Vesta boxes were small portable boxes, made in a great variety of forms with snap shut covers to contain Vestas ( short matches ) and keep them dry. The name Vesta comes from the name of the Roman Goddess of Fire and The Hearth, and in Victorian times was associated with matches ( for Fire Lighting and for Smokers ).
In America these little boxes were known as Pocket Match Safes or Match Safes, and were used for match stoage right in to the 20th Century.
The flat surfaces on these Vesta boxes were popular with engravers, and on example illustrating these notes, has a Masonic theme. It has the name of its owner – a Mr James Mehaffey, the date 1838 and his Lodge number 175, which we know, refers to St Patrick’s Union Lodge No 175 I.C., held in Raloo, on the outskirts of Larne in Co Antrim. This was a Warrant that was Issued by the Grand Lodge Board of General Purposes, at its meeting in Dublin on the 7th January 1813, and empowered a group of local Larne Brethren to assemble together and Constitute Lodge No 175, Raloo. And we know that this Vesta Box is associated with Raloo, as Bro James MeHaffey was registered as a member of the Lodge. This particular item, an antique Brass Masonic Vesta case is currently being offered for sale on E-Bay for approx £ 200 sterling.
It is a beautiful Victorian example of a Vesta case, engraved with various symbols including The Triangle of Twelve Lights, A Group of Working Implements, The Sun, Moon and Seven Stars, The All Seeing Eye, The Arch with a keystone in the center containing the letter “G”. Then we have a Fellowcraft Compasses and Square, the symbols of Mortality, The 12 inch guage, The Burning Bush and Rod of Moses, the Trowel, Christian Cross, Sprig of Acacia and the three runged ladder. On the two legs of the Arch, in their proper positions are the letters “J” and “B”.
All in all a fascinating local example of the Masonic Vesta, an item with much symbolism to inform those Brothers with an interest in our history.