The Freemasons, the venerable “secret society” featured in blockbuster films “The Da Vinci Code” and “National Treasure,” is back in the limelight — by choice this time — with a new attitude and a new marketing campaign to attract a new generation of members.
The group, one of the world’s oldest and largest secular fraternities, has been making an effort in recent years to “energize Masonry” and revitalize an aging membership using 21st-century media techniques — new concepts for the nearly 700-year-old group.
Maryland’s Grand Lodge this year debuted a radio spot encouraging men “ready to put your mark on this world” to visit the new group’s website, Askafreemason.org. Maryland Masons said the marketing push followed a similar membership drive in Massachusetts, which included television ads featuring an actor playing famous Mason Benjamin Franklin.
“We wanted to make an opportunity available for people to visit lodges and to find out more about what we are and what we do,” said Tom Foster, director of communications for the Grand Lodge of Maryland.
The fraternity has been shrouded in mystery for centuries. No solid facts are available about how or when the Masonic fraternity was formed, but historians generally believe that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds formed during the Middle Ages. After the first recorded Grand Lodge formed in London in 1717, Freemasonry became popular in Colonial America, with Franklin, George Washington, Paul Revere and John Hancock among its more famous members.