Benjamin Franklin Exhibit at National Heritage Museum
To Fly to the Aid of Humanity: Benjamin Franklin and the Lodge of Nine Sisters
December 15, 2007-June 15, 2008
A new exhibition at the National Heritage Museum at the headquarters of the Scottish Rite Northern Jurisdiction in Lexington, Massachusetts, focuses on Benjamin Franklin's involvement with a French Masonic lodge during the American Revolution.
Inventor, writer, printer, and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin was also a Freemason. When sent by Congress to France to drum up financial and material support for the American Revolution in 1776, he sought the social circles that would help him fulfill his mission. One of the most interesting was a Parisian Masonic lodge, the Lodge of Nine Sisters (La Loge des Neuf Soeurs). Franklin was not just a member of this Lodge, but also became its leader, serving as its Venerable Master from 1779 to 1781.
The nine sisters in the Lodge's name refer to the nine muses of the arts and sciences from Greek mythology. In the late 1700s, this lodge boasted an elite and international membership, including such important thinkers, artists, scientists, and statesmen as Americans Benjamin Franklin and John Paul Jones, writer-philosopher Voltaire, astronomer Joseph-Jerome de Lalande, and sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon. New members pledged to always be ready "to fly to the aid of humanity," a fact that both reflected Masonic ideals and spoke to Franklin's mission of building support for Americans' efforts to achieve independence.
The exhibition highlights objects in the Library and Archives collection, including printed items produced by, and associated with, the Lodge of Nine Sisters. These items are drawn from a collection of material originally gathered by Claude-Emmanuel-Joseph-Pierre, Marquis de Pastoret, who served as Venerable Master of the Lodge of Nine Sisters from 1788 to 1789. Objects on display include two membership lists of the Lodge from the 1700s that show the names of some of its illustrious members, as well as an invitation to an "Academic Festival" co-sponsored by the Lodge and Benjamin Franklin in 1783 "on the occasion of the Peace between England and her former American colonies." Also on display are items from the Library's collection, including the first Masonic book published in America, The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, printed by Franklin in 1734.
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