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Illustrating The Masonic Lectures

Adapted from an article by RWB Chad Kopenski, Chairman of the Grand Lodge Committee on Education and Information

Every Mason may not remember what was said in his three degree lectures, but most likely, he remembers the many pictures and symbols used during the presentations. The first printed illustrations of our Masonic symbols was published in 1819 and 1820 with the book The True Masonic Chart or Hieroglyphic Monitor by Jeremy Cross.

By the mid-1800s, as Freemasonry was spreading across America, two Ohio companies were well-known for their fraternal materials. Sherer Publications in Cincinnati was known for its Masonic degree carpets and lecture plates, and their creator, John Sherer, produced some interesting works on early Masonry. These items were often hung on the walls of the Lodge, and a few can still be found in Lodges across Ohio.

As Lodges embraced new technologies, M.C. Lilley & Co. from Columbus became well-known for its magic lanterns and hand-painted Magic Lantern glass slides. The images used on those glass plates eventually found their way on to the photographic slides, filmstrips, and videos still in use today. In the 20th Century, magic lanterns were replaced by newer technologies, but there are a few Lodges in Ohio that have an original working model. Many older Lodges may still have at least a partial set of glass slides in the attic.

Both the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library and the Grand Lodge of New York currently have online exhibits that include many M. C. Lilley Co. slides. They are remarkable for their vibrant colors and artistry as well as their Masonic lessons.

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