The Masonic Lewis Jewel
and it's Meaning



 

Lewis Jewel Lewis lifting device
Image 1

The Masonic Lewis Jewel is a pin (shown above on the right) that is worn by the Masonic son of a Masonic father.  The upper bar has the fathers name & year of joining the organization, with the lower bar of the son.  There is a chain down to the Lewis device, (explained below).

LEWIS Background and History

A LEWIS is a simple, but ingenious device employed by operative Masons to raise heavy blocks of stone into place during construction of stone buildings of the time.  It consists of three metal parts: two wedge-shaped sidepieces, and a straight centerpiece, that fit together (tendon).
 

The lewis is inserted into a specially prepared seating in the top of a stone, directly above its centre of mass, and works by transferring the stone's weight into leverage on the seating of the lewis device.   A dovetailed recess is cut into the top of the stone block (mortise).  The two outer pieces of the lewis device are inserted first and then spread by the insertion of a appropriate sized centerpiece.  The three parts are then bolted together, a metal ring or shackle is attached and the block is hoisted by hook, rope and pulley.  By this means, the block is gripped securely and appropriately balanced.   Once set in its place in the structure, the lewis is removed leaving the upper surface smooth with no clamp or chains on the outside to interfere with the laying of the adjacent or next course of stones.
 

Our ancient operative brethren used this tool as early as the Roman era.   Stones with the mortised cavity for the insertion of a lewis have been found in England in Hadrian's Wall built c. 121-127 CE.   Archaeologists have found further evidence of its use by the Saxons in England in buildings constructed in the 7th century.   The origin of the term 'lewis' for this device is uncertain.   Some authorities trace its etymology to the French levis from lever - to lift, hoist, raise; and louve - a sling, grip or claw for lifting stones.
 

Masonic historians conclude that the term came into use in the 18th century.  The Lecture in the Second Degree published by William Preston in the 1780s contains a lengthy discourse on the Lewis.

WM- Brother J.W.,  How were the sons of craftsmen named?
JW - To the son on whom these honors were bequeathed, the appellation of Lewis was given, that from henceforth he might be entitled to all the privileges which that honor conferred, W. Sir.
 

There are many references to the Lewis in early Masonic Catechisms.  The Wilkinson MS Catechism (c 1730 / 1740) states the following:
Q. What's a Mason's Sons Name?
A. Lewis

 

A doggerel verse in 'The Deputy Grand Master's Song' printed in the second edition of Anderson's Constitutions published in 1738, written as a sort of 'loyal toast' to be sung by the brethren around the festive board:

 

"Again let it pass to the ROYAL lov'd NAME,
Whose glorious Admission has crown'd all our Fame:
May a LEWIS be born, whom the World shall admire,
Serene as his MOTHER, August as his SIRE.

A paragraph in a version of the Junior Warden's Lecture used in the United Grand Lodge of England dating from 1801 gives this instructive explanation: "The word Lewis denotes strength, and is here depicted by certain pieces of metal dovetailed into a stone, which forms a cramp, and enables the operative Mason to raise great weights to certain heights with little encumbrance, and to fix them in their proper places.   Lewis, likewise denotes the son of a Mason; his duty is to bear the heat and burden of the day, from which his parents, by reason of their age, ought to be exempt; to help them in time of need, and thereby render the close of their days happy and comfortable; his privilege for so doing is to be made a Mason before any other person however dignified."

Honour thy father...

In the days of operative Masonry, it was a great source of pride when a son followed in his father's footsteps and was Entered as an Apprentice, his name 'entered' on the roll, and thereby admitted to the lodge.   To study his father's skills and learn to use his father's tools were manifest expressions of the greatest honour and esteem a son could pay.   It was common to carry on the tradition through several generations in the same family.

It is a heart-warming day when a young man first shows interest in Freemasonry and asks his father how he might become a Mason, and it is a proud day when that son, in the fullness of time, is admitted a member of his father's lodge by Initiation.

To moralize on...

On the day that King Solomon laid the foundation stone of the Temple, beginning the construction of the great building project conceived by his father David, but given to his son to complete, the last words of King David may have come to his mind.   When the time of David's death drew near, he gave his last charge to his son Solomon:  I am going the way of all the earth.  Be strong and show yourself a man. (1 Kings 2: 1)

When a son of a Mason proudly wears the Lewis Jewel, it ought to impress upon all this same moral.   It personifies the final words of the General Charge From generation to generation.

 

Originated 03-25-2011