Modern Freemasonry can be defined as an organization of gentlemen, bound by oaths, based on the medieval stonemason craft guilds. Masonry is not a religion, nor does it have a religious dogma that it forces its members to accept. The Freemasons were the first, the largest and probably the best-known fraternal organization in the world. Up until about 1960, you couldn’t throw a doughnut at your office, school or family reunion without hitting a group of Masons. Today, our numbers are down, but there are still more than 6 million members world-wide. Often referred to as a secret society, Masons are anything but secret. Masons wear rings, hats, jackets and shirts displaying the square and compass, the universal symbol of Freemasonry, displayed on them. Our cars often have Masonic license plates, our buildings are clearly marked and the addresses and phone numbers are in the phone book. You may have seen billboards advertising the Masons or have even visited a Lodge’s website. If Masons are supposed to be a secret, we’re not doing a very good job.
Lodges have regular meetings throughout the year. Hoover Lodge meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month with the exception of the summer months of July and August when there is only one meeting. Like any organization, business is conducted, bills are paid, new members voted on and often speakers give a presentation. Occasionally, new members are initiated and various ceremonies performed to advance them to full membership. And because one of the main goals of Masonry is to promote fraternalism, there is usually some kind of dining experience involved before or after the meetings.
Some Masons concentrate on the many charities the fraternity participates in. Others enjoy performing in the ritual ceremonies. Some consider it a place to meet with old friends and make new ones. For men who become officers, Masonry can become a personal development course where they learn leadership skills, public speaking and more. It is not uncommon to hear members express satisfaction in knowing that they are participating in the same rites and rituals as George Washington, Paul Revere, Winston Churchill and millions of other Masons, famous and not-as-famous, have done before them.
Brief History of Masonry
Much of the earliest history of Masonry is unknown because of a shortage of written material. The generally accepted historic origins of modern Freemasonry can be traced to the stonemason guilds that formed during the middle ages. The Freemasons knew how to build Gothic cathedrals and castles from massive stones and they knew the science of Geometry, thereby being able to turn a small drawing into an enormous structure. These secrets were kept closely guarded and divulged to no one outside of the guild. The guilds were developed to train men in the skills needed to construct these magnificent buildings, to enforce a standard of workmanship and to hold the members to those high standards – as well as to protect those valuable trade secrets.
In about the 1640’s the English and Scottish lodges began to admit members who were not workers in stone. By the late 1660’s these newly admitted or “Accepted” Masons, saw in Freemasonry the ideal symbolism for building character in men. Masonry continued to grow and spread and before long it traveled to the “New World” and took hold in the colonies. The connection between Freemasonry and the American Revolution has been exaggerated over the years, but Masons were present at many of the turning points that led to the formation of a new republic and government.
Freemasonry traveled throughout the world during the 1800s, with lodges forming in Africa, Asia, India, the Middle East and South America. Masonry’s greatest and most explosive growth was in the United States in the 1800s. As the US pushed its borders west, Grand Lodges formed in all the new states. Prior to the Revolution, lodges often met in taverns and coffeehouses – now custom-built Masonic Halls began to appear, making Masonry more visible to the public than it ever had and brought a new level of respect and seriousness to the fraternity. By 1899, more than 6 million of the 21 million adult men in the United States were members of a fraternal organization. Many heroes of World War I, like General “Blackjack” Pershing and Eddie Rickenbacker were Masons, as were 4 of the 5 US Presidents who served between 1897 and 1923 (McKinley, T Roosevelt, Taft, Harding.) By 1925, there were nearly 3 million Freemasons in the United States. At the end of World War II, Masonry surged in popularity again as the country celebrated the end of Hitler’s regime, led by Masons such as FDR, Winston Churchill, Omar Bradley, Douglas MacArthur and Harry Truman.
Masonic Membership reached an all-time high in 1959, with over 4 million Masons in the United States alone.
For more information on Masonry, visit the Grand Lodge of Ohio's website or Ask A Freemason website. Links can be found on our Links page. If you are considering becoming a Freemason, click on the "Petition" page. Download and complete the petition and bring or mail it to our Lodge (or the Lodge of your choice.)