AMERICAN MASON'S MARKS LOOKUP TABLE
by
Bill Trout

 It used to be said that the only mason's marks in America were on the stones of George Washington's Patowmack Canal locks at Great Falls, Virginia, and on the foundations of the Capitol in Washington DC. We know now that mason's marks are all over the place, and that these marks are trying to tell us something.

 A major stumbling block for those interested in mason's marks is communicating with each other. Except for numbers and letters, these symbols do not have their own typewriter or computer keys, so to report them they must be drawn and transmitted in some way. This lookup table is an attempt to make communication and documentation easier, and to start a list of known marks in America.

The marks on the lookup table are grouped according to the number of lines (a curved line counts as one line). The 9th mark with 6 lines would be mark 6-9. One can search the present document to see, for example, where in America all of the 6-9 marks are located.

Mason's marks are not always clear-cut because the stone can be rough, and the surface can erode. The light has to be right. Some are hidden under mortar. Sometimes the details of a mark are clear only when it has been found more than one place on a structure. We have found it best to make a rough drawing of each face of a structure, with a rectangle or space for each visible stone, and show the marks on these drawings. In this way one can tell if a new mark has been found, and marks can be compared. Usually, new marks are found at each visit to a site.

This lookup table is only the beginning. It will never be finished. If you find new marks, let us know so we can add them (and the reference or source) to the table and bibliography.

The next stage is to study these marks and compare those on a structure, and those on different structures along a canal or railroad, They are trying to tell us something about the stone masons and construction work. Theories abound.  Bon appetit!

 

How to Observe Masons Marks,

from "Masons Marks in Albemarle County," by Pete Runge

The Magazine of Albemarle County History, V.57, 1999, p. 63.

 

            "I have found that the best time to observe masons marks is in the late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky, and casts a shadow into the recesses of the mark. I presume early morning works just as well, but I am not exactly a morning person, so I stick to the afternoons!

            "If you are looking for them inside an arched culvert or aqueduct, a waterproof flashlight is usually helpful. No matter how shallow a creek or river is, there is always several feet of cold water inside the arch, since the current is funneled into a narrower-than-normal channel. Be sure you watch for sudden drop-offs while you are wading under the arch.

            "It sometimes takes a few minutes to find the first mark or two, but once your eyes adjust to what you are looking for, they will suddenly start popping out all over the place. Try looking at different angles from the stone, as a mark invisible or indistinguishable from one angle, may be very clear from another."

Locations of Mason's Marks

Virginia:

JR&K Canal:

Bosher's Dam abutment (Trout 1987:8): 2-2, 3-2, 3-5, 6-19, 7-16, 8-1, F, OWEING

Varney's Falls Lock (Trout 2001:53): 4-2, 4-8, 4-24, 5-9, A, L, ML.

Canal in Blue Ridge Gorge (Trout 2001:73): 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, 3-7, 3-8, 4-1, 4-3, 4-6, 4-10, 4-13, 4-14, 4-27, 5-8, 5-10, 5-11, 5-12, 5-13, 5-27, 5-28, 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, 6-5, 6-6, 6-12, 7-3, 7-4, 7-5, 7-17, 8-2, 9-2, 11-1, M, C, H, HL, WHUF (?), DBL. More details are in "Masons' marks in the Blue Ridge Gorge,"  by Mike Starkey in the Summer 1994 VC&NS Tiller, pp. 24-31.

Piers of James River bridge at Bent Creek, 4-28, 5-18, 5-20, 5-22, 6-16, 7-2, 7-11. (Trout, unp.) 

Hardware Aqueduct, JR&K Canal, VA (1838), from Minnie Lee McGehee in 1966 and from The Canal on the James, by T. Gibson Hobbs, Jr., Blackwell Press, Lynchburg VA 2009:137: P, F, X, V, BB, III, J, 2-1, 2-7, 3-11, 3-17,  4-2, 4-10, 4-30, 5-19.

Tidewater Connection Locks (1854), on stones removed for storage, 4-3, 4-17, 7-2, P, A, DW. These stones also had a "code" marked in red paint (covered by mortar) indicating N or S wall of lock, and course. See "Cracking an Engineer's Code," American Canals. **.

Beaver Creek Aqueduct, JR&K Canal, marks found by Tom Hahn in 1981: 2-1, 3-6, 4-18, 4-19, M, Z, S, D, III. (Hahn mason's marks notebook, in Trout collection, includes English and French canal marks)

Warren Canal Culvert (Ballinger Creek) (Runge 1999): R, 6-25, 3-1, 3-16, II, B, AH, C.

Rockfish Aqueduct (Runge 1999): 5-30, XX, 4-33, 4-27, 6-26, 3-5, 5-32, P, R, 3-16, E, W, H, 2-1, 4-6, 4-3, 4-19, 4-10, E, 2-8, 9-4, 8-7.

Palmyra Lock (Trout 2002:30): 3-17, 6-15, 7-2, H.

Kent's Branch Culvert, Columbia, 1830's (Trout 2002:30): 3-1, 4-22, 5-29, 2, I, N, K, JC, J8.

 

VA Railroad Bridges:

South abutment of NS Bridge 425 over Jennings Creek, Arcadia, VA, has mason's marks plus course number (A-F) and stone numbers. The North abutment has no marks. Did it have a different contractor? (Trout 2001:54)

Belt Line Bridge, Richmond, 1891 (Trout 1987:24): 2-1, 2-2, 3-1, 3-3, 3-5, 4-2, 4-3, 4-4, 4-5, 4-8, 4-10, 4-11, 5-1, 5-2, 5-3, 5-4, 5-5, 5-6, 5-7, 5-8, 5-9, 6-1, 7-1, 7-2, 7-15, 10-1, 1, 2, 8, D, F, I, K, L, S, T, V, III VE, JB, HA, MT, MM, ME. Shows locations of marks on each pier.

C&O RY Bridge, at Humpback Bridge (Trout 2001:27): 3-1, 3-6, 4-3, 4-26, 5-22, 7-13, 8-4.

Piers, Mouth of Looney's Creek (Trout 2001:46): 4-5, A, L, M, N, T, II, III.

N S bridge at Arcadia (Trout 2001:54):  courses A-F and stone #.

O&A RR James River, bridge, Daniel's Island (Trout 2001:82): 2-2, 3-1, 3-6, 3-13, 4-2, 4-8, 4-28, 5-9, 5-23, 7-14, 8-5, C, D, H, L, R, P, T, U, V, X, II, JP, MI, IS, ISENE. Many stones have the height in inches. The abutment has 3U, N-5U+2-7, U43-2, 3U, D; the U's are on the upriver side and the D's on the downstream side. Some numbers indicate the course above the water table course (course sticking out).

N&W, (NS) bridge in New River Trail State Park VA (Trout 2003:35): 3-1, 1-3, 01; at Walker's Creek VA (p.61), C7N5, C6N2 (course 7, stone 5, etc.); at Ripplemead VA (p.61), stone height in inches.

Richmond & Danville Staunton River bridge at Altavista (1876) (Trout Roanoke Atlas *:45): XVI [2-1], GH XVII, PA, [3-6] P, 18C, etc. Height of stones in inches plus a mark.

NS bridge over the Big Otter near Evington (Trout Roanoke Atlas p.48): A18, W, 16D, T, R. Height of stones in inches.

Franklin & Pittsylvania RR bridge over Pigg River near Toshes (Trout Roanoke Atlas p.135): [5-7] W + M,  6-20, B, F, 16, 14.

CSX at Charlottesville Woolen Mills (see map in Trout 2002:9A from Runge 1999): west abutment: 4, C, 4-10, P, 7-12, K, XX, XV, V, 6-24, 3-19; Central and East Pier: H, A, 1-1, 2-1, 3-12, 4-29, 4-3, 3-5, M, E, 8-2, 5-31; Middle Pier: ARUNDALE FEB. 27, 1901. West pier: 3-16, 3-1. Office Building, 4-10.

CSX at Franklin St., Charlottesville, 0.4 mile W of Woolen Mills (Runge 1999): H, XXX, W, B, 3-6, E, B+H, 1878, 7A.

NS bridge over North Fork Rivanna (abandoned route, river mile 4.3) (Runge 1999): Baylor Simpson, L, C.W.I.I., H, XX, F.

NS bridge over North Fork Rivanna (active route, river mile 5.7) (Runge 1999): IIIVX, XV!!!, +T.P.B, T8, 14-1, X-VIII, 18, P or 4-1, 18, R, C.W, XVI8(?), 8-8.

NS bridge over South Fork Rivanna (Runge 1999): 20, 18, 16, 14, 5-9, LO, XVI.

Abandoned 1850's abutment of C&O  RY bridge over Jefferson's Mill Canal spillway channel, Rivanna mile 34.14, (Runge 1999): R.E.L.M. LES.

C&O RY west abutment over Rivanna, mile 35.65, below I-64 bridge (Runge 1999): "4+ FEB.11 L.E.G. 90."

 

VA Road Bridges:

Free Bridge Piers (Rt.250 over the Rivanna in Charlottesville) (Runge 1999): 5-6, T, M, ANNO.

Free Bridge Piers, Charlottesville, (Trout 2002:30):1801+: T, W, 5-21.

Woodrum Bridge (US 11) Salem (Trout Roanoke Atlas, 21): 2-6, 3-5, V, CL.

 

VA Other:

Williamsburg VA: When the foundations of the Governor's Palace were excavated in 1994, of the 160 stones dug up, 113 had "mysterious mason's marks on the underside." (Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 10, 1994). Dr. Thomas H. Taylor Jr., archaeological collections manager, was looking for more information about these marks, which may have been made when they were cut in England.

Lock 2, Patowmack Canal at Great Falls, VA. "Great Falls of the Potomac, Great Falls Park, Virginia," flyer has 3-9, 5-8, 5-16, 5-30, 6-21, 7-7, 7-8, 8-1. See also Barto 1980.

Douglas, Paul H., and W.K. Jones, Sandstone, Canals and the Smithsonian, The Smithsonian Journal of History, Spring 1968, pp. 41-58. p.43 has photos of two marks on the Potomac Canal at Great Falls, VA,  4-13 and 8-1.

 

West Virginia:

C&O, bridge at Sandstone WV (Trout 2003:79): 2-1, 3-6, 4-1, 5-24, 5-25, 6-18, 6-20, 8-6, P, H; p.82, culvert at Meadow Creek WV, 2-5; p.89, Fayette Station bridge WV, 2-2, 3-14, 4-1, 5-9, 5-26, 7-12, A, L, R, [3-5] and [sic]  F, F and F, T.D; p.107, Second Creek Tunnel WV (1855): 2-1, 2-4, 3-15, 5-8, B, L, E, R, T, LH, LM.

Salt Rock Bridge, Guyandotte River WV (Trout 1988:12): "H" in stone from 1898 abutment, under present bridge, cut by Curtis D. Harbour to indicate which stones he cut in 1898. One of the few marks where the maker is known.

 

Maryland:

C&O Canal:

Hahn notes on Lock 11 (Trout collection): 3-7, 3-16, 4-6, 4-31, 4-32, 5-1, 5-3, 5-10, 6-7, 6-8, 6-22, 6-23, 7-6, H.

 

Ohio:

The Canal society of Ohio Newsletter, January 1999, p.1, has a note on marks on Locks 21, 29, and 44 on the canal in and near the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area, with Roman numerals. Includes a photo of mark 4-30. Readers are asked to send more examples to Brad Bond, 101 Hillside Way, Marietta, OH 45750, 614-374-6715, for a later article in the Newsletter.

Canada:

"Z" on Shubenacadie Canal, Nova Scotia, in Shubenacadie Canal Guide, Shubenacadie Canal Commission, 1989, p.24.

 

Toward a Bibliography of American Mason's Marks

 Virginia:

Runge, Pete, 1999, "Masons Marks in Albemarle County," The Magazine of Albemarle County History, V.57, 1999, pp.56-63. Illustrations of many marks. Copies of V.57 are for sale on the Albemarle County Historical Society web site, www.albemarlehistory.org.

Trout, W.E. III, May 1979, "Mason's marks on the Smaller Stone Archway under Reynolds' Metals' 3th Street Bridge," Richmond, VA. Shows locations of marks. Page inserted in the ** Tiller. 2-1, 3-6, N, T.

Trout, W.E. III, James Moore III, and George D. Rawls, 1987, Falls of the James Atlas: Historic Canal and River Sites on the Falls of the James, Virginia Canals & Navigations Society, 1987, 1995.

Trout, W.E. III, 1988, The American Canal Guide Part 4: West Virginia, Kentucky and the Ohio River, American Canal Society, 1988. Online on www.americancanals.org.

Trout, W.E. III, 2001, The Upper James Atlas: Rediscovering River History in the Blue Ridge and Beyond, Virginia Canals and Navigations Society.

Trout, W.E. III, and Peter C. Runge, 2002, The Rivanna Scenic River Atlas: Historic Sites on the Rivanna Navigation, Virginia Canals and Navigations Society, 1992, 2002.

Trout, W.E. III, 2003, The New River Atlas: Rediscovering the History of the New and Greenbrier Rivers, Virginia Canals and Navigations Society, 2003.

Trout, W.E., III, in progress, The Roanoke/Staunton River Atlas, Virginia Canals and Navigations Society, in press.

Trout, W.E. III, in progress, The Holston, Clinch and Powell's Rivers Atlas, Virginia Canals and Navigations Society, in preparation 2010. page C-12, N&W bridge at Thompson's Creek, BII, DIV, EV, A, PII, CIII (I, II, etc. is course of stone from bottom).

 

General:

Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon, "Masons' and Freemasons' Marks"  being Chapter XXIV of a history of masonry, 16 pages . Excellent study of mason's marks and their history. Examples are shown, but none in America, but we had the same types. Online on  http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/history/marks/freemasonsmarks.html.  An edited version is in Chapter XLVIII of Mackey's History of Freemasonry, by Robert I. Clegg, V.3, The Masonic History Company, NY, 1921.

Barto, Stephen, and Paul O. Weinbaum, Stone Marks in America and their Origin, 1790-1860, North Atlantic Region Curatorial Paper, National Park Service, November, 1980. Marks from Fort Wood (1844), now the base of the Statue of Liberty, has 2-1, 3-2, 3-6, 3-18, 4-2, 4-6, 5-9, 6-10. Fort Tompkins, NY has 2-3, 4-8, 5-10, 6-12, 6-20, MMD, 3-3, XIXX, I [4-24]; Lock 2, Potomac Canal at Great Falls VA has 3-17, 8-1, 2-2, 5-18; Richmond-Petersburg RR Bridge s XIX, 8-1, 6-14.

Barua, B.M., "Old Buddhist Shrines at Bodh-Gaya: Inscriptions," Indian Historical Quarterly, March 1930, pp.1-31, online on http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-ENG/bar.htm.

Smith, J.A. Two dense pages of marks from Melrose Abbey and others in the UK, from an exhibition by J.A. Smith, are online at http://ads.ac.uk/catalog/adsdata/PSAS_2002. From the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Wallace, Jefferson, The Marks of the Members of Temple Chapter No. 32, Royal Arch Masons, Richmond, Virginia, V.1, 1892-1902, Richmond, 1922, pp.V-XII, shows many marks in Egypt, Syria, Europe, Britain, and India. These essentially include those found in America.

 

Other types of marks:

Eberlein, H.D. and R.W. Ramsdell, The Practical Book of Chinaware, Lippincott, 1925, 1948. Some of the simple marks are similar to mason's marks: 2-1, 3-6, 4-8, 4-10, 4-24, 6-20.

A chart of 45 Hobo Signs and Symbols is available from www.railroadcatalog.com and railway museum shops. Some are similar to mason's marks, such as 2-6, 3-1, 4-1, 5-3, 5-4, 5-5.

Jonathan Prown of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation found a mark in an early (perhaps pre-1800) cupboard in CW's collection from Amherst County  (Acc. # 1990-249) which is similar to a  masons' mark. The top of the mark is a diamond with a T in it; the bottom is a diamond with a horizontal bar and a dot; the diamonds are connected by a bar. 

Emrich, Duncan, The Cowboy's Own Brand Book, Dover, 1954. These brands have some components similar to mason's marks (diamond, square) but are otherwise distinct.

 

References not seen yet:

Tyson, B., 1994, "Identifying and Classifying Masons' Marks," Vernacular Architecture 25: 4-15. British. Available for $15 online.

Masonic Symbols in American Decorative Arts, Lexington, MA, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1976. Articles by Barbara Franco, etc.

Mason's Mark File, Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service, Technical Preservation Services, Washington DC.

 Please send additions and corrections to:

William E. Trout, III, 417 Phillips Street, Edenton NC 27932, 252-482-5946, wetrout@mindspring.com. Virginia Canals & Navigations Society, www.batteau.org.

 Lyle E. Browning, 2240 Chartstone Drive, Midlothian: VA 23113, 804-379-1666, lebrowning@att.net. Archeological Society of Virginia, www.asv-archeology.org.