Navigating the “Republic of Masonry”: Print Culture in Masonic Communication and Connection in the 18th-Century Atlantic and Beyond

Friday, January 8, 2016: 10:30 AM
Room 311/312 (Hilton Atlanta)
Hans Schwartz, Clark University
Within a few decades of the foundation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 the Masonic fraternity could be found from the East to the West Indies to American Indian country and was a major social movement of the Enlightenment throughout Europe and the European colonial world.  In a speech before Paris' Lodge of Nine Muses, Benjamin Franklin referred to this international brotherhood as, "The REpublic of Masonry."  One of the most fascinating and little understood elements of freemasonry's successful spread is the manner in which masons, often merchants or sea captains, were able to arrive in ports of call from Batavia to Boston and beyond and easily locate the meetings of this "secret" society.  This investigation demonstrates how various types of print culture were created or adapted to the purposes of masonic.  Specifically, this presentation will focus on Masonic almanacs and lists of lodges printed and distributed by Grand Lodges in Europe and reprinted in a wide variety of pamphlets and books; the use of colonial newspapers, particularly in Boston, the most prominent hub of British Masonry in the Americas to circulate Masonic news and contact information; and the highly detailed Tableaux of the French Caribbean Masonic network centered in Saint Domingue.  This will include the use of print culture in the early republic to promote Black freemasonry emanating from Boston.  All of these sources were circulated, exchanged, and reprinted in a manner which linked the widespread Masonic networks of Bostonian merchants, French creole planters, and European seafarers.
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