Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Webb, Thomas Smith

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WEBB, Thomas Smith, Masonic author, b. in Boston, Mass., 30 Oct., 1771; d. in Cleveland, Ohio, 6 July, 1819. At the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a printer in Boston, and he afterward removed to Keene, N. H., where he worked for some time at his trade. Here the three degrees of ancient craft Masonry were conferred upon him by Rising Sun lodge. In 1793 he removed to Albany and established a paper-staining factory. On 14 Sept., 1797, as appears from the copyright, he published “The Freemason's Monitor, or Illustrations of Masonry,” and thus secured for himself fame as a Masonic ritualist and author. This small volume, which is now exceedingly rare, consisted of two parts, the second part containing an account of the “Ineffable Degrees of Masonry,” together with several Masonic songs by the author. The publication of this work was followed by successively enlarged and improved editions in 1802, 1805, 1808, 1816, 1818, and by numerous editions after the author's decease. It is still regarded as a standard work. Mr. Webb has long been known as the founder of the American system of chapter and encampment Masonry. He presided over a convention of committees in Boston in October, 1797, for the formation of a general grand chapter of royal arch Masons, and at a meeting in Providence in January, 1799, he presented, as chairman of a committee, a constitution which was adopted. The formation of the grand encampment of the United States was the result of his Masonic work. The original draft of the constitution, with all the changes, additions, and interlineations in his own handwriting, is now on file among the archives of St. John's commandery, Providence. In 1799 he removed with his family to Providence, where he spent the greater part of his remaining years. His musical attainments were considerable, and he was the first president of the Psallonian society, an organization for the improvement of its members in sacred melody. In 1815, having changed his residence to Boston, he instituted, in connection with others, the Handel and Haydn society, of which he was the first president.