During the December Quarterly Communication, R.W. Grand Master Robert L. Dluge, Jr., announced the creation of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania Thomson Award for Saving a Human Life and displayed the distinctive silver cup that will be presented to recipients. The honor will be awarded to a member of the fraternity who was responsible primarily for saving the life of a fellow human being. It is to be presented with the same dignity and honor conferred by the Pennsylvania Franklin Medal for Distinguished Service to Freemasonry and the John Wanamaker Masonic Humanitarian Medal presented to citizen-servants who are not members of the Fraternity.
The Thomson award is not designated necessarily for a highly dramatic rescue, although it is in the Masonic character for personal safety to be cast aside in order to aid another in distress. Heroism and valor are often the products of preparedness and opportunity. While saving the life of a fellow human being may involve risk, strength, and courage, more often it is a result of the knowledge and practice of basic first aid and rescue skills.
The award is named for Bro. John Thomson, a Past Master of Lodge No. 51, Philadelphia. He served as R.W. Grand Master in 1861-1862. During his Masonic career, Bro. Thomson was well acquainted with the financing and details of the construction of the Masonic Temple at One North Broad St. Through-out his 63 years as a Mason, he served as a lodge officer for 26 years and a Grand Lodge officer for 30 years. In fact, Bro. Thomson has been the only individual to ever serve in all six elected offices of the Grand Lodge: first as R.W. Grand Treasurer and finally as R.W. Grand Secretary after serving in the line and as R.W. Grand Master.
He was a common man with little schooling who developed a respected trade as a cooper and became a successful businessman and leader in Philadelphia. Because of his occupation, his presence on the wharves of Philadelphia gave him many opportunities to rescue from drowning persons who fell from the docks. For those feats the Humane Society of Philadelphia presented him with a silver cup. Today it is not known what the silver cup looked like, but it may be presumed to have been shaped like a two-handled loving cup, the form of the traditional trophy cup still used today when bestowing distinction and honor.
For presentation of each award, the name of the recipient will be inscribed. The message of recognition on the cup reads: "In commemoration of Brother John Thomson's unselfish acts of service, we present to you this silver cup to celebrate your response to the call of Masonic duty by hastening to the rescue, and saving a human life."
The Thomson Award was designed at the direction of Grand Master Dluge. It is a sterling silver cup, handcrafted by Wendell August Forge Co. of Grove City. It bears a unique emblem which combines the square and compasses, the first aid cross, and the keystone thematically portraying the themes of "Brother Love, Relief, and Truth." The emblem is joined with the seal of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania by a cable tow, the age-old symbol of the distance a Mason is to go in service to his fellow man.