On Thursday, Indiana Past Grand Master Mike Brumback let it slip that he had the combination to the massive Grand Lodge vault in the basement of Indiana Freemasons Hall. Such a revelation could not go unchallenged, and when he opened it, sure enough, it yielded up treasures.
Treasures, at least, for Masonic history nerds.
The room somehow seemed to have escaped any flooding over the years. It’s packed with hundreds of printed copies of old Indiana annual proceedings, but it looks like the last things put inside were in 2012.
The paw prints of Past Grand Secretary Dwight L. Smith are evident. At some point on or before the GL’s 150th anniversary in 1968-69, Dwight had apparently put out the word that he wanted to collect and protect copies or originals of the oldest physical documents he could find from lodges around the state. There’s an entire shelf of early 19th century handwritten minute books with notes inside stating they had been microfilmed by the Indiana Historical Society in 1969.
In the top photo by Bill Sassman, Mike Brumback and Chris Hodapp peer into the handwritten Grand Lodge minutes from December 24, 1838. They were written by then-Grand Secretary Abraham Harrison, and probably have not been looked since at least the 1960s – likely even before that.
Grand Lodge used to meet twice a year, and this was just fifteen years after the City of Indianapolis was created in the wilderness. During the 1800s, Grand Lodge used to meet the day before Christmas (wives were doubtless thrilled over that) and then a second time in May. The 1837 minutes noted that the May meeting was to be held on the Thursday before the General Assembly convened (since many of our early members were also part of state government). If you have ever been curious how we picked the third week in May for our annual communications, that’s how.
These minutes also predate the first purpose-built Masonic hall in the city by about thirteen years. Early meetings were held in the public room of a local inn and tavern, Blake and Henderson’s Washington Hall, which was also the usual meeting spot for Centre Lodge 23, the first Masonic lodge chartered in the new capital city.
Indiana’s first official Grand Lodge Masonic Hall was finally built in 1850 and opened the next year. It was deliberately built on the corner of Washington and Tennessee (now Capitol Avenue), diagonally from the statehouse. Before the Masons even moved in, they turned the use of the hall over to the State of Indiana to use for the delegates to the constitutional convention who were writing the new Indiana State Constitution at the beginning of 1851. The statehouse across the street was too small to accommodate both the General Assembly and the convention at the same time.
And this was just the first book we opened. Obviously, we will be exploring the vault’s contents carefully and determining the proper steps to preserve these historic documents going forward.
Join Michael Brumback and Chris Hodapp of the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana for a discussion on the history of Indiana’s Freemasons and see highlights from the Museum’s collection.
“From our founding fathers to several Presidents, the legacy of the Masons has profoundly impacted the United States; but what do we know about them? Join Michael Brumback, President of the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana, for a discussion on the history of the Indiana Masons and see highlights from the museum’s collection.”
This is a free program. ‘History Happy Hour’ takes place virtually over Zoom. You can either join through an internet-connected device or calling-in via phone.
This program will be an online Zoom presentation. It begins today (July 20th) at 5:30PM and ending at 6:30 (Eastern Time).
Please note: Registration closes at 3:30PM – two hours prior to the start of the program.
When you register, you will receive a link and phone number through the email you used to register about two hours before the program begins. Don’t see the email? Make sure to check your spam or junk folder.
Also, if you don’t already have a free Zoom account, consider signing up ahead of time to help avoid connection delays. Visit Zoom HERE.
The Indiana Historical Society collects and preserves Indiana’s unique stories; brings Hoosiers together in remembering and sharing the past; and inspires a future grounded in our state’s uniting values and principles. IHS is a Smithsonian Affiliate and a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience.
IHS is headquartered in the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in Indianapolis.
Indiana Past Master Barry B.L. White, OSM, has just published a new reference work of great importance to Indiana Freemasons. Along the Way: The Grand Masters Book, is a comprehensive listing of the men who have served as Grand Master for the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana, from 1818 through 2021, with histories, photographs, biographies of each of these brethren.
Proceeds from his new book will benefit the new Bartholomew County Masonic Museum taking shape in Columbus.
The price is $43.00 ($35 + postage) and may be ordered directly from Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org, or from the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana.
Barry White served as Senior Warden of the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research U.D. in 2019-21, a Past Master of Hartsville Lodge 547, and is currently serving as Master of Hope Lodge 150. He is the author of two other Masonic histories in Indiana: Hartsville Lodge No. 547: From the Past To the Future, and Steadfast Roots: A History of Freemasonry in Bartholomew County. In addition to his Masonic history books, Brother White has written several training books, one for Secretaries and one for Lodge Officers. The quarterly newsletter for Bartholomew County Lodges was his creation along with starting the Bartholomew County Past Masters Association. For his boundless dedication to Indiana Freemasonry, he was awarded the Order of Service to Masonry by the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana in May 2018.
Since 2011, the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana has contributed more than $30,000 in college tuition payments and wages to student interns pursuing degrees in Museum Studies at IUPUI. The COVID pandemic shutdowns and restrictions this year caused some unforeseen complexities for us. However, thanks to the IU Work/Study program, we have had the good fortune to be assisted by not one, but two talented students this fall.
Olivia Underwood is pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts in Museum Studies. She has been working on a variety of projects for us on the Museum side, including new label designs and signage, developing archiving solutions for some of our artifacts, updating our computer resources, and more.
Duncan Kissinger comes to us with an Associate Degree in Library Science, and he is currently attending IUPUI seeking a degree in Labor Studies. Over the years, several of our volunteers have made attempts to at least sort and organize our book collection. But thanks to Duncan’s expertise this year, we are at last undertaking a serious effort to digitally catalog our Library collection and make it publicly searchable.
Our antique card catalog hasn’t been updated since the late 1990s, and we have had hundreds of new books donated to us since that time. As this project progresses, the ability to search for our books online will be a boon to Indiana Masons, historians, researchers, genealogists and countless others.
Many thanks to both Olivia and Duncan! They are normally in the Museum Monday through Thursday, so if you are downtown during the week, stop in and say hello.
The Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana is again open to the public now that Indianapolis’ COVID restrictions have been eased. The Museum is located on the 5th floor of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple, and can be accessed by appointment Monday through Friday from 10AM to 4PM. If there is no volunteer staff member immediately available, please ask at the Security desk.
The Library & Museum will remain closed this week as we finish up painting on the 5th and 6th floors of Indiana Freemasons Hall and re-set some of our displays. We hope to reopen the week of June 15th.
In the meantime, please explore our website. Here you will find online access to our collection database, links to the Indiana Freemason magazine archives dating back to 1923, book resources, featured artifacts, news and more. We look forward to welcoming Masons and the public very soon.
On March 13th, 2020, all Masonic activity in the state of Indiana was suspended due to coronavirus precautions. Per instructions issued by Grand Master Kenneth Roy, Jr. of Indiana, the Indianapolis Masonic Temple and the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana will be closed to visitors and all but necessary staff beginning immediately. Only essential office staff, maintenance personnel, emergency contractors, and lodge Masters and officers will be permitted in Freemasons Hall and the Museum.
We currently anticipate being able to reopen the week of June 15th.
In the meantime, we at the Library & Museum encourage you to explore our online resources, such as our hundreds of back issues of the Indiana Freemason magazine, books and other documents, and our online visual catalog of the Museum’s physical collections. Links for all of these can be found at our website at www.mlmindiana.org
As the COVID-19 pandemic nationwide shutdown rolls along, the April 2020 issue of Indianapolis Monthly magazine arrived today, featuring all of the city’s great restaurants we can’t go visit until the restrictions are lifted. Such are the odd vicissitudes of magazine deadlines closing sometimes months in advance of actual publication.
The back page of the magazine always features an unusual artifact from around the City every month. April’s artifact is none other than the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana’s unique folk art sculpture by nineteenth century Indiana Mason George S. Frank. It is shown in a beautiful, full-page photo by Tony Valainis with a description of the piece, complete with a few words from our director Mike Brumback.
Like nearly every other facility in Indiana, we have been forced to close during the duration of the pandemic. Normally, we are open to the public. When this all passes, please do stop in and see us on the 5th floor of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple at 525 N. Illinois Street in Indianapolis.
The Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana would like to thank the creators of the Whence came You? podcast for generously donating the proceeds from the sale of the new audio book edition of Laudable Pursuit by the Knights of the North to us on an ongoing basis.
Originally released online in 2004 and in its final form in 2006, Laudable Pursuithas become a popular roadmap over the last decade and a half on how to attempt to change the course of Freemasonry. Countless lodges around the globe have adopted concepts from this booklet to reset their own practices and priorities.
The Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana will be open for Masons and the public this Saturday, January 11th beginning at 7AM in conjunction with the annual Founders Day program. The Museum will remain open into the afternoon until at least 4PM, after the meeting of the Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research.
Please come and visit us on the 5th floor of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple!
If you are coming to Founders Day, the Speedway DeMolay in partnership with the Grand Lodge will be serving a wonderful breakfast for Masons and guests starting at 7AM until 10AM in the 2nd floor dining room. Price is just $8 for all you can eat! So grab some breakfast and visit the Museum before the festivities begin!
The Dwight L. Smith Lodge of Research wintertime meeting will begin at approximately 3PM on the 5th floor of the Temple, after the conclusion of the Grand Lodge Education Committee breakout session. All Indiana Masons and those in amity with the Grand Lodge F&AM of Indiana are welcome to attend. WM Christopher Hodapp will give a presentation entitled “Your Son Is My Brother” on the use of the Evansville and Indianapolis Masonic Temples during World War II as military service centers, part of a national Masonic movement to assist military personnel. Barry White will present news about the new Montgomery County Masonic Museum taking shape in Columbus. And we’ll be discussing exciting new changes coming soon to the Indianapolis Temple, as well as an upcoming trip to visit the wealth of Masonic sites in Lafayette in the spring. Please join us!
The Indianapolis Masonic Temple is located at 525 N. Illinois Street, just south of the Scottish Rite cathedral parking lot.
For more information about the Masonic Library & Museum of Indiana, visit our website at www.mlmindiana.org