Early Hand-Carved Chair 

with Masonic Symbolism

       

This beautifully hand-carved chair is in the museum of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in downtown Philadelphia.  It was originally made as a Master's Chair for a Blue Lodge and at some later date a brass Shrine of North America emblem was added to the lower back of the seat along with an area for attaching little brass plates.  The carving may have been the work of John Haley Bellamy, a wood carver who traveled Maine, Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Boston.  Although he is best known for his ship figureheads and carved eagles, he also carved decorative pieces and family coats of arms.  Heraldry was a hobby of his and his familiarity with the subject is obvious in the design of this chair.   If it is Bellamy's work it dates the chair to the 1880's.

One outstanding symbol on this chair is the Winged Hour Glass... an emblem used in the Third Degree, according to the Webb lectures, to remind us by the quick passage of its sands of the transitory nature of human life.  As a Masonic symbol it is of comparatively modern date, but the use of the hour-glass as an emblem of the passage of time is older than our oldest rituals.  Thus, in a speech before Parliament, in 1627, it is said:  "We may handle and play with the hour-glass: that is in our power, but the hour will not stay for us; and an opportunity once lost cannot be regained."  We are told that in the early part of the last century it was a custom to inter an hour-glass with the dead, as an emblem of the sands of life being run out.

This Masonic Chair depicts the 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Double Headed Eagle at the top.

 

         

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