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Masonic York Rite Royal Arch Apron
Maker not marked
USA: New York or Pennsylvania
Watercolor; ink; silk; cotton
overall: 18-1/4"h x 14-3/8"w
Special Acquisitions Fund

Masonic York Rite Royal Arch apron; rectangular body with rounded flap; white silk with all-seeing eye in center of flap with compasses with framed diamonds left and right; in center of apron is painted circle with letters "HTWSSTKS", within circle square and compasses with suspended triangle; at top of apron are angels blowing trumpets, below is six-step platform with highly ornate pillars, hourglass, coffin and trowel, two men wearing Masonic regalia and holding working tools; cotton backing.

Aprons may be the best-known symbol of Freemasons. When the fraternity was established in the 1700s in England and America, its founders looked to the traditions and tools of actual stonemasons to develop their rituals and philosophy. The protective leather aprons worn by these workmen in the 1600s and 1700s inspired the symbolic aprons like this one. In addition to the Masonic symbols, this apron includes two male figures wearing their aprons, which gives us a sense of how men looked when they attended lodge meetings in the early 1800s. Their clothing style also helps to date this apron. Exuberantly decorated, this apron features Masonic symbols, charming figures and fanciful depictions of lodge furnishings. At its center is an image of a square and compasses with a triangle enclosed by the letters “HTWSSTKS.” This image likely represents a symbol that the apron’s unknown owner chose for himself as part of the Mark Master degree. In Freemasonry the square and compasses represent reason and faith and a triangle can symbolize deity. For further information, see Newell, Aimee E., "The Badge of a Freemason," 2015. p.44-47. Blog post, February 14, 2012 http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/2012/02/masonic-apron-mystery-are-these-from-the-same-hand.html. Blog post, December 24, 2008 http://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/2008/12/the-national-heritage-museums-masonic-and-fraternal-apron-collection.html. See Hamilton, John D., "Material Culture of the American Freemasons," 1994, p. 105.

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