Masonry is the building trade that is concerned with working with stone, brick, and mortar.
Those who ply this trade are called masons, and we call on them when we need a chimney built, or a brick wall.
They are skilled in using these raw materials to build plumb, true and straight courses and structures.
Masonry is also an international fraternity or "secret society." Members of one or more of the orders of Freemasonry normally refer to themselves as Masons and are known as "Masons" by the public. The highest rank or degree that must be reached in order for a man to be a full member is that of "Master Mason."
The guilds of stonecutters and cathedral-builders which enjoyed special privileges during Europe's Middle Ages gradually declined after the Reformation. In more recent times, the ideals and wisdom of those "operative" Masons have been emulated by various fraternities of so-called "speculative" or "accepted" Masons.
The first nationwide "Grand Lodge" of Freemasons was founded in England in the early eighteenth century. The majority of Masonic organizations today are located in the United States with American members estimated to number between three and four million.