Sometimes even a small clue can lead to information about an object or image in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. This photographic portrait shows a man wearing Masonic regalia, standing on a patterned floor in front of a plain background, with one hand resting on a stylish side chair. Along with an apron, he wears an interestingly shaped sash (which may have actually been a separate collar and sash that appear as one piece in this image), and an officer’s jewel suspended from a ribbon around his neck. His jewel is in the shape of two crossed keys. In Freemasonry, this symbol indicates the lodge office of Treasurer. To add pizazz to the image, an artist painted the sash blue and gold and added gold to the apron and jewel. This special treatment enhances the simple portrait and draws attention to the sitter’s regalia. An inscription on the back of this photograph, produced in the pocket-sized carte-de-visite format popular in the 1860s, records the name of the sitter, Andrew P. Gilkey, along with the information that he was the “Treasurer Royal Arch Masons.” This inscription offers valuable clues about the subject of the portrait.
Census takers recorded a man named Andrew P. Gilkey (1809-1890). This man was a resident of Islesborough, Maine, from 1840 through 1880. An 1876 business directory listed Gilkey as a carpenter and builder in the same community—an island town in Penobscot Bay. Membership records at the Grand Lodge of Maine show that Andrew P. Gilkey received his degrees at Island Lodge No. 89 in Islesborough in 1857. From 1860 through 1870, the Grand Lodge noted that Gilkey served as Treasurer of his lodge. A notice in the Portland newspaper confirms that he held this office in 1870.
Although the inscription on the back of the photograph suggests Gilkey was a Royal Arch Freemason, his name does not appear in the Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of Maine as the treasurer of a chapter during the 1860s. As well, the apron he wears in this portrait features symbols related to Craft, rather than Royal Arch, Freemasonry. It is possible that the inscription on the back of the photograph noted the name and office of the sitter but misstated his connection with Royal Arch Masonry.
Married twice, Gilkey outlived both of his wives and four of his children. His grave marker, near those of family, bears his name, his age at his death, and a symbol of Freemasonry, a square and compasses with the letter G, emphasizing his long-time association with the fraternity.
“Masonic,” Daily Eastern Argus (Portland, ME), March 15, 1870, .
Maine Business Directory(Boston, MA: Briggs & Co., 1876), 63.
John Pendleton Farrow, History of Islesborough, Maine (Bangor, ME: Thomas W. Burr, 1893), 212-213.
Source: National Heritage Museum