Sharing the Light through Fifty Years of The Pennsylvania Freemason

pafmThe Pennsylvania Freemason Grows and Develops

by Dr. Glenys A. Waldman, Librarian, Grand Lodge Library and Museum

After a single issue in Volume1 (November 1954), The Pennsylvania Freemason Volume II (1955) became the first quarterly. August 1956 brought the first change in size -- a six-page issue. Four and six pages alternated irregularly, but whenever six pages were used, the format was a double-sided, 8 1/2-by-11-inch tri-fold. February 1962 was the last six-page issue, and the first with photographs: In addition to the front page Installation portrait of Bro. W. LeRoy McKinley as Grand Master, taken in December 1961, there were two pictures of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (the exterior, and its Watres Memorial Library), an aerial view of the Masonic Homes, and some additional "newsy" photos of the brethren. As of July 1962, The Pennsylvania Freemason, grew to eight pages in the format it has today. There were only three issues that year, as happened again in 1979. The months of publication occasionally vary, but usually The Pennsylvania Freemason appears in February, May, August, and November.

As of February 1976, The Pennsylvania Freemason had 12 pages, sometimes dropping back to eight. In that issue, also, the first Grand Lodge trip (to England) was advertised.

November 1983 was the first 16-page issue found, of which the center eight were a special report on activities at the Masonic Homes (Autumn or Grand Master's Day ran for six consecutive Saturdays in July and August in 1982 and 1983).

The Pennsylvania Freemason celebrated its 30th anniversary in November 1984. In it, then Editor Bro. Melvin S. Mundie noted that, "The editor still writes and edits all the material except for the space allotted specifically to the Grand Master." Beginning at least by May 1988, the editor officially had help, because his assistants are listed (Bros. John H. Platt, Jr., then Librarian and Curator, and Jonathan Schau). In May 1996, to the delight of the Archivist and the Librarian, running footers with the "The Pennsylvania Freemason" and the date were added.

That November 1984 30th-anniversary issue was the beginning of a period of steady growth. It was the first 20-page issue, and the most colorful up to that time. August 1999 was the first 24-page issue found. To date, the largest issue of The Pennsylvania Freemason has been 28 pages (Grand Master Slater's Inaugural issue January 2004). It includes a useful center-spread, double fold-out, containing the Grand Master's Inauguration speech and a pictorial directory of the Past Grand Masters, Line Officers, District Deputies, Grand Chaplains, appointed Officers, and Aides.

Specific features include "A Message from Our Grand Master," which occupied the front page until 1962, but soon began to move around, and sometimes did not appear at all. To our knowledge, it did not return with obvious attribution, until August 1980, when Grand Master Joseph E. Trate told the Fraternity, in the form of a letter, about the installation of a computer for keeping Grand Lodge records and urging the completion and return of a questionnaire to help launch the program. As of May 1984, the message (which Grand Master Carpenter called "Directly from the Grand Master") began to appear on the second page. It dropped out for awhile, until Grand Master Arthur J. Kurtz "reinstalled" it as "The Grand Master Speaks" (November 1988). The message has stayed there, sometimes with a title, sometimes without, but nearly always with a vignette photograph of the Grand Master, ever since. The Grand Master's Inaugural address, or excerpts from it, however, appeared regularly in the February issue starting in 1982 (or since Grand Master Ernette's Installation in December 1997, in the special Inaugural issue).

Other regular features of The Pennsylvania Freemason, have been columns written by staff members of the Masonic Charities, and the offices in Grand Lodge. From 1996 until 2001, the previous year's annual report of the Masonic Charities was in the May issue. The Grand Secretary writes informational, sometimes philosophical, sometimes hortatory articles, as does the Grand Master. The Library and Museum staff write about new acquisitions, Masonic history and personalities, as well as wonderful old books and artifacts in the collection. There are always articles about activities of the Grand Lodge (cornerstone layings, dedications, charities), events at the Masonic Villages (festivities, notable guests) and lodge news, often including personal interest stories. The Pennsylvania Freemason is not only a large newsletter, now seven times larger than at its birth, but a perfect vehicle for Sharing the Light of our great, resilient Fraternity.

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