Designing Costumes for the Scottish Rite, 1913-1920

Costume Design for Hermes (Consistory, 19th Degree) and Phrenes (Consistory, 24th Degree), 1915-19

As part of their ritual, members of Scottish Rite Freemasonry perform a series of thirty degrees as morality plays. These degree ceremonies offer a shared sense of values, build a collective story, and help to create an identity for participants and audience alike. The Scottish Rite of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction made significant changes to its rituals in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These updated rituals required larger casts, elaborate sets, and new costumes. As a result, the Supreme Council—the governing body of the Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction—contracted to have 119 costumes designed in the 1910s.

The Designs

These designs took the form of vibrantly colored renderings of the different costumes. Occasionally, the artist who designed the costumes, Walter B. Tripp (1868-1926), incorporated a detail of the suggested pattern or textile, as seen in this design for Hermes and Phrenes. On the back of each image, Tripp attached a typewritten description of the costume’s various elements followed by a list of the sources he consulted in developing its design. These sources included American, German, French, and British published works about historic costumes, Biblical writings, paintings, and archaeological discoveries. Tripp's sources dated from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s.

This Exhibition

In this virtual exhibition we highlight thirty-two designs, organized by degree group, and briefly explore what these illustrations can help us to learn about the fraternity. Each design is identified by the character name it was meant for. Several of the designs were intended to be used for multiple characters. These designs were created by Walter Tripp and Warren A. Newcomb (1894-1960), of Boston, Massachusetts. They were given to the Museum by the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. To see all 119 costume designs, visit the Museum & Library website here.

Designing Costumes for the Scottish Rite, 1913-1920