Media Information

Collection name:
[NY] - R Regalia Swords Batons Canes etc
Title :
R54-2; Baton, obelisk
Description :
An ivory and amethyst baton commemorating the arrival of the obelisk called Cleopatra's Needle from Alexandria, Egypt to Central Park, New York City. This baton was used at the obelisk's cornerstone-laying ceremony and was presented to the Marshal of the Day, RW Edward M. L. Ehlers by Mr. William Henry Hurlbert, editor of the newspaper 'The New York World.'
Artifact Date and Number :
1880, September 30; R54-2
Accession Date :
1934, February
Manufacture Time Period :
MTP5 (1851-1900)
Accession Time Period :
ATP4 (1926-1950)
Special Importance - Details :
SpecialImportance; Egyptian Obelisk
Card Number :
Nomenclature Term :
Measurements in cm :
L: 57.6 W: 2.9
Materials :
Metal (brass-composite); ivory; stone (amethyst); coating
Symbols :
Circle -s; oval -s; leaf (leaves); feather -s; four-corner square; step -s; obelisk; triangle; fletch design; acorn
Artifact Other :
This baton was referenced in the "Ceremony of Laying the Corner-Stone of the Egyptian Obelisk", which is found printed in the "Transactions of the Grand Lodge of New York, 1881" as follows: "In concluding this report, I desire to place on record the liberality of Mr. William Henry Hurlbert, editor of the New York World, who presented your Marshal of the Day with the elaborate and beautiful baton he carried upon that occasion."
The corner-stone laying for the Egyptian Obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle was held on October 9, 1880 in Central Park near the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, with Grand Master Jesse B. Anthony presiding. Over 9,000 Freemasons formed a parade column on Fifth Avenue, prior to entering Central Park at 82nd Street. "Along the line of march the avenue was crowded; every coign of vantage was taken, and the balconies and windows...were crowded...Each commandery and division was headed by a the commanderies went up the avenue they formed crosses, squares, triangles, the figure four, made inner and outer that, as they proceeded, their plumes and brilliant uniforms were constantly making intricate and beautiful kaleidoscopic pictures...The column having marched to the base of the obelisk, opened ranks three deep and faced in...The ranks were closed, and the commanderies were massed on the West side and the lodges on the North and East sides, while the South side was crowded with spectators." (Transactions, 1881)
Artifact Other 2 :
The Masonic documents deposited during the cornerstone-laying ceremony were: "Transactions of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, for 1880; Constitution and Statues of the same; Proceedings of the Grand Chapter of the State of New York, for 1880. Constitution of the same. Proceedings of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the United States of America, for 1877; Proceedings of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of the State of New York, for 1879; Proceedings of the Grand Commandery, Knights Templar, of the State of New York, for 1879; Statutes and Regulations of the Grand Commandery; Proceedings of the Supreme Council of Sovereign Grand Inspectors-General of the thirty-third and last degree for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America, for 1878; Constitution and General Regulations of the same, 1877: Review of the Grand Lodge - Transactions of the State of New York, from 1781 to 1852; [Robert] Macoy's Centennial illustrated, "How to see New York and its Environs"; Circular of the Grand Master, dated September 27, 1880, ordering out the fraternity to lay the corner-stone of the obelisk; Order of the Marshal of the day relative to the procession and ceremonies on October 9, 1880; Photograph of the Masonic Temple, New York City. With these were inclosed [sic] the documents and relics presented by the various Washington departments." (Transactions, 1881)
The additional, non-Masonic contents of the cornerstone were as follows: "A number of lead boxes of different shapes and sizes had been prepared to fit into available spaces enclosed by the steps, and into these were placed the various articles contributed by the Departments in Washington and by individuals...Applic ations for space in them came from all over the country...These time capsules contain an odd assortment of memorabilia: a proof set of U.S. coins for 1880, a facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, letters from the Khedive, a selection of medals from the different branches of the armed services, a compendium of the 1870 census, various weather maps, a model of the propeller from Admiral Farragut's flagship, documents from the A.S.P.C.A., Freemason's emblems, industrial metal samples, a selection of screws and other hardware, a hydraulic pump, a set of Bierstadt's photographs of the project, and a flurry of papers and documents from various agencies. Books used as filler included the Bible, [Noah] Webster's dictionary, Shakespeare's complete works, and encyclopedia of mechanics and engineering, and a guide to Egypt. Finally, William Henry Hurlbert contributed a mysterious small box, the contents of which [were] known only to himself." (D'Alton, 1993)
Artifact Other 3 :
During Grand Master Jesse B. Anthony's address, he said, "That [obelisk, for] which we have today laid the foundation stone, was one of two originally located at Heliopolis some 3,400 years ago, and afterwards, [1,903 years ago], removed to Alexandria, where they received the name of Cleopatra's Needles. One of these now adorns the city of London, and the other will add to the attractiveness of this place and recall to our minds by its allusions the important lessons of past centuries...There is nothing done in masonry that is not for a purpose and is not designed to impress its lessons upon us. What is the design upon the trestle board today? What has been brought prominently before you on this occasion?...Is it not that a man's work in this world lives long after he has laid down the implements of labor, and that his influence does not entirely cease with the termination of life's powers? This obelisk erected thousands of years ago is not without its lesson to us of today. The ancient workman did not build for an age, but for eternity. So with us, brethren; we may not consider that our efforts amount to much of themselves, but nevertheless every one has his influence, and in a greater or lesser degree we contribute to the aggregate whole.
"Let it be our endeavor therefore to lay the foundation of our character on a broad, sure and deep will bear the application of the plumb, square and level; let upon that foundation a character which is above reproach...And, when finally we have completed our task; erected a monument of moral grandeur and symmetry; achieved something which is for the welfare and advancement of the human race; then in after years the coming generations will treasure your memory, imitate your example, point to your deeds, and draw inspiration from your life as one worthy of their veneration." (Transactions, 1881)
Artifact Other 4 :
The two obelisks, one brought to London and one to New York, were originally made for a pharaoh's jubilee, dated around 1443 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). They were detached out of pink granite at Aswan during the reign of Thutmosis III and were placed in front of the Temple of the Sun in the city of On (named Heliopolis by the Greeks.) Thutmosis III carved hieroglyphic inscriptions on each face of the obelisk, which were added to by two later pharaohs, Ramesses II and Osorkon I. The obelisks remained standing for about one thousand five hundred years, before being toppled and partially burned when the city was conquered by the Persian invader Cambyses. (D'Alton, 1993)
During the reign of Augustus Caesar, the obelisks were moved from Heliopolis to Alexandria around 10 B.C.E., and bronze supports in the form of sea crabs were placed at the corners to support the obelisks. In 1301 C.E. (Current Era) an earthquake toppled one of the obelisks. This fallen obelisk was given to the English in 1801 by the Egyptian government in thanks for their "ousting Napoleon's occupation army," but it was not until 1877 that the English took the obelisk, raising it in London in 1878. (D'Alton, 1993)
Artifact Other 5 :
The first suggestion [for] the removal of an obelisk from Egypt to the United States was made by His Highness, Ismail [Pasha], the Khedive of Egypt, at the time of the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, to Mr. William Henry Hurlbert, editor of the New York World. Ismael Pasha served as the Grand Master of the Grand Orient in Egypt, which was founded in 1872 by the consolidation of the Rite of Memphis and the Scottish Rite bodies that had been meeting in Egypt. In 1877, a member of Anglo-Saxon Lodge No. 137, New York, NY, Lt. Henry Honeychurch Gorringe was conducting an hydrographic survey of the Mediterranean when he saw the second of Thutmosis III's obelisks, still standing in Alexandria. Also in 1877, Henry Hurlbert began to work on bringing the obelisk to New York with an engineer named John Dixon, a financier named William Henry Vanderbilt and a politician named Henry G. Stebbins. Another involved party was the American consul-general Elbert Farman, who brought up the subject numerous times with the Khedive, who finally wrote a letter on May 18, 1879 that approved the gift of the obelisk. (D'Alton, 1993)
Artifact Other 6 :
The obelisk measures about sixty-nine feet, and is about eight feet across at the base. It weighs between 193 to 220 tons, and the removal, transport and erection of such a large monument was an amazing feat of engineering. When the obelisk was removed from the base, there was a curious arrangement of stones found in the base that seemed to represent Masonic symbols. This arrangement was meticulously recorded by Brother Gorringe so that it could be re-duplicated when the pedestal was set in New York. "From the Grand Lodge of Masons in Egypt, among whom there was a number of Egyptologists and Archaeologists sent a committee of its best men...were unanimous in the opinion that the emblems were Masonic.
The stones were described as follows: 1) A polished cube, of syenite, believed to be the Perfect Ashlar; 2) A polished square, of syenite, believed to represent the Square; 3) A rough and irregular block of syenite, believed to be the rough ashlar; 4) A hard lime stone with a trowel cemented to its surface, emblematic of Freemasonry; 5) A soft lime stone, very white and entirely free from spots, believed to symbolize purity; 6) An axis stone, with figures resembling snakes, believed to represent the trestle-board, the snakes to represent Wisdom; 7) A marked stone, believed to bear the mark of a Mark Master; 8) A corner stone, found under the east angle of the lower steps." (Baird, 1915) A lead plumb was also found near the base. The exacting reports from these observers can be found in 'The Obelisk and Freemasonry', written by Dr. John A. Weisse in 1880.
Artifact Other 7 :
The obelisk was removed from its pedestal on December 6, 1879. After loading the pedestal, which weighed almost 50 tons, onto the Dessaug, the obelisk was loaded through a hole made in the side of the ship while the ship was in dry-dock. The ship was launched on March 31, 1880, but was not able to cast off until June 12th, 241 days from the start of the operation. On July 20th, 1880, the ship landed off Staten Island, New York. While the corner-stone laying ceremony happened shortly thereafter, on October 9, 1880, final placement of the obelisk did not happen until a little over a year from the date of its removal from its pedestal in Alexandria. The obelisk was set onto its pedestal in Central Park on January 22, 1881, after a long, slow journey through the streets of New York. (D'Alton, 1993) In 1956, "Cecil B. deMille [a member of Prince of Orange Lodge No.16, New York, NY]...donated four additional plaques giving translations of the hieroglyphs." (D'Alton, 1993) The obelisk on Graywacke Knoll in Central Park, close to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, remains a vital testament to the ingenuity of stone-masons and engineers.
Associated Names :
Jesse B. Anthony, Grand Master; Consul-General Elbert E. Farman; Lt. Henry Honeychurch Gorringe; Lt. Seaton Schroeder; Edward Bierstadt, photographer; Khedive Ismael Pasha; William Henry Hurlbert; John Dixon; William Henry Vanderbilt; Henry G. Stebbins, New York Commissioner of Public Parks; Tawfig Pasha; Frank Prince; John A. Roebling's Sons; Richard Burton; Fredrich Gerhard Rohlfs; William M. Evarts; Nathan Goff, Jr., Secretary of the Navy; Cecil B. deMille; Hugh Carey; Robert Macoy; Admiral David Farragut; Noah Webster; Shakespeare; Cleopatra; Thutmosis III; Ramesses II; Osorkon I; Cambyses II; Augustus Caesar; Napoleon Bonaparte
Owner or Subject :
Edward M. L. Ehlers; Most Worshipful
Owner or Subject Lodge Name Number Location and State :
Continental Lodge No. 287; New York; NY
Owner or Subject Royal Arch Chapter Name and Number :
Triune Chapter No. 241
Owner or Subject Royal and Select Masters Council Name and Number :
Adelphic Council No. 7
Owner or Subject Knights Templar Commandery Name and Number :
Columbian Commandery No. 1
Owner or Subject Mystic Shrine Name :
Mecca Temple
Owner or Subject Scottish Rite Degree and Consistory Name :
Owner or Subject Grand Lodge Office and Year :
GrandLodge-Office; Honorary Grand Master; 1901; Grand Secretary: 1882; 1883; 1884; 1885; 1886; 1887; 1888; 1889; 1890; 1891; 1892; 1893; 1894; 1895; 1896; 1897; 1898; 1899; 1900; 1901; 1902; 1903; 1904; 1905; 1906; 1907; 1908; 1909; 1910; 1911; 1912; 1913; 1914; 1915; 1916; 1917; Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Denmark, near the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York; 1892; Grand Marshal; 1881; Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of Delaware, near the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York; 1879; Deputy Grand Master, 6th Masonic District; 1876
Owner or subject Date Born :
1840, January 31
Owner or subject Date Raised :
1865, July 18
Owner or subject Date Died :
1917, May 28
Owner or Subject Other :
See MW Ehlers' biography page in the Gallery of Grand Masters
Donor :
Edward C. Ehlers; Right Worshipful
Donor Lodge Name Number Location and State :
Continental Lodge No. 287; New York; NY
Donor Grand Lodge Office and Year :
GrandLodge-Office; Senior Grand Deacon; 1903
Donor Date Raised :
1891, October 7
Donor Date Died :
1938, January 17
Donor Other :
RW Edward C. Ehlers served as Master of Continental Lodge No. 287 from 1902 to 1903.
See Biography Page :
Grand Master Gallery; Edward M. L. Ehlers
Condition :
Details :
A gold-tone metal baton with an ivory hand-grip (measuring 15.2 cm) in the center. The ivory grip has a rounded center with pinched-in ends and is engraved in the center portion with five deep lines on either side of a central, raised section of ivory. On either side of the ivory center is a smooth tube of gold-tone metal. Set close to both ends of each tube is a raised band with oval design elements. Against the smaller side of the ovals is a band of small circles. On the left side of the ivory center, this row of circles is on the left of both bands, while on the right side of the ivory center, this row of circles is on the left side of the band closest to the center and is on the right side of the band closest to the base. These bands likely are placed to hide the joining of the various elements of the baton.
To the left of the central ivory piece, and inside of the two bands, there is engraved on the gold-tone metal tube; "Presented to R.. W.. Edward M. L. Ehlers by William Henry Hurlbert." "Presented to" and "By" are in a slanted, all capital-letter block font, while the names are in an elaborate, large and small letter calligraphic font. On either side of the word "By" are design elements similar to arrow fletching. The gold-metal tube to the right of the central ivory piece is blank.
On either end of the baton, outside of the bands decorated with oval design elements, is a circular row of seventeen amethyst stones, set into a band on a higher plane than the gold-tone metal tubes. From this band of amethysts is a rising, curved-outward section of metal, decorated with a band of eight leaves that ends in a notched band. Next is a raised, rounded, smooth band, which ends with a flat disc, the rim of which is notched. This disc is engraved with a raised, scalloped-edge design.
On the left side of the baton, attached to the disc, there are four concave, stylized curves that stand on a smooth, small curled-outward foot and that end in an engraved, thick, curled-inward top. The outsides and what is visible of the inside of these stylized curves are engraved with a pattern of feathers overlaying each other in a vertical row. The tops of these curls support a three-stepped, four-cornered square base, upon which is a model of the obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle, the New York Obelisk, or one of the Alexandria Obelisks. Each of the four sides of the obelisk model is carved with a close approximation of some of the hieroglyphs is found on the actual obelisk.
Resting on the disc on the right side of the baton are four s-curves, also decorated with an engraved feather design. These s-curves start with a large, curled-inward engraved base and end with a small, smooth, outward curling top. Resting on these tops is a small, ridged disc, on which is a pinched-in section which expands into the shape of an outward-pointing acorn, the bottom of the baton, if the obelisk on the other end is held vertically.
The metal is coated with a clear substance, parts of which have degraded. These degraded spots of coating are visible in the matte images.
Associated In Storage Number :
AIS details :
Condition sheet
Display :
Storage Location :
Image Source :
Obk. 1 through Obk. 15: Photographs taken in-house.
Obk. a through Obk. p; published in D'Alton, 1993.
Sources for Obk. a through Obk. p:
Obk. a: Department of Egyptian Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo, Felix Bonfils;
Obk. b, Obk. c, Obk. f, Obk. h, Obk. i, Obk. j, Obk. k, Obk. l, Obk. m, Obk. n: Gorringe, 1882;
Obk. d, Obk. g, Obk. o: from [The Obelisk], 1879-1941;
Obk. e: New-York Historical Society;
Obk. p: Weisse, 1880
References :
Baird, G. W., P.G.M., District of Columbia, "Ancient Evidences," in The Builder, January 1915, Vol. 1, No. 1.;
D'Alton, Martina. The New York Obelisk or How Cleopatra's Needle Came to New York and What Happened When It Got Here. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1993;
[The Obelisk], a scrapbook consisting of articles taken from American and English newspapers and periodicals and other memorabilia, 1879-1941. Thomas J. Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
Transaction s of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, Thomas Holman, Printer, New York, 1881, pp. 108-125;
Weisse, John A., The Obelisk and Freemasonry according to the Discoveries of Belzoni and Commander Gorringe, J.W. Bouton, New York, 1880
Photography Information :
Camera: Canon Digital Rebel EOS; Lighting: Eiko Supreme Photoflood ECA 120 volt; Editing: Adobe Photoshop; Rule: 1 centimeter black white ruler; Photographer: Catherine M. Walter; Image, Data and Research: Courtesy of the Chancellor Robert R Livingston Masonic Library of Grand Lodge, New York
Date created :
Date modified :
Filename :

R54-2; Baton, obelisk