No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic fraternity was formed. A widely-accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from stonemason’s guilds during the Middle Ages.
The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this ear. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poam, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London, England formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point in time are more complete.
Within thirty years, the Masonic fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America: George Washington was a Mason; Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well known Masons involved with founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, General Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Steuben, Nathaniel Greene, and John Paul Jones.
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