The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added a collection of Modern Woodmen of America objects and documents to its holdings, including this banner. As we explained in a previous post, banners were an important component of American fraternal activities. These colorful textiles were used inside lodges and also in public parades, at cornerstone layings and at other ceremonies. This banner was originally used by Modern Woodmen’s Belknap Camp in Tilton, New Hampshire. Unfortunately, we know little about the history of this camp today. A photograph from our collection, showing a Modern Woodmen of America drill team from an unknown location, shows that fraternal groups often included their banners when they posed for a formal picture.
As mentioned in previous posts, Joseph Cullen Root founded the Modern Woodmen of America in 1883 in Lyons, Iowa, as a fraternal benefit society. The organization’s rituals and symbols mixed “Roman dignity and forest freedom.” By 1910, the Modern Woodmen numbered one million members. Today, the Modern Woodmen of America are the third largest fraternal benefit society in the United States and count more than 773,000 members.
Barbara Franco, Fraternally Yours: A Decade of Collecting, Lexington, MA: Scottish Rite Masonic Museum of Our National Heritage, 1986.
Albert C. Stevens, The Cyclopedia of Fraternities, New York: E.B. Treat and Company, 1907.
Modern Woodmen of America Banner, 1890-1930, unidentified maker, United States. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase through the generosity of Louis L. Williams, 2012.016.1. Photograph by David Bohl.
Members of Modern Woodmen of America Camp 7742, 1895-1920, unidentified photographer, United States. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2003.022.1. Photograph by David Bohl.