The dean of Manila Insurance men…
Edwin Emil Elser was initiated, passed and raised in Southern California Lodge No.278 in Los Angeles, becoming a Master Mason on August 18, 1897 at the age of 30 years. Some four years later, having removed to San Francisco, he demitted from this Lodge to become a Charter Member of Starr King Lodge No.355 of the same Jurisdiction.
Edwin came to the Philippines in 1902 to take charge of the insurance interests of his brother-in-law’s firm, E.C.McCullough & Co. In 1906 he opened his own Insurance office and, in a very few years, became the head of the largest and best-known Insurance Agency in the Philippine Islands. He was, indeed, looked up to as the dean of Manila Insurance men.
Since he had continually and actively worked in Manila Lodges and since, at that time, the California jurisdiction did not allow dual membership, Elser, as a sojourning Mason, demitted from Starr King Lodge and affiliated with the then Corregidor Lodge No.386 on April 11, 1912. When, however, dual membership was allowed by California at a later date, he reaffiliated with his Mother Lodge.
From the time he became Master of Corregidor Lodge No.3 in 1914, Elser was one of the mainstays of the Grand Lodge. In January 1921, he was elected Grand Master of Masons in the Philippine Islands.
Elser, became a Royal Arch Mason in 1905, and served as High Priest of Luzon Chapter No.1, R.A.M., in 1918. He joined the York Rite Council in 1915 and served as III. Master in 1919. On March 17, 1908, he was knighted in Far East Commandery No. 1, K.T. and, in 1915, served as its Commander.
He was the second Royal Patron of Far East Court No.1, Order of the Amaranth, of which he was a Charter Member of, and also twice Worthy Patron of Mayon Chapter No.1, Order of the Eastern Star. He was, furthermore, a member of the Mystic Shrine, the Royal Order of Scotland, and the Red Cross of Constantine. In addition to his Masonic work, he served as Exalted Ruler of the B.P.O.E., of which he was a member for more than fifty years, and actively participated, in other non-Masonic fraternal organisations.
Very impressive too is Elser’s Scottish Rite record. He became a member of Mount Arayat Lodge of Perfection in February 1913 and of the other Bodies in 1916. He was a Past Master of all of these Bodies. In October 1923, he was conferred the Rank and Decoration of a Knight Commander of the Court of Honor; and on December 20,1933 he was coroneted an Inspector General Honorary. On August 3, 1950, he was crowned SGIG and active member of the Supreme Council of the Philippines, A&ASR.
He was, like Milton Springer, President of the Masonic Temple Association for many years. Like Springer too, he was one of those mainly responsible for the erection of the Masonic Temple at the Escolta. Besides, he was Chairman of Trustees of Mount Arayat Lodge of Perfection for a long period. For all these and other valuable services, Elser will be well remembered.
This Mason who was born in Hartford, Connecticut on February 21, 1867, suffered an accident in his residence in the early months of 1962 which eventually caused his death on July 17, 1962. He was 95 years old.
Elser was one of the few Grand Masters who served the Fraternity for over three score years.