Freemasonry and Fraternal Organizations

Past Master’s Jewel Made for Nicholas Roome

Past Master’s Jewel Made for Nicholas Roome, 1812

James Simmons (ca. 1781-1816)

New York, New York

Gift of Elizabeth Roome Luquer, 85.71

Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that teaches a system of ethics using symbols, rituals, and ideas drawn from stonemasons’ regulations, Enlightenment philosophy, and Judeo-Christian teachings. Local lodges confer the first three Masonic degrees, which are based on the biblical story of the building of Solomon’s Temple.

Once they receive the third, or Master Mason degree, some men choose to join additional Masonic groups, such as the York Rite, which includes the Royal Arch, and the Scottish Rite. Established in Britain, Freemasonry came to North America in the early 1700s. A century later, other ritual-based fraternal groups modeled on Freemasonry, such as the Odd Fellows and temperance societies, were also popular in the United States.