History of Co-Masonry in the United States

The origins and development of Le Droit Humain in the USA cannot be separated from the life and activity of one of its primary founders, the Frenchman Louis Goaziou.

Born in Brittany, France in 1864, he emigrated to the USA in 1881 where he worked in the coal mines of Houtsdale, Pennsylvania. Three years later he married Marie Bourgeois, born in Namur in 1866. Goaziou wanted to improve the appalling working conditions of miners and set up, in 1866, the Association of United Miners, as well as two Associations for mutual help, whose aims he defended in a weekly French speaking magazine. Through this he attracted the attention of a professor of French at Columbia University in New York, Antoine Muzarelli, founding member of the New York Lodge La’Atlantide laboring under the Grand Orient de France. It was Muzzarelli who contacted Le Droit Humain’s then Grand Master and Co-Founder George Martin, offering to found Lodges in North American for Le Droit Humain. In this way, Muzzarelli became the founder of Co-Freemasonry in North America.

The humanitarian ideal of the new Masonic order struck him as absolutely compatible with the Socialist ideas of Louis Goaziou. Muzzarelli contacted Goaziou in 1903 with the idea of creating in Charleroi (Pennsylvania) either a Lodge under the Grand Orient. He did not inform Goaziou of the option to form the Lodge of under Le Droit Humain, into which their wives also could be admitted, until he arrived in Charleroi in October 1903 to institute the Lodge. The charter members decided they would found the Lodge under Le Droit Humain. The first three degrees were conferred on them by Antoine Muzarelli, and over two days, October 18 and 19, 1903, the first Co-masonic American lodge, Alpha No 301 was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. Louis Goaziou became the first Worshipful Master.

This French speaking Lodge continued until 1973. Six other Lodges were founded in 1904, three working in French, one in Slav, one in Italian and one in English (under the direction of John Goaziou, a brother of Louis). Soon Lodges were founded in Chicago, St. Louis and in California. The Rose-Croix degrees were given to Louis Goaziou by communication in November, 1904 (please note, Goaziou’s Grand Lodge Eternal record in Larkspur, CO, indicates he received this degree from Muzzarelli September 1, 1905) and he became a member of Chapter Nr.1 in the valley of Paris. The first American Chapter (Nr.?) was formed in Charleroi with six charter members.

It was Muzzarelli who conferred upon Goaziou the Degrees of the Scottish Rite up to the 30th. Muzzarelli named Goaziou his deputy in early 1907. Unfortunately, the two men fell out over mutual charges of financial irregularity combined with personal dislike. The Order also was in disarray because too many Lodges had been founded too quickly. The new Order also experienced external pressures, including persecution by the existing Male-Only Orders in the US. In the fall of 1908, Muzzarelli was pressured to call what remained of the Lodges he founded, just less than half, to a convention in St. Louis, Missouri. Tragically, Muzzarelli, who in addition to pressures in the Order also had many personal problems, committed suicide October 15, 1908. Though Goaziou made it plain he would prefer the presidency go to another Co-Mason, it was Goaziou who took charge of the financial and administrative affairs of the lodges, and who was elected President at the convention in St. Louis.

The American Federation of Human Rights had received charter from the US Government in 1907 but it was at the 1908 convention that the American Federation was officially constituted. The 31st, 32nd and the 33rd degrees of the Scottish Rite were conferred on him on 21 November 1909, and he was designated by the Supreme Council as its Representative for the American Federation.

The same year Annie Besant was staying in the USA where she installed an English speaking lodge in Chicago and granted the degree of Installed Master to certain members- a degree which did not exist either in the Grand Orient or the Scottish Rite (a version of this degree exists in Muzzarelli’s journal, apparently around 1905, so it’s not universally agreed that Besant introduced this degree into the AFHR). A new trend began in American Co-masonry. Whilst some members of French and Italian origin, mainly recruited in the mining industry, had concentrated on social problems, other Masons entered the AFHR to try to bring the Order under Theosophic influence, seeing in the Ancient Mysteries the origins of masonry. So long as Goaziou was alive and Grand Commander of the Order, the AFHR followed a middle path between these two extremes

When the 1914-1918 war ended, operative work started by Louis Goaziou recommenced. Headquarters in Larkspur Colorado was established in 1916. Within a few years, the mortgage of the property was paid off. The administrative building in Larkspur was built between 1921–1924 in order to replace the first building, which had become too small. In 1922 the potash mines in Colorado went bankrupt and this led to about 100 Italian members of Le Droit Humain losing their jobs. Despite their real interest for the building of Larkspur, many of these miners felt they had no option but to leave Masonry. In addition to these departures, an economic downturn have taken hold in North American. It was no longer possible, through lack of funds, to realize the initial project to construct, next door to the administrative offices at Larkspur, an orphanage and a home for the elderly. However Louis Goaziou’s hard effort to achieve these goals were not successful. With the coming of the Great Depression, membership went into steep decline, which did not recover until after World War II, in the time of his successor, Edith Armour.


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History of Co-Masonry in the United States


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