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Dressing Up Like a Crusader: Knights of the Golden Eagle


The Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives has hundreds of regalia catalogs, for both Masonic and other fraternal groups.  The image on the left is one example of an illustrated catalog for the Knights of the Golden Eagle.  These catalogs provide images, descriptions, and prices for regalia. The Museum's curators often use these catalogs to identify fraternal costumes and accessories, including coats, trousers, chapeaus, swords, belts, badges, in addition to other lodge supplies. This particular regalia catalog was published by Louis E. Stilz & Bro. of Philadelphia in 1906.

Examples of the coats and chapeaus for the Knights of the Golden Eagle can be seen below.  The regalia of the Knights of the Golden Eagle was influenced by the style of Civil War uniforms and the Knights Templar uniforms. KGE_coat

The Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal benefit society founded in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1873.  At the peak of membership in 1900, this organization was active in 20 states with approximately 20,000 members. It began to decline about 1943-1944, during World War II. Some historians believed that this fraternal organization had become extinct.  This is untrue and this group was still active in 2001 in three states:  New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.  One of their charities is maintaining scholarships for college students. Another focus of the organization is to provide mutual relief for its members in finding employment, as well as relief during sickness or death and providing for widows. The headquarters for the Knights of the Golden Eagle has moved from Philadelphia to Wales and back to Pennsylvania at Doylestown. Many of their lodge (or "castle") minute books are in a collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

A2010_29_1_DS_chapeauThis Knights of the Golden Eagle bases its ritual and ceremonies on the pageantry of medieval Crusaders. Unsurprisingly, the themes of the the three degree rituals - Pilgrims (or Golden Chain), Knights, and Crusaders - emphasize the Crusades from a Christian point of view.  The Knights of the Golden Eagle maintained Commanderies that were organized in a very similar manner to the Knights of Pythias and Knights Templar. 

Image Captions:

Illustrated Catalogue of Uniforms for the Knights of the Golden Eagle, Louis E. Stilz & Bro. Co., Philadelphia, 1906, cover, p.4, and p.9, Museum purchase, A2010/29/1



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