art, portrait, albert pike, illustration

Travis Simpkins: Interview with the Portrait Artist Taking Freemasonry by Storm

Elena Llamas, Director of Public Relations for The Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. Portrait by Travis Simpkins.

Elena Llamas,
Director of Public Relations for The Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library. Portrait by Travis Simpkins.

If you have a lot of Mason friends and follow various Masonic and related personalities, like I do, you for sure have noticed how profile photos have been shifting to the signature style portrait drawings of artist Travis Simpkins. Phoenixmasonry is pleased to have had the opportunity to interview this prolific artist so we can all learn more about him and his art.

EL (Elena Llamas): Hello, Bro. Travis, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I am honored to have the chance to talk to you about your work, which I have been admiring for quite some time now.

TS (Travis Simpkins): Thank you. It is my pleasure.

EL: Tell us about your training as an artist. When did you know you had an interest and talent for art? Did you study art formally?

TS: I’m sure I must have possessed some innate talent as a child, but I didn’t really pursue many artistic interests until my teen years.


Artist Travis Simpkins

My art education was two-fold:

I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Degree from Anna Maria College [in Massachusetts] in 2002. At Anna Maria, the curriculum focused on traditional forms of art rendered through a diverse range of mediums, from painting to sculpture, but an emphasis was placed on working from life. Working from life means that you are looking at actual 3D models in front of you, be it people or objects.

I also undertook additional studies in Arizona with Photorealist artist James Frederick Mueller. Jim had some success in the 1970’s and 80’s, including a portrait commission of a former U.S. President. Along with the detailed logistics of the method, I learned a very valuable skill from Jim… the ability to create convincing portraits while working from photographs.

EL: Well, your portraits are definitely convincing!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Freemason and Composer of Masonic Music, by Travis Simpkins

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Freemason and Composer of Masonic Music, by Travis Simpkins

TS: In my work, I still utilize both disciplines on a regular basis. I work from life while sketching objects in museums. With portraits, however, I work from photographs. Using photos offers greater freedom. I’m not limited by proximity and the internet has allowed the whole world to become an accessible market. I can accept commissions and create portraits of people I’ve never met, many of whom live thousands of miles away.

EL: That is wonderful, yes

TS: In the realm of art, portraiture has always been one of the most difficult subjects to master. It offers both a challenge and a sense of accomplishment. If you can render a human face, and do it well, then you can draw just about anything else. There will always be a demand for well-crafted, quality portraits.

EL: I believe you! You have to be true to what you see. It must be quite difficult.

Albert Pike, 33° Scottish Rite Freemason and Author of "Morals & Dogma" by Travis Simpkins

Albert Pike, 33° Scottish Rite Freemason and Author of “Morals & Dogma” by Travis Simpkins

EL: Many portrait artists switch the background or medium of their work. You have a very unique and consistent signature style which involves a, and please excuse my lack of technical knowledge here, to the untrained eye it seems to involve a discreet pink background with black and white strokes in either pencil or charcoal. How did you develop this style and why have you remained consistent using it?

TS: It’s a classic sketching technique, utilized for hundreds of years, reminiscent of Old Master drawings. I just take that historic sense and extend it to contemporary subjects. The end result has a timeless quality, connecting the past and present in a relatable way.

EL: How interesting.

Benjamin Franklin. Statesman, Printer and Freemason, by Travis Simpkins

Benjamin Franklin. Statesman, Printer and Freemason, by Travis Simpkins

TS: I keep making portraits in that particular style for a few reasons. Firstly, I work on commission and create artwork to order. The charcoal drawings are popular and I keep getting requests for that particular aesthetic. As long as the business demand is there, I’ll keep producing them. Secondly, it’s important for an artist to have a unique style; to have their works be instantly recognizable as being created by their hand. For me, these portraits border on that signature element.

EL: Absolutely

TS: Lastly, I simply enjoy creating them. I work quickly and lack the patience for slow and tedious mediums. Drawing offers a sense of spontaneity, immediacy and expressiveness that other art forms don’t.

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. Freemason, by Travis Simpkins

Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States. Freemason, by Travis Simpkins

EL: I noticed some of the Freemasons you have drawn portraits for have Masonic pins on their clothes, that is a very nice signature detail of yours.

TS: Good portraits display some attribute, prop or element to convey the subject’s personal interests and passions. Small visual details can help to tell a person’s unique story. Over the course of their Masonic journey, many Masons are deservedly honored for their achievements, and I’ve found that Masonic jewels make great portrait accessories.

EL: Besides drawing a lot of esoteric, personal, and Masonic portraits, you also have a series of archeological drawings, is this another interest of yours?

TS: I work with several museums and cultural institutions, and those sketches are based on works of art displayed in museum collections. I am usually assigned to draw certain objects, but others are chosen for my own enjoyment. Those sketches are interesting in that they offer an interpretive connection with history, with ancient works of art being filtered through my viewpoint as an artist in the present.

Worcester Art Museum: Pre-Columbian Seated Male Figure, 900-1200 AD, by Travis Simpkins

Worcester Art Museum: Pre-Columbian Seated Male Figure, 900-1200 AD, by Travis Simpkins

TS: In my work with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I create artwork for an ongoing HR program. I am tasked with creating sketches of works in the museum’s collection, which the museum then frames and presents as gifts to noteworthy recipients.

EL: That is awesome!

TS: I greatly enjoy the job, but more than that, I’m truly honored that the Gardner Museum recognizes the quality of my work and has chosen my art to represent their world-renowned collection.

Worcester Art Museum: Ancient Greek Corinthian Helmets, 550-450 BC, by Travis Simpkins

Worcester Art Museum: Ancient Greek Corinthian Helmets, 550-450 BC, by Travis Simpkins

TS: Earlier this year, I began working as an Art Advisor with the Massachusetts Senate. One of our State Senators wanted to have college student artwork from his constituency represented in his office at the State House in Boston, and I helped draft an initiative and offered logistical advice for the project. It is quite rewarding, personally, to see the proud expressions on the faces of the students and their parents as the artwork is put on display at the state capitol.

TS: Last year, I was hired by the Worcester Historical Museum to create portraits of three generations of the Salisbury Family (17th-18th Century benefactors of the city). My artwork was put on display in the circa 1772 Salisbury Mansion, placed alongside paintings by colonial-era portraitist Gilbert Stuart. Gilbert Stuart painted the famous portrait of George Washington (used on the dollar bill) and is one of my artistic heroes, so that was quite an honor.

EL: Wow! That is fantastic!

George Washington Masonic Memorial. Cornerstone. Alexandria, Virginia, by Travis Simpkins

George Washington Masonic Memorial. Cornerstone. Alexandria, Virginia, by Travis Simpkins

TS: I also work at the Worcester Art Museum, having taken on various roles from assisting in art classes to monitoring the safety and security of the artwork on display. I have also referred collectors I know to the Worcester Art Museum, and my efforts and connections in that regard have culminated in the addition of more than 300 works of art to WAM’s permanent collection, including 97 woodblock prints by Japanese artist Yoshida Toshi.

Art Security is a major concern of mine as well, both personally and professionally. I hold a certification from the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection. I am a contributor to various art security forums, conducting research into art theft, preservation and archaeological ethics.

EL: How interesting. Keeping art safe is a challenge! Your wife is also a talented artist.

TS: My wife, Janet, is an amazing artist. She has a wonderful eye for detail. Currently, she is working on a series of miniature paintings, which have been on display in three gallery shows so far this year. We share a mutual love and respect, and I credit all of my success (artistic and otherwise) to her encouragement and support.

EL: Wonderful! How sweet! She does have an eye for detail as can be seen in the miniature painting below.

Janet Simpkins, 2x3 inch mini-painting

Janet Simpkins, 2×3 inch mini-painting

EL: Can anyone contact you for a portrait? If so, how and where?

TS: Portrait commissions can be made through my website:

I can be emailed directly at:

Find my page on Facebook as “Travis Simpkins: Artist & Museum Professional”

Affordable prints of my portraits of historical Freemasons can be purchased through Cornerstone Book Publishers at:

EL: Your work has rightfully earned a vibrant place in the hearts and minds of Freemasons. Is there anything I did not ask that you would like to talk about?

TS: I’m glad to hear others describe my Masonic portraits as a contribution to the fraternity, it’s meaningful to be able to play some part in my own way. It is a wonderful organization and being raised a Master Mason will always be a defining moment in my life. Since joining earlier this year, I feel that I’ve already made many lasting friendships and associations. I have experienced the start of an incredible journey and am open-minded to future opportunities in Freemasonry. All of the brethren at Morning Star Lodge in Worcester and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in Boston have been very welcoming and helpful. I am looking forward to joining the Scottish Rite Valley of Worcester and the Boston Consistory later this year. I hope to do a lot of traveling over the coming years and experience the Masonic art, architecture and fellowship in other areas as well.

Mark Twain, Author and Freemason. Mark Twain House & Museum. Hartford, CT, by Travis Simpkins

Mark Twain, Author and Freemason. Mark Twain House & Museum. Hartford, CT, by Travis Simpkins

EL: Your work is an outstanding contribution to Freemasonry and the Fraternity is most fortunate to have had you join. Thank you again, for this interview. Bro. Travis’ portraits cost about $200 (for an 8×10 inch drawing) if you would like to get your own or get one as a gift. Phoenixmasonry will certainty keep an eye on your work to let our friends and fans know what you are up to in the future. Thank you everyone for reading!

David Lettelier. Founder of Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library, by Travis Simpkins

David Lettelier. Founder of Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library, by Travis Simpkins

John Hancock, Freemason. St. Andrew's Lodge. Boston, MA, by Travis Simpkins

John Hancock, Freemason. St. Andrew’s Lodge. Boston, MA, by Travis Simpkins

Charles Lindbergh. Aviator, Author and Explorer. 1st Solo Flight Across Atlantic, by Travis Simpkins

Charles Lindbergh. Aviator, Author and Explorer. 1st Solo Flight Across Atlantic, by Travis Simpkins


Freemasonry in the News

This is not your grandfather’s Freemasonry, at least not in Boston and the Grand Lodge AF & AM.

Freemasonry has opened up in the last 50 years, sharing its goals and purpose with the public so that they can be better understood. And the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts has been at the forefront of this openness.

It was four years ago that Massachusetts launched its Ben Franklin series that described the Fraternity to the general public. There is a concerted effort here to dispel some of the myths and misinformation that has been allowed to exist by tight lipped Freemasons and reach out to the public in hopes of creating a better understanding of the Craft.

This is all reflected in the WGBH Boston Television piece on Massachusetts Freemasonry. Go back a few decades and this would have been a hit piece. But because Massachusetts Mainstream Freemasonry has laid the groundwork of years of informing the public of just what Freemasonry is all about, something your Grandfather’s Freemasonry would not do, this is the closest you can get to an infomercial.

Freemason Tim Bryce.

The Masonic Role in American History

How Masonry affected America.

I have been a Freemason for many years and I am still surprised by those people who believe the Masons have a secret agenda in terms of manipulating the country or stockpiling incredible amounts of wealth. Heck, we have trouble organizing a picnic. However, there is reasonable evidence to show Masons were involved with the founding of the country. For example, of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 9 were Masons (16%), and of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution 13 were Masons (33%). Of the 44 presidents we have had, 14 were Masons (32%) with the last one being Gerald Ford. Beyond this, few people outside of the fraternity truly understand the impact of Masonry in America.

I participate in a book club whereby we have been studying the history of the United States, from the Revolutionary War to today where we are studying the Reconstruction period following the Civil War. Throughout these books, there is mention of the various founding fathers who were Masons. Inevitably, I am asked about their Masonic heritage. For example, in the book, “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life,” by Walter Isaacson, the author mentions Franklin’s Masonic background, but it was obvious to me he didn’t comprehend the fraternity’s influence on Franklin. Our acclaimed inventor, author, printer, ambassador, and postmaster was raised a Master Mason at St. John’s Lodge of Philadelphia in 1731, and become the Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania three short years later in 1734. Franklin was considered to be America’s top scientist and intimate with American politics. He is the only founding father to sign the three most important documents of the time: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Treaty of Paris (thereby ending the Revolutionary War).

In 1771, Franklin visited Ireland and Scotland. During this time, his hosts were surprised by how well he was received by the people. What they didn’t realize, nor Isaacson, was Franklin was not just a respected scientist, but was also well known in the Masonic community who embraced “the age of enlightenment” which opened many doors for him.

In the late 1770’s, Franklin was appointed the first United States Ambassador to France. Again, he was warmly welcomed by “enlightened” Masons. So much so, he joined Loge des Neuf Soeurs in Paris, and became the Master of the Lodge in 1779. His influence was great and, as such, he helped initiate the great French philosopher Voltaire into the fraternity, among others. Freemasonry at this time was very much concerned with discussing philosophical and scientific subjects, and questioned everything. Theoretically, it is still supposed to be this way today but it has turned more into a social club as opposed to discussing “enlightenment.” Nonetheless, Franklin’s Masonic background proved useful in forging relationships with Europe and ending the war.

The “Father of our Country,” George Washington, was raised a Master Mason in Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 A.F.& A.M., VA, in 1752. It is said he had a high regard for the fraternity due to its sense of “enlightenment” and order. However, due to his commitments as General and President, Washington could not afford to spend much time attending Lodge.

In 1787 Washington was elected to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia which devised the U.S. Constitution and thereby our government. Washington was elected primarily due to his prestige, but his Masonic heritage, with a keen sense or order and protocol, certainly helped. Keep in mind, the discussions and votes were kept secret until the conclusion of the convention which lasted approximately four months (May 25th – Sept 17th). This is a testament to Washington’s ability to run a meeting.

Just because Masons observe protocol, it doesn’t mean they always get along.

Andrew Jackson

Nothing more vividly exemplifies this than the relationship between President Andrew Jackson and Senator Henry Clay (who had also served as Speaker of the House, and Secretary of State). Both men served as Grand Masters of their respective states, Clay in Kentucky in 1820, and Jackson in neighboring Tennessee in 1822. In government though, they were political opposites and detested each other. Jackson was a member of the Democratic Party and Clay’s roots began in the Whig party (which would eventually evolve into the Republican party). The two men seemed to disagree on just about everything. In the presidential contest of 1832, incumbent Jackson trounced Clay. When Jackson refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the United States, Clay passed a resolution to censure Jackson, a tremendous embarrassment to the president. This caused Jackson to call Clay, “reckless and as full of fury as a drunken man in a brothel.” On his last day as President, Jackson is said to admit that one of his regrets was that he “had been unable to shoot Henry Clay…”

There may have been no love lost between Jackson and Clay, yet they respected each other as Masons, which may have ultimately been the reason why Jackson never acted on his regrets. As an aside, Clay was a member of Lexington Lodge No. 1 F.& A.M. in Kentucky and Jackson was raised at Harmony Lodge No. 1 F.& A.M. in Nashville, Tennessee.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Unlike Clay and Jackson, perhaps the strongest bond between political leaders was between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Great Britain’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II. FDR was raised a Master Mason at Holland Lodge No. 8 F.& A.M. in New York in 1911. As a career politician he had limited time for Masonic activities but there is strong evidence he supported the fraternity, such as having his three sons initiated into it and becoming an honorary Grand Master of the Order of DeMolay, a Masonic youth organization. Churchill’s ancestry included many Masons and he became a Master Mason at Studholme Lodge No. 1591 in 1901. Like FDR, his political career kept him from actively participating in Masonic activities, but he maintained his affiliation.

As the war began, Great Britain was essentially alone and isolated. The country desperately needed the resources and assistance of the United States. On August 9th, 1941, prior to America entering the war, the two leaders met secretly in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Churchill arrived on the HMS Prince of Wales and met Roosevelt aboard the USS Augusta. The two had met during World War I when FDR was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Churchill as Lord of the Admiralty, a loftier position. Churchill had forgotten the meeting, which slightly perturbed Roosevelt, but years later as Prime Minister he desperately needed to know the President. Freemasonry was an important connection as it established the values both men possessed. When meeting FDR aboard the USS Augusta, Churchill gave FDR what appears to be a Masonic handshake thereby denoting their relationship. With such common values, the men were able to speak “on the level,” and form a strong bond which was helpful in forging the Atlantic Charter.

I am certainly not suggesting Freemasonry was the principal influence motivating these men of history, but it certainly didn’t hurt. It taught them about building relationships based on common values, protocols, and the search for “enlightenment.” There are many other stories of how Freemasonry helped to shape America, such as my article on, “Montana 3-7-77 – How Freemasonry Tamed a Territory.” However, as I delve into the history books I am appalled by how Freemasonry is shrugged off as an irrelevant aspect of history. It may not have the significance as purported by anti-Masonic conspirators, but it did have an important role to play in forging relationships. I just wish historians would pay closer attention to how Masonry influences the lives of people.

Keep the Faith!

More Masonic History.

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

For Tim’s columns, see:

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Copyright © 2015 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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Statesman, postmaster, Freemason: Ben Franklin.

Illustrious Brother Ben Franklin and Freemasonry

Statesman, postmaster, Freemason: Ben Franklin.
Ben fKranklin in Paris

Ben Franklin has long stood as one of the patriarchs of American Freemasonry. As one of the most prominent Founding Fathers, today Franklin is known for little more than the face on the $100 dollar bill. Yet, the history of the man behind such an honor is rich with industriousness, inventiveness and political genius such that he is perhaps one of a few who could be considered a modern day Renaissance man, both in and out of the fraternity.

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 in Boston, MA (as calculated by the new style – Gregorian calendar dating). His intelligence and wisdom helped him excel as an author, scientist, philosopher, statesman, and postmaster. As well known as Ben Franklin is as a Founding Father of the United States, he is also known as an illustrious Freemason.

No one can be sure of exactly when Benjamin Franklin was initiated into St. Johns’ Lodge, but it was some time during the year 1730 or 31, most likely during the February meeting[1] of St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. Before his initiation into the Freemason brotherhood, Benjamin Franklin made some lighthearted jokes about fraternity in his publication, the Pennsylvania Gazette. One source says that his joking was to:

“advertise” himself to St.  John’s Lodge so that when he applied he would not be regarded as a stranger.[2]

After being initiated, however, Franklin’s writing in the Gazette changed because of his Masonic influences. Thereafter he published many positive and affirming stories in the Gazette about the craft. These publications have become the core for understanding the history of Freemasons in the United States, especially in Pennsylvania.

Franklin was in no way a simple and ordinary member of the Masonic lodge. He was appointed as the Junior Grand Warden of the Provincial Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania in the year 1732 and as the Grand Master on June 24, 1734.* In 1734, he also printed the first Masonic book in the United States. His Mason Book was the publication of Anderson’s Constitutions.[3] Franklin was quickly elected as secretary of St. Johns’ Lodge, and he held the position from 1735 until 1738. Franklin continued to be an active member of the fraternity, and he continued to be elected and appointed for many positions. In March of 1752, Benjamin Franklins was put onto a committee for the first Masonic building in the United States. The lodge was to be in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

ben franklin and his beaver skin hat

Benjamin Franklin was not only involved in Freemasonry in the United States; he also traveled abroad to take part in meetings and lodges which came about in his diplomatic missions to Europe. In November of 1760 he was entered upon the Minutes as the Provincial Grand Master during the Grand Lodge of England’s meeting in Crown & Anchor, London, a position he was elected into in June of 1760.[4] In April of 1778 he was in Paris to assist with the initiation of Voltaire into the Lodge of Nine Sisters. He continued to be affiliated with the Lodge of Nine Sisters for years through the funeral services for Voltaire and as master of the Lodge for two years. Voltaire had such affection for Franklin that it was written:

The aged Voltaire who in the last year of his life came in triumph to Paris grappled Franklin to himself as with hooks of steel. He placed his withered hands in benediction on the head of Franklin’s grandson as if to confer the philosophy and inspiration of the epoch on the third generation. The two great thinkers were taken together to the theater and at the close of the play were called upon the stage while the excited thousands cried out “Solon and Socrates.”

From: Cyclopædia of Universal History: The modern world. 2 pt By John Clark Ridpath

funeral of voltaire

Benjamin Franklin passed away on April 17, 1790. He will always be remembered by the citizens of the United States as an intelligent Founding Father and scientist. For Freemasons, however, he is so much more.

Count Mirabeau’s eulogy, suggested at the French National Assembly, was perhaps most fitting for Franklin, saying:

Would it not become us, gentlemen, to join in this religious act, to bear a part in this homage, rendered, in the face of the world, both to the rights of man and to the philosopher who has most contributed to extend their sway over the whole earth? Antiquity would have raised altars to this mighty genius, who, to the advantage of mankind, compassing in his mind the heavens and the earth, was able to restrain alike thunderbolts and tyrants. Europe, enlightened and free, owes at lest a token of remembrance and regret to one of the greatest men who have ever been engaged in the service of philosophy and liberty. I propose that it be decreed that the National Assembly, during three days shall wear mourning for Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin’s Masonic career spanned a period of 60 years achieving, in his day, one of the highest Masonic accords, that of an Illustrious Brother. Given Franklin’s prolific career, in and out of Freemasonry, here below is a blended time line of his secular and Masonic life.

January 17, 1706 (New style dating) Born, Boston.

April 2, 1722 The first letter of “Silence Dogood” published.

November 5, 1724 Franklin sails to London to procure type and printing supplies.

July 21, 1725 Franklin leaves London for Philadelphia.

Fall, 1727 Franklin founds the Junto club.

October 2, 1729 Franklin became the owner, publisher, and editor of the weekly newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette.

February 1730-1 Initiated in St. John’s Lodge, Philadelphia

June 10,1731 Franklin publishes his “Apology for Printers,” a defense of the freedom of the press.

June 1732 Drafts a set of By-law’s for St. John’s Lodge

June 24, 1732 Elected Junior Grand Warden.

franklins Mason Book

December 28, 1732 Franklin published the first edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack under the pseudonym “Richard Saunders”

June 24, 1734 Elected Grand Master of Pennsylvania.

August, 1734 Prints his Mason Book a reprint of Anderson’s Constitutions, the first Masonic book printed in America.

1734-5 The State house (Independence Hall) built during Franklin’s administration. According to old Masonic and family traditions, the corner-stone was laid by him and the brethren of St. John’s Lodge.

1735 Franklin elected to serve as Secretary to St. John’s Lodge. Continues to 1738.

October 151736 Franklin appointed clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly.

December 7, 1736 Franklin organized the Union Fire Company of Philadelphia.

April 13, 1738 Franklin in a letter to his Mother, says: “Freemasons have no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion and good manners.”

May 14, 1743 Franklin published his A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge Among the British Plantations in America, the founding document of the American Philosophical Society.

May 25, 1743 Visits St. John’s Lodge, Boston.

November 24, 1747 Franklin and others organized a volunteer militia – the Associators – for the defense of Pennsylvania

June 10, 1749 Appointed Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania by Thomas Oxnard of Boston. Franklin promptly stepped down in 1750 when Lord Byron, Grand Master of England, acting directly, deputized William Allen, Provincial Grand Master for Pennsylvania.

August 29,1749 Tun Tavern Lodge petitions P. G. M. Franklin for a Dispensation.

November 14, 1749 Franklin and others organized the Academy of Philadelphia

March 13, 1750 Deposed as Provincial Grand Master and immediately appointed Deputy Grand Master by William Allen.

May 9, 1751 Franklin elected a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly (reelected annually until 1764)

March 12, 1752 Appointed on Committee for building the Freemason’s Lodge in Philadelphia.

June, 1752 Franklin, who has not yet heard of the French success, experiments with flying a kite in a thunderstorm, and also proves that lightning is electrical in nature. He describes this experiment in the October 19 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette.

first postmaster ben franklin

October 25, 1752 Visits Tun Tavern Lodge, Philadelphia.

August 10, 1753 Franklin appointed joint Deputy Postmaster General of North America.

May 9, 1754 Disturbed by increasing French pressure along the western frontier, Franklin designed and printed a cartoon of snake cut into sections, over the heading “Join or Die,” in the Pennsylvania Gazette (often credited as America’s first political cartoon).

June through July, 1754 Franklin attends the Albany Congress as a representative from Pennsylvania proposing a union of the colonies in defense against the French.

October 11, 1754 Present at the Quarterly Communication held in Concert Hall, Boston.

June 24, 1755 Takes a prominent part in the Grand Anniversary and Dedication of Freemason’s Lodge in Philadelphia, the first Masonic building in America. Serves as Deputy Grand Master of Pennsylvania until 1760.

March 21, 1756 Franklin meets George Washington while on post office business.

July 26, 1757 Franklin arrives in London, July 26, 1757, Franklin returns to Philadelphia on Nov. 1st.

November 17, 1760 Present at Grand Lodge of England held at Crown & Anchor London. Entered upon the Minutes as Provincial Grand Master.

September 9, 1762 King George III commissioned William Franklin the royal Governor of New Jersey. Franklin returns to Philadelphia on Nov. 1st.

1762 Addressed as Grand Master of Pennsylvania.

May 6, 1775 Franklin elected a delegate to the Second Continental Congress.

June 1, 1776 Continental Congress appointed Franklin to the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence.

1776 Affiliates with Masonic Lodges in France.

1777 Elected Member of Loge des IX Soeurs (Nine Sisters or Muses.)

February 27, 1777 Franklin moved to Paris suburb of Passy, where he remained during French mission.

February 7, 1778 Assists at the initiation of Voltaire in the Lodge of the Nine Sisters. (You can see Franklin’s Masonic apron he wore in Paris from the Musée de la Franc-maçonnerie)

November 28,1778 Officiates at the “Lodge of Sorrow “or Masonic funeral services of Voltaire.

1782 – Elected Venerable (W. M.) of Loge des IX Soeurs Grand Orient de Paris.

July 7, 1782 Member R.’ L.’  – De Saint Jean De Jerusalem (Ordre de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem).

April 24, 1785 Elected Venerable d’honneur of R.’ L.’ De Saint Jean De Jerusalem (Ordre de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem)

1785 – Honorary Member Loge des Bone Amis (Good Friends) Rouen, France.

December 27, 1786: In the dedication of a sermon delivered at the request of the R. W. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, by Rev. Joseph Pilmore in St. Paul’s Church, Philadelphia, Franklin is referred to as “An illustrious Brother whose distinguished merit among Masons entitles him to their highest veneration.”

April 23, 1787 Franklin elected President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery.

February 12, 1789 Franklin composed, signed, and submitted the first petition against slavery to appear before the U.S. Congress.

April 17,1790 Benjamin Franklin passed to the Grand Lodge beyond.

April 19, 1906 Masonic Services at his grave in Christ Church yard, Philadelphia by the R. W. Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the occasion being the celebration of the two hundredth anniversary of the Birth of Brother Benjamin Franklin.

* – See the comment from Pete Normand with an informative note on the history of Pennsylvania Freemasonry.

Masonic history composed from:
The Masonic Chronology of Benjamin Franklin, compiled by Julius F. Sachse, 1906.

Secular history composed from:
Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary – Timeline

[2] ibid.

Porn puts the lower and middle classes into freemasonry

One Nation Under Sex, Hustler publisher, Larry Flynt

Image via Wikipedia

The following two quotes come from an article I stumbled across this morning, Flynt’s master plan, written by Jonathan Kay for the National Post on a new book about the place of porn (or at least pornographic ideas) in the shaping of America.

Before I send you over to the article, give the two quotes a read and then ponder for a few moments what you think they mean.

The [Playboy] magazine’s undercurrent (which now seems naïve and quaint) is that male sexuality can serve as a bonding agent among men, one that puts the lower and middle classes into freemasonry with their betters: Since we’re all enjoying the same centerfolds, surely we all appreciate the same fine cigars and the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov?


Like Playboy, Hustler also created a spirit of freemasonry among its readers -except this time, it was built around the lowest common denominator of male libido and sublimated woman hatred.

The full article is about a new book, One Nation Under Sex: How the Private Lives of Presidents, First Ladies and Their Lovers Changed the Course of American History, authored by the infamous Hustler publisher Larry Flynt along with an academic coauthor, David Eisenbach.

The gist of the National Article is to suggest that its because of centuries of open sexuality (which he blames on the French) with the prosperity of the western world. Flynt cites the bawdy debauchery of Ben Franklin in his Paris years with his acceptance into Parisian society and in turn their willingness to help the young America’s pursuit of Life, Liberty, and Happiness – attributes Flynt points to as the very type of sexual society that existed in the “sexual carnival” of Parisian swinging scene. ‘

Reading the piece, I’m still a bit flummoxed in Kay’s connecting Flynt’s book(or his ideas) to freemasonry (note the lower case f).

My guess in reading the piece is that Kay sees the work of Flynt and of Hugh Heffner, the publisher of the men’s magazine Playboy, into a mosaic of modern male bonding. As he says of Hustler’s content that it puts the lower and middle class man into their own society, into freemasonry using the “lowest common denominator of the male libido and sublimated woman hatred.”

He makes an interesting argument, but I can’t quite find an agreement with his perspective. Perhaps the men’s magazines provide some means of mental association, much the same way a baseball game might, but it strikes me more as an association of apples to oranges in that where the nudie magazines associate with the base and grubbiness of mankind, the fraternity of Freemasonry bases its association on the higher nature of man, his higher spiritual self rather than his base nature.

But that’s only my take. Give Kay’s article a read and tell me if you think he missed the mark. How he mixed Larry Flynt, Hustler, and freemasonry, I’m just not getting it.

Give Flynt’s master plan [now archived] a read over at the National Post a read and then come back to tell me what you think.


Glenn Beck – The Illuminati is going to off him…

Chris Hodapp over on Freemasons for Dummies does a terrific job of capturing the exchange of Glenn Beck and David Barton, from the Wallbuilders ministry organization, on the Fox News Channel in an exchange over the Founding Fathers and Freemasonry.

As Br. Chris captures the exchange perfectly, there seemed to be more misinformation given than factual info.  See for yourself in this clip from the program.

I won’t get into the facts of the program, but as discussed by Barton such as Washington’s sincerity in Masonry, his lodge activity, or the difference between American and European Masonry at the time.  One document I will point you towards is The Origin of Freemasonry written by a contemporary of Washington, one amongst the pantheon of founding fathers, Thomas Paine.  I’m sure Barton may glean much from this short work.


As for Beck, if you haven’t’ paid close attention to his program lately, he has laid a foundation of the Founding Fathers atop the gestalt of Faith, Hope, and Charity even promoting it so far as to create his own university of the triumvirate as the great virtues.  Samuel Adams as Faith, George Washington as Hope, and Franklin as Charity which unmistakably two of the three were prominent Freemasons, one of whom was a Grand Master of Freemasons in Pennsylvania in 1734.

But, to Beck, the principals of Faith, hope, and Charity (as seen on these products) are the principals that, he says, are Christian principals which Beck has tied to American Principals and supports with the edifice of the founding fathers.  He’s developed it to a point that he’s formed his own Beck University to impart them.  While the ideas behind these great social virtues are rightly extolled, what Beck missed is that Faith, Hope, and Charity were ideas adopted into Freemasonry as three tenants by which the Mason were to strive for, but not I would argue, in the way Beck suggests.

Faith – a faith in the divine, the Great Architect, the primitive idea of deity that all men can agree, founded on the Golden Rule, the principal of Do unto others as you would have done to you.

Hope – As an idea that stretches into antiquity as an evil released from Pandora’s Box which entered the world to torment man.

Charity – Is a simple idea that translates to the agape styled love, a fraternal brotherly love towards mankind, which facilitates the other two.

These are three subjects I cover in much greater detail in the book Masonic Traveler.

So, if Beck and Barton won’t brush up on their Masonic history maybe you can help let him know and send him an email to with your thoughts about it.