Masonic Research Society
Schoonover was the man who started The National Masonic Research Society,
which published the Masonic periodical The Builder from 1915 - 1930.
Organized in Iowa, 1914, the Society commenced
the publication of the Builder, January, 1915, with Reverend Joseph Fort
Newton as Editor-in-Chief. A managing Board of Stewards, all of the Grand
Lodge of Iowa, were George E. Frazier, President; Newton R. Parvin,
Vice-President; George L. Sehoonover, Secretary, with Louis Block, C. C. Hunt,
John W. Barry. Ernest A. Reed of New Jersey became President in 1922, with R.
I. Clegg, Ohio, VicePresident; C. C. Hunt, Iowa, Secretary, and F. H.
Littlefield, Missouri, Executive Secretary and Treasurer. Later, Brothers R.
I. Clegg, H. L. Haywood, Robert Tipton, Dudley Wright, Louis Block, A. B.
Skinner, J. H. Tatsch, became associate editors, Brother Haywood becomung
editor in 1921, and R. J. Meekren in 1926.
In 1913 Bro. George L. Schoonover of Anamosa,
Ia., who was to become Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Iowa, some five years
later, became deeply impressed by the fact that among the three million Masons
in America were a rapidly-increasing number of Masonic students; and that
newly-made Masons, imbued with the spirit of the time, were more and more
demanding to know "what it is all about." He was familiar with the world-wide
influence of the Iowa Grand Lodge Library, and with the work of Research
Lodges in England, but believed that the American Craft needed a facility of a
different kind, not localized but national, and one not an official arm of any
Grand Lodge yet one that could be approved by each Grand Lodge and could
cooperate with them. He worked out a plan for a national society, to be
devoted to Masonic studies and to be a way-shower in Masonic education, and to
be composed not of Lodges or of Grand Lodges but of individual Masons who
would join it voluntarily, each paying a small annual sum for dues; he also
believed that such a society would require a monthly journal; not a Masonic
newspaper but a competently edited, well-printed, illustrated magazine,
carrying no advertisements, which could compare favorably with the best
non-Masonic journals. He believed also that while the society ought to stand
on its own feet and pay its own way it should be examined, approved, and
officially endorsed by a Grand Lodge beforehand.
In 1914 he laid his plan before the Grand Lodge
of Iowa, and received whole-hearted endorsement. Though not a man of great
wealth Bro. Schoonover was a man of means, and at his own expense he erected a
three-story, beautifully designed headquarters building in his home town of
Anamosa, Ia., some twenty-three miles outside of Cedar Rapids. The
newly-formed organization chose the name "National Masonic Research Society";
secured Joseph Fort Newton as Editor-in-Chief; employed Wildey E. Atchison of
Colorado to be Assistant Secretary in charge of staff and on January 1st,
1915, issued the first number of The Builder, its official monthly journal,
sent to members only.
Each member paid an annual membership fee
($2.50 at first, and then $3.00); for this he received The Builder, special
brochures and booklets as they were published, could have answers to any
question, could secure expert advice on Lodge educational methods, assistance
in private Masonic researches, etc. The membership increased slowly, but in
due time passed 20,000, among which were hundreds in foreign countries-at one
time more than 40 countries, with 200 to 300 in England alone. The only new
activity added after the Society's formation was a department for the sale of
Masonic books as a convenience to its members, and not for profit. Bro. F. H.
Littlefield became Executive Secretary in 1921 and removed headquarters to St.
When in 1916 Bro. J. F. Newton was called to
London to become pastor of the City Temple his place was filled for a time by
a group of associates, among the latter being Bro. H. L. Haywood, who wrote
three books for the Society. He served as Editor without pay for about two
years, and then in 1921 became Editor-in-Chief; Bro. Jacob Hugo Tatch was his
Assistant Editor for about one year then transferred to the Masonic Service
Association (it had no connection with the N. M. R. S.); he was succeeded by
Bro. R. J. Meekren, who in turn became Editor-in-Chief in 1925, after Bro.
Haywood had left for New York to become architect and director of the Board of
General Activities of the Grand Lodge of New York, including editorship of The
New York Masonic Outlook.
Midway in the year 1931 the Society was so
depleted in membership by the depression when some thirteen million men were
out of employment that it was forced to discontinue. During the sixteen years
the Society had published The Builder in the form of a bound volume with index
each year. In a certain sense that set of books continues the work of the
society, because it is in almost every Masonic library in America, in many
public libraries, and in thousands of homes. It is a work of great reference
value, because in it are carefully wrought, factual articles on the history,
symbolism ritual, and jurisprudence of the Fraternity, the larger number
(unlike Ars Quatuor Corona natoram, a reference work for another purpose)
being on Freemasonry in America.
Read the Builder
Magazine Series at the link below: