George Washington. Theodore Roosevelt. John Wayne. Henry Ford. Booker T. Washington. Mark Twain. Lewis and Clark. Harry Houdini. Buzz Aldrin. The names, initially, seem to have no correlation. These men come from different centuries and economic backgrounds. They are presidents, authors, entertainers, inventors, and adventurers. They are important symbols of American culture, but their connection reaches deeper even than that. All of the men listed above, and countless others, were part of the Freemason Society. For some, this might be a shocking revelation, but, for others, this may not be surprising. Freemasons have permeated American politics and popular culture since its creation. Essentially, Freemasons have been involved in every aspect of American society, whether the greater public has been aware of it or not. Because of this, the society has come under substantial amounts of scrutiny over the last few centuries. Freemasons have been accused of satanic practices, secrecy, murder, and other conspiracy theories involving political movements and historical events. When asked about Freemasons, most of the American population would more than likely repeat some piece of information or symbol they had seen in popular culture. Popular movie franchises such as National Treasure portray early American history as being full of secrets and intrigue, with specific references to Freemasons. This film, and many other forms of media that reference the organization, are not historically accurate. The majority of the American public, however, is not aware of this. On top of the public’s widespread ignorance of the organization, the Freemason Society is highly secretive. Even close family members of Freemasons have no knowledge of the society’s rituals, traditions, and other basic information. This makes for a dangerous combination. During the course of time, humans have proved to be wary and judgmental of anything that is not familiar and understandable. Especially for Americans in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the fact that many of the men in charge of their country were members of a secret society made individuals intimidated. Individuals and groups began targeting Freemasons with rumor and conspiracy, most of it unfounded. However, because of the society’s hold on privacy, they could not refute these claims enough to satisfy the public. This began a long tradition of suspicion surrounding the Freemason Society and other secret organizations that would continue until present day. This established tradition of conspiratorial thinking would influence the way Americans perceive and interact with conspiracy theories and would inspire the current conspiracy culture in the United States.
This paper will be divided into several sections including this introductory section. The first will be the Methodology. In this section, I will discuss the methods of research, as well as the various challenges I faced in research and how they were worked around in the composition of this work. The second section is Historiography. In this section, I will break down the historiography of the subject. Essentially, it will be a discussion of how previous historians have analyzed this specific phenomenon, and how this particular treatment of it will shed light on the subject. The main body of the paper will come next, in which I will explore the history of the Freemason Society, the conspiracy theories surrounding the society, and they have influenced the contemporary conspiracy culture that is arising in American society. In this section, I will analyze some of the most popular conspiracy theories/arguments against Freemasonry, as well as how these conspiracies have influenced the formation of other conspiracies and the validity of them in the eyes of the American public, even to present day. After this section, Directions For Future Research will follow. Here, I will consider the possible follow up issues and research topics for either myself or professional historians. I will also discuss the weaknesses of this paper, as well as if I would like to continue pursuing this topic in future endeavors. And lastly, there will be a conclusion in which I will restate the argument and resolve any lingering questions.
McGee, Emily, ""Meeters in Secret": The History of Freemasonry and Its Influence on Conspiracy Culture in the United States" (2020). History Class Publications. 61.