on the book's cover.

Stephen Austin's Nemesis
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.

The Bestseller
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 One-Glove Striptease
Glenn Ford, a member of Riviera Lodge 780 in Pacific Palisades, California, got his big break when Humphrey Bogart turned down the role of Johnny Farrell in the 1946 blockbuster, "Gilda." In one scene his co-star, Rita Hayworth, was to take swing at him. She misjudged the distance between them and broke Ford's jaw. That was only the beginning of the scandal the film generated. In it, Hayworth performed a strip-tease in which she removed nothing more than one glove. That and a rumored affair between the two co-stars nearly caused censors to ban the movie.

Brother Henry Lieferant (1892-1968), Lodge unknown, was a Polish-born and educated immigrant to the US who became a prolific author with several books and magazine articles to his credit. As Editor-in-chief of "True Story" magazine, he was responsible for its rise to popularity — and reputation as an "off color" magazine — when he developed the story format whereby a heroine "violates standards of behavior, suffers as a consequence, learns her lesson and resolves to live in light of it, unembittered by her pain." "True Story" magazine still survives using Brother Lieferant's tried-and-true, if not slightly salacious format known as "sin-suffer-repent."

Panty Raid
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."

Unchristian Conduct
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.

Keeping It In the Family
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.

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Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said of obscenity, "I can't define it... but I know it when I see it." That might apply to each of these little scenarios. As you form your opinion about their appropriateness, you might do well to drag your Bible off the shelf and read Matthew 7:1-3; And, while you're at it, ask yourself if the title of the article piqued your interest.

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.

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