Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Masonic Temple, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1873), James H. Windrim, architect.

The Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging is the premier masonic organization in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is the oldest Grand Lodge in the United States, having been reconstituted on 26 September 1786 by delegates from the thirteen lodges holding warrants (or charters) from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, established in 1731.

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is the largest Grand Lodge, in terms of membership, in the United States. In 2013 it reported a membership of 107,731 and was the only Grand Lodge in the United States to have membership above 100,000.[1] It is only surpassed in membership by the Grand Lodge of England on a worldwide scale.[2]


The Rise and Fall of the Moderns[edit]

Two English grand lodges erected lodges in Pennsylvania during the 18th century, the Premier Grand Lodge of England (known as the Moderns), established in London in 1717, and the Ancient Grand Lodge of England, established in London in 1751. The first of these, the Moderns' Grand Lodge, was first to establish lodges and provincial grand lodges in the American colonies. But in Pennsylvania, by 1785, the Moderns and their lodges had ceased to exist, having been absorbed by the lodges of the Ancients. The present day Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania descends from the Ancient Grand Lodge of England.[3]

The Tun Tavern Lodge[edit]

The earliest records of any Masonic lodge on the North American continent are the records for the Lodge at the Tun Tavern in Philadelphia, officially known as the St. John's No. 1 Lodge.

The Tun Tavern was the first "brew house" in the city, being built in 1685, and was located on the waterfront at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley. The extant records of the Lodge begin on 24 June 1731, but the lodge may have been older than that. It was reported by Benjamin Franklin, in his Gazette for 8 December 1730, that there were "several Lodges of Free Masons erected in this Province...." The Tun Tavern, being a popular meeting place in Philadelphia, was undoubtedly the first location of a lodge in Philadelphia. Other organizations were formed there, including the St. George's Society in 1720, and the St. Andrew's Society in 1747. Even the United States Marine Corps was founded there on 10 November 1775 by Samuel Nicholas, grandson of a member of the Tun Tavern Lodge. The Tun Tavern Lodge, which was never warranted or issued a charter, being an "immemorial rights lodge," died out about 1738 due to an anti-Masonic fever that swept the colony at that time.[4]

The Moderns' Provincial Grand Master[edit]

The first official act of the Moderns' Grand Lodge regarding the American colonies was the creation of a Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, naming one Daniel Coxe, Esq., to that office. This deputation, issued on 5 June 1730, was made by the Grand Master, the Duke of Norfolk, and was to remain in effect for two years from 24 June 1731 to 24 June 1733, at which time, according to the deputation, the members were empowered to elect a Provincial Grand Master. Coxe, who had not yet left for the colonies, attended Grand Lodge in London on 29 January 1731 where he was toasted as the Provincial Grand Master "of North America." As expected, Coxe did not arrive in the colonies from London until the summer of 1731, locating in Burlington, New Jersey, about 20 miles from Philadelphia, where he had been awarded a colonial judgeship.[5]

The are no explicit records to show that Daniel Coxe ever organized a Provincial Grand Lodge, nor to have erected any lodges, nor ever exercised his authority in any way as Provincial Grand Master prior to his death on 25 April 1739. In fact, his death, which was reported in the Pennsylvania Gazette by Benjamin Franklin, a member of the Tun Tavern Lodge in Philadelphia, does not even mention that Coxe was a Freemason, indicating that Franklin and the other members of the Craft in Philadelphia were unaware of his affiliation.[6] However, an entry in "Liber B," the oldest known record of a lodge in the Americas (the second record book, of St. John's Lodge, Philadelphia, from 1731 to 1738), lists William Allen as Grand Master on June 24, 1731. It is probable that Coxe had appointed Allen as Grand Master for Pennsylvania, since his deputation gave him the power to do so.[7]

A Provincial Grand Lodge for Pennsylvania[edit]

After his election in 1731, William Allen appointed William Pringle, Deputy Grand Master, and Thomas Boude and Benjamin Franklin, Wardens. Benjamin Franklin would become Provincial Grand Master in 1734—the same year he published Anderson's Constitutions, the first Masonic book printed in America—and again in 1749. The organization of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was recorded in both "Liber B" and the Pennsylvania Gazette, which published the names of the sixteen Grand Masters who served from 1731 to 1755. William Allen was Provincial Grand Master eight times. No reports were sent from the Provincial Grand Lodge of Moderns to the Grand Lodge of England, nor were any requested; being independent it apparently had no need to do so. Yet, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania affiliated itself with the Grand Lodge of England in that it approved and adopted those Ritual changes made by the GLE after 1730.[3] [8]

"By September 5, 1749, some Brethren of the Provincial Grand Lodge, feeling that their somewhat self-constituted Grand Lodge lacked the authority it formerly possessed, made an appeal to the Masonic authorities in London for the appointment of a Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania. The Grand Master of England (Moderns), William Lord Baron of Rochdale in the County of Lancaster, appointed William Allen, who had been Grand Master in Pennsylvania in 1731. At a meeting of the Grand Lodge, March 13, 1750, William Allen presented his deputation as Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania and assumed that office. The action taken on that date marks the end of the independent Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and its inception as a Provincial Grand Lodge affiliated with and deriving its authority from the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns). The Grand Lodge was composed of three Philadelphia Lodges: St. John’s, No. 2, and No. 3." [9]

Provincial Grand Masters at Boston[edit]

On 30 April 1733, Henry Price of Boston was appointed Provincial Grand Master "of New England" by the Viscount Montagu, Grand Master of the Moderns' Grand Lodge in London. Clearly, this appointment would not have included Pennsylvania, except for Price's repeated, but disputed,[by whom?] claims that the Grand Master had "ordered him to extend Freemasonry over all North America." Price held this office until December 1736, when he was succeeded by Robert Tomlinson, also of Boston, who held the office until his death in 1740. Tomlinson was succeeded by Thomas Oxnard, who was deputized Provincial Grand Master "for North America" on 23 Sept. 1743. He remained in office until his death in 1754. Whether Price's office gave him jurisdiction over Pennsylvania Masonry has always been disputed, but the question became moot for a brief period with Oxnard's appointment over all of North America. Historians who argue in favor of Boston's primacy over Philadelphia also point to an appointment of Benjamin Franklin as Provincial Grand Master for Pennsylvania on 10 July 1749. However, Provincial Grand Masters had no authority to appoint other Provincial Grand Masters and Franklin's appointment was void. This was acknowledged by Franklin the following year when the Grand Master appointed William Allen Provincial Grand Master for Pennsylvania.[3]

The Demise of the Moderns in Pennsylvania[edit]

The Freemasonry of the Moderns Grand Lodge and its daughter lodges in Pennsylvania was eclipsed during the latter half of the 18th century by the rise of the Ancients Grand Lodge and its lodges. The American Revolutionary War took a great toll on Pennsylvania Freemasonry, and especially the Moderns' lodges. By the end of the Revolution nearly all the lodges in Pennsylvania were of the Ancients strain. It is impossible to determine precisely when the Moderns' Provincial Grand Lodge finally demised, but it was gone by 1785. The Masonic Hall, built by the Moderns in 1755 was sold, and the proceeds were placed in a charitable trust and became the "Freemason's Fuel Fund."[3]

The Rise of the Ancients[edit]

The Ancient Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania: On 15 July 1761, the Ancient Grand Lodge of England issued a warrant for a Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which appeared as Lodge No. 89 on the Grand Lodge roster. Three years before, the Ancient Grand Lodge had issued a warrant for Lodge No. 69 to a lodge in Philadelphia (later Lodge No. 2 of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania), which had been the first warrant issued to a lodge in North America by that Grand Lodge.[3]

The Grand Lodge is Formed[edit]

By 1785, Pennsylvania Freemasonry was entirely Ancient, the Moderns having become extinct in that state. On 25 September 1786, the Ancient Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania declared itself to be independent of the mother Grand Lodge and closed itself permanently. The following day, 26 September, the representatives of 13 Ancient lodges met together and formed the present Grand Lodge, headquartered in Philadelphia. As a result, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania is entirely of the Ancients' tradition, and is not an amalgam, or a union, of the two traditions. Its sole "ancestor" Grand Lodge is that of the Ancients Grand Lodge of England, founded in 1751, and does not descend from the Moderns Grand Lodge of 1717. Since its inception, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has moved its headquarters from building to building over the last two centuries, and on one occasion even conducted their meetings in Independence Hall.

Charitable Endeavors[edit]

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (and its subordinate Lodges) support five charitable entities that offer a range of services.

The Masonic Temple, Library, and Museum[edit]

The headquarters of the Grand Lodge is in the Masonic Temple at One North Broad Street, directly across from Philadelphia City Hall. Built in 1873, it is a national historic landmark renowned for its beauty, architectural mastery and historical significance. The Library contains one of the finest collections for the study of American history and Freemasonry, and the Museum displays more than 30,000 treasured artifacts.[10]

The Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania[edit]

Since its founding in 1894, the Masonic Home of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, now known as the Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania [11] has grown and expanded. The 1400 acres of the Masonic Village at Elizabethtown Campus began as a working farm where the Residents participated in farming chores. Today the farming aspects have been reduced to a prize winning stable of Bulls and a wonderful apple, peach, and cherry orchard. The Elizabethtown campus offers charitable services ranging from a children's home and child care center, to 445 beds of Nursing Home services and 971 units of Retirement living consisting of apartments and cottages.

Comprising five continuing care retirement communities across Pennsylvania providing a wide range of care and services, the Masonic Villages are committed to caring for residents regardless of their sex, race, creed, Masonic affiliation or ability to pay. The communities extend quality healthcare and outreach services to numerous others through home and community-based services.[12]

The Masonic Children's Home[edit]

The Masonic Children's Home is just that - a home for children who come from various socio-economic environments that do not provide the security and support necessary for healthy growth and development. The youth receive food, clothing, complete medical care, academic tutoring and opportunities to participate in worship and extracurricular activities of their choosing.[13]

The Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation[edit]

The Foundation offers leadership, education and mentoring programs and resources for youth throughout the Commonwealth, and provides numerous resources and opportunities for Masonic youth groups. It supports initiatives to keep children safe from violence, abuse and exploitation, and provides specialized training for adults who provide leadership to young people.[14]

The Masonic Charities Fund[edit]

This special fund supports operations and equipment purchases for The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, as well as the restoration and preservation of the Masonic Temple. As needs present themselves, the fund supports scholarships and disaster relief across the globe, to Masonic or non-Masonic recipients.[15]

The Right Worshipful Grand Master[edit]

The current Grand Master is Raymond T. Dietz.[16] In Pennsylvania, the Grand Master serves a two-year term. Notably, the regalia of the Grand Master of Pennsylvania is unlike that of any other Masonic Jurisdiction in the United States. The collar is made of velvet and contains no metal save for the bullion thread used to compose the stars. The apron is rounded, both at the base and on the flap, and has no excess ornamentation or fringe.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Masonic Service Association of North America - Freemasonry Membership Statistics
  3. ^ a b c d e Coil, Henry W. (1961). Article "Pennsylvania," pp. 468. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia (rev. ed. 1996). Richmond, Va: Macoy Publ. Co.
  4. ^ Coil, Henry W. (1961). Article "America, Introduction of Freemasonry into," pp. 31-33. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia (rev. ed. 1996). Richmond, Va: Macoy Publ. Co.
  5. ^ Coil, Henry W. (1961). Article "America, Introduction of Freemasonry into," pp. 30-31. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia (rev. ed. 1996). Richmond, Va: Macoy Publ. Co.
  6. ^ Coil, Henry W. (1961). Article "Coxe, Daniel," pg. 156. Coil's Masonic Encyclopedia (rev. ed. 1996). Richmond, Va: Macoy Publ. Co.
  7. ^ "The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Manson, Frederic (1936). Gould's History of Freemasonry Throughout the World (Vol. 6). Scribner. pp. "Freemasonry in Pennsylvania". 
  9. ^ Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. "A Brief History of The Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Pennsylvania". Masonic Education portal. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  10. ^ The Masonic Temple, Library, and Museum
  11. ^ The Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania
  12. ^ The Masonic Villages of Pennsylvania
  13. ^ The Masonic Children's Home
  14. ^ The Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation
  15. ^ The Masonic Charities Fund
  16. ^ Raymond T. Dietz Biographical Information
  17. ^ The Right Worshipful Grand Master

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°57′13″N 75°09′47″W / 39.95361°N 75.16299°W / 39.95361; -75.16299