A Return to the Tradition of Grand Master Portraits

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Travis Simpkins



Okay, so maybe “return” isn't the right word to use in all cases. Some Grand Lodges, like Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, have kept up the tradition of commissioning oil portraits of Grand Masters from the beginning. Other jurisdictions have always simply relied on photographs to commemorate and honor their leaders. Others still began with paintings and, for any variety of reasons, gradually let the practice fade away.

Over the past couple years, I've been happy to work with the Grand Lodge of New Jersey to help renew the tradition there. In early 2018, Roger B. Quintana was serving as Deputy Grand Master and was planning ahead for his upcoming term in the Grand East. He contacted me about the possibility of having an original oil painting made for his Grand Master portrait. He said that New Jersey had commissioned some oil paintings in the past, but that now the portraits were mostly just large photos. He wanted to return to displaying handmade artwork. We agreed on the details and I presented the completed painting to M.W. Quintana in April of 2018, on the day of his installation as Grand Master of Masons in New Jersey at the Grand Lodge's Annual Communication in Atlantic City. The portrait was well received and I was invited back again this year to present the oil painting I made of his successor, M.W. Gregory J. Scott. And if all goes according to plan, I hope to return to New Jersey for a third time in 2020.

Not all budgets are the same and some buildings just don't have the space to display large artwork. Beyond oil paintings, I've also had the pleasure of creating smaller charcoal drawings of Grand Masters for many jurisdictions. Some have gone to Grand Lodges for display, others now hang in the Mother Lodges of various Grand Masters, some are in private homes. Commemorating our leaders for posterity in an interesting and appropriate way is the important thing, regardless of artistic medium or ultimate destination.

Handmade portraits, conceived by a skilled artist, contain a humanness and a spark of life that can't quite be captured in any other way. Both timely and timeless, they offer a sense of history and tradition: a connection to the past, a vision of the present and a record for the future.

If any Grand Lodge officials, or anyone else for that matter, is looking to return to or begin a tradition of Grand Master portraits, please feel free to reach out to me.

-TS


Travis Simpkins is a freelance artist with clients throughout the United States and Europe. He currently works on projects for the Supreme Council, 33°, NMJ in Lexington, Massachusetts and the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ in Washington, DC. He also serves as a portrait artist for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of New Jersey and other jurisdictions across North America. His artwork is in many esteemed collections, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bro. Simpkins is a member of Morning Star Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a 32°  Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite- Valleys of Worcester and Boston. He is also a member of  Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, Hiram Council of Royal & Select Master Masons and Worcester County Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar.

Contemplative Cornerstones: Trees

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Erik Marks


The tall cedars of Lebanon, The Acacia in its many forms, the Kabalistic tree of life connecting the ten sephirot sometimes thought of as archetypes, Yggdrasil the everlasting green Ash reaching to the nine realms: trees convert CO2 to oxygen, filter water, provide sustenance of wide varieties, offer the weary traveler shade and a place to lean—backpacking, I hang my shelter, a hammock and tarp between two. 

Symbolically, spiritually, they serve as links between sky or Heaven and Earth; Esoterically, as emblematic metaphors embodying the same in the human experience. Trees are captivating, majestic, sturdy, useful, necessary in our world. Crosscut its trunk, tree has many concentric circles around a center point. The fruit of the apple tree severed in a like manner displays the physical manifestation of its symbolic nature: the pentagram, evidence of the knowledge imparted by one of the two pillar trees in The Garden.

For many, using visualizations can help bring and keep the mind present in the moment, in the here and now. When feeling adrift emotionally, psychologically, practically, a meditation embodying aspects of trees can help calm and center the mind and body.

Sit in a chair, near the front of the seat. Don’t lean back, sit with body erect. Place your hands, palms down on your thighs. Take three long, slow, deep, breaths, or more if you wish. Bring your mind to the image of a tall tree. Hold the image for a few moments. Then imagine yourself as that tree. Your legs its roots, your trunk, its trunk, your arms and head its branches and leaves. Feel your feet firmly planted on the floor. As you focus on self as tree, imagine your roots growing down through the floor. If you are on a floor higher than ground level, imagine your roots growing down through the structural elements of the building, reinforcing, being the strength as well as lending to it, solidly. Imagine your roots breaking through the earth below. Growing downward through gravel, rock, finding your way around boulders and through fissures. Deeper you grow through nourishing earth filled with nitrogen rich loam, peat, centuries of sediment until your roots contact a pure and cool underground aquifer. Drawing up the quenching water, cooling and calming, hydrating and adding to your ability to remain flexible and emotionally grounded in every way.

Imagine your trunk extending towards heaven. Your branches growing upward and outward, seeking the sun and the solar radiation even if seemingly obscured by clouds. You could imagine growing tall like redwoods or tallest cedars. You can grow up through clouds and stand in the full beauty of the sun at noon. The suns power transformed through the chlorophyll your leaves into fuel, food. Healing and health drawn in, from below, from above. Through your vital body, you unify heaven and earth, bringing the elements of air, fire/sun, water, and earth into balance and harmony within you. Stay in this image, reaching below and above simultaneously; try to feel all the functions happening at once as you breathe. Taking in and transforming the world, absorbing and utilizing sun, drinking up and in water, grounded in the earth absorbing all you need to grown and be at ease in your terrestrial home.

Alterations: Those so inclined could substitute a favorite tree, imagine Ratatoskr traveling the tree connecting the nine realms, or with greater focus and concentration along with knowledge or study of Kabbalah move through the ten Sefirot from Malkhut to Keter; Earth to Crown, draw back down and then return to crown in the order: Malkhut, Yesod, Hod, Netzach, Tiferet, Gevurah, Chesed, Binah, Chochmah, Keter. Finding the Tetragrammaton and also form the Adam Kadmon, (See MacNulty: The Way of the Craftsman and Kaplan’s Meditation and Kabbalah).

When working with strong emotion, imagine the earth taking back from you the emotion you wish to relinquish—to be clear, this is not denying or avoiding the emotion, its is an invitation to your non or pre-verbal self, your personal and collective unconscious, that you are willing to let this emotion move along. Or, that you feel strengthened enough to tolerate it longer. The earth can absorb the energy, the sun can transform it as fire transforms anything it touches.

~EAM

Brother Erik Marks is a clinical social worker whose usual vocation has been in the field of human services in a wide range of settings since 1990. He was raised in 2017 by his biologically younger Brother and then Worshipful Master in Alpha Lodge in Framingham, MA. You may contact brother Marks by email: erik@StrongGrip.org

The Colorado Masonic Symposium 2019

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson

Highland Masonic Temple, Denver CO.

Early this year I was asked to come to the Colorado Masonic Symposium and give a talk. I didn't realize right away it was a Grand Lodge Symposium and, I really didn't know what to expect. I know how most symposiums go--several speakers, lunch, more speakers and then a meal together.

The talk I gave was one where I speak about the symbolism and esoteric nature of what is in our ritual. I also explore some of the other organizations that have existed in the past and present that also align to many of the facets contained within our Craft. After I agreed to do this talk, Brother Wyatt Page (the guy who planned this thing), asked me to also be a part of a panel discussion on Masonic Research Methodologies with Bro. Adam Kendall (Editor of the Plumbline AASR RS.)

I jumped at the chance to do this. But I had an ace up my sleeve. Scott Dueball, an Emeritus contributor to this blog is also the State Education Officer for the Grand Lodge of Illinois and just happened to be a member of Denver Lodge No. 5, so naturally I asked Bro. Page if Scott could come with and assist in this panel. Bro Wyatt agreed and that was that.

Fast forward many months, all-the-while checking the symposium website often to see the schedule--and the countdown clock, it was getting exciting. Finally it was the day to travel. Scott and I both woke up and did our normal thing. Went to work--all day. After work I headed to Scott's house. There, he and I gorged on Taco Bell with his wife and daughter, prior to taxing to the airport for a 9:00 PM flight to Denver airport. A couple things to note. First, amid the recent Taco Bell recall for metal shavings in the beef, Scott had assured me we'd be fine since we both went through the airport metal detectors and didn't set them off 😂. Second, Denver Airport really does have some freaky stuff, the hype is real.

                                

We arrived safely and got to our hotel thanks to Bro. Patrick Dey--we did an episode of WCY with him, so he should sound familiar if you didn't already know of him. After arriving at the hotel, Scott and I crashed hard at about 1:00 AM. We woke by 6:00 AM and made our way to the host lodge, Highland Masonic Temple. I have to say the lodge building was stunning. Check these pictures out.


RWB Kevin Townley

WB Adam Kendall

I was able to kick the day off which was an amazing opportunity. There were more than 150 Brothers present, and not only that--there were still 150 people there at the end of the day. Sustained interest! All the speakers did amazing jobs. Check that link above for the website and the schedule. Of course, Scott and Adam killed it on the research panel. I, as well as everyone present learned something of value.

WB Dueball chatting after the panel. 

After all the education, there was the festive board. The highlight of this trip of course, was spending time with Scott and sharing fellowship with all these [new] Brothers. But when Junior Grand Warden, Ray Dunn took the podium...WOW. His speech was so full of passion, I mean-- I teared up. It was awesome. I found it to be so great, that I asked him to send me a copy and to do a reading for the WCY Podcast. That episode will come out soon.

A Panoramic of the Festive Board

"So great, Robert. You went to another Masonic Education conference."


Yes I did. And it was fantastic. The concepts, the topics, the logistics, the fellowship--all of it went off like clock-work and could not have gone better. At least to me, an outsider, that's the way it seemed. I need to thank Bro. Wyatt for his amazing job in planning this. I need to thank Bro. Dave for his dedication to Masonic Education, to the Grand Lodge of Colorado for investing in Masonic Education with an event that likely cost a lot. And I want to thank Scott and Adam Kendall for their work on the panel discussion as well.

Freemasonry is Education. 

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 2nd N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatre which focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon.



The Masonic Lodge in New Mexico's Old Lincoln County Courthouse

by Midnight Freemason ContributorBro. Travis Simpkins



While traveling through New Mexico, my wife and I stopped in the town of Lincoln, the most famous spot in Billy the Kid country. Growing up in Arizona, I was always fascinated with Western movies and outlaw legends. My wife isn't particularly interested in Old West history, suffice to say, but she kindly conceded to let me spend a couple hours roaming around the historic sites. The town is a state monument and everything is well organized, mapped and labeled. I just figured I'd see the jail cell where Billy the Kid was held and from which he made his violent escape, then we'd shortly be on our way. Then Masonic interests took over...

When I checked in at the visitor's center, the Park Ranger behind the desk took note of my Scottish Rite t-shirt. I was pleasantly surprised when he told me there is actually a recreated Masonic Lodge room on the upper level of the Lincoln County Courthouse. Even though the Courthouse was last on the list of buildings to visit on the map, I skipped over the other spots and made a point of walking to the far end of the Main Street to go there first.

The two-story building, now known as the Old Lincoln County Courthouse, was built in 1872 and was originally used as the store and headquarters of L.G. Murphy & Co., the faction who were on the opposing side from Billy the Kid and his friends during the 1878 Lincoln County War. The building was purchased by the County in 1880, and served as the Courthouse from 1881 – 1913. It was here on April 28, 1881 that Billy the Kid famously escaped from jail after killing J.W. Bell and Bob Olinger, the two Deputies tasked with guarding him.

However, I digress. In the early years of the building's history, L.G. Murphy, who was a Mason, had constructed a Masonic Lodge room on the second floor. The Lodge as it appears today is a replica, with various Lodges around the state donating 19th Century Masonic furniture to create the aesthetics. The Ranger had mentioned that the Grand Lodge of New Mexico holds session in the room once per year and I did note a stack of newer aprons on a table in the corner (I later saw photos on Facebook of such a meeting). They've done an admirable job of recreating the overall atmosphere of a frontier Lodge and it's easy to visualize the scene while entering the room. It was an intriguing and unexpected added historical experience.

The one really disconcerting and macabre element (but fascinating nevertheless, I suppose), was the knowledge that Billy the Kid had murdered J.W. Bell in the hallway staircase just a few steps outside the Lodge room door.

-TS

Travis Simpkins is a freelance artist with clients throughout the United States and Europe. He currently works on projects for the Supreme Council, 33°, NMJ in Lexington, Massachusetts and the Supreme Council, 33°, SJ in Washington, DC. He also serves as a portrait artist for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Grand Lodge of New Jersey and other jurisdictions across North America. His artwork is in many esteemed collections, including the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bro. Simpkins is a member of Morning Star Lodge A.F. & A.M. in Worcester, Massachusetts. He is a 32° Mason in the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite- Valleys of Worcester and Boston. He is also a member of Eureka Royal Arch Chapter, Hiram Council of Royal & Select Master Masons and Worcester County Commandery No. 5, Knights Templar.

From The Archives: The Real Strength Of Freemasonry

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°


I've said it many times before.  I was telling somebody the other night that I think one of the great strengths of Freemasonry is that a.) it gives us the opportunity to use skills we wouldn't normally have the opportunity to use, b.) develop skills we wouldn't normally use, c.) use skills we already possess to greater effect, and d.) have the opportunity to improve ourselves as we work together towards making the world a better place.

I went into Freemasonry with well honed skills in leadership, management and organization which I use in a variety of ways.   From Masonry I've gained skills in writing, researching, speaking, networking, and fundraising--as well as some refinements in how I conduct myself and present myself (it should be obvious I've got a lot more work to do there).  And I've been given the opportunity to build on a use some of the skills I have in art in music.

But I never really appreciated the self-improvement aspect of the Fraternity until recently.  I'm aware that I've changed over the years, and gained a lot of wisdom from my mentors and teachers along with a good deal of knowledge from my studies.  I've always worked to pass that along to new members, and I think I've done a pretty good job as a mentor and teacher.  But recently I saw an example that really showed me the potential of what Freemasonry is capable of accomplishing in a man's life when properly applied.

I've been mentoring a young man for about a year now.  He contacted me through the Midnight Freemasons with some questions about the Fraternity, thought it sounded like something he could benefit from, and he's now a  new Master Mason.  He's very enthusiastic about Freemasonry, and it occurred to me in talking with him why.  This is the first time in his life that he's been able to see what he has to offer, see the potential of what he can become, and see what the contributions of just one person can do to make one thing better in the world--and then compound that by joining forces with a group of like-minded men all with that same desire.

The Fraternity has opened his eyes, and there's a good chance he'll never be the same again.  His life was off track when he joined--our original conversations were about whether a Lodge would even want him.  Of course they did, and he joined.  Freemasonry helped put him back on the right track.  He's contributing to the work of his Lodge, he's helping out in his community, he's got a new job he loves, replaced a few bad habits with a few good ones, and is in a new relationship that's much better than the one that got him off track.  He's even begun attending church, which he hadn't done since he was a boy.  He's transformed his life, and it's truly been a marvel to see. 

I might get boos for this, but it isn't all about doing Freemasonry--attending events, degrees, meetings, etc.  It's about living Freemasonry, and when given the opportunity teaching Freemasonry.  Those of us who do, who take those ancient teachings and apply them to our life and help others do the same thing find the greatest strength of Freemasonry--the path to a well-balanced, peaceful and happy life.

This piece was original posted on Todd E. Creason's From Labor To Refreshment blog and originally appeared on the Midnight Freemasons 8/19/16.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is the Worshipful Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754, where is currently serves as Secretary.  He is the Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees.  He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research. (FMLR) and a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He  currently serves as Excellent Grand Orator of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Historic Nauvoo

by Senior Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory J. Knott

Nauvoo Illinois Temple
Fellow Midnight Freemason Darin Lahners and I were looking for a road trip after the morning session of the 180thAnnual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. We decided to head to Nauvoo, Illinois, which is located on the Mississippi River on the far western side of Illinois.

The area was settled in the in 1820’s when the first whites moved in and originally the town was known as Quashquema, named after a Native American chief. The town was later renamed Venus, then Commerce and finally in 1840 acquired the present-day name of Nauvoo.

Nauvoo is famous for being the home of Joseph Smith, who was the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. The Mormons were persecuted by non-Mormons and eventually decided to leave and head west to Utah. You can read more of the history of Mormonism on this PBS website https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/mormons-timeline/

Today Nauvoo is bustling small town. In 1999 plans were announced by the LDS church that they were going to rebuild the Nauvoo Temple as it had been in the 1840’s. Overlooking the Mississippi River, this magnificent structure was finished and dedicated in 2002.

The Mormons operate a recreation of historic Nauvoo down on the lower parts of town. Several buildings have been recreated as they were in the 1840’s and are staffed by Mormon missionaries and are dressed in vintage clothing of the era.

Recreated - Nauvoo Masonic Temple
Darin and I didn’t have a lot of time to visit so we went right away to the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge.Recreated as an exact replica of the original lodge building, we able to go in and visit with some very nice ladies who were extremely knowledgeable of the building’s history. The original lodge was located on the third floor of the building and we traversed up three flights of stairs to see the lodge hall. It was fun to think about what Freemasonry would have been like on the western frontier of Illinois during that time.

Our next stop was to the home and shop of Jonathan Browning. If you have ever heard of the Browning shotguns or rifles, they got their start right there in Nauvoo. A recreation of his shop contained all the working tools of his trade. Several vintage firearms are on display. Browning went west to Utah when the Mormons left Nauvoo.

I am aware of the alleged similarities between our Masonic ritual and the Mormon practices. Joseph Smith the LDS founder was a Freemason. This short video, produced by the LDS Church talks about the role of Joseph Smith and Freemasonry.

The historical connections of our fraternity to the world around us seem to be endless. I enjoy learning this history and about those who came before us.

~GJK

WB Gregory J. Knott is the Worshipful Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 in Ogden (IL) and a plural member of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC.

King Solomon’s Pass: A Digital Addition to Your Dues Card

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson


It’s no secret that the Craft often moves slowly. “No innovation in Freemasonry!” is our standard platitude for those less "forward-thinking", and as an organization led by representative, deliberative bodies loosely organized in a decentralized network of mutual recognition, even truly great ideas take a long time to become generally accepted. So long, sometimes, that they die on the vine. This is a shame.

A closer look at the history of Freemasonry, however, shows innovation at nearly every turn. The core principles of the Craft have remained stable while trestleboards gave way to paper newsletters and then to email updates. Candles became oil lights, and Lodges are now lit with electricity. Even our ritual--still best learned mouth to ear--has long been committed to paper and is quickly moving to secure digital formats. In Illinois, our Constitution and Bylaws restrict us from using a "Stereopticon", meanwhile digital projectors are all the rage.

One of the most recent tools to be updated is the good old membership card. Originally conceived at a Grand Lodge Convention in the 1840s, dues cards were a response to the proliferation of plain-text ritual books, which enabled cowans to learn all they needed to enter a Lodge. This emergent response morphed to tradition, and many Grand Lodges around the world now require an officially-issued form of identification to prove one’s status as a Mason in Good Standing. And if you travel, you better have some kind of letter from your Grand Secretary too.

In an era before computers, Grand Lodges required as much security for membership cards as could be mustered: a raised seal that was manually applied to each card, signatures and more. The cards were to be issued on a regular basis, often annually... and without the ability to check directly with the issuing Grand Lodge on the arrival of a visitor. Remember, no email, no telephone. The card was effectively imbued with the Brother’s Good Standing status for the term it covered.

Today’s technology offers the opportunity for important updates to this process. Everyone with a smart phone is familiar with creating an account for some service or other, and entering their credentials to verify--in real time--their authority to access that service. Electronic security measures are nearly as old as computers themselves, and have allowed for time savings in almost every process. Imagine... How much less work would you get done if you had to contact Google and show a membership card every time you wanted to access your email? Insane right?

Freemasonry is finally receiving the benefit of this not-so-modern-anymore technology with a new tool created by the team behind Amity, called simply King Solomon’s Pass. The Pass is a digital complement or addition to your dues card, and integrates with the membership systems of nearly fifty Grand Lodges around the world (it covers over 700,000 Masons in the US alone!).

For Grand Lodges this innovation is an important one, because it puts member verification back where it belongs: in the Grand Secretary’s hands. Instead of using a card that acts as the Grand Lodge’s authority for a set term, it lets the Tiler check with the Grand Lodge for the Brother’s status... in real time, every time.

For Freemasons, the Pass is nothing short of a quantum leap forward. It offers a secure, digital profile for any Brother, photo included, that can be used to verify all of the required administrative criteria: "Are you who you say you are?", "Does my Grand Lodge recognize yours?", "Is your Lodge active?", "Are you in Good Standing?", All that’s left is the Tiler’s Investigation, which of course must not be omitted and can never be replaced by an app.

King Solomon’s Pass is available at no cost to any Mason with an account in the Amity app. Over 50,000 Masons across 200+ Grand Lodges are already using the app, and Amity has just completed their live Integration with the MORI membership system (all of the other major systems are already supported).

For Masons in the Grand Lodge of New York, the new dues cards set to be issued in the next few weeks will all carry an Amity QR code. Other Grand Lodges can also get this tech at no cost, allowing their members to share their status in real time with anyone in the world.

It has been said that the only constant... is change. No matter how slowly our Craft moves, it is still ever-changing... perhaps not our Landmarks and goals, but certainly the methods we use to perform our Work. King Solomon’s Pass is a long-overdue addition to the Craft, and allows Masons from any Grand Lodge to better understand how we are all related... which, ultimately, benefits the Craft.

And before I leave you all, I want to say something else, The guys behind Amity have taken your digital security to the top level. Currently NO GRAND LODGE SOFTWARE offers the protections required by law like CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act) and the European Standard GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). But guess who does abide by and is compliant? AMITY and King Solomons Pass Does/is. This is truly awesome technology that is digitally safer than even MORI or Grandview or any other database out there in regards to Freemasonry and our data.

You can find out more about King Solomon’s Pass at https://www.amity.com, or use it directly at https://i.travelsafely.app.

~RHJ

RWB, Robert Johnson is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. He currently serves as the Secretary of Spes Novum Lodge No. 1183 UD. He is a Past Master of Waukegan Lodge 78 and a Past District Deputy Grand Master for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four, works full time in the executive medical industry. He is the co-author of "It's Business Time - Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry" and is currently working on a book of Masonic essays and one on Occult Anatomy to be released soon

From The Midnight Freemasons Archives: The Masonic Conspiracy Behind Rolling Rock Beer

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

 
"Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy."

~Benjamin Franklin

There has always been speculation that there is some connection between Latrobe's Rolling Rock Beer and the Freemasons--I mean, it's obvious, there's a '33' right on the bottle!  And the 33rd degree is the highest degree that can be attained by Freemasons.  Is it possible the Latrobe's were Freemasons?

It's one of those great beer controversies--where did the '33' come from?  Everyone seems to have a theory, and nobody has the definitive answer. 

And there are many theories:

-One common theory is that it was to celebrate the repeal of prohibition in 1933.  That was an important year for brewers and beer drinkers alike!

-Another legend is that the Rolling Rock brewery was started with money won at the horse track. The winning bet was placed on #33, "Old Latrobe," and that is why there is a horse and the '33' on the bottle.

-Another has it that brewers in those early days belonged to the local union #33.

-Another claims the reservoir the brewery got its water from was fed by 33 streams.

And the theories go on and on and on . . .

Sadly, the most likely version is the least exciting.  It may have simply been a printers mistake in the beginning.  This version of the story comes from a very reliable source--the former CEO of the company.  He was also very interested in where that '33' had come from--his name was James Tito.  What he discovered is actually very simple.

The slogan on the back of the bottle read originally:
"Rolling Rock – From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the mountain springs to you."
That's 33 words.  There were a number of different versions of the slogan in the beginning, but the Latrobe family finally settled on the shortest one--the one that ran only 33 words.  Somebody noted that in the margin, and when it went to the printers, the printers didn't realize that the 33 wasn't part of the text and included it. The mistake wasn't discovered until a large batch of bottles had been produced, and back in those days, the labels were painted right onto the bottles, and those bottles were reused, which explains why the mistake wasn't immediately corrected

And just maybe it wasn't corrected later because of the stir it had created when those bottles reached the public.  Everyone talking about and debating what that '33' meant and speculating about where it had come from.  Perhaps Latrobe saw that controversy as a good thing.  Here it is more than seventy years later, and people are still talking about it.  I guess you'd call that 'beer buzz'.

So that's the big Masonic conspiracy behind Rolling Rock Beer.  It doesn't have anything to do with the Freemasons at all.

Not to propagate a myth, but I can tell you, I do have it on good authority that at least one 33rd Degree Freemason enthusiastically approves of the product--he finds it crisp and refreshing with a easy-to-drink flavor. 

In fact, I think I'll go have one now . . . 

~TEC

I couldn't even guess when I wrote the original version of this piece.  Probably in 2007.  I rewrote it and expanded it after 2011 and again after 2015.  I added the Ben Franklin quote to this version.  Let's just say it's made the rounds over the years.  I like it because it's one of those weird conspiracy theories attributed to the Masons that people like to talk about--like the imagery on the the back of the Grand Seal of the United States that everyone claims is Masonic.  I thought I'd post it again--I saw a discussion on the topic in one of the Masonic social media groups.  They were both wrong as it turns out . . .  Enjoy!

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog, and an award winning author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. Todd started the Midnight Freemason blog in 2006, and in 2012 he opened it up as a contributor blog The Midnight Freemasons (plural). Todd has written more than 1,000 pieces for the blog since it began. He is a Past Master of Homer Lodge No. 199 and Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL) where he currently serves as Secretary. He is a Past Sovereign Master of the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. He is a Fellow at the Missouri Lodge of Research (FMLR). He is a charter member of the a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter No. 282 and currently serves as EHP. You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

The Painting

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




The Manitoba Legislative Building, located in downtown Winnipeg, is a cornucopia of symbolism. The building was completed in 1920. It's architect was Frank Worthington Simon. There is some evidence Simon may have been a Freemason, but nothing definitive. Nonetheless, he filled the edifice with enough esoteric elements – Masonic and otherwise – to make it an interesting and fun place to visit.

Manitoba's famous "Golden Boy," a statue of the Greek god Hermes, sits atop the dome of the 242 foot structure overlooking the city. Around the perimeter visitors can find statuary representing a number of other gods and goddesses including Ishtar, Europa, and Neptune. Two stately sphinxes lie in repose facing opposite directions to symbolically guard the entrance from above.

Inside, visitors find the immense grand hall measuring 66.6 feet on each side, an allusion to the number of the beast. There one also finds Medusa and Athena overlooking the grand staircase consisting of three flights of thirteen steps. In addition to the myriad of other symbolic statues, structures, and icons housed there, the building even has a room representing the Sanctum Sanctorum of King Solomon's Temple. It is the Lieutenant Governor's Reception Room and, like the Holy of Holies, entry is allowed only once a year.

At the top of the grand staircase sits an archway crowned by a Frank Brangwyn mural. Brangwyn was a Welsh artist who, like Simon, may have had Masonic ties. At first glance the painting is a World War I scene with what appears to be a wounded man in tattered clothes being helped along by comrades. A long object, perhaps a cannon, trails the group, as they appear to be making their way through a crowd. In this configuration the painting is said to represent Canada's contribution to World War I.

A second glance at the painting reveals a faint depiction of the Madonna and Child above the head of the wounded soldier. The right shoulder of the man standing next to him seems to form a halo over the wounded man and the viewer might imagine the long trailing object to represent the cross as the painting almost transforms itself into a depiction of Christ bearing his cross to Calvary.

A closer look at the central figure reveals him wearing a white shirt opened to reveal his naked right chest, leading some to compare the scene to a Masonic initiation. Most Brothers can immediately pick up on a flaw in that analogy. However, ignoring that discrepancy it may be interesting to compare the man's garb to that worn in initiations and speculate on the artist's intent to have his subject dressed as the proverbial poor blind candidate.

Whatever you personally might see in the painting, it is always prudent to remember symbolism, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. 

~SLH

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.