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Masonic Candle Box
1800-1850
Maker not marked
Place made not marked
Wood (possibly lignum vitae/bone)
overall: 3 3/4 x 10 x 6 in.; 9.525 x 25.4 x 15.24 cm
Special Acquisitions Fund
78.1.1a-b

a: Dovetailed wooden box has relief carving of eagle on front end; b: beveled, sliding lid with thumb insert has lozenge-shaped insert; incised in insert "J B"; square and compass and trowel.


To while away time, sailors on years-long whaling voyages handcrafted fancy tools and decorative objects as gifts or as personal souvenirs of their journey. This box, made out of cocobola, a tropical wood, has a sliding top to allow access to the candles stored inside while also protecting these animal fat-based items from moisture and vermin. The letters J. B. incised on a bone plaque on the box lid may be the original owner's initials or represent Jachin and Boaz, the named pillars said to have been built on the portico of King Solomon’s temple. In Freemasonry, these pillars signify strength and beauty. This box could have been used in either a Masonic lodge or in a home. Regardless of the setting, the carved eagle and the square and compasses on the lid suggest that its maker valued both Freemasonry and the symbols of the new nation.



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