This chair is painted with an emblem of the Mt. Pulaski Masonic Lodge, which was chartered on October 8, 1858. The history of Freemasonry stretches back to Colonial times in the United States. (Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and George Washington were all Masons.) Despite a wave of anti-Masonic sentiment in the 19th century, many new lodges were formed in the years before the Civil War. In an era with no federal “safety net,” the Masonic tradition of founding orphanages and homes for the aged provided a valuable social service.
This chair was reportedly made by the Alexander Edmonds Chair Factory of Mt. Pulaski. Something of a mechanical genius, Edmonds had invented a “horological” (self-rocking) cradle in 1853 that later was embroiled in a lawsuit that went all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court and involved Abraham Lincoln as an attorney.