A Brother in Arms – Arthur, Duke of Wellington

Freemasonry was a thread that ran through the life of Arthur, Duke of Wellington, his life was divided by a triumphant military career and an equally successful political one.  His early involvement in both fields kept him away from home, which may explain why, he never progressed beyond the first degree of Freemasonry. 

Arthur Wesley, whose original 12th century name Wellesley was reverted to by the family in 1798, was almost certainly born in Dublin on 1 May 1769. Wellington was the third of the five sons born to Garret Wesley III and Anne Hill. All of the Wesley children excelled in his own field of endeavour.

Arthur attended Eton College from 1781 to 1784 and after an additional two years of private tuition, he joined the prestigious Royal Academy of Equitation at Angers in Anjou, France. Through the influence of his elder Brother Richard, he was launched on a military career from the start. 

He returned to Ireland in February 1788 and was appointed aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant, and simultaneously followed in the political footsteps of the family. A Wesley had had a presence in the Irish Parliament since its inception as an independent Assembly in 1782. In April 1790 Arthur was elected MP for Trim, Ireland, aged 21. 

His was initiated into the family Lodge, Trim No. 494, on 7 December the same year. Both his father and his brother served as Masters, and they both became Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of Ireland. 

Garrett Wellesley, first Earl of Mornington, was proposed as a member of the Lodge by one of its founders, John Boulger, and was raised a Master Mason in July 1775. A year later he served as Master of the Lodge and was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ireland, serving for one year, as was customary at the time, being succeeded by the Duke of Leinster in 1776. His eldest son, Richard, third Baron and second Earl of Mornington, was raised on 31 July 1781, having paid his late father’s arrears and his own admission fee a few weeks earlier. A year later he followed in the footsteps of the Rt. Hon. William Randall, Earl of Antrim (who also served as Grand Master of the Antients Grand Lodge of England) as the new Grand Master of Ireland.

Wellington would no doubt have followed in their footsteps had time permitted him to pursue his Masonic career. There is no reason to suppose that the young Arthur was in anyway disenchanted with the Craft. The Lodge records show that on 7 December 1790 he paid his admittance fee of £2 5s 6d.

He is here referred to as ‘the Honorable Capt. Wesley’. A second entry, on 26 June 1792, states: ‘Pd now in advance Br. Wesley 14s 1d’. The records continue to show several occasions on which his dues are paid, the last entry on 8 September 1795. 

A further telling entry of his continued, even active, interest in Lodge affairs is his part purchase of an English Lottery Ticket on 16 February 1795 from the Lodge treasurer. The minutes for that date show that two English lottery tickets, the property of the only remaining seven regular Brethren of the Lodge, cost £45 10s 0d and: 

…the members who subscribed and are entitled to benefit of the tickets purchased of part of their fifty pounds are…the Honorable A. Wesley… 

The logical conclusion that Arthur had intentions to progress in the Craft is supported by Lord Combermere, Provincial Grand Master of Cheshire, at the death of Wellington. On 31 December 1852 the Freemasons’ Quarterly Magazine and Review reported verbatim Lord Combermere’s words, addressed to the Brethren of the Province on 27 October that year:

Perhaps it is not generally known that he (the Duke of Wellington) was a mason; he was made in Ireland; and often when in Spain, where Masonry was prohibited, in conversation (with Lord Combermere), he regretted repeatedly how sorry he was his military duties had prevented him taking the active part his feelings dictated.

In June 1794 Wellington left Cork for Ostend in command of a brigade for his first taste of active service, and resigned from the Lodge when he was posted to Austria and then to India in 1796.

He returned to England in September 1805, and in April 1806 was elected MP for Rye in Sussex. He was later to represent Mitchell, Cornwall and Newport, Isle of Wight. A year later he joined the Duke of Portland’s Tory Government as Chief Secretary for Ireland.

Meanwhile, his military career was reaching a peak. In 1808 he was made a Lieutenant General and was involved in the various military campaigns against Napoleon, known as the Peninsular War. Whilst stationed in Portugal in the autumn of 1809, an interesting episode provides an insight into his attitude toward Freemasonry. The Portuguese government, no doubt still under the influence of the several catholic Papal Bulls banning Freemasonry, had a natural political and religious distrust of Freemasons and other liberal bodies considered to be anti-clericals.

Freemasonry prospered in Portugal, not least since several of Napoleon’s officers were active in the Craft, including Marshals Lannes, Junot and Ney. Troops under Wellington held a Masonic meeting in Lisbon, following which they walked in procession and full regalia through the streets of the city. The Masons were stoned and only narrowly escaped being shot at, which was an embarrassment to the Duke, then acting as Marshal General of the Portuguese Army.

In an attempt to diffuse the tension, and in typical awareness of the sentiments of the local populace, Wellington issued a General Order dated 5 January 1810 addressed to his officers, requiring them to refrain from overt Masonic activity: an amusement which, however innocent in itself and allowed by the law of Great Britain, is a violation of the law of this [Portugal] Country, and very disagreeable to the people.

Five years later Wellington was again to come face to face with his Masonic reputation. Marshal Michel Ney, who met his end during the ‘White Terror’ as a traitor, executed by a firing squad on 7 December 1815 in a Paris public park, recognised Wellington as a Masonic brother.

In a document now apparently lost between Apsley House and the Southampton University archives, Marshal Ney appealed to Wellington ‘as a Brother’ to help save his life, but Wellington was not in a position to intervene. Ney had been initiated in Le Trinosophes Lodge No. 494 in Paris under the Grand Orient of France in 1826, and a legend has persisted that the ‘Bravest of the Brave’, as he had been referred to by Napoleon, escaped execution with the help of French Freemasons and the Duke of Wellington.

The legend is perpetrated by the inscription on Peter Stuart Ney’s tomb in the Third Creek Presbyterian Church in rural Rowan County, North Carolina, USA: In memory of Peter Stuart Ney, a native of France and soldier of the French Revolution under Napoleon Bonaparte, who departed this life Dec. 15, 1846, aged 77 years. Peter Stuart Ney, a schoolmaster, was buried there in 1846. His last words on his deathbed are reported to have been: By all that is holy, I am Marshal Ney of France.

Wellington’s military career was to reach its glorious peak on 18 June 1815 with the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Occupation forces until his return to England in November 1818, and within a month joined the Cabinet as Master- General of Ordnance. His political career was crowned with success when he became Prime Minister on 9 January 1828.

Much has been made of the Duke’s negative remarks about his initiation into Freemasonry. In 1838 when Lodge No. 494 of Trim decided to move to Dublin, the new secretary, Edward Carleton, wrote to the Duke asking for permission to rename the Lodge in his honour. The Duke’s reply was polite and firm:

…(the Duke) perfectly recollects he was admitted to the lowest grade of Free Masonry in a Lodge which was fixed at Trim, in the County of Meath. He has never since attended a Lodge of Free Masons. He cannot say that he knows anything of the Art. His consent to give this Lodge his Name would be a ridiculous assumption of the reputation of being attached to free Masonry; in addition to being a misrepresentation, The Duke of Wellington hopes, therefore, that Mr Carleton will excuse the Duke for declining to comply with his suggestion…

But the Lodge members did not to give up so easily. In March 1843 the secretary applied to the Grand Lodge of Ireland as follows:

To The Right Worshipful the Grand Lodge of Ireland

The Memorial of Lodge No. 494 formerly held in Trim but now in Dublin respectfully sheweth that on the seventh day of December 1790 His Grace The Duke of Wellington then the Honorable Capt. Wesley was admitted a member of said Lodge No. 494.

That his Grace the Duke of Wellington having since that period signalized himself in a manner universally known Lodge No. 494 therefore prays that if in your wisdom you shall find it not inexpedient you will permit said Lodge No. 494 to bear the name and title of The Wellington Lodge and your memorialists aim duty bound will pray 

Dated Lodge Room 20 March 1843 

James McDonnell Master
William Wilson SW
Frank Thorpe Porter JW
Richard Pim Secretary 

The response is recorded in the Grand Lodge of Ireland Minutes of 6 April 1843: 

Read a Memorial from Lodge 494 requesting permission to take the title of the Wellington Lodge. The Board recommend that said request be granted. Postponed for the reconsideration of Lodge 494

The 17 April 1843 minutes of Lodge 494 show their decision not to pursue the matter: 

That this Lodge do communicate to the Grand Lodge their sense of the kind feeling they have received through the Secretary respecting the Memorial presented praying to be allowed in future to call themselves the Wellington Lodge and in consequence of the suggestions by him so expressed they beg to withdraw said memorial. 

It may have been the reluctance by members of the Lodge to publicise these various communications that led to much confusion of the Duke’s membership of the Craft. These were added to following Wellington’s death on 14th September 1852.

In the Freemasons’ Quarterly magazine for 31 March 1854, a Mr Walsh sent in a letter dated 6 March, referring to the various fraternal tributes being paid to the memory of the late Duke of Wellington. Mr Walsh stated that he had been writing a book to be entitled Ancient Builders of the World and: I was anxious to have the name and date of reception into Freemasonry of every illustrious man…For this purpose, I wrote to the Duke of Wellington, and the following is his reply:

London October 13, 1851 – F M The Duke of Wellington presents his compliments to Mr Walsh. He has received his letter of 7th ult. The Duke has no recollection of having been admitted a Freemason. He has no knowledge of that association.

Chetwood Crawley has correctly pointed out that the Duke of Wellington was now in his 82nd year, and that his blunt retort to an impertinent inquirer is much in character.

The Mother-Lodge

The Mother-Lodge

A Masonic Poem By: Rudyard Kipling 

 There was Rundle, Station Master,
An’ Beazeley of the Rail,
An’ ‘Ackman, Commissariat,
An’ Donkin’ o’ the Jail;
An’ Blake, Conductor-Sargent…
Our Master twice was ‘e,
With ‘im that kept the Europe-shop,
Old Framjee Eduljee.

Outside — “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
Inside — “Brother”, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!

We’d Bola Nath, Accountant,
An’ Saul the Aden Jew,
An’ Din Mohammed, draughtsman
Of the Survey Office, too;
There was Babu Chuckerbutty,
An’ Amir Singh the Sikh,
An’ Castro from the fittin’-sheds,
The Roman Catholick!

We ‘adn’t good regalia,
An’ our Lodge was old an’ bare,
But we knew the Ancient Landmarks,
An’ we kep’ ’em to a hair;
An’ lookin’ on it backwards
It often strikes me thus,
There ain’t such things as infidels,
Excep’, per’aps, it’s us.

For monthly, after Labour,
We’d all sit down and smoke
(We dursn’t give no banquits,
Lest a Brother’s caste were broke),
An’ man on man got talkin’
Religion an’ the rest,
An’ every man comparin’
Of the God ‘e knew the best.

So man on man got talkin’,
An’ not a Brother stirred
Till mornin’ waked the parrots
An’ that dam’ brain-fever-bird;
We’d say ’twas ‘ighly curious,
An’ we’d all ride ‘ome to bed,
With Mo’ammed, God, an’ Shiva
Changin’ pickets in our ‘ead.

Full oft on Guv’ment service
This rovin’ foot ‘ath pressed,
An’ bore fraternal greetin’s
To the Lodges east an’ west,
Accordin’ as commanded
From Kohat to Singapore,
But I wish that I might see them
In my Mother-Lodge once more!

I wish that I might see them,
My Brethren black an’ brown,
With the trichies smellin’ pleasant
An’ the hog-darn passin’ down;
An’ the old khansamah snorin’
On the bottle-khana floor,
Like a Master in good standing
With my Mother-Lodge once more!

Outside — “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”
Inside — “Brother”, an’ it doesn’t do no ‘arm.
We met upon the Level an’ we parted on the Square,
An’ I was Junior Deacon in my Mother-Lodge out there!


Bro. Joseph Rudyard Kipling (30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936) was an English author and poet. Born in Bombay, British India (now Mumbai), he is best known for his works of fiction The Jungle Book (1894) (a collection of stories which includes Rikki-Tikki-Tavi), Kim (1901) (a tale of adventure), many short stories, including The Man Who Would Be King (1888); and his poems, including Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), and If— (1910). He is regarded as a major “innovator in the art of the short story”; his children’s books are enduring classics of children’s literature; and his best works speak to a versatile and luminous narrative gift. Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was also a very active in Freemasonry.



In “Something of Myself” Kipling writes:

“In 1885, I was made a Freemason by dispensation (being under age) in The Lodge of Hope and Perseverance #782 E.C. because the Lodge hoped for a good Secretary. They did not get him, but I helped, and got Father to advise me in decorating the bare walls of the Masonic Hall with hangings after the prescription of King Solomon’s Temple. Here I met Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, members of the Araya and Brahmo Samaj, and a Jewish Tyler, who was a priest and butcher to his little community in the city. So yet another world was opened to me which I needed.”

This explains the “Sergeant! Sir! Salute! Salaam!”  We get a little more detail in a letter Kipling wrote in the London Times, dated March 28, 1935:

“In reply to your letter I was Secretary for some years of the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No. 782, English Constitution which included Brethren of at least four different creeds. I was entered by a member of the Brahmo Samaj (a Hindu), passed by a Mohammedan, and raised by an Englishman. Our Tyler was an Indian Jew. We met, of course, on the level and the only difference that anyone would notice was that at our banquets some of the Brethren, who were debarred by caste rules from eating food not ceremoniously prepared, sat over empty plates. I had the good fortune to be able to arrange a series of informal lectures by Brethren of various faiths, on baptismal ceremonies of their religions.”

Kipling also received the Mark Master degree in a Lahore Mark Lodge and affiliated with a Craft Lodge in Allahabad, Bengal (now Pakistan). Later, in England he affiliated as an honorary member of the Motherland Lodge, No. 3861 in London. He was also a member of the Authors Lodge, No. 3456, and a founder-member of the Lodge Builders of the Silent Cities, No. 4948, which was connected with the War Graves Commission and which was so named at Kipling’s suggestion. Another Masonic association was formed when he became Poet Laureate of the famous Canongate Kilwinning, No. 2 in Edinburgh, the Lodge of which Robert Burns is said to have served in the same office. Enquiry of Brattleboro Lodge, No. 102, in Vermont, discloses no record of Rudyard Kipling having visited during his residence in the community. Years later, however, he accepted a fellowship in the Philalethes Society, an organization of Masonic writers formed in the United States in 1928. The February 1963 issue of The Philalethes, a publication of this Society, recalls that, before the original list of forty Fellows was closed in 1932, Kipling was proposed as the fortieth Fellow. When the Secretary wrote to advise him that they wished to honour the author of My Mother Lodge, The Man Who Would Be King, Kim and other Masonic stories, Kipling accepted.

Disclaimer: I do not know who the original author of this learned biographical discourse was, as I have cobbled it together from a number of sources in print and on the web. However,  it is important to me that the readers understand I am not the original author. I have merely edited and formated the content for presentation purposes.





Most  significant sources —

  • http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/rudyardkipling.html
  • Something of Myself, For My Friends Known and Unknown
    Rudyard Kipling: London, MacMillan and Company Limited, 1964.
  • http://www.freemasons-freemasonry.com/kipling.html
  • Short Talk Bulletin Vol. XLII, October 1964 No.10

As Published in MunnLodge.ORG – eNews, 0902.2 (FEB#2), Special Edition, Volume 2009, No. 2

Brother Irving Berlin:

1888 was a year filled with many historical firsts…

  • Washington Monument opens for public admittance
  • National Geographic magazine publishes for 1st time
  • George Eastman patents 1st roll-film camera and registers “Kodak”
  • Congress creates Department of Labor
  • Great Blizzard of 1888 leaves largest snowfall in New York City history (21″)
  • Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president

Other notable world events:

  • Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh cuts off his left ear
  • “Jack the Ripper” butchers 2 more women
  • Wilhelm II becomes emperor of Germany

Among these (in)famous headlines, a little known event also happened. On May 11, 1888 Irving Berlin was born Israel Baline in Eastern Russia, near the Siberian border in the Russian village of Tyumen. He was one of eight children born to Leah and Moses Baline. His father was Shochet – (shoykhet in Yiddish)one who kills kosher animals as prescribed by Jewish religious laws. He was also the cantor in their Ashkenazi Synagogue. His family moved to New York in 1893 to escape the pogroms in Russia. At the age of five, Israel (Izzy) Baline’s American success story began when he stepped onto Ellis Island in 1893, on his way to Gotham’s teeming Lower East Side, “the eyesore of New York and perhaps the filthiest place on the continent,” according to the New York Times of the era. However dirty and poor, this Jewish ghetto was incubating an American renaissance that would produce gangsters, legislators, merchants, professionals of all stripes— and Munn Lodge’s Very Own, Brother Irving Berlin: one of the most prolific songwriters in history and a man who would change the music business forever…

A Brief History of one of Munn Lodge’s Most Famous Members:

So many articles have been written about this very famous Freemason, I couldn’t even imagine scratching the surface of his accomplishments — in such a short article. However, I have learned so much (in doing the research for this article) there are many things I found were missing in other articles about Brother Berlin. I believe, to truly understand the character of this remarkable man, I feel it’s important to understand his environment. In a moment I will paint a picture of NYC at the turn of the 20th Century; I will then illustrate Irving Berlin through his own words and actions as a Man, a patriot, a father, a Freemason, and through some of his peers…

Everybody ought to have a Lower East Side in their life.                                               ~Irving Berlin

The East Side of Manhattan is where it all began for generations of immigrants from around the world. Originally, “Lower East Side” referred to the area alongside the East River from about theManhattan Bridge and Canal Street up to 14th Street, and roughly bounded on the west by Broadway. It also (then) included areas known today as East VillageAlphabet City and NoLIta.


Irving Berlins Lower East Side Songbook The character of this neighborhood began to evolve more than three hundred years ago, when extended families from around the world squeezed their hungry families into the tall tenement buildings that filled lower Manhattan. This area was formerly known as Corlaer’s Hook and was notorious for streetwalkers, who were dubbed hookers. There were several overlapping neighborhoods in East Side’s “Five Corners” district: Chinatown, Little Italy, Bowery, Germantown and Jewtown (mostly of Eastern European: Russiain, Polish & Ukrainian descent) – these were among the largest ethnic enclaves – between the Williamsburg & Manhattan Bridges.  In search of opportunity, turn-of-the-century newcomers quickly hit the streets selling their wares out of potato sacks slung over their shoulders, becoming the Lower East Side’s first business owners. Not stopping there, many successful business owners expanded their inventory and purchased pushcarts, and eventually storefronts, making the Lower East Side one of the busiest commercial districts in the world.As with their Italian counterparts, many Jewish gangs (dubbed:Kosher Nostra) – specializing in extortion – began operating in the heavily Jewish neighborhoods of New York’s Lower East Sidemost prominently the so-called Yiddish Black Handheaded by Jacob Levinsky, and later byMeyer Lansky and Bugsy Siegel.


Amidst all of this negativity the young Izzy (Irving Berlin) Baline steered clear of illegal activities and instead developed a quick whit, a strong work ethic, a talent for singing and an ear for music.

Talent is only the starting point… Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it!                                                                      ~Irving Berlin

During his youngest days, Israel lived a relatively wild and unsupervised life belonging to a gang and playing street games with his pals. Berlin’s family was too poor to provide piano lessons, let alone a piano; Berlin would remain musically illiterate. He took to the Streets of Jewtown on the Lower East Side of New York City to help support his family. To supplement the family’s meager income, Israel, more fluent in English than his parents and five older siblings, haggled with a nearby junk shop. “I used to go there selling bits and pieces of an old samovar that my mother had brought from Russia and kept under the bed,” he once recalled. “I’d get five and ten cents for the pieces and kept selling them until the entire samovar disappeared.”

As with many immigrant families, times were tough and even the kids had to pitch in and earn money. Berlin understood the value of hard-earned money from early on. Hawking papers as a “Newsie” on a downtown pier in 1901, a 13-year-old Israel had just sold his fifth copy of the New York Evening Journal when a loading crane swung into his path, knocking him into the East River. Fished out just in time, he was given artificial respiration and carted off to Gouverneur’s Hospital. An hour later, as the young newsie slept, a nurse pried open his clenched hand. In it: five copper coins. He remained tight-fisted for the rest of his 101 years.

In 1896, Moses died and 15yr old Israel ran away from home.

Young Israel was determined to find an easier way to make money. He began his show business career earning money for himself first as a street singer beginning as a companion to an unsavory singing beggar. Israel began singing too and hung around some popular cafés and restaurants in the Bowery.

He Joined Munn Lodge in 1910 at the age of 22.

In the early 1900s Berlin found worked as a singing waiter in many restaurants including Pastors Music Hall (The birthplace of Vaudeville) and the Pelham Café — this is also where he began writing songs. According to Parlorsongs.com: “[He] became quite popular entertaining customers with parodies of current popular songs. Baline became well known and even was mentioned in the papers thus becoming better known. Two waiters at a rival café had written an Italian song and had it published. Not to be outdone, Pelham asked their pianist, “Nick” Nicholson to write a song and tapped Baline to write lyrics. The two wrote Marie Of Sunny Italy (MIDI, Lyrics) and Berlin introduced the song himself and often sung it while at work. The song was quite popular with the clientèle and when Stern picked it up to publish, a printer’s error on the cover gave him the name, Irving Berlin. Not one to tempt fate, the newly named Berlin stuck with the name for the rest of his life. Berlin made a total of 37¢ in royalties from the song.”

There’s No Business Like Show Business……no business, I know!                                                        ~Irving Berlin

I'll See You In CUBA      


Irving Berlin went on to write more than 3000 songs, 19 musicals and the scores of 18 movies. He once wrote:

A fiddler can speak with his fiddle, A singer can speak with his voice, An actor can speak — With his tongue in his cheek, but a songwriter has no choice…  Whatever his rights or his wrongs, he can only speak through his songs.

This was his theme. As mentioned above, his first published hit was “Marie From Sunny Italy.” His successes continued through the years. Some of his songs that have become classics include “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “Easter Parade,” and “White Christmas.” He was the top money maker among songwriters in America.

In 1924, fellow songwriter Jerome Kern said “Irving Berlin has no place in American music. He is American music.”

Irving Berlin’s 1920 song I’ll See You in C-U-B-A, pictured here above. This song is one that responds directly to Prohibition. Click the QuickTime Control (below)to hear the song…

He was equally at home writing for Broadway and Hollywood. He wrote 17 complete scores for Broadway musicals and revues, and contributed material to six more. Among the shows featuring all-Berlin scores were The Coconuts, As Thousands Cheer, Louisiana Purchase, Miss Liberty, Mr. President, Call Me Madam, and the phenomenally successful Annie Get Your Gun.

Among the Hollywood musical classics with scores by Bro. Irving Berlin are Top Hat, Follow The Fleet, On the Avenue, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Holiday Inn, This ls the Army, Blue Skies, Easter Parade, White Christmas, and There’s No Business Like Show Business. His songs have provided memorable moments in dozens of other films, from The Jazz
Singer (1927) to Home Alone (1991). Among his many awards were a Your Newsletter special Tony Award (1963) and the Academy Award for Best Song of the Year for “White Christmas” in 1942.

Never hate a song that has sold more than a half a million copies.
~Irving Berlin

An intuitive businessman, Bro. Irving Berlin was a co-founder of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), founder of his own music publishing company, and, with producer Sam Harris, built his own Broadway theater, The Music Box.

Click to enlargeIn 1918, this (30yr old) Munn Lodge Brother made history when he scribbled a most beautiful series of simple words onto a piece of paper — while at boot camp in Long Island, NY. The song was God Bless America and he became immensely wealthy from it. It wasn’t until 20 years later – on Nov 10, 1938 those famous words were sung live on the radio by the #1 songstress in the nation – Kate Smith to mark the twentieth anniversary of the Armistice that ended World War I (later to become Veteran’s Day).

The lyrics were inserted into the Congressional Record, and there was even a movement to make the song our national anthem.

Although it was recorded by Bing Crosby, Barry Wood, Gene Autry, and Horace Heidt’s orchestra at the time, it was destined to be associated with Kate Smith forever, giving her a certain immortality, as well as a guaranteed standing ovation at all of her concerts. [Hear Kate’s Version]

A patriotic song is an emotion and you must not embarrass an audience with it, or they will hate your guts…”                              ~Irving Berlin

In 1940, in true Masonic spirit, Irving Berlin established the God Bless America Foundation, with all royalties from its performance earned by either Berlin or Miss Smith going to the Boy and Girl Scouts of America. To date, Tens of Millions of Dollars have gone to these children via this foundation.     

Brother Irving Berlin, the Free & Accepted Mason, received the first of his Three Degrees of Freemasonry in Munn Lodge, New York City on May 12, May 26 and June 3, 1910, becoming a life member of the Lodge on December 12, 1935. Berlin received the 32° Scottish Rite (Northern Masonic Jurisdiction) on December 23, 1910 and was also initiated as a Shriner into Mecca Shrine Temple on January 30, 1911, becoming a life member of the Shrine in December 1936. 


You’re not sick, brother, you’re just in love.
~Irving Berlin

Berlin was married twice. His first wife, singer Dorothy Goetz, sister of songwriter E. Ray Goetz, contracted pneumonia and typhoid fever on their honeymoon to Cuba, and died five months after their wedding in 1912 at the age of twenty. Her death inspired Berlin’s song “When I Lost You”, which became one of his earliest hits. Curiously, a year before Dorothy Berlin’s death, Irving Berlin, E. Ray Goetz, and Ted Snyder co-wrote a song called “There’s a Girl in Havana”.

His second wife was Ellin Mackay, a devout Irish-American Catholic and heiress to the Comstock Lode mining fortune, as well as an avant-garde writer who had been published in The New Yorker. They were married in 1926, against the wishes of both his family, who objected to religious intermarriage, and her father, Clarence Mackay, a prominent Roman Catholic layman, who disinherited her.

Without a dispensation from the Church, the two were joined in a civil ceremony on January 4, 1926, and were immediately snubbed by society: Ellin was immediately dis-invited from the wedding of her friend Consuelo Vanderbilt, although Vanderbilt was not a Catholic. Finances were not a problem, however: Berlin assigned her the rights to his song “Always” which yielded her a huge and steady income.

The couple had three daughters—Mary Ellin Barrett (oldest daughter, was born on November 25, 1926.), Linda Emmett, and Elizabeth Peters — and a son, Irving Berlin, Jr., who died as an infant on Christmas Day. Irving and Ellin remained married for the rest of their lives.


After you get everything you want,
you find you don’t want everything.               ~Irving Berlin


As a Freemason, Berlin supported many charities and organizations and is responsible for generating hundreds of millions of dollars to worthwhile causes. For this ha had received many honors, accolades, and awards. In 1944, he was honored by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for “advancing the aims of the conference to eliminate religious and racial conflict.” His actions were also acknowledged with such accolades as the Army’s Medal of Merit from President and Bro. Harry Truman, in 1945, also a Congressional Gold Medal for “God Bless America”. Five years later, he was honored by the New York YMHA as one of “12 outstanding Americans of the Jewish faith.” On February 18, 1955, President Eisenhower presented him with a gold medal in recognition of his services in composing many patriotic songs for the country. Earlier, Berlin assigned the copyright for “God Bless America” to the God Bless America Fund, which has raised many millions of dollars for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Berlin’s World War I dough-boy uniform and many of his original patriotic scores are on display in the Jewish War Veterans Museum in Washington, D.C. He also received the Freedom Medal from President and Bro. Gerald Ford in 1977.

The toughest thing about success is that you’ve got to keep on being a success. ~Irving Berlin

During the Vietnam Era, Berlin proposed a new verse for his famous song:



    God bless America,
    Land I enjoy,
    No discussions with Russians
    Till they stop sending arms to Hanoi. . . .
    God bless America
    When skies are dark,
    God bless America,
    My Noah’s ark.
Berlin often said: “There are really only six tunes in the world.” But from those six tunes he fashioned, according to his catalog, thousands of songs – and nobody knows how many more he may have stored somewhere.When someone admired one of his melodies, Mr. Berlin was quick to say: ”I like it, too. I’ve used it lots of times.” — Marilyn BergerFollowing a gala 100th birthday celebration concert at Carnegie Hall (which Berlin did not attend but gave his blessing), Morton Gould, president of ASCAP, said that “Irving Berlin’s music will last not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but for always.”      

As per the New York Times, Berlin’s earning capacity seems remarkably undiminished from the time of his unimaginable fame. The 2004 annual Forbes.com list of the rich and deceased claims that Berlin’s works earned $7 million from ASCAP — 15 years after his death (tying two others among the departed, Johnny Cash and George Harrison).

Not bad for a poor immigrant who had only two years of formal schooling and who never learned to read or write music!

In a NY Times interview (published: May 15, 1988) on Irving Berlin’s 100th Birthday a reporter asked another famous musician — What makes an Irving Berlin song special?
What makes an Irving Berlin song special? The answer is quite simple: Irving Berlin! And that’s ”not for just an hour, not for just a day, not for just a year, but always.” In a world where many make sausages, Irving made beauty. ‘ ~ Frank Sinatra
Israel Baline ~ One of Munn Lodge’s Most Famous Brothers…

I got lost but look what I found!
~Irving Berlin

Bro. Irving Berlin died in his sleep an immensely wealthy man on September 22, 1989, at the epic age of 101. He was survived by his 3000 songs, 17 Broadway Musicals, 3 daughters, 9 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren and 1 incredible story.

In his Obituary in the New York Times, many of his peers commented about his long and illustrious career. Songwriter Sammy Cahn once said Mr. Berlin: If a man, in a lifetime of 50 years, can point to six songs that are immediately identifiable, he has achieved something. Irving Berlin can sing 60 that are immediately identifiable. Somebody once said you couldn’t have a holiday without his permission.

Born penniless, steering clear of the many potholes in the “Streets of New York”, joining Munn Lodge and going on to become one of the most notable Freemasons of the 20th century: Brother Irving Berlin is a shining example of “A Good Man Made Better”. His body of work, legacy and Masonic benevolence will imortalize him. He is one of the reasons I joined this Lodge. I can only pray that following in his footsteps, walking the same halls, following the same rituals & sitting in the same seats as this most famous brother – a man whom I wish I could have gotten to know personally – will help to shape my own future. Maybe this article will persuade another young Brother to do the same…

“Our attitudes control our lives. Attitudes are a secret power working twenty-four hours a day, for good or bad. It is of paramount importance that we know how to harness and control this great force.”
~Irving Berlin


SOURCES: In-line references and links are made for Wikipedia.Com and New York Magazine (NyMag.com), CityJournal.ORG – , Also, the Jewish-American Hall of Fame – Jewish Museum in Cyberspace, and Irving Berlin’s Obituary in The New York Times

First Published on MunnLodge.ORG — for Irving Berlin’s Masonic Mother Lodge