A Brittle and Torn Manuscript: Conservation of an early Scottish Rite Patent
Summer at the Museum! Public Programs in August, 2010

The Independent United Order of Mechanics

2007_029_2DI1 Here at the National Heritage Museum, we get pretty excited about lesser-known fraternal groups.  The apron seen here is a recent acquisition, which was originally used by a member of a little-known group - at least it wasn't listed in our standard reference books and it wasn't represented in our collection.

The apron was worn by Torrance Ashby (1897-1966), as a member of the Independent United Order of Mechanics, a group that is still active.  Ashby joined Star of Cambridge Lodge in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1920, when he was about 23 years old.  When he died in 1966, the apron, along with a collar and his membership certificate passed to his son, Deighton Ashby (1935-2006).  We are pleased to have all three items in our collection.

The Independent United Order of Mechanics formed in England in 1757 as a Friendly Society, a type of mutual benefit society that also served ceremonial and friendship purposes.  Reportedly, a schism between two local English Masonic lodges spurred organizers to found the group.  In the 1800s, the Order spread to the United States, Central America, the Caribbean, the Netherlands, and Canada.  The IUOM became established in the United States in its present form on January 3, 1910.  Membership is open to men and women, boys and girls, of "high moral and ethical standards, who believe in "A Supreme Being" who rules and governs the Universe."  Membership embraces all races, creeds and religions; indeed, the group has a tradition of a strong African American membership, which included the original owner of the apron, Torrance Ashby.

The group's motto is "Friendship, Truth and Love," suggesting some additional inspiration from the Odd Fellows.  Members aim to practice and promote justice, philanthropy, charity and benevolence.  They look after the welfare of their members and are active in their communities, particularly in healthcare and in education.

The apron is silk with a design printed on the front in black.  Bright pink and green silk, along with gold trimming are added as borders.  A close look at the apron suggests that Ashby's wife or another female relative made it at home.  One of the brown elasticized "ties" stitched at the corners has a clasp reading "Gem Golf Garter," suggesting that the maker repurposed the garter for the apron ties.

Independent United Order of Mechanics Apron, ca. 1920, probably American, National Heritage Museum purchase, 2007.029.2.


Aimee Newell

Hello Ernest: Thanks so much for reading our blog and commenting. For more information about members and the history of the IUOM, I would contact them directly - see the link above in the post. They should be able to help you find additional information. Thanks again for reading our blog. Aimee Newell, Director of Collections

Ernest D. Barrow, Jr.

My father DUDLEY E. BARROW was a member of Excelsior Lodge No. 4 of the "Independent Order of Mechanics, Preston Unity, New York City. How do I contact any current member? My father died in 1976 in NYC. He was President of Carlisle Cricket Club, and was Partner of the firm C. King Shoes, 70 West 125th Street NYC.

Aimee Newell

Hello Roi: Thanks so much for reading our blog and commenting! I'm thrilled to hear that the IUOM is alive and well. And, I'm glad to know that I got most of the officer acronyms correct. I will definitely print out your comment and add it to our files. I hope that other readers will be sure to visit your website. Thanks again for your comment. Aimee Newell, Director of Collections

Roi Mikriis P.I.G.

Hi all!

I am a member of the order. It stands strong in Brooklyn, NY with a great number of members. If you would like to learn more just type "independent united order of mechanics" in any browser and you will be able to visit our website. Or if you have any questions just call the office. The number is on the website. For those who wondered what the IG = Ilustrated Grand or Worthymaster whom runs the lodge, DM = Deputy Master whom is second in comand, SD = Senior Deacon, JD = Junior Deacon then you have other members throughout different offices in there as well.

Please visit our site for more details. http://iuom.org/

Aimee Newell

Hi Andy: Thanks for the question. I'm fairly certain that the "S.D." and the "J.D." stood for "Senior Deacon" and "Junior Deacon," officers in IUOM lodges. I'm less sure about "I.G." and "D.M.," but they could signify other offices - like "Inspector General" and "Deputy Master." The IUOM still exists in the US and the post above includes a link to their website. You could check with them and see if they can tell you the exact answer. Thanks for reading our blog!
Aimee Newell, Director of Collections

Andrew Norris

I came across a newspaper article from 1901 where a branch of the Independent United Order of Mechanics were honouring eight men who had returned from fighting in South Africa. Of the officers of the Lodge present some had initials after their names. Could you please tell me what those initials stand for. They are: I.G., D.M., S.D., J.D.,

Many thanks Andy

Aimee Newell

Hi Brent: Thanks for your interest. For current information on becoming a member, I would check the group's website - www.iuomwh.org. I'm sure they have details there, or a contact person. Thanks for reading our blog! Aimee


How do you become a member?

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