Philadelphia’s Tun Tavern Freemason Lodge holds an important place in the History of North America. My heroes Finn and Gus end up in this tavern when they arrive in America, starving and looking for a job in The Rule of Ranging. In Tun Tavern they enlist as road builders in ill-fated General Braddock’s campaign to conquer the Ohio Valley.
Originally built as a brewery, Tun Tavern turned into a meeting place for the early American leaders. The long and eventful association with Benjamin Franklin, one of the most influential founding fathers of the American nation, endows the Masonic center with glory and historical connotation. Tun Tavern has the distinction of being the first recruitment point for the United States Marine Corps.
Tun Tavern Lodge: The Masonic Center
In 1685, Joshua Carpenter set up Tun Tavern, overlooking the historic waterfront of Philadelphia. The location of the brew house close to the Tun Alley-Water Street intersection made it a convenient meeting place for people of all hues. This “First Brew House” of Philadelphia shot to prominence with its recognition as the seat of Masonic teachings in America.
In 1720, the St. George’s Society, a charitable initiative to help English settlers arriving in America, selected the tavern as the place for its first-ever meeting. Tun Tavern hosted the inaugural conference of American Freemason order and election of the first “Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania” in 1732.
Benjamin Franklin at Tun Tavern Lodge
The Masonic center derives its most significant historical mileage from its association with Benjamin Franklin, the most prominent American of his time and pioneer of the united continental struggle for independence. Tun Tavern came to be identified with the vivacious personality of this great leader and his works as an author, politician, diplomat, Masonic scholar, and civil activist.
A 33rd degree mason, who was initiated into the fold of Tun Tavern in 1731, Benjamin Franklin became the third Grand Master in 1734 due to his popularity and leadership qualities. His engaging political publications found a way from this lodge to spread throughout the colonies. It is the very place where Benjamin Franklin initiated the work for unity among various schools of masons and political groups to drive out King George III’s red coats and inspired them with the idea of a united and great nation.
In 1756, Tun Tavern Freemason lodge occupied central position in Franklin’s efforts to create the Pennsylvania Militia. The bar-cum-restaurant became the recruit point for the regiment that fought against the native tribes and secured life and property of settlers.
Role in War of Independence
Thanks to Franklin’s efforts, the Masonic center played an important role during the American War of Independence. He hosted Thomas Jefferson and George Washington at the lodge a number of times that shaped the struggle for freedom and course of a new nation. Prominent leaders and statesmen met at the tavern during the first and second Continental Congress held in Philadelphia. Tun Tavern was witness to the historic efforts by Franklin to bring all colonies under a single entity, steer public opinion on independence, and seek an egalitarian order free from dominance and racial feeling.
On November 10, 1775, Masonic leader Robert Mullan was authorized by the Congress to raise the first regiment of the Continental Marines, the forerunner of the US Marine Corps. Capt. Samuel Nicholas, another Freemason, led the recruitment drive from the lodge and established two battalions that played a crucial role in crippling British supplies and boosting military power of the revolutionary army during the War of Independence.
(Image credits: The Green Dragon tavern as depicted in the Sons of Liberty miniseries.)