Before I left the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation, I spent some time working to catalog and track down the known DeMolay Founder’s Crosses, presented by Frank S. Land to his most loyal supporters. I’ve written several posts on this topic before, so take a minute to catch up if you haven’t read my previous entries:
• Finding the Founder’s Cross
• Walt Disney, DeMolay, and the Founder’s Cross
• Who Cares About History? Part One
• Who Cares about History? Part Two
Over the last week, a Founder’s Cross was spotted on eBay, with the auction ending on Sunday night. I found the auction within hours of its posting and got the word out to key members of DeMolay International, in hopes of keeping the item within the fraternity. The jewel belonged to “Dad” Harry Weiss, of the State of Washington. The final bid for the auction was $3,750. Yes, you read that right.
To be clear, the jewel is not made of any precious metal and does not contain any gem stones. While nicely designed, there is no intrinsic value to the jewel itself. The medal went for this kind of money because of its historical context. This, to me, is horrifying.
While I own several pieces of DeMolay regalia, I don’t own a Founder’s Cross (and never will.) I fully admit I’m a regalia nerd. I can’t explain my attraction to it, but it’s something I’m passionate about. PA DeMolay, traditionally, has been very conservative in regards to wearing regalia – and I too fall into that camp. However, I find some measure of satisfaction in finding old, unusual, or historically significant pieces of regalia and adding them to my collection or securing them for display with PA DeMolay. I’m also lucky in that I was asked to serve on the DeMolay International Ritual and Regalia committee so that I could lend my expertise in this area. Unfortunately, by discussing and bringing light to the Founder’s Cross problem, I fear I’ve only made it worse.
The sale of this Founder’s Cross, for that large of a sum, is very disconcerting to me. We witnessed a piece of our history being sold to the highest bidder. This is the third in as many years that this has happened. To anyone outside of DeMolay, this piece has little value. Weis was not a well-known man and he didn’t have a following otherwise (such as Disney or Mayo.) We, as Brothers, bid against each other to get the jewel to that level… and to what end?
I don’t know who won the auction. I can only hope that it was someone affiliated with DeMolay in Washington. My guess is that it wasn’t. What I do know is that they spent $3,750 to get the item when they were, assuredly, bidding against others within the Fraternity (whether in the US or abroad.)
As we approach the 100th Anniversary of our Order, we should be working to preserve our history and build up our assets as an organization – not as individual collectors trying to obtain the “holy grail” of DeMolay.
For this reason, I’m going to ask the leadership of DeMolay International to consider creating a more formalized DeMolay Museum, where artifacts, such as Founder’s Crosses, may be donated and preserved for future generations.
If you have a Founder’s Cross, or another important physical piece of DeMolay history, please, I beg you, don’t keep it in a private collection for only you to enjoy. Placing the piece on permanent loan or donating it outright, to DeMolay International, a DeMolay Jurisdiction, or an appropriate museum is the right thing to do.
If you’re curious as to the location of the Founder’s Crosses, check out this list that I prepared that details every Founder’s Cross that we know of.
If you have additional information regarding the location of any of these jewels, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I intend to update the list in the coming weeks.
“Dad” Seth Anthony