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Masonic "Memento Mori" Apron
1780-1800
Maker not marked
USA: Massachusetts (probably)
Leather, cotton, ink/paint
overall: 17-3/8"h x 19-3/4"w x 1/4"d
Loaned by the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts
GL2004.0143

White leather trapezoid-shaped apron with leather tie strings and triangular flap. Apron is trimmed in black cotton lace and handwritten across the front in black is "MEMENTO MORI" (remember death). Under the flap, hand-written in ink, is "Wm. O' Brian [Brien]." Handwritten in felt-tip black ink below the name is "Born in Scarborough or [illeg] ME. / Died in Spain 1764 [illeg]."


On January 9, 1800, three weeks after George Washington's death, citizens of Boston gathered to express their grief and loss with a procession through the streets. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts planned its own procession a few weeks later, on February 11, 1800. Apron owners often noted their names under the flap on the front of their apron. With its black lace trim and inked motto, "Memento Mori" (Latin for "Remember Death"), this apron was likely crafted for use at a funeral or solemn procession. It may have been worn by a brother of sea captain and Freemason William O’Brian (1753-1784) of Marblehead, Massachusetts, to commemorate his death. Jeremiah O’Brian (1740-1818), William’s brother, is recorded as having attended a procession to honor the passing of George Washington (1732-1799). He may have donned this apron at the event. For further information, see Newell, Aimee, et.al., "Curiosities of the Craft: Treasures from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts Collection", 2013, p. 234-235; and blog post, January 10, 2017, http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/2017/01/the-north-shore-lace-industry.html