Brother Upton was made a Mason in Blue Mountain Lodge No. 13 in Walla Walla, becoming its Master in 1892. He would apply his scholarship, his agile mind, and his industry to the study of Freemasonry. These combined with his rare gifts as a speaker and writer would soon mark him for Grand Lodge Leadership.
Upton was elected Junior Grand Warden in 1896, and would be elevated to the rank and station of Grand Master in 1898.
Our Most Worshipful Brother made many significant contributions to Masonry; his most significant being his committee report of 1897 on Black Masonry and his efforts as Grand Master passing a resolution recognizing Prince Hall Masons in the State of Washington. However the majority of the other white Grand Lodges in the United States and Canada withdrew Masonic relations with the Grand Lodge of Washington until the resolution was repealed. The resolution was reluctantly rescinded in June 1899. William H. Upton continued to write on this subject with conviction.
His work on Black Masonry was an important chapter in Masonic history. He died on November 3, 1906. Upton’s sincere interest was demonstrated by a provision in his will that no monument should be erected over his grave until “both colored and white Masons could stand over it as brothers.” In June 1990 the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington passed a resolution recognizing the Prince Hall Grand Lodge. On June 8, 1991 Both Grand Lodges gathered to lay a marker on William Upton’s grave.
Side by side Masons from both Grand Lodges marched in a huge long line. When they got to the cemetery there were speeches and prayers and hugs and recognition of William Upton’s surviving family that were there that day.
Above all there was the ceremony of the tombstone dedication where members of both Grand Lodges using the working tools of a Master Mason declared the work of engraved stone square, level and plumb. As the veil was lifted from the stone all could read these words inscribed thereon: “This memorial commemorates the fruition of the last will and testament of William H. Upton MW Past Grand Master Wash. F & AM who desired that all Masons regardless of color, should dwell together as recognized Masonic Brethren. This was accomplished in 1990 by actions of both Grand Lodges MW GL F&AM of Wash. and MW Prince Hall GL F&AM of Wash. Dedicated June 8, 1991 AL 5991”
If you go to the Internet you will find very little information about William H. Upton even though he authored the work “Light On A Dark Subject”. Neither the Grand Lodge of Washington Mainstream or The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington show any material to this man on their websites. One of the few places that has anything solid on the man is Phoenixmasonry, that well run repository of so much fraternal history and objects. See: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/light_on_a_dark_subject.htm
That’s a crime. This Mason that should be revered and talked about and written about so that his story is within easy reach of any casual observer.
All of us at Freemason Information would like to offer you a happy and hearty Thanksgiving. Here is one of my favorite Thanksgiving Blessings from Arthur R. Herrmann at the Masonic Poets Society.
A Thanksgiving Prayer
Oh, Lord, now this we’re thankful for: The good things life has held in store; The love of those within our home, And friends to greet wherever we roam; The health and strength wherewith to toil, The bounteous food from freedom’s soil; We thank Thee for the right to pray And worship Thee in our own way; To live within a land that’s free; For this, dear Lord, our thanks to Thee; And through these blessings, one by one, May Thy will, Lord, on earth be done!
This collection of seemingly unrelated passages all seem to speak to the promise of a new world, a “new Jerusalem“, a crowning jewel of the world. It is to that vision that we are thankful for and celebrate this day. I am thankful for my country, its warts, blemishes and all. We daily strive to build our collective city upon a hill.
…for we must Consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us… John Winthrop
“God bless thee, my son; I will give thee the greatest jewel I have. For I will impart unto thee, for the love of God and men, a relation of the true state of Solomon’s House. Son, to make you know the true state of Solomon’s House, I will keep this order. First, I will set forth unto you the end of our foundation. Secondly, the preparations and instruments we have for our works. Thirdly, the several employments and functions whereto our fellows are assigned. And fourthly, the ordinances and rites which we observe.
“The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible….
… I give thee leave to publish it, for the good of other nations; for we here are in God’s bosom, a land unknown.” Francis Bacon – The New Atlantis.
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. Revelation 21:1-3
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. – George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Though our mouths were full of song as the sea, and our tongues of exultation as the multitude of its waves, and our lips of praise as the wide-extended firmament; though our eyes shone with light like the sun and the moon, and our hands were spread forth like the eagles of heaven, and our feet were swift as hinds, we should still be unable to thank thee and bless thy name, O Lord our God and God of our fathers, for one thousandth or one ten thousandth part of the bounties which thou has bestowed upon our fathers and upon us. – from the Hebrew Prayer Book
The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. – H.U. Westermayer
Enjoy the blessings of this day, if God sends them, and the evils of it bear patiently and calmly; for this day only is ours: we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow. When our fortunes are violently changed, our spirits are unchanged, if they always stood in the suburbs and expectation of sorrows and reverses. The blessings of immunity, safeguard, liberty, and integrity deserve the thanksgiving of a whole life. – Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma, Intendant of the Building
The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings. – Eric Hoffer, Reflections On The Human Condition
Thanks are justly due for boons unbought. – Ovid
Find the good and praise it. – Alex Haley
Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has plenty; not on your past misfortunes of which all men have some. – Charles Dickens
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union. It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God; to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations are blessed whose God is the Lord. – Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1863 from the collection of Lincoln’s papers in the Library of America series
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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, 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: http://www.artcrimeillustrated.com
I can be emailed directly at: email@example.com
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: www.cornerstonepublishers.com
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
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
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
Last week, I visited the Washington, D.C. area and had an opportunity to visit the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA. I had long wanted to visit the memorial which is a tribute to George Washington as a Freemason and the fraternity as a whole. Since I had to travel through Alexandria in order to get to the nation’s capital, it was a convenient stop during my trip.
The monument’s property is gorgeous. The grounds surrounding the building are well kept and complement the beautiful stone building. When approaching the memorial from the parking lot, its size is awe inspiring. As you get closer and see the quality of the perfect ashlars which compose this edifice its beauty becomes more apparent. It will make any Freemason contemplate the value of the fraternity to our Masonic predecessors. The construction of this building was no small achievement and those Freemasons that assembled to create it must have placed great worth in our noble art.
The interior of the building boasts a number of grand halls, lodge rooms, and Masonic displays. The building is kept in excellent condition and is appealing to the eyes. The main floor features two beautiful lodge rooms each with its own display of various Masonic memorabilia. I would love to be a spectator of degree work in these lodge rooms as they are quite awe inspiring.
A view of the hall as you enter the memorial.
The lower floor features the Grand Masonic Hall as well as museums dedicated to Freemasonry and the Shrine. The Freemason’s museum was one of the more informative, accurate, and tasteful displays of Masonic history that I have ever seen. Some artifacts that caught my attention were Lafayette’s Masonic apron, a copy of Webb’s Freemason’s Monitor, and a copy of the Constitutions of 1723.
The tower of the building features more displays and an observation deck. In order to access the tower, you must take a guided tour which occurs several times throughout the day. The tour guides at the memorial will be more than happy to assist you in taking one of these tours which cost only $5 (access to the main and lower levels is free).
The memorial is conveniently located right across the street from the King Street Metro Station, which makes it an easy commute from anywhere in the D.C. metro area. The memorial is open daily and you can find more information on the George Washington National Masonic Memorial at its website.
Lafayette’s Masonic apron on display at the George Washington Masonic Memorial
A Lodge Room at the George Washington Masonic Memorial
The Constitutions of 1723 on display at the George Washington Masonic Memorial
“A beautiful system of morality, veiled in allegory, and illustrated by symbols.”
The above quote is the description of Masonry that is most often given to the initiate in order to describe the nature of the institution. It is so oft repeated that I suppose many Freemasons don’t give much thought to its meaning. However, when examined closely this description of our order gives us a clear picture of the purpose of our fraternity.
Let us take the first part of the phrase: “A beautiful system of morality.” This is fairly easy to understand. Freemasonry is school of moral instruction. Throughout the three degrees, the initiate is taught numerous lessons on the subject of morality. These degrees discuss many different aspects of that concept including the physical and spiritual components of morality. In many ways, religion serves a similar role in a man’s life. Every religion teaches man to walk upright before God, gives him a sense of good and evil, and encourages him to pursue righteous ventures throughout his life. While Masonry is not a religion, it shares the purpose of moral instruction. However, Masonry’s method of teaching morality is very peculiar in modern times.
At this point, let us shift our focus to the following words: “veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols.” The word ‘allegory’ is described by the dictionary as being “a symbolical narrative.”
A sketch of George Washington’s Masonic apron which features some of Masonry’s deep symbolism.
A symbolical narrative is any story crafted in order to portray a deeper meaning. The Masonic symbols in the legend of the Third Degree, Aesop’s Fables, and Jesus’ parables are all examples of allegory. Masonry uses allegorical tales throughout the Symbolic Lodge, York Rite, and Scottish Rite in order to teach its system of morality. In addition to the legends of each degree, a multitude of symbols are used to illustrate and reinforce the concepts of the degrees. This is where Masonry differs from many modern systems of moral instruction. Today, most religions and philosophies convey their moral teachings through a series of long lectures presented either written or orally. They utilize very little symbolism in order to educate their followers. Albert Mackey explains this in The Symbolism of Freemasonry.
“The older the religion, the more symbolism abounds. Modern religions may convey their dogmas in abstract propositions; ancient religions always conveyed them in symbols. Thus there is more symbolism in the Egyptian religion than in the Jewish, more in the Jewish than in the Christian, more in the Christian than in the Mohammedan, and, lastly, more in the Roman than in the Protestant.”
Masonry as an organization may only be a few centuries old, but its philosophical lessons can claim the most ancient of lineages. The moral education found inside the lodge is similar to that taught by any great religion, initiatic order, or school of philosophy. Take a second to think about your personal Masonic journey. Consider the moment when you were brought to light and received your first symbolic instruction. Think about how the solemn and deep language of symbolism enhanced your experience. Now imagine that the same lessons had been explained to you without the use of allegory or illustrated symbols. If you realize that the symbolic instruction provided a greater understanding of those moral precepts, you have discovered the true nature of Freemasonry.
The core of Freemasonry, and its Masonic symbols, is its allegorical and symbolic instruction. Without it, the order would not exist for it would have no purpose. It is Masonry’s language of symbolism that makes it appeal to the candid and industrious inquirer. It is Masonry’s allegorical legends that expose those ancient truths concealed within the fraternity. Symbolic instruction is our language, it is our identity, and it unveils the whole of Freemasonry.