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Report of Committee on
Painting for Grand Lodge Building (1938)

  At your 1937 annual session, acting upon a              submitted select an artist to paint the mural. Some
recommendation of retiring Grand Master John              six pictures were submitted in the competition. The
Kain, a Committee reported, saying:                       Committee and its adviser were unanimous in the
 “We recommend that the incoming Grand Master             selection of O. C. Seltzer of Great Falls, Montana
appoint a committee of five to employ an artist to        as the artist. All agreed that his sketch was the most
paint a suitable painting of the first meeting place of   artistic conception of the event and the most colorful
Masons in Montana, and that such painting as nearly       and beautiful picture.
as possible represent such meeting place.” (73rd An.
Rep., page 85.)                                             The painting is 15 1/2 feet long by 9 feet high a
                                                          the highest point, having a curved top to conform
  While the Committee’s report authorized the             to the curvature of the ceiling of the room. It was
employment of an artist, which would carry with           installed by W. G. Bennett, Past Master of Morning
it an authorization for the expenditure, it was your      Star Lodge No. 5. (1897). At the base of the painting
Committee’s idea that the Grand Lodge should not          there is placed a small bronze tablet inscribed as
be asked for any funds for the contemplated mural,        follows:
but rather that we should try to get some Mason to
donate the funds so as to make it a gift to our Oder.       This beautiful conception of Langford’s
In this we were indeed fortunate. Jesse Stem Stoner         description of the first meeting of Masons in
of Helena informed our Chairman that he would be            the Territory of Montana, executed by the artist
pleased to finance the undertaking, taking care of all      Seltzer, was made possible by the generosity of
expense including the installation, so that the Grand       Jesse Stem Stoner, Helena Lodge No. 3.
Lodge would have the mural without expense.                 On the 15th Day of August, 1938, the painting was
                                                          unveiled to the general public. Chairman John Kain
  Jesse Stem Stoner was born at Green Springs,            presided at the unveiling ceremonies. The donor,
Ohio, but came to Helena at very early time, where        Jesse Stem Stoner, was presented, as was O. C.
he was for many years associated with Herman              Seltzer, the artist. The picture was received by your
Fligelman and Henry Loble in the New York Store           Grand Master Edwin Grafton, after which John G.
in that City. For many years a very loyal Mason,          Brown made a historical address on early Montana
member of Helena Lodge No. 3, he had often                Masonry.
expressed a desire to do something for Masonry.             The first conception of a painting for the room was
When the idea of a picture was suggested to him, he       that it should be one that would show the progress of
at once said he would finance it, and subsequently        Masonry in Montana. Then it was thought that one
advised the Committee that it was not only his            should be made showing the economic progress of the
desire to pay the artist, but also all of the expenses    State. However, your committee decided otherwise,
of installation. Brother Stoner was greatly pleased       and we believe they were right in abandoning these
that his contribution to Masonry was to be a painting     ideas, and specifying that the artistic conception of
that not only Masons, but others, might enjoy. His        the first Masonic meeting should be the theme for
pleasure in the giving of this beautiful picture is a     the painting. A painting showing the progress of
fine illustration of the philosophy of Van Dyke’s         Masonry in Montana would naturally involve the
statement that a picture really belongs to all who        question of which Masons has contributed most
enjoy it, that the title of possession of it as property  to Masonry and the State; a question which we all
mean but little.                                          know would be subject to much diversity of opinion.
                                                            A picture showing economic progress in Montana
  With the assurances of sufficient finances for a fine   would not be, strictly speaking, all Masonic. As it is,
painting, your Committee submitted to nine Montana        we have a beautiful picture about which there can
artists the story of the first meeting of Masons in the   be no feeling and no controversy. The facts of the
Territory of Montana, as described by Past Grand          first meeting are undisputed, and were reaffirmed
Master Langford on page 66 of the Grand Lodge             in another meeting of the Grand Lodge at an early
Proceedings for the year 1867. The artists were           date when it ordered the address containing the story
invited to submit small sketches of their conception      reprinted in a beautifully bound book.
of the meeting, with the understanding that the
Committee, with the assistance of Mrs. Olga R.
Hannan, Dean of the Art Department of the Montana
State College at Bozeman, would from the sketches

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