Freemasonry, a fraternal organization of men, has a long history in Missouri dating back to the early 19th century. The first Masonic lodge was constituted on November 14, 1807, in St. Genevieve. A year later, Meriwether Lewis, Rufus Easton, and Thomas F. Riddick, the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, established Saint Louis Lodge No. 111. The State gained several other lodges over the next decade, including Missouri Lodge No. 12 in St. Louis, Joachim Lodge No. 25 at Herculaneum, St. Charles Lodge No. 28, and Unity Lodge in Jackson. This growth prompted the founding of the Grand Lodge of Missouri to oversee the lodges on April 21, 1821.
Located in Columbia, the Grand Lodge quickly grew into one of the largest and most influential Masonic lodges. In 1847, the lodge built the Missouri Masonic College, a four-year college for Masonic brothers in Lexington. The Freemasons also established a St. Louis home for widows and orphans in 1889, and a second home in Kansas City to provide social services in 1985. Today, the Grand Lodge of Missouri comprises over 330 Lodges with a membership of around 45,500 brothers.
This Masonic uniform, made in 1929, was worn by John Robinson (J.R.) Baker (December 10, 1879-October 3, 1963). Baker’s family founded the City of Millersburg, Missouri, which is one of the oldest settlements in Callaway County. Baker was a delegate to the Missouri Constitution Convention in 1921, and he served in the Missouri state legislature as a part of the House of Representatives from 1934-1936. Like many of the other Masons, Baker was a significant figure in Missouri’s political history. Other prominent Missouri Masons include Harry Truman, who was Grand Master from 1941 to 1942, and Senator Thomas Hart Benton, aviator Charles Lindbergh, and author Samuel L. Clemens.
Collection Name: Missouri Historic Costume and Textile Collection
Contributing Institution: University of Missouri