The museum does not have major operational records for local Mosaic Templars of America (MTA) chapters. The MTA did not leave a central record archive, and the museum has only acquired a very small amount of official documents. However, the MTA left thousands of gravestones lying in African American cemeteries across the 26 states where it was active. Documenting these markers is one way to prove the extent of the organization’s operations, and to document the members who purchased markers. The museum has begun to record member names from many sources including gravestones, documents, newspapers, cemetery researchers, local historians, and scholars into the National Mosaic Templars of America Membership Registry listed below.
According to their official 1924 history, the MTA authorized a Monument Department as early as 1911 to provide markers to its deceased members. Operations were managed by the state jurisdictions until 1914, when the MTA created a national Monument Department to centralize operations and cut costs. Members paid an annual tax to finance the department, and were promised a marble marker.
A traditional MTA marker had a rounded and forward-sloping top, with the MTA symbol cut into the top center. The name of the deceased member was carved below the symbol, with dates of birth (if known) and death. The name of the local chapter, the chapter number, and the city where the chapter was located could be found on the bottom. MTA markers issued by the Modern Mosaic Templars of America appear exactly as the MTA markers except with the word “MODERN” carved just above the MTA logo. The dimensions of the markers generally measured twenty-five to twenty-nine inches in height, fifteen to seventeen inches in width, and three to five inches in depth.
The letters "M", "T", and "A" denote the Mosaic Templars of America. The two crossed shepherd staffs in the center represent Moses and Aaron and the Exodus story from the Bible. The “3V’s” represent John E. Bush’s [one of the MTA founders] triumphant motto, adopted from Julius Caesar, “Veni, Vidi, Veci” (“I came, I saw, I conquered.”). Finally an ouroboros (snake eating its tail), representing the cyclical nature of life surrounds the symbol.
To find out more information about MTA members or gravestones or to notify the museum about an MTA gravestone, please contact Bryan McDade.