Masonic Monday – Cocked Hats, Cows, and Other Oddities: Presidents Who Were Freemasons – Part 2

Masonic Monday is a series that discusses a bit of Freemasonry each week, from famous members to strange rituals.

Last week we learned some fun facts about 8 US presidents who were Freemasons. This week we’ll discuss the other 7 presidents who were Freemasons, and clear up some confusion on a few others.

9. Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt, had been McKinley’s vice president, and became the 26th president upon McKinley’s death.
Roosevelt was a man of contrasts: known as a hunter, he was also interested in protecting the environment, and allocated 200 million acres to be preserved as national forests; known as the fearless leader of the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War, he became the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize for his success in ending the Russo-Japanese War.
Teddy Roosevelt had two pets: a guinea pig named Father O’Grady, and a snake called Emily Spinach. But it’s another animal that’s indelibly linked to Roosevelt. In 1902, President Roosevelt went on a hunting trip. In an attempt to ensure he was able to take a trophy, his guides tied an old bear to a willow tree and called for the president. But Roosevelt was a sportsman and refused to shoot it. The story was spread widely, thanks in part to the cartoon below. “Teddy’s bears” became popular.
Roosevelt was initiated as a Freemason on January 2, 1901 at Matinecock Lodge No. 806, Oyster Bay, New York. He was present at the 1902 celebration of the Sesqui-Centennial of Brother George Washington’s Initiation into Freemasonry held at the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania during his Presidency.

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The cartoon that started it all

10. The 27th president, William Taft, was known for physical features. He was 6’2” tall and weighed over 300 pounds, earning him the nickname “Big Bill.” He also had a “dent” in his forehead, caused by a skull fracture he received in a wagon accident as a boy. Taft was the first president to own a car, and had the White House stables converted to a garage. He also kept a cow on the White House lawn, to ensure a fresh supply of milk and butter, which he loved. One of these was named Mooly Wooly; another was called Pauline Wayne.
A few years after his presidency, Taft held the position of tenth Chief Justice of the United States; he is the only person who has served in both of these offices.
President-Elect Taft was made a “Mason at Sight” on February 18, 1909 by Grand Master Charles S. Hoskinson, within the Body of Kilwinning Lodge No. 356, Cincinnati, Ohio, where Taft’s father and two brothers were members. Upon receiving this honor, Taft remarked, “I am glad to be here, and to be a Mason. It does me good to feel the thrill that comes from recognizing on all hands the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.”

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Pauline Wayne in front of the Old Executive Office Building

11. Warren Harding, the 29th president, was elected at the very end of World War I. He had several “firsts:” first president to speak on the radio, or to own one; first to visit Canada, and Alaska; first to ride in a car to his inauguration.
Harding was called “Winnie” by his mother (because she had wanted to name him Winfield) and “Wobbly Warren” by others. He called his canary Bob, and his Airedale dog, Laddie Boy. Laddie Boy brought the newspaper to Harding each day, and it is said that Laddie Boy even have his own chair for cabinet meetings.
Harding was a golfer and a gambler. Once, he wagered the White House china – and lost it.
Harding was initiated into Marion Lodge No. 70 in Marion, Ohio on June 28, 1901. He received the Third Degree on August 27, 1920. Harding made his presidential oath of office on the altar bible of St. John’s Lodge No. 1, New York City – the same bible that was used by George Washington for the same purpose on April 30, 1789.

12. Franklin Roosevelt, the 32nd president, is only president that was disabled. When he was 39 years old, he suffered a paralytic illness, likely to be polio, which left him with paralyzed legs. He is also the only president to serve more than 2 terms; FDR was elected 4 times, but died less than a year into his fourth term. It was in response to FDR’s popularity and multiple elections that the 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to 2 terms, was passed.
FDR was the first president to have his own airplane. When Queen Elizabeth and King George VI paid a royal visit to America, FDR served them hot dogs.
FDR was made a Mason on October 11, 1911 in Holland Lodge No. 8, New York City. He later participated in the initiation of his son Elliott, and was present when two other sons, James and Franklin D., Jr. became members of a Lodge. In 1934, FDR was made the first Honorary Grand Master of the Order of DeMolay, and his wife Eleanor was the first First Lady to become a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

13. Quick: What’s Harry S Truman’s middle name? That’s it: “S.” His two grandfathers had names that began with S, and instead of favoring one over the other, his parents just used the S as his entire middle “name.” Truman, the 33rd president, was the one who ordered the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in an attempt to end World War II.
Truman was a spiffy dresser. He loved to wear brightly-colored shirts and bow-ties. He was once a voted one of the top ten best-dressed congressmen, giving him the nickname “Haberdasher Harry.” Another nickname was “Give ‘Em Hell Harry,” because he told it like it was. Some of his sayings were “The buck stops here,” “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog,” and “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Truman was initiated into Belton Lodge No. 450, Belton, Missouri on February 9, 1909. He served as Worshipful Master of his Lodge a couple of years later, and as Grand Master of Masons of Missouri in 1941. He attained the thirty-third degree in 1945. On May 18, 1959, Truman was presented with a fifty-year award, the only U.S. president to reach that golden anniversary in Freemasonry. He was also the first (and so far, only) president to be a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. His wife Bess was also a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.

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Truman is wearing a pin of the Order of the Eastern Star in this photo.

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Truman in Masonic regalia

14. The 36th president, Lyndon B. Johnson served in the military during World War II. He received the Silver Star, the third highest military decoration, for courage and bravery, after his plane was attacked by the Japanese. He became president upon the assassination of John F Kennedy, and was the first president to be sworn into office on an aircraft.
His wife Lady Bird was largely responsible for the famous Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers, as she headed the beautification project that spread their seeds along the highways.
Being a Texan, Johnson loved barbeque, and often had guests to his ranch for a cookout. He enjoyed giving gifts, and frequently gave toothbrushes; he said that was so people would think of him first thing in the morning and last thing before bed.
Johnson was initiated into Freemasonry on October 30, 1937 in Johnson City Lodge No. 561, at Johnson City, Texas.

15. Gerald Ford became the 38th president upon the resignation of President Nixon. Ford had served in the Navy during the second world war, and earned ten battle stars. Even so, he was unpretentious, and was commonly known as Jerry; that’s also how he always signed his name. His philosophy for life was, “Tell the truth, work hard, and come to dinner on time.”
Ford and his family had golden retriever named Liberty, who had pups at the White House; the family kept one of them and named her Misty.
During his presidency, there were two assassination attempts on Ford’s life – both by women.
Ford was made a Mason on September 30, 1949 at Malta Lodge No. 465, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He attained the thirty third degree in 1962.

About a few other presidents:
Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are often included in the list of Masonic Presidents, but their membership cannot be established as a certainty.

Abraham Lincoln was not a Freemason. He did petition for membership in Tyrian Lodge, Springfield, Ill., in 1860, but withdrew the application shortly after his nomination for the presidency because he felt that petitioning at that time might be construed as a political ruse to obtain votes. He said he would resubmit his petition when he returned from the presidency. Of course, he never returned. After his death, Tyrian Lodge adopted, on April 17, 1865, a resolution to say “that the decision of President Lincoln to postpone his application for the honors of Freemasonry, lest his motives be misconstrued, is the highest degree honorable to his memory.”

President Ronald Reagan was not a Freemason. He was an honorary member of the Imperial Council of the Shrine and an honorary Scottish Rite mason; however, the Shrine and Scottish Rite cannot confer the title Freemason.

George H.W. Bush is not a Freemason. President Bush took his oath of office on the George Washington Bible which was first used in 1789, by the Grand Master of the Masons in New York, to administer the oath of office to George Washington. Other presidents who took their oath of office with this Bible are Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter. Because he took his oath on this Bible, many people incorrectly assumed Bush was a Freemason.

Bill Clinton was a DeMolay, but not a Freemason.

George W. Bush is not a Freemason. He was a member of the Skull and Bones fraternity in college, but that is not associated with Masonry.

Barak Obama is not a Freemason.

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