Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Museum
Welcome to the Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of the State of Oklahoma.
The Library and Museum are located in the Grand Lodge building, 102 South Broad Street, Guthrie, Oklahoma. The hours are 8:30 - 12:00 and 1:00 - 4:30 on weekdays.
Freemasonry has a long material culture, beginning with the operative masons. Identifying symbols, called “Mason’s Marks” were carved into the stones which built the Santa Sophia in Constantinople--the largest church ever built.
As the guilds of stonemasons evolved into the Fraternity, the number of articles used by Masons or decorated with Masonic symbols and emblems increased rapidly. The museum contains many examples.
Freemasonry is, essentially, a course of instruction in successful living, with emphasis on ethics, integrity, and honor. Much of the ritual is composed of lectures, and from early times, Masons have sought to illustrate those lectures, to make them both clearer and more interesting.
Before the 1800's, the lectures were commonly illustrated by symbols, drawn on the floor in chalk.
Later, painted cloths (called “trestleboards”) were spread on the floor to show the symbols.
In the 1800's rolled charts which pulled down much like the maps in schoolrooms were developed. The museum has some fine examples.
But the favorite way of illustrating the lectures was with hand-painted magic lantern slides. The museum has many beautiful examples of the slides as well as the antique projectors used to show them.
This display shows many of the glass and wood slides back lighted to make the viewing easier.
The lantern slides were replaced by film strips, then by 35mm slides, and now by computerized images.
Of course, for the lectures to be delivered, someone must learn them. While much of Masonry’s ritual is not written and is passed on by word of mouth, portions, known as the exoteric work, is written. Books of Masonic ritual are usually called “Monitors.”
The museum contains a collection of the various editions of the Oklahoma Murrow Monitor. But one of the most interesting items in the museum is a framed printed sheet. The single sheet contained all the exoteric work of the three Degrees of Freemasonry as it was practiced in the 1800's. This was printed for soldiers during the Civil War. It could be folded small enough to fit into a pocket. Masons from both the North and South would often meet in Lodges during lulls in the fighting, and these 1-sheet Monitors helped them to meet in true and regular form.
The Monitor is not the only artifact from the Civil War. The museum contains several, including eye-glasses, ivory toothpicks, traveling pen and ink sets, and a razor, whose blade is etched with Masonic symbols.
The history of Masonry in Oklahoma is unusual in that both Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory had their own Grand Lodges. When the two Territories merged to form a state it was necessary to merge the two Grand Lodges into one.
The seal of the resulting Grand Lodge [The Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma] is etched into the window which fronts the museum area.
One of the most important figures in early Oklahoma Freemasonry was the Reverend Joseph Murrow, known to most Masons as “Father Murrow.” He came to the Territories as a young Southern Baptist Missionary to the Indian tribes. A dedicated Freemason himself, he literally established hundreds of churches and dozens of Lodges during his long life. He carried a home-made altar, three home-made chairs and three wooden candlesticks in the back of his wagon, either preaching or holding Masonic schools of instruction as appropriate. His altar, chairs, candlesticks, portrait, and other personal Masonic artifacts are displayed in this case.
Freemasonry in early Oklahoma often showed “the loving hands of home,” with officer’s jewels snip- ped from tin, candle-sticks cobbled from whatever was at hand, and larger furniture, such as the two pillars Jachin and Boaz, made as best they could. As this display, entitled “Home Made Masonry” shows, the artistic ability did not always match the zeal. But there is an energy and integrity to these early artifacts which clearly shines through.
The “material culture” of Freemasonry has interested students of history, art, and music, as well as architecture and popular culture. During the 1800's and early 1900's, many Lodges commissioned special pieces of china (especially plates, coffee pots, and chocolate pots) to commemorate various events in the life of the Lodge. The museum displays many fine examples from both England and America; several of which are seen in these two cases.
Other displays in the museum highlight different aspects of the Fraternity. There is a display of Masonic aprons, including one presented to George Washington by Ethan Allen.
There are gavels made from ivory, marble, stone from King Solomon’s quarries, and olive wood from Jerusalem. There are ballot boxes as well.
But one of the most unusual exhibits is a stone from the White House in Washington, D.C.
Since the Fraternity is believed to have arisen from the stone masons guilds of the Middle Ages, the placement of cornerstones has long been an important public service of the Fraternity. Benjamin Franklin placed one of the first cornerstones in the American Colonies.
After the Revolutionary War, George Washington, as a Mason, placed the cornerstone of the U.S. Capital building with full Masonic ceremony.
Soon afterward, the White House was built.
During the presidency of Harry S. Truman (who was also a Past Grand Master of Freemasons) major repair work on the White House became necessary (furniture was literally falling through floors). In the process of creating a new foundation, workmen removed the stones placed in the 1700's and stacked them on the White House lawn. President Truman, walking among the stones, recognized that many of them were carved with Masonic symbols---the marks of the stone masons who built the structure. He had such a stone sent to each Grand Lodge in the United States.
It shares space in this case, which also illustrates the materials and traditions of the modern Masonic cornerstone ceremonies.
We have only scratched the surface of the Grand Lodge Library and Museum. Please visit us in person as well as on the web. There is much to experience.
Seal of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma.