The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently purchased a collection of fraternal records related to the German Order of Harugari’s Arminia Loge, No. 459. The records, dating from 1882 to 1893, give a brief glimpse into the vibrancy of German culture and brotherhood in Chicago through the lens of August David, the lodge’s Financial Secretary. When twenty-seven-year-old August David immigrated to the United States in 1872, he sought community, advice, and fellowship with other German Americans. The German Order of Harugari, or Deutscher Orden der Harugari, was a German mutual aid society that sought to help German immigrants and to preserve German culture and language.
The German Order of Harugari was, at one time, the largest German fraternal organization in the United States. It was initially founded in 1847 in response to discrimination and attacks fomented by the “Know-Nothings,” a nativist political party that was anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant. The founders of Harugari were inspired by early Germanic history and the accompanying paganism and declared that they were “Germans by birth, Americans by choice, Patriots by principle.” This emphasis on paganism and the prohibition against religious discussion during their meetings led to the Catholic Fortnightly Review accusing the organization of being hostile to the Catholic Church in 1905.
The German Order of Harugari drew inspiration from the ancient Germanic tribe of Cherusci who overthrew their Roman overlords led by their general Arminius, also known as Hermann, in 9 B.C.E. The word Harugari comes from the old German word, Haruc, which means “worshippers in a sacred grove.” The German Order of Harugari’s three initiation degrees tell the history of the Cherusci’s triumph over Roman tyranny. An additional degree was added on September 5, 1890, to initiate women into the order. The Hertha Degree was named after an ancient Germanic goddess, Hertha or Nerthus, who accompanied Odin into war. Women and men met separately in local lodges. The German Order of Harugari’s motto was “Friendship, Love, and Humanity” and their emblem was the oak leaf.
The Arminia Loge, No. 459, records contain an account book of assessments and dues, an envelope, dues record sheet, and a party invitation, all dutifully recorded by August David, the Financial Secretary who served from around 1882 to 1893. Although it is unknown when Arminia Loge, No. 459, was formed, the Illinois Staats-Zeuitung, a nationally popular German newspaper published in Chicago, recorded seventy-seven members of the lodge on January 9, 1888. Arminia Loge, No. 459, was one of several lodges in Chicago and was located on 552 Blue Island Avenue in the heart of Chicago.
As seen in the Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, the German Order of Harugari held many social and cultural events to further their mission of preserving German culture and language. This invitation was to a party where the guests are invited to be närrisch (i.e., foolish, crazy, silly) The event was hosted by the Arminia Loge and Harugari male choir. The German Order of Harugari was famous for its choirs and singing festivals. In 1906, Dr. Georg Schuster, archivist at the Royal Prussian Archives, noted that the order had more than fifty choral societies where “the German song finds a place of loving care.” The invitation, like much of the records for the German Order of Harugari, is in German. Below is a transcription and a rough translation of the invitation. Please comment down below if you have a better translation!
Groβen Massen=Fest nach Narrhalla
veranstaltet von der
Arminia Loge No. 459, D. O. H.
Da wollen wir mal recht Närrisch sein, recht Närrisch sein, ja ja!
(nämlich in der Vorwärts Turnhalle)
Am Samstag, den 5. März, 1892
Eintritt zum Saal, a hell of a Dollar, (50c)
Zur Gallerie nur a Quarter
Tickets sind bei allen Mitgliedern und Abends an der Kasse zu haben
Invitation to the/for
Large crowds=Feast/festival after Narrhalla [German carnival]
organized by the
Arminia Loge No. 459, D. O. H.
Harugari male choir
Let's be really foolish, be really foolish, yes yes!
(namely in the Vorwaerts Turner Hall)
On Saturday March 5th, 1892
Entrance to the hall, a hell of a Dollar, (50c)
To the gallery only a Quarter
Tickets are available from all members and at the box office in the evening
The Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, 1882-1893, hints at a world of German fellowship and vibrant social life in nineteenth-century Chicago. The collection tells a larger and more diverse history of fraternal life in America. The German Order of Harugari continues today under the name of the Harugari German-American Club although the organization has moved away from its ritual and mutual aid society roots into a social and cultural club.
Party invitation, 1892, Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, 1882-1893, Museum Purchase, A2022-230-001.
Account book, 1882-1893, Arminia Loge, No. 459, records, 1882-1893, Museum Purchase, A2022-230-001.
Theodore Graebner, The Secret Empire: A Handbook of Lodges, (St. Louis, MO: Concoridia Publishing House, 1927).
Albert C. Stevens, The Cyclopaedia of Fraternities: a compilation of existing authentic information . . . of more than six hundred secret societies in the United States, (New York: E. B. Treat, 1899)
Arthur Preuss, A Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies, (St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Company, 1924).
“The Order of Harugari,” New York Times, August 25, 1895.
Georg Schuster, Die Geheimen Gesellschaften Verbindungen und Orden, (Leipzig: Verlag von Theodor Leibing, 1906).
“Stadt Chicago: Die Harugari,” Illinois Staats-Zeitung, January 9, 1888.