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Masonic Service Association of North America

Emessay Notes August 2015 

Masons Rank High In List Of U.S. Presidents 

As we enter a new political season, writers and researchers again attempt to rate the achievements of past Presidents of the United States.  One recently published list – by – ranked all presidents from best to worst.

While the list may spark a variety of different opinions, this list is noteworthy as it rates very highly a number of U.S. Presidents, who also happen to the Masons.

Three of the top 4 Presidents on this list were Masons; 4 of the highest 10, and 6 of the best 12.

While many would produce a different order, the top 10 of this list (with an “M” after a name indicating a Mason) are:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • George Washington (M)
  • Franklin Roosevelt (M)
  • Theodore Roosevelt (M)
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • John Adams
  • Harry Truman (M)
  • Dwight Eisenhower
  • Ronald Reagan
  • James Madison
  •  Masons James Polk and James Monroe followed as numbers 11 and 12.

Other Masons on the list were:

  • Lyndon Johnson, an EA only (16)
  • Andrew Jackson (17)
  • William McKinley (21)
  • William Howard Taft (22)
  • James Garfield (23)
  • Warren Harding (28)
  • Gerald Ford (31)
  • James Buchanan (42)
  • Andrew Johnson (43)


Is A Graduate’s ‘Mortarboard’ Hat A Tradition Dating To Operative Masonry?

 The meaning behind wearing a mortarboard hat at graduation “slipped through the cracks and was lost over the generations,” according to Russell Herner in his new book, “Cathedrals Built By The Masons.”

In the book he describes many customs and traditions of Operative Masonry. He notes that a skullcap was a small brimless cloth cap typically worn in the ancient stonemason’s day.  Taken together, the mortarboard (a flat, square piece of wood on which the stonemason placed his wet mortar) and the skullcap look remarkable similar to the modern graduation cap.  What if the modern graduation cap came into being as the result of medieval Master Masons graduating from apprenticeship schools?  Brother Herner suggests this possible scenario:

Reg Eaton from Norfolk, England just graduated from apprenticeship school after many long years of intensive training, achieving the level of Master Mason. Wanting to celebrate with other masons and fellow workers, he invited them to a festive gathering with food and drink.

“Let’s crown Reg “King of the Master Masons’ with a king’s crown,” said one of the guests.

“No, we can’t do that.  He’s not a king.”

“Well then let’s crown him with his own mason’s mortarboard and use it as a crown of our craft and authority”

So the old mortarboard was washed and tacked to Reg’s skullcap and placed upside down on his head. “King of the Master Masons!” they all cheered and toasted their drinks to him in celebration.

Could such a ceremony have led to a tradition among other apprenticeship schools?  Over time, Brother Herner writes, colleges and universities may have embellished the mortarboard hats with modifications and decorations, such as tassels and colors.  “I believe the origin of this age-old tradition of wearing a mortarboard hat at graduation ceremonies has been rediscovered,” he said.

Brother Herner, an Ohio Mason, has been researching cathedrals in Europe for some 45 years.  This hardcover, 224-page volume includes more than 250 photos and drawings of cathedrals. 

After numerous chapters about the development of architectures and how the ancient craftsmen constructed the beautiful cathedrals in Europe, Brother Herner ends with several chapters about the origins of Freemasonry, connections that link modern Masonry and ancient craft stonemasonry, and what the Fraternity is today.

The book is available at and or at most bookstores.

What Makes A Successful Lodge? Here Is One List Of Attributes

Over the years, many writers have addressed the subject of making a Lodge successful.  Here is a list from a recent article by the Rev. K.G. Maxwell-Whale, published in British The Square, The Independent Magazine for Freemasons.

Attributes of a Successful Lodge:

  1. A careful selection process for new members
  2. A fully committed membership who are keen to learn and promote Masonry
  3. Fully committed Officers of the Lodge
  4. A Master who can control the Lodge, together with the Lodge Committee, and also protecting tradition together with the Lodge Director of Ceremonies
  5. A strong but fair Director of Ceremonies with the necessary knowledge to oversee the training of members and officers of the Lodge
  6. A strong Lodge Officer Instructor.  Acknowledging the failings of others and having a willingness to help each other
  7. Humor and friendship between members
  8. Compassion for all, from all
  9. A sincere acknowledgement of visitors

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