Masonic Miscellanies – Making a ‘Mason at Sight’

What does it mean to make a ‘Mason at sight’?

“In Freemasonry, a ‘Mason at sight’, or ‘Mason on sight’, is a non-Mason who has been initiated into Freemasonry and raised to the degree of Master Mason through a special application of the power of a Grand Master.

“The process of making a Mason at sight was listed in ‘The Manual of the Lodge’ by Albert Mackey as the eighth of his ‘Twenty-Five Landmarks of Freemasonry’.

The method for raising a person to Master Mason through the rare process of recognizing him a Mason at sight has the Grand Master creating a new lodge for the single purpose of initiating the candidate.

This ‘occasional lodge’ is then dissolved when the reason for its creation – the initiation of the candidate – has been completed. 

However, while the process of recognizing a Mason at sight usually involves this procedure, Masonic historian Louis L. Williams has observed that ‘using his unique and unquestionable power, the Grand Master could pretty well proceed as he might see fit’ such as simply decreeing the individual to be a Master Mason.

Early instances in the history of speculative Masonry, in which a man has been made a Mason at sight, include the raising of Francis StephenDuke of Lorraine, in 1731 at Houghton Hall, fourteen years before his accession as Holy Roman Emperor, and of Frederick, Prince of Wales in 1737.  

 

left: Francis Stephen, Duke of Lorraine. Painting by Martin van Meytens – Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Bilddatenbank.,
Right: Frederick Prince of Wales. Engraving by J. Houbraken after C. Boit, ca. 1727..
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia and wellcome Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

William Howard Taft, [27th President of the United States] was recognized as a Mason at sight by an occasional lodge created for that purpose on February 18, 1909, a few weeks prior to his inauguration.

The lodge was convened at about 4:00 p.m. at the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Cincinnati by Charles Hoskinson, the Grand Master of Ohio, and consisted of him and William B. Mellish. He dissolved it after 6:00 p.m.

 

William Howard Taft, 27th President of the United States, circa 1909. Library of Congress Digital Archives.
IMAGE LINKED:  wikimedia Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

“Master Mason Taft Formally Initiated”, New York Times. February 19, 1909.
Image via https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1909/02/19/101816317.pdf

Other notable persons who have been made a Mason at sight include Joseph Smith, founder of the LDS ChurchDon King, who was raised by Grand Master Odes J. Kyle Jr. of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio; and General Douglas MacArthur, who was raised by the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia.  

 

Carson, W. B., photographer. (ca. 1879) Joseph Smith / photo, W.B. Carson, Peoria, Ill. , ca. 1879. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress
(1945) Gen. Douglas Macarthur, 1945. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress
IMAGE LINKED:  Library of Congress Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Don King. Photo: Gage Skidmore,
IMAGE LINKED:  Library of Congress Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Further Reading:

 

ArticleMaking a Mason at Sight: The Case of President-Elect Taft The Scottish Rite Museum and Library Blog.

 

Article  “Master Mason Taft Formally Initiated” (PDF)New York Times. February 19, 1909.

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