Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Arkansas 1901-1930 Lt. Grand Commander of the Supreme Council 1914-1930 Treasurer General of the Supreme Council
“Visionary and Masonic Builder”
Brother Rosenbaum was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1855. He spent the formative years of his life there before moving to Little Rock, Arkansas in 1883 to seek better business opportunities. This would prove to be a good business decision as his C. E. Rosenbaum Machinery Company flourished and eventually became one of the most successful machinery and mill supply companies in the Southwestern region of the country. This would not be Brother Rosenbaum’s last taste of success because of his insight and discernment.
Just three years after arriving in Little Rock and developing a booming business, Brother Rosenbaum was drawn to the Masonic fraternity. On March 10, 1886, he was raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in Magnolia Lodge #60 in Little Rock. In 1902, he was placed as an officer of the lodge and served in its several stations. On his way up through the line of officers, Brother Rosenbaum had an idea, a revolutionary idea. The year was now 1906, exactly twenty years after becoming a Mason and he was Master of his Lodge. Undoubtedly, Brother Rosenbaum had spent a significant amount of time reflecting upon his initiatory experience and felt that something was missing. Something big was definitely missing, not just for the candidate, but for the membership as well. He conceived the idea that the Second Section of the Master’s Degree should be presented upon a stage, with actors using costumes, lighting and props. Nothing short of a complete dramatic conferral in an actual theatrical setting would suffice. Brother Rosenbaum was convinced that this new innovation would not only better serve the candidate but the membership as well. A dramatic conferral of this most precious of Masonic degrees would, without a doubt in his mind, leave a greater impression upon the candidates but engage the fraternity in a way that it had never seen before. With special effects, lighting, elaborate regalia, stage props and the burning of incense; all of the human senses would be tantalized and stimulated by this new delivery system for these ancient moral lessons.
While serving as Worshipful Master, Brother Rosenbaum submitted a formal request to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas to grant him permission to confer the Second Section of the Master’s Degree in this way. The Grand Lodge granted him permission to do so and on November 20, 1906 they conferred the Master Mason’s Degree on Brother William C. Bond in the auditorium of the Albert Pike Consistory. This special occasion boasted the largest attendance of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas that had ever been assembled for any purpose at that time. So far as can be ascertained, this was the very first time that the Second Section of the Master’s Degree was ever presented in dramatic form using a stage, costumes and special lighting. From this historic beginning came the now almost universal practice of a dramatic conferral of the Master Mason’s Degree.
After the introduction of this monumental innovation, Brother Rosenbaum’s leadership skills and worth to the fraternity were undeniable. He would go on to be elected Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, ultimately being elected and serving as its Grand Master in 1914.
When Brother Rosenbaum moved to Little Rock and joined the Lodge, the Scottish Rite was in terrible shape, having felt the ravages of the Civil War. Just like his work in the Blue Lodge, he was proving his worth in the Scottish Rite as well. He was one of the few that worked to revitalize the set of Bodies in Little Rock, this labor turned into another great success. Brother Rosenbaum was the first person to take Albert Pike’s degrees and dramatize them for a more attractive initiatory experience in the Scottish Rite as well. Illustrious Brother John H. Cowles, 33°, Sovereign Grand Commander, said this about Brother Rosenbaum:
“His fame spread throughout the Southern Jurisdiction. Many letters were received by him from other Valleys, to all of which he replied in a most fraternal and helpful spirit, and so it was not long until many other Valleys, and then still other Valleys throughout the Jurisdiction, began to confer the degrees in a manner worthy of them. That work has grown until now we have magnificent temples all over the Jurisdiction, build especially to enable the officers and members to impress the degrees through proper ritualistic interpretations upon hundreds and thousands who have come into the Scottish Rite since that time. He certainly was the pioneer, and deserves the credit we freely give to him. His worth was soon noted by the Supreme Council, and he was appointed on the Ritual Committee before he was an active member of the Supreme Council.”
Brother Rosenbaum did indeed become an active member of the Supreme Council in 1901 by being elected to serve as the Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Arkansas, an office he would hold until his death. In February of 1908, there was apparent unrest in the District of Columbia that became obvious when Sovereign Grand Commander, Ill. James D. Richardson, 33°, gave the order to attach the District of Columbia to the Jurisdiction of the Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Arkansas. This was definitely a unique situation and a big responsibility but Brother Rosenbaum was proving to be an undeniable force for good in the fraternity.
In 1914, after assisting in the management and oversight of the District of Columbia, he was elected to the office of Lt. Grand Commander of the Supreme Council. It is very likely that Brother Rosenbaum would have went on to serve as Grand Commander if it had not been for the affliction of deafness at his advanced age. He declared himself unavailable for that office due to the impairment.
Another side of this already monumental figure was his vision for building. Taking a step back to the turn of the century when the Scottish Rite was beginning to do well again in Little Rock, Brother Rosenbaum had another progressive and ambitious idea. The Bodies were doing much better now but they needed a home. So Brother Rosenbaum negotiated the purchase of the old Jewish Synagogue in Little Rock, which he quickly remodeled for the purposes of the Scottish Rite and renamed The Albert Pike Cathedral. This was the first building ever to be purchased and used exclusively by the Scottish Rite in its history. Because of how well the organization was doing at the time, this converted Synagogue quickly proved inadequate and Brother Rosenbaum decided that it was now time to build. In 1902, The Albert Pike Consistory was erected on the corner of 8th and Scott Streets in downtown Little Rock. This was the first Scottish Rite Temple in the world and it became known as “The Gem of the Southern Jurisdiction.” Just ten short years after this new building was built, the Scottish Rite in Little Rock had already outgrown it. Now Brother Rosenbaum’s dream of having a temple that stretched an entire city block between 7th and 8th Streets was quickly becoming a reality out of necessity. So the temple was expanded to take up one-third of a block, this was the second Albert Pike Consistory. Meanwhile, another great building project was about to begin in our nation’s capital. Again, the Supreme Council noticed the tremendous vision and leadership of Brother Rosenbaum and appointed him Chairman of the building committee that would go on to plan and erect the House of Temple in Washington, D.C. which serves as the home of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction. It was dedicated in 1915 and the Camp Guard of the Little Rock Consistory served as the Honor Guard for the dedication ceremony. Four years after seeing the House of the Temple built, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas building burned and Brother Rosenbaum knew that it was time to fulfill his dream of a Masonic headquarters in Arkansas. A great deal of the membership thought that pursuing another building project, especially on the scale proposed by Brother Rosenbaum, was too aggressive and too expensive. Even though there was opposition and concern, he pushed forward. It was time to build a temple that would house not only the Scottish Rite but also two Blue Lodges, the York Rite and the Grand Lodge of Arkansas. This magnificent edifice would span an entire city block and contain 156,00 square feet. On May 12, 1924 the new building was dedicated and renamed “Albert Pike Memorial Temple.” In just three and a half years, this monumental home structure was debt free and standing as a beacon of Freemasonry. Brother Rosenbaum’s service to the Scottish Rite remains unmatched since his death. Successive generations and thousands of Masons have enjoyed and continue to enjoy the many improvements and innovations that he infused into our great fraternity. The Scottish Rite of Arkansas has always felt honored and privileged to have had Albert Pike as one of our own and his contributions are countless but we are also thankful to have had Brother Rosenbaum for his innumerable contributions to our Craft.