History FAQ


Where did Masons come from?

A fascinating question! And, alas, impossible to answer within the confines of this FAQ. There are a number of theories, a lot of debate, and a lot of musty history books. Some of the books listed in question 15 of this section should be of help. As a very brief overview, here is part of an essay by Henry C. Clausen, a noted Masonic author. This is, of course, just one point of view-- many other theories exist, but Cluasen nicely covers the basics:

"Our Masonic antiquity is demonstrated by a so-called Regius Manuscript written around the year 1390, when King Richard II reigned in England, a century before Columbus. It was part of the King's Library that George II presented to the British Museum in 1757. Rediscovered by James O. Halliwell, a non-Mason, and rebound in its present form in 1838, it consists of 794 lines of rhymed English verse and claims there was an introduction of Masonry into England during the reign of Athelstan, who ascended the throne in A.D. 925. It sets forth regulations for the Society, fifteen articles and fifteen points and rules of behavior at church, teaching duties to God and Church and Country, and inculcating brotherhood. While the real roots of Masonry are lost in faraway mists, these items show that our recorded history goes back well over 600 years. Further proof is furnished through English statutes as, for example, one of 1350 (25 Edward III, Cap. III) which regulated wages of a "Master Mason at 4 pence per day." The Fabric Role of the 12th century Exeter Cathedral referred to "Freemasons."

The historical advance of science also treats of our operative ancient brethren who were architects and stonemasons of geometry. It is apparent from this portrayal that they had a very real and personal identification with the Deity and that this fervent devotion provided energy to build cathedrals. They embraced the teachings of Plato and understood and applied Pythagorean relationships. Just as there is a beauty of harmony credited to mathematical relationships on which music is based, in precisely the same way these master geometricians treated architecture. The architects and stonemasons became the personification of geometry, performing extraordinary feats with squares and compasses. Geometrical proportion, not measurement, was the rule. Their marks as stonemasons were derived from geometric constructions. The mighty works they wrought, cathedrals with Gothic spires pointing toward the heavens, and especially their "association," were not without danger and opposition, bearing in mind the Inquisition established in 1229, the Saint Bartholomew's Eve Massacre of 1572, and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. These historical points remind us of the need for our cautions against cowans and eavesdroppers.

Our operative Brethren of the Middle Ages thus were the builders of mighty cathedrals throughout the British Isles and continental Europe, many of which still stand. These skilled craftsmen wrote in enduring stone impressive stories of achievement, frequently chiseled with symbolic markings. With these architectural structures of these master builders there was a companion moral code. These grew up together. Out of this background modern Freemasonry was born.

Although "Lodges" had existed for centuries, four of the "old" Lodges met in London on St. John the Baptist's Day, June 24, 1717, and formed the first Grand Lodge of England, thereafter known as the Premier Grand Lodge of the world. No longer operative as of old, the Masons carried on the traditions and used the tools of the craft as emblems to symbolize principles of conduct in a continued effort to build a better world.

The American colonial Masonic organizations stemmed from this Grand Lodge of England and were formed soon after 1717. Its then Grand Master appointed Colonel Daniel Coxe as Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersy and Pennsylvania on June 5, 1730, and Henry Price of Boston as Provincial Grand Master of New England in April 1733." -- Henry C. Clausen


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What US Presidents have been Masons?

George Washington
James Monroe
Andrew Jackson
James Polk
James Buchanan
Andrew Johnson
James Garfield
William McKinley*
Theodore Roosevelt
William Howard Taft*
Warren G. Harding
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Harry S. Truman*
Lyndon B. Johnson*
Gerald R. Ford

NOTES (in chronological order):
William McKinley's Masonic membership has not been confirmed 100%, though his name does appear on several lists. Hopefully, someone will be able to provide a definitive yes or no.

William Howard Taft was made a Mason At Sight by the Grand Master of Ohio and later raised to Grand Master of Ohio in 1909.

Harry S. Truman was also Grand Master of his home state, Missouri.

Lyndon Johnson was an Entered Apprentice, but never progressed
beyond that degree.

Ronald Reagan is not a craft Mason. He was made an honorary 33rd degree Mason by the Southern Jurisdiction of the AASR and an honorary member of the Imperial Council of the Shrine, but he was never entered, passed, and raised as a Mason, nor was he ever made a Mason at sight. (Source: Robinson's Born in Blood)

Bill Clinton is not a Mason, though he was involved in DeMolay for a time.

Many other leaders in government have been Masons: "They have included fourteen Presidents and eighteen Vice Presidents of the United States; a majority of the Justices of the United States Supreme Court, of the Governors of States, members of the Senate, and a large percentage of Congressmen. Five Chief Justices of the United States were Masons and two were Grand Masters. The five were Oliver Ellsworth, John Marshall (also Grand Master of Masons in Virginia), William Howard Taft, Frederick M. Vinson and Earl Warren (also Grand Master of Masons in California.)"
-- Henry C. Clausen

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Was Thomas Jefferson a Mason? Patrick Henry? Abraham Lincoln?

No, no, and no. As for the first two, "an exhaustive search of Masonic records in Virginia, and elsewhere, offers no iota of evidence to make them Freemasons. Jefferson participated in the cornerstone laying of his University at Charlottesville, which was done Masonically. He praised Freemasonry and his own words proved he had never been a member of the Craft."

There is some evidence that Abraham Lincoln intended to become a Mason when he returned to Springfield after his second term in office, had he not been assassinated in 1865.

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What famous people have been Masons?

This is by no means a complete list. This list also includes Prince Hall Masons. Any factual corrections along with sources cited, may be sent to: FAQ@AlembicDesign.com.

FROM THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (other than Presidents): Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, John Paul Jones, LaFayette, Rufus King, James Otis, Baron von Steuben, Joseph Warren, Benedict Arnold (well, you can't win them all!).

POLITICAL LEADERS: Winston Churchill, Simon Bolivar, Edmund Burke, Benito Juarez, Edward VII, George VI, Bernardo O'Higgins, Jose' de San Martin, Francisco de Paula Santander, Jose'Rizal, Jose' Marti, Pandit Nehru, Lajos Kossuth, Jonas Furrer, Guiseppe Mazzini, Eduard Benes, John A. MacDonald, Aaron Burr, George McGovern, Barry Goldwater, Estes Kefauver, Adlai Stevenson (not the governor of Illinois, but his father who was Vice President in 1892), Thomas E. Dewey, Alf Landon, Hubert H. Humphrey, Wendell Wilke, W.E.B. DuBois, William Jennings Bryant.

MILITARY LEADERS: Omar Bradley, John J. Pershing, Douglas McArthur, General Winfield Scott, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, General Mark Clark, General George C. Marshall

REPUBLIC OF TEXAS: Sam Houston, Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, William B. Travis (and, it should be added, General Santa Ana)

FINE ARTS: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (and his father, Leopold), Ludwig von Beethoven, Jean Sibelius, Franz Liszt, Josef Haydn, Irving Berlin, Gutzon Borglum, Charles W. Peale, Alfons M. Mucha, John Philip Sousa, both Gilbert & Sullivan, George Gershwin, George M. Cohen, Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Signmund Romberg

ACTORS: John Wayne, Red Skelton, Clark Gable, W.C. Fields, Will Rogers, Burl Ives, Roy Rogers, Danny Thomas, Ernest Borgnine, Oliver Hardy, Tom Mix, Audie Murphy, Gene Autry, Wallace Beery, Eddie Cantor

INDUSTRY & LABOR: Henry Ford, Samuel Gompers, Walter P. Chrysler, John Wanamaker, S.S. Kresge, J.C. Penney, John Jacob Astor, John L. Lewis

ADVENTURERS: Lewis & Clark, Charles A. Lindberg, Kit Carson, Roald Amundsen, Adm. Richard Byrd, Commodore Robert Peary.

PHILOSOPHERS: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Gotthold E. Lessing,
Voltaire (Francois Marie Arouet)

ATHLETES: Bob Feller, Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Paul "Dizzy" Trout, Harry Carey, Dell Rice, Jimmy Fox, Joe Tinker (of "Tinker to Evers to Chance"), Jack Dempsey, Arnold Palmer, Jack Arthur Johnson

ASTRONAUTS: Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, Jr., Leroy Gordon Cooper, Donn F. Eisele, Virgil I. Grissom, Edgar D. Mitchell, Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Thomas P. Stafford, Paul J. Weitz, James B. Irwin, John Glenn.

WRITERS: Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Sir Walter Scott, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Burns, Wassily I. Maikow, Heinrich Heine, Jean P.C. de Florian, Leopoldo Lugoner, Antonio de Castro Alves, James Boswell, Alexander Pushkin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Johnathon Swift, Oscar Wilde

LAW: John Marshall, Earl Warren, Thurgood Marshall

MEDICINE: Drs. Alexander Fleming, Jules Bordet, Antoine DePage, Edward Jenner, Charles and William Mayo, Karl and William Menninger

SCIENCE: Hans C. Orsted, Jons Jakob Frk. von Berzelius, Alfred Edmund Brehm, Luther Burbank, Johan Ernst Gunnerus, Albert Abraham Michelson, Gaspard Monge, C.F.S. Hahnemann, Pedro N. Arata, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, Alexander Fleming, James Smithson

...as well as Harry Houdini, Norman Vincent Peale, David Sarnoff, Thomas J. Watson, Giuseppe Garibaldi, Cecil J. Rhodes, Marvin Zindler, Dave Thomas (of Wendy's), and many, many more.

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What famous buildings in the US have been laid Masonically?

The U. S. Capitol
The Smithsonian Institution
Jackson Hall
The National Education Association Building
The Army War College Building
House of Representatives Office Building
The Washington Monument

The Washington Monument is in Alexandria, Virginia, and honors
our first President and Brother Mason, George Washington.

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What's the difference between AF&AM and F&AM?

F&AM means "Free & Accepted Masons."
AF&AM means "Ancient Free & Accepted Masons".
In practical terms, there is no difference, since the jurisdictions
that are termed "ancient" F&AM are no different than those that are
simply F&AM. The distinction is a historical one, owing to differences
in Grand Lodge names.

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Was Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon Church, a Mason?

(This section provided by Brother Bob Dixon; the use of the first person is his)

"Joseph Smith was a mason, as were the following four presidents of the LDS church.

From about 1839 to about 1846 most of the members of the church gathered to Nauvoo, Illinois, and there were at least four lodges in operation there. Joseph Smith was a very flamboyant individual and had a disagreement with the Grand Lodge of Illinois over the way the Nauvoo lodges were operated. Accordingly, their charters were revoked by the Grand Lodge.

He was murdered by a mob in 1844, and Brigham Young felt it was as a result of a masonic conspiracy. He prohibited Mormons from being Masons, which remained in effect until the last ten years or so. The ill feelings went both ways, as the Grand Lodge of Utah refused to accept Mormons as members until about 1984.

There are no particular restrictions on Mormons being Masons. We are continually counselled to put our families and Christ first, which many interpret as counsel to avoid most activities outside family and church. This is a personal choice, though, and not a matter of strict doctrine.

We perform certain ordinances such as baptisms for the dead and eternal marriages in our temples, and minor portions of those ordinances bear very surface similarity to parts of the Masonic degrees. The whole scope and character is much different, though. Where (I feel, anyway) that the masonic degree work revolves around our place in God's kingdom here on the earth, our temple rituals deal with creation and our place in the eternities."


(A minor historical note: Smith was made a Mason at Sight by the
Grand Master of Illinois)

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What is the oldest Lodge Room in the world? In the US?

"St. John's Chapel, Edinburgh, Scotland is said to be the oldest Masonic Lodge Room (1736) in the world. The oldest known Lodge Room in the U.S. is situated in Prentiss House, Marble head, Massachusetts (1760).The oldest Masonic Lodge Building is the Lodge Hall of Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, Halltax, Northings, North Carolina (1771)."

Other information disagrees with this, stating that the oldest American Lodge Room is "Masons Hall in Richmond, Virginia, the home of Richmond Randolph Lodge No. 19 and Richmond Royal Arch Chapter No. 3. The building owned by Royal White Hart Lodge wasn't built until 1821. Masons Hall was built in 1785. It was originally the home of Richmond Lodge No.10, the first wholly new Lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia. It was also the first permanent home of the Grand Lodge of Virginia."

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Is it true that all of George Washington's generals during the Revolutionary War were Masons?


No. 33 of the generals serving under Washington were Masons. A substantial number, but not "all".

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Is it true that all the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons? The Articles of Confederation? The Constitution?

No. Masons constituted ten of the signers of the Articles, nine signers of the Declaration, and thirteen signers of the Constitution.

Additionally, Edmund Randolph, Grand Master of Virginia, was an active participant at the Constitutional Convention, though he didn't sign the document. It should also be noted that four Presidents of the Continental Congresses were Freemasons: Peyton Randolph of Virginia, John Hancock of Massachusetts, Henry Laurens of South Carolina, and Arthur St. Clair of Pennsylvania.

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George Washington turned down the title of "Grand Master of the United States"-- true?


Yes, sort of. The American Union Lodge proposed that Washington become "General Grand Master of the United States", a title to be held in the "National Grand Lodge". However, there were many others who also disagreed with the idea, so it was never a serious proposal.

Washington was Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22 in Virginia, whose Grand Master was then Edmund Randolph. Washington was never Grand Master of Virginia (or any other jurisdiction).

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Why do some Lodges meet on a certain day of the week "following the full moon"? Are Masons some kind of moon worshippers?


The reason is actually simple practicality. Masonic Lodges meet at night, since their membership typically works during the day. Before street lights were available in the 19th century, men walked to Lodge in the dark of night and it was common to schedule Lodge meetings shortly after a full moon to provide maximum illumination for Brothers' walk to and from Lodge.

Obviously, this is no longer an issue, though some Lodges whose history stretches back into the 19th century or earlier still schedule their meetings by the moon's period. These are sometimes referred to as "moon Lodges".

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Did Masons suffer at the hands of the Nazis?

Yes. The exact numbers are unknown. Lt. Col. David Boyd wrote that 85,000 German Masons were killed by the Nazis, though other research has found that this number may be off by as much as a third. This figure does not include any of the nations the Nazis occupied.

Regardless of the actual number killed, it is clear that Hitler viewed Masonry, which exalts truth, toleration, brotherly love, and free thought, to be dangerous and a threat to his regime. Ironically, in his last days in his bunker in Berlin, Hitler had a painting of Frederick the Great in his chambers. Frederick the Great was a Mason.

Hermann Goering said: "In Nationalist Socialist Germany, there is no room for Freemasonry."

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I want information on Masonic history. What books would be good introductions?

Virtually anything by Allen Roberts.

Robinson, John J. A Pilgrim's Path
Robinson, John J. Born in Blood

Stevenson, David, PhD. The Origins of Freemasonry: Scotland's
Century 1590-1710
(Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1988).

Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia is an excellent reference.

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My local Library doesn't have any books on Freemasonry, where can I find them?


Many Lodges maintain their own libraries as do the Grand Lodges. Some larger public Libraries also may have a better collection than a smaller Library. Unfortunately, bookstores do not typically carry a wide assortment of Masonic related books, however, there are several sources to purchase books.

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What movies/books feature Masonry?

The Man Who Would Be King, by Brother Rudyard Kipling. A good story, later made into an excellent film, starring Michael Caine, Sean Connery, and Christopher Plummer. Its portrayal of Masonic history is quite fanciful, of course.

Murder by Decree A Sherlock Holmes movie, concerning the Master Sleuth's hunt for Jack the Ripper. It does not portray Masonry in an honest, accurate, or favorable light. A good movie, but it is important to remember that no Mason would ever knowingly commit a crime for a Brother. Incidentally, Edward VII was actually a Mason. (The story is not one of Brother Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's).

The "Turmgesellschaft" in Goethe's "Wilhelm Meister" novels is certainly of Masonic origin.

In Tolstoy's "War and Peace", the Masonic initiation ritual of the
character Pierre Besouchoff is described in great detail.

There is also a modest body of Masonic poetry: Kipling's "The Palace" and "Mother Lodge," Burns's "Masonic Farewell," Goethe's "Mason Lodge," Leigh Hunt's "Abou Ben Adhem," Carruth's "Each in His Own Tongue," Burns's "On the Apron," Meredith's "Ebony Staff of Solomon," Bowman's "Voice of America," Malloch's "Father's Lodge" and Nesbit's "I Sat in Lodge with You." (Carl H. Claudy)

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