In 1729 the Grand Lodge of England appointed Colonel Daniel Coxe Jr. (1673-1739), as Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. There is no evidence that Coxe took an active role and the first evidence of freemasonry in Pennsylvania is unrelated: the election in 1731 of William Allen (1704-1780) as Grand Master of an independent St John’s Lodge in Philadelphia. Allen a merchant and attorney, would become one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the province, serving as Mayor of Philadelphia and Chief Justice of Pennsylvania (1751-74).
Philadelphia’s freemasons met at the Tun Tavern. The majority were merchants or professional men. They have been described as the ‘major creators of the political, intellectual, literary and cultural life’ of the the colony, with the Lodge having at least six members of the American Philosophical Society, including Benjamin Franklin, Master of the Lodge in 1734.
Pennsylvania Freemasonry underwent a schism in the 1750s when Lodge No. 4 petitioned the Antients Grand Lodge in London to obtain a charter. The Antients accepted the petition and issued a warrant for ‘the Brethren at Philadelphia’, creating an Antients’ provincial grand lodge in America.
William Ball (1729-1810) (pictured), was elected Provincial Grand Master of Pennsylvania’s Antients Grand Lodge. Initiated and raised in Lodge No. 2 in 1751, a Moderns lodge, he was ‘re-made’ an Antient freemason in January 1760. Ball warranted some seventeen lodges and Antients Freemasonry proved so popular that within a decade almost no Moderns lodges remained in the province. Pennsylvania’s Antients were also active elsewhere, constituting lodges in Virginia, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, as well as North and South Carolina.
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