A Rare Glimpse: In the Lodge Room

Tracing Board

Tracing Board, 1863

Massachusetts

Gift of Trinity Lodge, A.F. & A.M., Clinton, Massachusetts, 97.007.1

Photograph by David Bohl

 

Brothers at Trinity Lodge in Clinton, Massachusetts, used this tracing board to instruct new members about different Masonic symbols’ meaning and uses. Lodge records show that in 1863 members decided to procure a new tracing board and appointed a committee to undertake the task. Committee member Levi Green (dates unknown) commissioned this tracing board and presented it to the lodge. The artist who painted the work for Green may have employed a printed Masonic chart as a model for his work.   

Skilled painters and artisans fashioned and decorated all kinds of ritual objects for lodges. They understood not only their clients’ wishes, but also knew the tastes of the day. Their Masonic clients lauded these artists’ work and took pride in what they commissioned, describing some of the results as splendid, valuable and elegant. Exploration of lodge histories and records give a hint of the visually exciting settings Masons created in the 1800s. Many lodges had their walls adorned with large renditions of Masonic symbols, others commissioned painted multiple transparencies to illustrate Masonic lectures, yet few of these objects survive. Shifting tastes, changing traditions and ebbs and flows in membership—as well as wear and fire—have taken their toll on these and the tracing boards and lodge furniture Masons commissioned in past centuries. The objects gathered here offer a glimpse of the colorful world Masons enjoyed in decades long past.