Question: “What form is your Lodge?” Answer: “An Oblong
Square.”—Masonic exposure, 1762
By 1860, the political cartography of the United States clearly illustrated how dimensions of a Masonic Temple could be engraved onto the map of America via surveying technology, willpower, and a westward moving frontier. There were, of course, many reasons to explain the success of this venture, though one was, undoubtedly, the design was of such immense size, minor fluctuations in the physical background— such as a range of hills or water features—had been excluded from the ritual a century earlier on the grounds they wouldn’t affect the overall picture. This tactic—let’s call it undescription—had already proved its worth in the case of the “east” and “west” sides of the building—the two coastlines—and could therefore be called upon to account for terrain irregularities like the Edwards Plateau, Mississippi river or Ozark hills.
Nevertheless, for those Freemasons penning the ceremonial to dismiss the physical background entirely would have been naïve. The USA was hardly the floor of the Goose and Gridiron, where symbolic lines were drawn with scant regard to topography; and it was in keeping with the rest of their approach that the ritual writers were canny enough to know no builder worth his salt would begin to raise a structure without first