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Periodical: Universal Free Mason

Summary:  From Pat Deveney's database:

Universal Free Mason, The.
Other titles: Universal Freemason
1908--1922
Salt Lake City, UT. Editor: Matthew McBain Thomson, Thomas Perrot.
Corporate author: American Masonic Federation
1/1, June 1908-13/23, May 1922, the month that Thomson's trial for fraud began. $1.00 a year, 18-24 pp.

This has the distinction of being the only journal whose publication was held to constitute an "overt act" in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud. This was the journal for Mathew McB. (McBain)Thomson's American Masonic Federation, an agglomeration of bogus and dubious Masonic and peripheral degrees. Isaac Blair Evans, the federal prosecutor who convicted Thomson of fraud in 1922, says of the journal: "In June, 1908, he began the publication of a little magazine entitled The Universal Freemason, which he used as the vehicle for the spreading of his doctrines, and which he sold at a price so cheap as to be within the reach of all his followers. In it he printed articles on history, vicious diatribes against his enemies, explanations of the charges lodged against him from time to time, and even a lexicon; when news was scarce he would repeat some of his definitions, not always in the same language." The Thomson Masonic Fraud: A Study in Clandestine Masonry (Salt Lake City: Privately Printed, 1922), 72.

Thomson (1854-1932) was a Scot who immigrated to Idaho, returned to Scotland (where he claimed to have received a Masonic patent from the dubious Scottish Grand College of Rites) and then came again to Idaho where for a short while he was sheriff of Paris, Idaho, before being burned in effigy and run out of town. In January 1907 he started the American (later International) Masonic Federation in Idaho to promote and sell a complete line of spurious Masonic craft degrees and advanced degrees, together with honors in a great variety of peripheral rites. Representatives were chosen in all the western states who worked on commission to lure those eager to be Masons but who were unable to pay the initiation fee -- the A.M.F. charged $200-$500 for the craft degrees and more for others, and also benefitted from being the exclusive source for his lodges for supplies, paraphernalia, fancy charters, etc. By 1910 Thomson had 20 lodges in the west and by 1919 claimed 10,000 members. He soon moved operations to Salt Lake City, Utah, where the dominant Mormons prohibited their members from joining the regular Masonic lodges. Thomson based his claim to Masonic regularity on a labyrinth of Masonic minutiae: Mother Kilwinning Lodge No. 0 of Scotland, he said, had founded St. John's Mother Lodge in Marseilles, which in turn chartered Polar Star Lodge, in New Orleans in 1794, which became part of the Supreme Council of Louisiana, which chartered Thomson to form regular craft lodges outside Louisiana. This more than questionable heritage was buttressed by whatever Thomson could find or acquire: a charter from the Scottish Grand Council of Rites (an outfit working the same line as Thomson in Scotland) and Alexander Riedel's Grand Lodge Atlantis, working according to the Rite of the Illuminati of Bavaria and empowered to confer the craft degrees. This last was derived from Leopold Engel's Illuminatenorden, in which R.S. Clymer and his Ancient Mystic Oriental Masonry also played a role in its American extensions. (Clymer was an honorary vice-president of the AMF and merged his Masonic work under its aegis.)

The journal is notable here because Theodor Reuss as early as 1912 had appointed Thomson as the "General Grand Representative" of the O.T.O. and of the Sovereign Sanctuary of Memphis-Mizraim near the American Masonic Federation. In 1919 he conferred on him an OTO/Memphis-Mizraim certificate of 33(o), 96(o), IX(o) (presumably honorary), and the next year he invited Thomson's presence at his 1920 "International Masonic Congress" in Zurich "to establish, on the basis of the American Masonic Federation a ‘Universal Masonic World Federation.' of all non-sectarian Masonic organizations." The congress, as reported in detail in the journal, was a disaster for Reuss: he and Thomson fought over money and distribution of jurisdictions; Reuss withdrew and the congress was so successful for Thomson that he renamed his group the "International Masonic Federation," but nothing came of the change and he was tried and convicted of mail fraud the next summer for setting up clandestine lodges and selling spurious Masonic degrees. He is said to have become the prison librarian in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth. Thomson is said to have edited the short-lived Scottish Freemason during his time as a regular Mason. LOC; Brigham Young University; University of Utah; Concordia University.

Issues:Universal Free Mason V1 N1-12 Jun 1908 Jun 1909
Universal Free Mason V2 N1-12 Ju 1909 Jun 1910
Universal Free Mason V3 N1-12 Jul 1910 Jun 1911
Universal Free Mason V4 N1-12 Jul 1911 Jun 1912
Universal Free Mason V5 N1-6 Jul-dec 1912
Universal Free Mason V5 N1-12 Jul 1914-jun 1916
Universal Free Mason V5 N7-12 Jan-jun 1913
Universal Free Mason V6 N1-7 Jul-dec 1913
Universal Free Mason V6 N7-12 Jan Jun 1914
Universal Free Mason V7 N1-12 Jul 1914-jun 1915
Universal Free Mason V9 N1-12 Jul 1916-jun 1917
Universal Free Mason V10 N1-12 Jul 1917-jun 1918
Universal Free Mason V11 N1-12 Jul 1918-jun 1919
Universal Free Mason V12 N1-6 Jul-dec 1919
Universal Free Mason V12 N7-12 Jan-jun 1920
Universal Free Mason V13 N1-12 Jul 1920-jun 1921
Universal Free Mason V13 N13-23 Jul 1921-may 1922

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