In the early 1870s, New Yorker C G Rosenberg painted ‘Freemasonry and Civilization’.  The original painting, at one point on show at the Freemason’s Tavern on Great Queen Street in London, was described in the Freemason’s Chronicle at the time as “An Allegorical Illustration of the Rise of the Orders of Architecture”.   The Chronicle commented “The idea which connects Freemasonry with Civilization in the progress of mankind from the darkness of chaos and ignorance to the light begotten of knowledge and well-ordered institutions, is not only a wise but a just conception, and the artist’s success in the execution of the idea is worthy of all praise”.   A contemporary leaflet, authored by Edward M Haigh, explained the meaning of the picture and was intended to inspire viewers to appreciate the beauty of Rosenburg’s painting.  The Freemason’s Chronicle for 8 June 1878 put it this way:

“[The pamphlet] … fully illustrates the plan, and should be read by all who wish to interpret it aright. Here it will suffice if we note the leading points in this description. The general idea is that the progress of man is due to the joint and beneficent influence of Freemasonry and Civilization, and the Chaplain’s jewel which the former carries in her right hand is typical of the religious basis on which this influence rests.  These two figures, which occupy the centre of the picture, and are very beautifully drawn, are preceded and followed by other figures, arranged in two groups. That in front, and, as it were, upholding Freemasonry and her companion, consists of the Virtues, Charity, Hope, Faith, Justice, Mercy, Fortitude, &c, each of which may be distinguished by its special emblem, or in some special manner. Thus Charity is carrying a cruse of oil, some ears of corn, and some grapes. Faith is looking upwards … in firm reliance on the wisdom and goodness of the Great Architect, while Hope has linked herself to Faith. Following Freemasonry is a group of three, which are intended to represent the Masonic principles of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. These two explain and are illustrative of the basis on which Freemasonry and Civilization rely for the influence they exercise over the human race”.

Edmund Haigh’s 1878 Pamphlet regarding Rosenburg’s painting, Freemasonry and Civilization

Apparently Haigh also took photographs of Rosenburg’s painting which were esteemed for their ‘great beauty and finish’.  The painting was 24 inches by 16 inches in size and coloured impressions mounted on tinted board were available for purchase at a cost of £5 and 5 shillings.

The May 1878 issue of the American Art Journal provided a long and favourable review of Rosenburg’s painting, noting that it had been painted in London that same year.   Rosenburg’s sudden death, during a further visit to London, was reported the following year.   The death notice described him as “a gentleman of varied talents in art and literature, a genial, open nature, full of kindly impulses, prompt in the service of his friends”. 

We currently have a copy of Haigh’s pamphlet in stock (as of April 2021) but would love to see the picture which it describes and would love to hear from you if you know of its whereabouts now or anything of its history since the 1870s.

We have lots of books of masonic interest in stock, many of them related to masonry in Yorkshire. View our vintage and secondhand books of masonic interest or books of Yorkshire local interest.