Miniature Setting Maul/Snuff Container

late 19th-early 20th century

Snuff was once the most popular form of tobacco addiction and the social vice of vogue.  The snuffbox was not only a practical necessity, but also an important symbol of social standing, identity and personal regard.  Available in any and all materials and shapes, boxes ranged from the fine to plain in all mediums.  This Scottish snuff container is a perfect example of something any affluent Mason would desire to own.  Functional in its ability to safely store snuff, and unique in its shape and design, this miniature setting maul would have been the perfect accessory and status symbol.  It measures 2 inches tall by 1 3/4 inches in diameter and looks like it was turned out of a solid piece of mahogany.  Gift of Kilwinning Lodge, Edinboro, 1908.

The "Setting Maul", in operative Masonry is used for setting stones, that is, tapping them to a firm seat in the mortar by urging them sideways into place.  It is in Speculative Freemasonry a symbol, in the Third Degree, reminding us of the death of the builder of the Temple, which is said to be effected by this instrument.  It is considered by some to be a symbol of untimely death.  In some Lodges it is improperly used by the Master as his gavel, from which it totally differs in form and symbolic signification.  The gavel is a symbol of order and decorum; the setting-maul, of death by violence.

A special "Thank You" to Laura Libert for submitting the pictures and description of this wonderful miniature snuff box.   (Click Here) to visit the Library and Museum of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

Laura Libert, the new Curator of the Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, is a 2001 graduate of Ursinus College, with a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Studies and Art History.  She worked as a student assistant at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art, Collegeville, for two years.  For her Summer Fellowship (2000), Laura curated the exhibit “Pure Like Water: Japanese and Chinese Scrolls from the Berman Collection.”  She looks forward to helping usher the Masonic Library and Museum into the 21st century with innovative ideas and new exhibits.




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