Brief History Of Freemasonry / What is a Freemason
The Freemasons are the oldest and most widely known fraternal organization in the world. Symbolically, we date back to the days of King Solomon and the building of the first temple in Jerusalem. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, circa 1425. The illustrious roots of our organization dates back to a time when members were operative Masons who built the castles and cathedrals throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. These men were not only artisans and highly skilled craftsmen, but also of the highest character and morality. These great men met in Lodges and created Masonic guilds that perpetuated their craft, which included architecture, engineering, masonry and construction.
The change from "Operative" to "Speculative" Masonry
Freemasonry, as we know it today, began in the early 18th century in England when the Masons started to accept members who were not members of the Mason's craft — these men were referred to as "Speculative Masons" or "Accepted Masons." They too though, were of the highest character and morality, and soon developed a method to perpetuate those qualities to Men of honor and education. They created a way to take the tools and concepts of architecture, engineering, masonry and construction and apply them to the method of morality & character building.
Freemasonry Comes to America
Freemasonry was brought to the United States with our early settlers and the craft became very popular in colonial America. Henry Price, a Boston merchant and tailor, received a deputation from the Grand Lord of England to form the first Provincial Grand Lodge in the Western Hemisphere.
Our Charity & Benevolence
In the 1800s, at a time when the U.S. government provided no social "safety net," the Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and care for the aged provided the only protection many people knew. Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment by way of individual involvement and philanthropy. The dignity of man, the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, and the importance of education stand at the forefront of Masonic thought.
Today, there are over five million Freemasons throughout the world. Nearly three million of them reside in the United States. At the dawn of the 21st century, Freemasons continue their tradition of building bridges of brotherhood as they strive to make good men better.