"A system of morality veiled in allegory" : the private rituals and public performances of Freemasons in Winnipeg, 1864-1900

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Covernton, Gillian
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The influential role of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons in the development of the province of Manitoba and city of Winnipeg represents a gap in historiography. Between 1864 and 1900 Masonry in Manitoba evolved from a small fraternal organisation to a large group on the precipice of establishing significant influence in Winnipeg. A mainly British, business elite politically and economically dominated Winnipeg and many of these men held membership in the Masons. Masonry had already been established as a respectable and exclusive institution in the rest of Canada, England and in the United States but Masonry in Manitoba was unique because of its faux secrecy. The commercial elite strove to establish themselves as a social elite and legitimated their claim to respectable status by privately and publicly performing the rituals of Masonry. Masonry in Manitoba was used as a tool for negotiating status and respectability at a moment in Winnipeg's history where both were not assured and the culture of professionalism was beginning to inform the values that would define the middle class. An analysis of Masonry as a system of moral and ethical instruction in Manitoba is necessary to an understanding of the construction of Victorian culture in early Winnipeg.