The name of George Washington claims a place in our American Masonic history. As the “Father of our Country” he is a source of pride to every American Freemason and we are proud to call him a “Brother” in our time-honored Fraternity. He was “raised” to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in Lodge #4 of Fredericksburg, Virginia on August 4th, 1753. On December 20th, 1788 Brother Washington was elected the first Worshipful Master of Alexandria Lodge #22.
It was during the Revolutionary War that the young Marquis de Lafayette came to America from France and joined General George Washington’s army for the Battle of Brandywine 1777. The affection each man held for each other as Friends and Brothers was legend. The American cause had become Lafayette’s cause. The legacy that developed through this affection led to the presentation of a special Masonic Apron at Mt. Vernon in August of 1784. It was made of white satin and hand-embroidered by Madame Lafayette.
This apron has become a study in symbolism. Symbols are silent emblems having meaning only when interpreted and given the unique character of the interpretation process, it is also understood that no symbol has an absolute meaning.
On October 26, 1816, the legatees of the Washington estate presented a Masonic apron to the Washington Benevolent Society of Pennsylvania. A short note, currently framed with the apron, was presented, reading:
To the Washington Benevolent Society. The Legatees of GEN. WASHINGTON, impressed with the most profound sentiments of respect for the noble institution which they have the honor to address, beg leave to present to them the enclosed relick (sic) of the revered & lamented “Father of His Country.” They are persuaded that the Apron, which was once possessed by the Man, whom the Philadelphians always delighted to honor, will be considered most precious to the Society distinguished by his name, and by the benevolent, and grateful feelings to which it owes its foundation. That this perishable memento of a Hero whose Fame is more durable than Brass” (sic) may confer as much pleasure upon those to whom it is presented, as is experienced by the Donors, Is the sincere wish of the Legatees. October 26th, 1816.
In 1829, the Washington Benevolent Society decided to donate the apron to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Recorded in the proceedings of the Quarterly Grand Communication, dated Monday, December 7th, is the following:
A communication was received and read from the Washington Benevolent Society of Pennsylvania, dated the 3rd July, 1829, accompanied by the Masonic Apron of our deceased Brother George Washington which had been presented to that Society by his Legatees, Viz:
“At a stated meeting of the Washington Benevolent Society of Pennª. held on the 3rd day of July 1829. It was resolved that the Masonic Apron of General Washington be deposited with the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, provided that the creditors agree to this disposition of it.” Signed George Geyl, Ass. Secretary.
On Motion and Seconded, Resolved, That Brothers Josiah Randall, James Harper and John K. Kane, be a committee to acknowledge the receipt of the above and in conjunction with the Hall Committee, to place Washington’s Apron in a suitable and conspicuous situation in the Grand Lodge Room.
The apron has been in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania ever since and is a prized piece of both American and Masonic history. In the past year, a team of conservators has worked on the apron and its accessories, such as the frame, reverse glass matting, and the note from the legatees of the Washington estate, in an effort to stabilize and preserve these delicate items. A new display case has also been constructed, utilizing the most current and up-to-date methods and materials in order to protect and exhibit the apron. The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania is grateful to the conservators who worked on this project and to the Independence Foundation for providing the preservation funds necessary to undertake such an endeavor.