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Manuscript Type

Article

Abstract

John Wesley Kelchner (1866–1942) was a visionary promoter, elocutionist, and entertainer in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Freemasons regarded him as an authority on sacred space and a leading expert on the architecture and design of the tabernacle of Moses and King Solomon’s temple. An active promoter of American Orientalism, Kelchner began his career as a Seventh-day Adventist minister who spent tens of thousands of dollars to build an elaborate model of the wilderness tabernacle. He traveled throughout the United States of America, attracting thousands of spectators to local churches, art galleries, and World’s Fairs that featured his models, paintings and drawings, and electrical effects shows. After going bankrupt and leaving the Adventist Church, he remerged as the self-proclaimed founder of the “Temple Restoration Movement”—a movement of freemasons who sought to permanently rebuild Solomon’s temple in seven principal cities around the world as symbols of universal peace and religious freedom. Though millions of dollars in funding were secured, large sections of land donated, and architectural plans completed, Kelchner’s temples were never built. Nevertheless, his work was promoted in numerous publications, including a number of Masonic Bibles, and he continues to influence numerous people (especially freemasons) to this day. This microhistory is focused on Kelchner’s life and work, but also contributes to broader studies on American religion, freemasonry, American Orientalism, Seventh-day Adventism, world peace movements, biblical model-building, and temple restoration.

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