Kansas Mason Presents at International Freemason Conference

Assistant Grand Secretary Joesphe Stiles recently spoke at the Third International Conference on the History of Freemasonry held May 27-29 at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia.

Stiles’ presentation,  Using Progressive Era Ku Klux Klan Membership Activity in Kansas to Understand Changes in Freemasonry and Similar Fraternal Organizations, concerned  Ku Klux Klan  activity in Kansas the 1920s, using that small amount of data to support conclusions about fraternalism more generally.

According to Stiles,  the high point of Masonic membership  occurred in the 1920s. By contrasting Masonic membership data with Klan membership numbers, a new perspective on fraternal membership life cycle may be understood.  “Rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan at the same high membership point of civic and fraternal membership in whole gives us insight into much larger fraternal trends that have nothing to do with the Klan. And since there was so much cross-over of membership in groups with only slight change to the economic situation, and no change to political and social structures, it becomes a potentially powerful tool to examine the attitudes and changes in civic organizations as a whole. ”

Contending that each few months of the life of the Klan organization strongly mirror decades long changes in other groups, he argued there is a lot to learn, however metahistorical it may be.

Stiles was a part of a panel that included Masons and non-Masons who conduct academic research about Freemasonry.  The panel was chaired by Dr Susan Mitchell Sommers of Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and included Dr Kristofer Allerfeldt of the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, and WB Adam Kendall, Director of the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry at the Grand Lodge of California.

The Conference, which  meets biennially, features papers and discussions with Masons and Masonic scholars from around the world, and is held under the special patronage of the 11th Earl of Elgin, who is head of the Scottish House of Bruce, and formerly the Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland.  His age and health prevented his attendance at this session, but each presenter was given a copy of the book, authored by the Earl, on his ancestor, King Robert the Bruce.

The next conference location will be in the north of England, at a date and precise location to be determined.