Early Folk Art Scrimshawed Nautilus Shell


This scrimshawed nautilus shell is circa 1850 and depicts many of the early symbols of Freemasonry.  During the 19th century and the great Age of Sail, many Masonic Brethren "went down to the sea in ships."  Their maritime professions ranged from ship builder, or ship's Master, to simple mariner.   Wherever they traveled, Masonry traveled with them.  A number of duly constituted Masonic Lodges were created in the East Indies, South and Central America, the Mediterranean and other ports around the world where seafaring Brethren could meet and enjoy fellowship.  Traveling certificates, often printed in three or four languages, attested that they were Master Masons in good standing and eligible for admittance to these foreign Lodges.  During long voyages, there were other opportunities to reaffirm the dual bonds that bound them to the sea and Masonry.  Without official sanction, Freemasons seldom lost an opportunity to hoist Masonic flags and pennants while underway, or in port, in efforts to recognize one another.  These displays often resulted in meetings where brotherhood and good fellowship could be more thoroughly enjoyed.  In a number of countries, the Papal bull of 1738 continued to prevent the conduct of open Masonic meetings ashore, but probably gave rise to their safe retreat aboard sovereign ships lying at anchor in the harbor.  Life at sea was hazardous in the 19th century, and necrology published in Grand Lodge Proceedings often grimly announced "death at sea" of many mariner Brethren.  Despite the hazards of life on the briny deep, Freemasonry proudly rode the waves as the legacy of the above nautilus shell will testify.




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