Vol. XVII No. 1 — January 1939

Masonic Service Association

The Masonic Service Association of the United States, its members being grand lodges, was formed in 1919 as the result of the distressing need, seen in the Great War, of an adequate method by which American Freemasonry could function unitedly, instead of as forty-nine separate units, in relief and aid for the distressed.

It was early recognized that more than one bond between jurisdictions was required; insurance against forced inactivity in some future war which might never come was not enough. Hence were planned the educational programs, the development of good Masonic literature, the services to the Craft which have distinguished this organization from the beginning.

Conceived in a spirit of service, the Association has come into its own. Gradual in the making, it is now a strong, well-built organization, with no debts, with substantial assets, with a constantly growing membership, with praises for its labors written in thousands of letters, in grand masters’ addresses, in Fraternal Correspondents’ reports.


The Association has offered its machinery for the collection and disbursement of relief funds to a great many more grand jurisdictions than have accepted such offers. In droughts, floods, fires, earthquakes, every year the Association has put its resources at the service of distressed grand jurisdictions.

We never know when flood, pestilence, earthquake or hurricane will lay in waste the property of our brethren, endanger and take their fives, produce misery and poverty where but a short time before was happiness, prosperity and peace. Critics of inter-jurisdictional movements in American Freemasonry — and there have been many such! — are urged to ponder the work done by the tool forged in the fires of bitterness and conflict of war, which was found tempered and ready for decisive and successful action in the disasters of peace.

During the Association’s twenty years of life, seven disasters of national proportions have tested the ability of American Freemasonry to act unitedly in “restoring peace to the troubled minds” of those who suffered by hurricane, flood, earthquake and the oppression of Dictators. These were the Japanese earthquake of September 1, 1923, the Florida hurricane of September 18, 1926, the Mississippi flood of the spring of 1927, the Puerto Rico and Florida hurricanes of September 1928, the Ohio River flood in Kentucky in 1937, and the plight of Austrian Masons in 1938.

The Masonic Service Association was able to make all impersonal survey of the extent of five of these seven disasters, and to advise from first-hand investigation, made by duly accredited representatives, of the extent of the devastation and the relief imperatively needed. By its suggestions and its plans it served the grand jurisdictions involved in setting up and starting in motion the necessary relief machinery. By acting as a clearinghouse for information, a disseminator of appeals and a central agency through which contributions could be sent, it expedited both the collection of funds and their application where most needed. It must be emphasized that the Association has no power to assess, it merely broadcasts an appeal, and grand lodges respond according to their abilities and desires.

Condensed statistics (taken from United Masonic Relief, a book of detailed reports of the Association’s relief work) show:

All Relief, All Disasters

Japanese Earthquake Relief, 1923 $ 15,777.25
Florida Hurricane, 1926 114,236.97
Mississippi Valley Flood, 1927 608,291.91
Puerto Rico Hurrricane, 1928 86,316.58
Florida Hurricane, 1928 107,622.14
Kentucky Flood, 1937 33,771.01
Austrian Relief Fund, 1938 5,202.36
Total Collected $971,218.22

All Expenses, All Disasters

Japanese Earthquake Relief, 1923 No expense
Florida Hurricane, 1926 $ 1,130.95
Mississippi Valley Flood, 1927 7,202.21
Puerto Rico Hurrricane, 1928 3,078.08
Florida Hurricane, 1928 527.35
Kentucky Flood, 1937 No expense
Austrian Relief Fund, 1938 No expense
Total Expended $ 11,938.59

Total Distributed for Relief — $ 959,279.59

Percentage, All Expenses to All Relief: — 1.23


The activities of the Association are controlled by an Executive Commission, which is elected at each annual meeting. The nation is considered as formed of six “Divisions.” The representatives of grand lodges in each Division nominate their preference for an Executive Commissioner who is then voted upon by all the Delegates. Each member grand jurisdiction has a single vote, regardless of the number of Delegates representing it at the annual meeting. Proxies are permitted from grand jurisdictions not represented by their own Delegation. If any division at any time has no member grand jurisdiction, an executive commissioner may be elected at large, provided that he must not come from a grand jurisdiction already represented by an executive commissioner.

The six Commissioners are presided over by a chairman, who is elected by the Delegates at the annual meeting. No Member grand jurisdiction can have both a commissioner and the chairman. The executive commission elects three of its number to form an executive committee, usually choosing three who live near the chairman, to save traveling expenses when it is necessary that the committee meet. The commission also elects an executive secretary, (who is heavily bonded, as he is also treasurer), fixes salaries, lays plans, and generally outlines the work of the organization. The executive commission renders an annual report to the delegates at each annual meeting, which includes a financial report and audit.

The annual meeting elects a chairman of the meeting, (not to be confused with the chairman of the executive commission). He appoints committees, and presides over the deliberations of the delegates, an honor given usually to some brother from a member grand jurisdiction not represented by an executive commissioner. It has been the pleasant and wise practice of all chairmen of the meetings to scatter committee appointments among all member grand jurisdictions represented by delegates, so that the annual meetings and the activities of the association are as democratically and completely controlled by the grand lodges, represented by delegates, as is any grand lodge.


The association is supported by annual due from its member grand jurisdictions. The rates are:

For jurisdictions of 25,000 members or less, 3 cents annually.

For jurisdictions of more than 25,000 and less than 76,000 members, 3 cents annually on the first 25,000, plus 2 cents annually on the next 50,000.

For jurisdictions of more than 75,000 members, 3 cents annually on the first 25,000, 2 cents annually on the next 50,000, 1 cent annually on all in excess of 75,000. The Association has no debts. Since the experiences of the years prior to reorganization in 1929—30, the Executive Commission has ruled inflexibly against any expenditures which require borrowing. A modest reserve fund has been established (added to each year) for the dual purpose of covering the spread between grand lodge payments to the Association and to insure that, in any national disaster, the Association will have ample funds on hand to initiate and perpetuate for the duration of the campaign the necessary relief machinery.


No activity of the Association in educational lines is of greater importance than its publication and distribution of the Digests dealing with matters of importance to all grand lodges.

Begun in 1931 with the gathering of certain material regarding Employment Bureaus, the idea was found so popular that since then the Association has been collecting, collating, analyzing, and finally publishing the results of many questionnaires and researches.

The following Digests have been published:

  1. Advisory and Executive Boards
  2. Ancient Landmarks
  3. Bible on the Altar
  4. Consolidation of Lodges
  5. Dimits, Affiliations, and Visiting
  6. Doctrine of the Perfect Youth
  7. Dual and Plural Membership
  8. Educational Activities
  9. Electioneering, Politics, etc.
  10. Employment Bureaus
  11. Famous American Lodges
  12. Finances and Charity
  13. Funeral Services
  14. Grand Lodge Honors
  15. Historic Masonic Relics
  16. Light on the N.P.D. Problem
  17. Liquor and Gambling
  18. Liquor and 3.2 Beer
  19. Lodge Names
  20. Masonic Homes, Orphanages, etc.
  21. Masonic Libraries
  22. Officers, Representatives, etc. in Grand Lodges
  23. Petitions for the Degrees
  24. Powers of Grand Masters
  25. Recognized Foreign Grand Lodges
  26. Ritualistic Proficiency
  27. Spurious Freemasonry
  28. Standards of Recognition
  29. Taxation of Masonic Property
  30. Trial Methods
  31. What They Think
  32. Who May Confer Degrees
  33. Why Worry?

Nearly all of these Digests are still in stock; several thousand copies, stored and indexed at the Washington offices, may be obtained upon inquiry. As with all the Association’s material, after the initial distribution is completed, copies are sold to anyone interested at actual cost of mimeographing, storing, handling, etc. It has always been the policy of the Association to make its information available to all Masons, wheresoever dispersed, regardless of whether within the borders of member grand jurisdictions or not.

Complete information, authoritative and exact, has been and will continue to be, of great use to all grand jurisdictions. Laws are constantly changing. The practice of one grand jurisdiction in certain matters may be, and often is, superior to that in others. Making available all that is known and done in a certain subject produces the complete picture for all interested. Incidentally, the constant reading of these Digests serves in large measure to make the ideas of all grand jurisdictions well known to each of them. If the thousands of letters of thanks and appreciation on file in the offices of the Association are to be believed, the unity of thought and closeness of touch resulting from these documents has been great.

Short Talk Bulletin

The Short Talk Bulletin, of which each lodge in all member grand jurisdictions receives a copy monthly, was begun in 1923 as a tentative experiment in elementary Masonic education. Not even its proponents could have envisioned the speaker’s library unto which the pocket-sized Bulletin would develop.

Not intended to be complete expositions of the various subjects — how to cover “The Holy Bible,” for instance, in a dozen small pages? — the Bulletins have been planned and written as popular interpretations of their several topics. Written for the average Mason, intended to reach eager minds but not to attempt to satisfy research students, the monthly Short Talk Bulletin has made its own place in the field of Masonic education. Lodges have them read; memorized and spoken; abstracted. Speakers here find addresses on near two hundred different Masonic subjects ready for their use. Libraries use them to answer inquiries. Writers consult them for subjects and employ them in the instruction of newly initiated brethren. The Masonic press is continually printing and reprinting them for the edification and enlightenment of readers. Even non-Masonic organizations find in many of these papers matter which can be used to advantage — such a Bulletin, for instance, as "The Black Cube” preaches a broad vision of the secret ballot that is applicable to any organization.


A small percentage of Masons like to read of Masonry; it is for them that the Masonic books are published. A much larger number will gladly receive Masonic education provided it can be had without such effort. It is for these that the educational program for lodges are devised; the Masonic contests, debates, spelling bees, Masonic games, “What’s wrong with this lodge?” and other similar diversions.

The Association has issued and is constantly issuing these programs. It had to “feel its way” in their devising and production, and some, which proved too extensive and too cumbersome, are now out of print. But its contests and “bees” have retained their popularity and are called for constantly. Several grand lodges (both member and non-member) have reprinted these and other works of the Association for the benefit of their own lodges, which is of course a source of satisfaction to this organization, since its labors are not only for its own members but for the good of American Freemasonry as a whole.


A new idea in Masonic entertainment, of instructive character, is generally considered to be one of the great contributions of this organization to American Freemasonry. Many Masonic plays have been written, but all have required stages, costumes, scenery, and expense, with the natural result that except in wealthy city lodges such dramatic vehicles seldom convey their lessons of Masonry to an audience.

In 1934 the Association issued the first of its several lodge room dramas, which are unique in that they require no stage, no costumes, no scenery, no expense to produce. As every lodge has a meeting place, and as all the plays put forth by the Association are produced in lodge rooms, with the audience "part of the scene” there is no lodge too small to stage one of these plays.


Many grand jurisdictions with activities or education committee send to their own members material of great value. Without some central clearinghouse, these contributions to Freemasonry seldom if ever go beyond the confines of the grand lodge originating them.

Such “clearinghouse” activities are well within the province of this organization which gathers information of what is being done in educational lines in all grand jurisdictions, if possible secures at least fifty copies of all such material, and transmits these to the grand masters of all jurisdictions.


The Association has been in a position to help the United States government on numerous occasions; it is frequently called upon by officials in Washington for information. Two contributions to the United States government have been of such size as to deserve special mention here.

During the 1932 celebration of George Washington’s birth, the United States Bi-Centennial Commission issued sixteen booklets about the Father of His Country, each concerned with a special phase of his life;

Washington the Farmer; Washington as President; Washington the Business Man, etc. Due to the insistence of the Honorable Brother Sol Bloom of Pacific Lodge No. 233, New York, Director of the Commission, a pamphlet about Washington as a Mason was included in this series. The Commission turned to the Association, and as a result Washingtons Home and Fraternal Life was written, edited and prepared for the press.

In 1938 the Conference of Grand Masters appointed a committee to consider what, if anything, might be done to change certain provisions of the Social Security Act as they were applied by regulations of the Treasury Department and the Social Security Board to the Masonic Fraternity. The chairman of that committee turned to the Association for help in gathering material. A trained researcher uncovered every document, every speech, every resolution and act of Congress appertaining to the Act, including all debates. Hundreds of pounds of official documents resulting from the several weeks labor of this researcher were sent to the chairman of the committee. Later, the Social Security Board asked this organization if it could supply exact facts about salaries paid to certain Masonic lodge officials — secretaries, treasurers, choirs or soloists, janitors of Temples, etc.

The Association devised a questionnaire, which, through the cooperation of grand secretaries and grand masters, was sent to more than two thousand lodges throughout the United States. The resulting replies were analyzed, tabulated and given to the Social Security Board.

At this writing it is not possible to state what recommendations may be made by the Social Security Board to Congress, or what, if anything, Congress will do with such suggestions if it receives them. The point made here is that this organization with its resources and trained personnel, was called upon by the Government for aid in some of its problems, and effectively cooperated.

This Bulletin sets forth the major activities of the organization, but does not attempt to tell the whole story. Thousands of letters of inquiries are received on matters Masonic; advice is sought, knotty questions of Masonic law presented for solution, help in the formation of Study Clubs, Fellowcraft Clubs and the like requested — to catalog the thousand and one services the Association renders would require pages where here are but words. In brief:

The Masonic Service Association of the United States is a servant of Freemasonry. Formed and supported by American grand lodges, it is a voice they may command to speak, a hand they can move to action, that the great heart of the Fraternity may be made manifest and that the will of a united Craft be done.

The Masonic Service Association of North America