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'ANtIENTS' vs moderns

   As any Masonic traveler can attest, there are differences in how Masonic Lodges throughout the United States conduct their ceremonies. There are two primary reasons. First, Freemasonry in the U.S. was based on two different Masonic traditions, the “Ancients” and the “Moderns”. Secondly, there is no “Grand Lodge of America”. In the United States each state has its own Grand Lodge that presides over the lodges in that state. Each state Grand Lodge is its own jurisdiction; answerable only to its own constitution. Therefore, differences exist due to the underlying Masonic tradition as well as how various practices and procedures have evolved from state to state over time.

ANCIENT TRADITION, F. & A.M. (Free and Accepted Mason) states are: AL, AK, AR, AZ, CA, FL, GA, HI, IN, KY, LA, MI, MS, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OH, PA, RI, TN, UT, VT, WA & WI. All Prince Hall lodges also follow this tradition.

    Note however, that due to the unique history of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania, it is the ONLY Masonic jurisdiction in the United States that retains a


MODERN TRADITION, A.F. & A.M. (Ancient Free and Accepted Mason) states are: CO, CT, DE, ID, IL, IA, KS, ME, MD, MA, MN, MO, MT, NE, NM, NC, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, VA, WV & WY.

South Carolina refers to itself as “AFM” (Ancient Free Masons) and the District of Columbia goes by “FAAM” (Free And Accepted Masons).

   It is very important to point out that these differences are largely those of form. The underlying tenets of the fraternity remain the same. A Pennsylvania freemason is welcome in any lodge throughout the world that recognizes the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

   Pennsylvania did play a very formative role in the establishment of Freemasonry in the United States. What follows is a brief history of how Freemasonry came to be in Pennsylvania and how the two Masonic traditions evolved.

   Freemasonry's origins (as it now exists) can be traced to the formation of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. It was formed in London by four lodges which had been meeting in different taverns throughout the city. Eight years later, the Grand Lodge of Ireland was formed and was immediately recognized by the Grand Lodge of England. During the years 1749 and 1750, a number of English and some Irish Masons could neither affiliate with nor visit Lodges under the Grand Lodge of 1717, because they belonged to "the laboring class."

   On July 17, 1751, these Masons formed a second Grand Lodge of England, known as the "Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons according to the old Constitution." Its Masonic attitude was more progressive than the older Grand Lodge and more appealing to men interested in Freemasonry. The members of this organization, contending that their ritual alone preserved the ancient customs and usages of the Craft, styled themselves "Ancient York Masons". They dubbed the 1717 Grand Lodge "the Modern Grand Lodge," because they felt that the older body had modernized its ritual, thus straying from the ancient usages and landmarks. The Constitution of the 1751 or "Ancient" Grand Lodge is the "Ahiman Rezon" first printed in 1756. The English Grand Lodges, "Moderns" and "Ancients," and their subordinate lodges continued their separate ways, as rivals and competitors. The lodges eventually united in 1813, but members from both groups were represented in the early American colonies.


   Philadelphia became the Mother City of Freemasonry in America for both the Ancients and the Moderns. According to records from 1732, the first meeting place of the Pennsylvania Masonic Lodges was Philadelphia's Tun Tavern. Built in 1685, Tun Tavern was one of the very first breweries in the country. Located on Philadelphia's thriving Delaware River waterfront, it quickly became a meeting place for several groups, including the Masons in St. John's Lodge No. 1, which was constituted in 1730.

   By Sept. 5, 1749, discontent was stirring among some Brethren of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge. They worried that their self-constituted Grand Lodge lacked the authority it formerly possessed. They made an appeal to the Masonic authorities in London for the second appointment of a Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania. The Grand Master of England (Moderns), appointed William Allen, who had been Grand Master in Pennsylvania in 1731. This marked the end of the independent Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. As a Provincial Grand Lodge of the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns), it was composed of three Philadelphia Lodges: St. John's, No. 2 and No. 3. In 1755, the first American Masonic Lodge house was dedicated in Philadelphia by the Grand Lodge of Moderns.

   On Feb. 13, 1760, the Members of Lodge No. 1 (Ancients) in Philadelphia balloted for their own Provincial Grand Master. William Ball, a wealthy landowner, was elected. Following the election an application was made by Lodge No. 1 to the Grand Lodge (Ancients) in London for a Provincial Grand Warrant for Pennsylvania. They were successful, and a warrant for the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (Ancients) was issued on July 15, 1761. This venerable document is in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

   The original Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (Moderns) had been very conservative and relatively inactive. The new Grand Lodge of the Ancients was progressive and alert to all opportunities. During its entire career, the Modern Grand Lodge never numbered more than four lodges, even in its most prosperous years. On the other hand, from the date of its establishment up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the Ancient Grand Lodge granted warrants to 16 lodges and during the Revolution warranted seven more.

  The war only intensified the rivalry and considerable friction between Ancients and Moderns in Pennsylvania. The Modern lodges, to a great extent, were composed of conservatives who were inclined to be Loyalists, while a large majority of the Ancients pursued the cause of independence. As the American Revolution stirred strong opposition to Great Britain's rule within the colonies, the liberality of the Ancients became contagious in America. The influence of the Moderns waned. The last record of the Moderns in Pennsylvania was written in 1793.

   By 1813, Moderns and Ancients worldwide began to be reconciled and united. But no reconciliation was necessary in Pennsylvania where the Moderns had ceased to exist. Therefore, the ritualistic changes and compromises resulting from the reconciliation of 1813 did not affect the ritual in this Commonwealth, and Pennsylvania Masons continued to work in the pure "Ancient" way, as "Ancient York Masons."  

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