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The exact origin of the term Freemason remains cloudy to this day. There are many theories, some more likely than others. Some speculate that freemasons were originally stone masons that skillfully worked with freestone to carve the most ornate and decorative portions of an edifice. Some believe that freemasons were stone masons that where not associated with a guild and thus free to work as an independent contractor of sorts. Although other theories exist, the term is most likely resultant from one of those two explanations. During the 17th century when speculative freemasonry was in its infancy, there arose so much confusion between speculative freemasons and operative freemasons that the London Company of Freemasons renamed itself The London Company of Masons. This is one of the earliest quasi-formal differentiations separating the operative stone masons from the rapidly emerging speculative freemasons. Today the term Freemason is used with almost exclusive reference to the Speculative organization, the Fraternity of Freemasons.
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