History of Birmingham Lodge #188

1891 - 2015

The Year 1891

Birmingham Lodge is fortunate to have in its possession a complete set of minutes beginning with the organizational meeting held on Tuesday, June 9, 1891. In reading these, one cannot help but be impressed by the thoroughness and the detail of these records. However, there are instances where certain details are lacking; details which are needed to complete the over-all picture, but which at the time, they must have felt were unnecessary because of their complete familiarity with the situation. In these instances we can only try to piece together the facts and read between the lines.

It seems unlikely that the year 1891 will rank as one of the outstanding years in the pages of history. In fact, it is almost impossible to find anything to distinguish it from any of the other years in the last decade of the 19th Century.

Our great country was under the leadership of its 23rd president, Benjamin Harrison, a Republican who was then serving the third year of his term. At that time there were only forty-four states in the Union, including Idaho and Wyoming, which had just become states the previous year. Yet to be admitted were: Utah, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and considerably later, Alaska and Hawaii. It seems incredible to us now, that eighteen years were still to elapse before the discovery of the North Pole. A few notable inventions were made that year.

These inventions included the submarine, the oil cracking process [producing gasoline and other compounds] the color photo, and diphtheria antitoxin. Several persons, who were destined to become well know in the entertainment field were born that year. Among them were: Ted Lewis, Tim McCoy, Ronald Coleman, James Barton, Fanny Brice, and Chico Marx.

Masonry In Maryland

The year 1891 found the Grand Lodge of Maryland in Baltimore beset by many problems. Their Masonic Temple on Charles Street, then less than twenty five years old, had been completely destroyed by fire on Christmas Day in 1890. Electricity had replaced gas in the Temple earlier in 1890, and the fire is thought to have started due to faulty wiring in the ceiling of Forepaugh's Temple Theatre, which occupied the first and most of the second floors.

Early in January 1891, arrangements were made with the Secretary of the Treasury for the use of the old United States Court House (3), located at the northwest corner of Fayette and North Streets (the latter subsequently becoming Guilford Avenue) and this was where our Charter was later signed.

The Grand Lodge [of Maryland] was then in its 104th year, and was under the leadership of Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock, who was serving his seventh year as Grand Master. Brother Grand Secretary Jacob H. Medairy was serving his 28th year. Five months after signing our Charter, the Deputy Grand Master, Jacob E. Krebs, suddenly passed away, at the age of fifty.

When the Grand Lodge met in November, 1891, it was with eighty-nine subordinate Lodges on its roster, and 5,868 Master Masons. At that time, Birmingham Lodge had twelve members. Today, there are over 47,500 Master Masons in Maryland, including approximately 400 from Birmingham.

Noteable Events of The Area

  • Forepaugh's Temple Theatre: The Forepaugh family had a string of theatres from New York to Baltimore. They featured live circus acts. The Baltimore theatre fire started in the catwalk area of the theatre, and quickly set the curtains on fire. Animals and props were destroyed.
  • The fire destroyed most of records and regalia of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. The Grand Treasurer tried to save some, but needed saving himself.
  • It was not unusual for the U.S. Government to allow the use of Governmental Space by non-governmental agencies. For example, Loyola High School, in the District of Columbia, used the basement of the U.S. Capital while being renovated at about this same time.