Saturday, August 26, 2006


The cornerstone of the Capitol Building of the United Stated of America was laid with Masonic Honors on September 18, 1793. As the site was located within the Masonic jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, the ceremony was conducted under the auspices of that Grand Lodge with Rt. Wor. Joseph Clark as Grand Master pro tem. Wor. Brother and President George Washington presided over the ceremony, in which he was assisted by Rt. Wor. Brother Clark of Maryland, Wor. Brother Elisha C. Dick, Master of his home lodge, Alexandria Lodge No. 22 of Virginia, as well as Wor. Brother Valentine Reintzel, Master of Lodge No. 9 of Maryland (now Potomac Lodge No. 5 of the District of Columbia).

Both the silver Trowel and marble Gavel used by George Washington in laying the cornerstone were crafted especially for the occasion by Brother John Duffey, a silversmith of Alexandria who was a member of Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4. The trowel has a silver blade, silver shank, ivory handle and a silver cap on the end of the handle. In addition to the Trowel and Gavel, Brother Duffey crafted Masonic working tools of walnut for use in the ceremony. At the conclusion of the ceremony, President Washington presented the Gavel to the Master of Lodge No. 9 and the Trowel to the Master of Alexandria Lodge No. 22.

The inscription on the trowel was engraved on the underside of the blade sometime after 1805 and reads as follows:

"This Trowell, the property of Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 A.F.& A.M. was used by General George Washington September 18, 1793 to lay the corner stone of the Capitol of the United States of America at Washington, D.C."

After the Capitol Cornerstone ceremony, we find no mention of the Trowel's use until 1816, when it helped lay the cornerstone of Mechanics' Hall on Alfred Street in Alexandria.

Subsequently, the Trowel was used by Alexandria-Washington Lodge for special cornerstone ceremonies, and demand became heavier during the first half of the twentieth century.
Alexandria-Washington Lodge looks on the Washington Trowel as one of its most prized possessions. Today, it is on public display in a special case in the Alexandria-Washington Replica Lodge Room in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

In addition to the above, cornerstone layings in which Alexandria-Washington Lodge participated and the Washington Trowel was used have included:

Saint Paul's Church, Alexandria (1817)
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, (1847)
Washington National Monument (1848)
George Washington Equestrian Statue, Richmond (1850)
Fireman's Monument at Ivy Hill Cemetery, Alexandria (1856)
Alexandria Hospital (Old, downtown Alexandria--not Seminary Road)
George Washington Park, Alexandria (1909)
Alexandria High School (1915)
Detroit Masonic Temple
House of the Temple, Scottish Rite, Washington
Masonic Temple, Grand Lodge of D.C., Washington
(Now the Museum of Women in the Arts)
Scottish Rite Temple, Kansas City, Mo.
High School, Salina, Kansas
U.S. Supreme Court, Washington
National Cathedral, Washington
Library of Congress, Washington
Alexandria Post Office and Custom House
George Washington Masonic National Memorial (1923)
U.S. Dept. of Commerce, by President Hoover
National Education Building, Washington (1930)
U.S. Post Office Building, Washington, by President Hoover (1932)
Department of Labor Building, by Grand Lodge of D.C. (1932)
Department of Interior Building by Presidnet Roosevelt (not Masonic)(1936)
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Braddock Heights, Alexandria, Va.
George Washington High School, Alexandria
Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington (1939)
Fredericksburg Lodge # 4, Addition (1951)
Mary Washington College Fine Arts Building, Fredericksburg, (1951)
State Department Building, Washington (1957)
Mount Vernon Methodist Church (1958)
U.S. Capitol East Extension (1959)
Scottish Rite Temple, Alexandria (1959)
Elmer Timberman Lodge #54, Annandale, Virginia (1960)
James Monroe Memorial Law Library, Fredericksburg, Va. (1961)

Since the Replica Trowel was made, the Washington Trowel has been used only once in a cornerstone ceremony. This was for the 200th anniversary re-enactment of cornerstone laying of U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C. on September 18, 1993. Sponsored by the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, this event was attended by Masons from all over the United States.

As can be noted from the preceding list, the Washington Trowel was in demand for cornerstones of many important buildings. It was observed that the surface had become scratched from mortar, and in the 1960's, the Lodge, concerned about this wear and tear decided to have a Replica Trowel crafted.

Bro. George E. Olifer, an accomplished artist in precious metals and later Worsipful Master of the Lodge, was commissioned by the Lodge to replicate the Trowel as closely as possible. In each and every aspect except one, Wor. Olifer's handiwork is totally indistinguishable from the original. He marked the Replica with his own very small jewelers mark so that the replica can be identified, provided one knows where to look. His mark is in the same location on the Replica as John Duffy placed his mark on the original Trowel in 1793.

Since the late 1960's the Replica Trowel has been used whenever the Lodge is requested to lay a cornerstone or to provide the Trowel for display at a special event. The 200th anniversary re-enactment of the U.S. Capitol Cornerstone ceremony in September of 1993 was the one exception to this rule.

Some cornerstone events within the more recent past, in which the Replica Trowel has participated include:

Cornerstone of New Health Care Facility, Masonic Home at Bonnie Blink, Cockeysville, Md.,
Grand Lodge of Maryland (1981)
Re-enactment of Cornerstone Laying of Almas Shrine Temple Washington, D.C., Grand Lodge of D.C. (1986)
200th Anniversary Re-enactment of First Cornerstone of Federal District, Jones Point, Alexandria,
Virginia, Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (1991)
200th Anniversary Re-enactment of Cornerstone Laying of White House, Washington, D.C., Grand Lodge of D.C. (1992)
Cornerstone for Reconstruction of Washington Grist Mill Perryopolis, Pa., Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, (1992)
Cornerstone of American Red Cross Chapter Building Alexandria, Virginia, Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (1995)
Cornerstone of Rural Electric Co-Op Association Building, Arlington, Virginia, Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (1995)
Re-enactment of Cornerstone Laying of Alexandria Academy, Alexandria, Virginia, Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (1995)
Cornerstone of Charles A Brigham, Jr. Masonic Temple, Madisonville- Madiera Lodge No. 419, Symmes Township, Ohio, Grand Lodge of Ohio, (1996)
Prepared April 3, 1998 by Wor. Bro. Frank Rosser Dunaway, Jr., PM, Alexandria -Washington Lodge#22.

The Trowel is the property of Alexandria Washington Lodge #22 and is currently on display in the Replica Lodge Room of the Memorial.




I am a descendant of Brother Duffey! So exciting to see this on your blog! I currently live in DC, but haven't yet gone to see the cornerstone or the trowel.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I am a descendant of John Duffey. Have you been to the cemetery to see his son and grandson and other Duffeys (spelling Duffield and Duffie and Duffey). The Lotz-Ehlers-Fortney-Duffey house is on North Royal in Alexandria, in front of the blacksmith's shop.

9:35 AM  
Blogger John Q. Barrett said...

What is the source for the claim that this trowel was used in the cornerstone laying at the U.S. Supreme Court? This claim does not square with press accounts at the time, or with the trowel that was built for the occasion (10/13/1932) from historic Court artifacts, used by President Hoover and Chief Justice Hughes, and preserve at the Court -- it now is on display there in the public exhibit, "The Supreme Court Building: America's Temple of Justice."

3:22 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home