Philip Peter Eckel (1768-1831), c. 1810
Born in Wendelsheim, Germany in 1768 Philip Peter Eckel (1768-1831) immigrated to the United States with his father in 1783, settling in Baltimore. He headed the firms of Eckel & Cookey (grocers and flour merchants) and Eckel & Adams (produce merchants). On March 14, 1800 he enrolled in the 27th Regiment, Maryland Militia and on April 22 of the same year was promoted Captain of the 39th Regiment, Maryland Militia. In 1810 after his mathematical skills attracted the attention of Baltimore City Mayor Thoroughgood Smith (1744-1810), who appointed him Baltimore’s first City Gauger and give him the task of adjusting the weights and measures of the city. For some years thereafter, the city directories listed him as “city gauger and inspector of domestic liquors.” While city gauger he invented an improved gauging rod, which gained him much notoriety. A number of items on view in the museum relate to his position as Baltimore’s fist City gauger, including his traveling desk, miniature microscope, seal, and weighing scales.
In 1821 he married his second wife, Mary Crummer (?-1814), and raised a large family. He died at the age of 62 at his residence in Baltimore in 1831. In 1870 his remains were moved from the cemetery at the corner of Lombard and Fremont Streets to the Baltimore Cemetery at East North Avenue and Rose Street, where his tombstone may be seen today.
Philip Peter Eckel was a committed and active Mason. Raised in Union Lodge, No. 21 in Baltimore (chartered under the Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1788) sometime prior to March 6, 1793, at which time he withdrew to become one of the charter members of Concordia Lodge, No. 13. In 1796 he was elected for the first time Worshipful Master of Concordia, a position he would be elected to for ten terms.
He would later go on to become one of the charter members of Amicable Lodge, No. 25 in (now Amicable-St. John’s Lodge, No. 25. In 1796 he became the fourth person to hold the position of Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, serving under Grand Master David Kerr, Sr. (1749-1814). In 1807 he became a Royal Arch Mason and on his initiative, the same year, a convention of Royal Arch Masons of Maryland and the District of Columbia was held in Washington for the purpose of organizing a Grand Chapter. He became the First Captain of the Vails. He was also one of Maryland’s delegates to the septennial meeting of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of the U.S.A. held in New York in 1816. At that time, he was selected General Grand Scribe and was reelected to this office in 1819.
His most distinguishing contribution to the Fraternity was the development of Cryptic Masonry, the branch which embraces the degrees of Royal and Select Masters, with his friend Hezekaih Niles (1777-1839) and publisher of the Weekly Register, considered the first weekly nationally-syndicated news magazine.
He was also an especially distinguished Knights Templar. He held the office of Most Eminent Grand Master of Maryland Encampment No. 1, Baltimore. The Encampment obtained a Chart of Recognition from the Grand Encampment of Pennsylvania on 2 May 1814. He was also affiliated with Encampment No. 3 of Baltimore, and held the rank of Generalissimo.