Freemason, a member of an ancient secret order or fraternity now designated as "Free and Accepted Masons." The order is of such ancient origin that even the derivation of its name is iin doubt. By a majority of the authorities it is held that the word "free" is to be taken in the sense of one who is free of the masons' guild. But the most reasonable theory is that the name ows its origin to the practice of the ancient masons of giving the passed apprentice his freedom as he was sent forth to seek employment on some great and worthy structure in process of erection to complete his mechanical education. It was early in the 17th century that the words was first used in the sense in which it is now universally understood. At that time the ancient guilds of practical masons began to admit as a mark of especial esteem certain worthy persons whom it was intended to honor, not regular members of the guild through apprenticeship and occupation. To these was given the appellation "accepted." They were afterward given the title of "freemasons" also, inasmuch as they were admitted to a full membership in the guild and were duly acquainted with all its secrets. In the year 1717 J. T. Desaguliers, a man of scientific knowledge and attainments, brought a number of scattered "lodges" or guilds of London under a single jurisdiction called the "Grand Lodge," and it is to this ancient and august body that all the regular lodges of the ancient craft today trace their origin. The first Provincial Grand Lodge in America was established at Boston in 1733 by Henry Price, who, in 1734, was made Grand Master over all of North America. The order has attained a remarkable growth throughout the world, and especially in the United States and Canada, the returns of the grand lodges of these two countries showing a membership of over 1,300,000.
Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.