Thomas Smith Webb is considered to be the Father of the York Rite or the American Rite. Born on October 30, 1771, in Boston, Massachusetts, Webb grew up as a printer’s apprentice in Boston before continuing in New Hampshire. In New Hampshire, he completed the three Ancient Craft Masonry degrees at the Rising Sun Lodge in 1790. In 1793, Thomas Smith Webb moved to Albany, where he started a paper staining factory.
Thomas Smith Webb is the author of Illustrations of Masonry, also known as Freemason’s Monitor. This book impacted the development of the York Rite orders and degrees and Masonic ritual in the United States. The book is followed by several Grand Lodges in America. Through the book, the charges of degrees came about. The book also helped with the formation of some Masonic emblems and symbolism.
In October 1797, Thomas Smith Webb presided over the Boston convention that led to the formation of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. This is the oldest national Masonic body in the United States. In January 1799, Thomas Smith Webb presented the Grand Encampment Constitution that became adopted. His works provided a foundation for the Grand Encampment of Knights of the United States of America that was established in New York in 1816.
Thomas Smith Webb was the first Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, and also the Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Rhode Island.
On July 6, 1819, Thomas Smith Webb died on a trip to the Midwest in Cleveland, Ohio. A Masonic burial service was held for him in Cleveland, and memorial services were conducted in many other cities. Later, his body was taken to Providence and buried in the West Burying Grounds. The cemetery was converted to a park, so his body had to be moved to the North Burial Ground. There, the Grand Lodge erected a Grand Lodge.