George Washington, Master Mason

On August 4, 1753, George Washington became a Master Mason in his hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The twenty-one-year-old young man would soon hold his first military commission.

Washington as a Freemason/Strobridge & Gerlach lithographers, Pike’s Opera House, Cincinnati, O. c1866. Popular Graphic Arts. Prints & Photographs Division.

Derived from the practices and rituals of the medieval guild system, freemasonry gained popularity in the eighteenth century, particularly in Great Britain. British Masons organized the first North American Chapter in 1731. Masons aroused considerable suspicion in the early American republic with their mysterious rites and closely held secrets. These fears mushroomed in response to the suspicious death in 1826 of William Morgan, who was said to have been murdered on account of his threat to reveal the secrets of freemasonry.

Masonic Lodge, Fredericksburg, Va. [between 1910-1930]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

For George Washington, joining the Masons was a rite of passage and an expression of civic responsibility. Members were required to express their belief in a Supreme Being and in the immortality of the soul. Masons also were expected to obey civil laws, hold a high moral standard, and practice acts of charity.

George Washington…the Glasgow Portrait. Photograph of painting; c[between 1900-1920]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division.

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