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While Masons readily accept that Freemasonry originated in England [or Scotland, depending on how you interpret the evolution of the Craft from the stonemason’s guilds of the Middle Ages], Freemasonry became extremely popular in the United States of America in the centuries that followed its formation.
But where and when was the first Masonic lodge founded in America?
Masonic historians tell us that the first established lodge in North America was in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1733, eighteen men gathered at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern on King Street, Boston, and organized the very first Masonic lodge in America.
The arrival of Freemasonry on American shores is thought to thanks to the efforts of Henry Price, an English merchant-tailor and active Mason who immigrated to Boston in 1732. After realizing that there were others interested in Freemasonry, he secured an official warrant from England that permitted a Grand Lodge to be formed in North America.
Thus, in July 1733, he declared the founding of ‘The Mother Lodge of America’ in Boston, from which Freemasonry quickly grew throughout the rest of the states, particularly with men deemed to be in the upper classes of society.
Disillusioned with the fact that Price’s lodge seemed to exclude the ordinary working man, Bostonians assembled to form their own lodge in 1752, that they believed to represent ‘the Old Customs’ of Freemasonry, and they secured their charter from the Grand Lodge in Scotland.
This splinter lodge regularly met at the Green Dragon Tavern, which was a hotbed for revolutionary activism in Boston at the time. Some historians even believe that plans for the Boston Tea Party were laid in the tavern, and Masons could have been part of the discussions.
From its roots in Boston, Freemasonry then began to grow after the declaration of independence. As most Masons are aware, George Washington himself was a Mason, and laid the cornerstone of the US Capitol in 1793 during a Masonic ceremony.
As the eighteenth century became the nineteenth, Masonic lodges had spread far and wide across America, and it began to rival Freemasonry in the UK and Europe in regard to its popularity.
Since its formation on the streets of Boston, Freemasonry has gone onto attract millions of men throughout the United States, and has played an essential role in the development of community fundraising initiatives throughout the past centuries.
Let’s hope that Freemasonry continues to evolve and grow throughout America in the coming years, and learns to adapt to the changing circumstances of our time.