The George Washington Masonic National Memorial stands as an enduring symbol of America’s rich history and the esteem American Freemasons have for our brother and first President, George Washington. Among its majestic architecture and striking presence, the Memorial Association protects numerous objects that preserve the heritage of American Freemasonry and its influential figures. This all began with the registration book of the first regular meeting of the Memorial Association.
The Registration Book (catalog number WMM-1911.01.01) is the attendance record of the first regular meeting of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association. The Association first met in the room of Alexandria Washington Lodge № 22, located on the second floor of the Alexandria City Hall, on February 2, 1910, the 178th birthday of our nation's first Executive Officer. At that meeting, a resolution was passed to establish the first official and regular meeting to be held the following year, beginning the historical record of the Memorial Association.
This registration book is bound in black fabric, red and gilt corners, and binding. Sewn blue-lined numbered ledger pages, 154 pages in total, with a handwritten note affixed to the cover reading “Registrar of The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association.” Used as annual meeting sign-in book with names, titles, and states of Association Convention attendees from the first meeting in 1911 till the last page dated February 22nd, 1946, holding the names of 35 years of the Memorial, it’s Association and American history.
The day prior to the registrar the attendees met and Charles H. Callahan, then Master of Alexandria Washington Lodge, appointed William B. McChesney the Grand Master of Virginia, who does not appear on the registry, as the temporary chair of the association who intern appointed:
James R. Johnson, Grand Master of South Carolina.
John Albert Blake, Past Grand Master of Massachusetts.
A. B. Ashley, Grand Master of Illinois.
Lawrence H. Lee, Grand Master of Alabama.
John J. Hull, Grand Master of North Dakota.
Robert R. Burman, Grand Master of Kentucky.
Henry Banke, Past Grand Master of Georgia.
R. T. V. Duke Jr., Past Grand Master of Virginia; and
W. R. Ellis, representing the Grand Master of Oregon.
to form the Constitution of the Memorial Association along with Charles Callahan and Robert S. Barrett of Alexandria Washington Lodge after the adoption of the program the meeting adorned till the following day February 22nd, 1911 where this registrar was used to sign in the Representatives of the Memorial Association. At the first official meeting of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, the first point of business was the election of its first President, Thomas J. Shryock, by unanimous ballot. The following representatives were also either elected or appointed:
James W. Lamberton of Pennsylvania - First Vice President,
James R. Johnson of South Carolina - Second Vice President,
A. B. McGaffey of Colorado - Third Vice President, and
A. B. Ashley of Illinois - Fourth Vice President.
Lawrence H. Lee of Alabama - Secretary,
Dana J. Flanders of Massachusetts - Treasurer,
William J. Morton of Alexandria, Virginia, and Rector of Christ Church - Chaplin.
Henry Knox Field and George J. E. Shinn of Virginia - Stewards,
and the Tyler of Alexandria Washington Lodge fell in as Sentinel.
This meeting concluded with an address from Former United States President, Chief Justice, and Masonic Brother Willian Howard Taft, whose address is written in full on the meeting minutes of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.
Throughout its pages, the Registration Book not only records the gatherings of the Memorial Association but also offers glimpses into significant historical events. For instance, an entry on February 22nd, 1945, notes that the full Association was unable to meet due to federal law passed by the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion. Amidst these seemingly uneventful gatherings, the world was embroiled in major events such as the invasion of the Japanese island of Iwo Jima which began on February 19th, the sinking of the escort carrier USS Bismarck Sea (CVE-95) on February 21st and the raising of Old Glory by five U.S. Marines and a Naval Corpsman on Mount Suribachi on February 23rd.
Freemasons and other fraternities or civic organizations will recognize a Registration or Attendance Book. Most Masonic lodges have similar books with printed letterhead on every page. Spaces for the secretaries to note the time and date of meetings, and most importantly, space for attendees to add their names to historical records. As the technological age races on these registration books are beginning to lose their significance as lodges are starting to adopt digital registrations. Whether this is a loss of historical significance or a great leap forward as lodges start to adapt the technology of the modern age, this article will not argue either case and leave it up to the reader to decide.
The George Washington Masonic National Memorial's Registration Book, with its storied history and rich contents, stands as a cherished symbol of Freemasonry’s dedication to brotherhood and the enduring legacy of George Washington. As technology advances, this tangible record of attendance continues to uphold the traditions of the past while embracing the possibilities of the future. The Registration Book serves as a testament to the unity and continuity of Freemasonry, linking generations of Masons who share a common commitment to honor the legacy of our nation’s first Commander-in-Chief and to preserve the principles that have shaped our great nation.