Mighty Monarch Lodge Member Badge

Monarch Lodge No. 45 Member Badge, I.B.P.O.E.W. Gift of Ursula Endress, 2006.012.378.

This striking purple and gold badge belonged to a member of Monarch Lodge No. 45, Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World. The badge is composed of a pin bar showing the name of the lodge and a medallion with an elk and key principles of the organization–Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, Fidelity–atop a double-sided silk ribbon with both lodge and organization name printed in metallic ink.

Badges were worn on the member’s left lapel for meetings, conventions, and other gatherings. The reverse side of the ribbon is black - this side would have been worn on the occasion of a fraternal funeral. These activities helped Monarch Lodge Elks fulfill their stated aims to “promote and encourage manly friendship and kindly intercourse, to aid, protect and assist its members and their families . . .”

The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, or IBPOEW, was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1898. The group is now considered the largest Black fraternal organization in the world with over 500,000 members in over 1,500 lodges. Monarch Lodge No. 45 was one of the most influential IBPOEW lodges in New York state. The chapter was founded in New York City in 1907. From their inception until 1918, they met in the Odd Fellow’s Hall on West 29th Street. In 1918, the lodge purchased a new home for themselves in a brownstone at 245 West 137th Street in Harlem. They maintained a presence at this address until at least 1983.

Monarch Lodge No. 45 Member Badge, I.B.P.O.E.W. Gift of Ursula Endress, 2006.012.378.

When the first statewide convention for New York members of the IBPOEW was held in June 1923, Monarch Lodge hosted their Elk brethren in New York City. The lodge planned events and activities for visiting Elks, held at the lodge’s Harlem address and the 22nd Regiment Armory in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. The lodge’s baseball team, the Mi-tee Monarchs, played at the Dyckman Oval, a ballfield known for Negro league baseball in the Inwood neighborhood which existed from about 1915 through 1937, as well as other baseball parks in the city. The Monarch Lodge band, known as the Mitee Monarch Marching Club or the Monarch Symphonic Band, was considered the premiere band in “Elkdom” from the 1920s through the 1950s. They played at the lodge’s much anticipated and well-attended annual ball, as well as at parades, band competitions, summer concerts in the park, and more.

Belonging to the “Mighty Monarch Lodge” was important to its members. In a February 1928 New York Age article, a member of Monarch Lodge named Mr. Saulters writes that he was “devoted to his lodge and band, and expects to remain always a member of that lodge.” An attractive ribbon badge like this one in the museum’s collection would have identified him as a member of this renowned lodge to fellow Elks and the public.

More IBPOEW Regalia:

Now on View: From Head to Foot: Fraternal Regalia Illustrations

In the 1800s and 1900s selling regalia and costumes to fraternal groups became big business. Regalia companies seeking to attract customers produced richly illustrated catalogs and colorful advertising material to highlight the costumes and uniforms they manufactured. The artwork and advertising material in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s new exhibition, “From Head to Foot: Fraternal Regalia Illustrations,” were produced by the Cincinnati Regalia Company (1895-1998), of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Ihling Bros. Everard Company (1869-1995), of Kalamazoo, Michigan. These regalia makers, along with others, produced uniforms, regalia, and accessories for Masons, Shriners, Elks, and additional fraternal groups. These items can help us better understand how companies marketed and sold fraternal regalia between 1900 and 1980.

98_041_138DS1 5 of 5The number of Americans who were members of fraternal groups grew to millions by the beginning of the 1900s. Regalia companies attempted to outfit this large consumer base with everything they needed, from head to foot, as advertised in this flyer. Ihling Bros. Everard Company offered many types of Shrine regalia to appeal to two national Shrine organizations, the Ancient Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, with 87,000 members by 1904, and the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, which had established more than sixty temples across the US by the start of World War I. Shrine organizations took inspiration from traditional Middle Eastern clothing for their ritual and regalia. That taste is illustrated in this flyer by the turban, wide-leg pants, and curved-toe shoes worn by the model.

98_0003_121DS1Some of the artwork displayed in this exhibition was created to be reproduced in catalogs. This illustration, for example, appeared in an Ihling Bros. Everard Company catalog, printed around 1970, that featured costumes and accessories for the Knights Templar. This group, part of the York Rite of Freemasonry, draws inspiration from the crusading knights of medieval Europe. This model is presented in a “Pilgrim Warrior” costume, which, in addition to a pointed helmet, a sword, and a cape, included a full suit of what Ihling Bros. Everard Company called “armor cloth.” This cloth was patterned to look like scale mail, protective metal clothing worn by medieval knights and soldiers. These catalogs, printed in black and white, featured a variety of items, including hats, shoulder braid, jackets, pants, robes, tights, and shoes. Catalogs were used by fraternal groups to order uniforms and regalia for their members to wear for meetings, ritual work, parades, and other activities.

88_42_156_6DS1Some of the colorful illustrations, like the one shown here from the Cincinnati Regalia Company, were sent to customers to present color and design variations to supplement the black and white images in catalogs. Regalia companies served both women’s and men’s organizations and produced catalogs specifically designed for women’s organizations which displayed the regalia and costumes of particular orders. Because of the distinct American flag-inspired design of this costume, it was likely created for a group with a patriotic agenda, such as the Daughters of America, a Junior Order of United American Mechanics women’s auxiliary.

These attractive advertisements offer insight into the vibrant regalia industry during the 1900s. This exhibition will be on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library until July 26, 2024.

What's In a Name?

2002_018_4DS1Every so often, we stumble across an artifact in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection that prompts a great deal of intrigue among museum staff. This photograph of a deceased member of the Loyal Order of Moose finds itself in that category. I must admit that prior to my arrival as a volunteer at the museum, I was not especially well versed in the history and practice of fraternal groups. Sure, I had heard of the Elks and the Lions, but aside from that, I was somewhat of a novice in the field of fraternalism. Upon further investigation, I was surprised to find that although literature on the group is relatively scarce, the Loyal Order of Moose boasts an impressive list of members. Amongst the ranks are former presidents, astronauts, sports legends, and a cornucopia of Hollywood icons, including Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977), Henry Ford (1863-1947), and Larry Bird (b. 1956).

Due to the strict funeral regulations of the Moose, in which each member, regardless of rank, is provided the same procession, it is difficult to decipher this particular man’s place within the hierarchy of the organization. There are, however, a few clues in the photo that provide us with a small amount of information regarding his identity. Present alongside the casket are four funeral wreaths reading, “Uncle,” “Brother,” “Ole,” and “Moose 679.” The last wreath is the one that immediately struck me as potentially useful. With the help of the official website of the Loyal Order of Moose, I found that “Moose 679” most likely refers to the Springfield, Vermont, chapter of the organization.

The remaining three wreaths however, proved to be slightly more enigmatic than their peer. While intuition would suggest that the words “Uncle” and “Brother” indicate this man’s position on his family tree, I found myself at a loss for an explanation of the word “Ole.” After a series of investigations that bore no fruit, I stumbled upon the definition of the word “Ole” as a Scandinavian name. Keeping in line with my theory that these wreaths represented the various names to which this man may have answered, I felt that this was far more likely an explanation than others I had found. The fact that the photo can be dated between 1890 and 1920, coupled with my limited knowledge of the history of immigration to the United States, suggested that a man of Scandinavian descent with the first name “Ole” could have been living around Springfield, Vermont, during this time period. Although this is mere speculation, these few details hint at the possibility that this picture was taken during the funeral ceremony of Ole, a member of the Springfield, Vermont, Moose Lodge #679, who never fathered any children.

Though popular during the 1800s, the practice of photographing the dead for memorial purposes has since waned in popularity. Any number of conclusions can be drawn as to why post-mortem photography met its demise. For me, the increasing accessibility of photography itself seems like a likely catalyst. As the process of taking a photograph became less formal and more of an everyday activity, people had far less reason to have such portraits of loved ones taken after their death. However, the formal aspects of this picture are the ones that provide us with hints at the biography of a man whose legacy may have otherwise been confined only to those who knew him.

Unidentified Post-Mortem Photograph, 1890-1920, probably Vermont, Museum Purchase, 2002.018.4.


Moose Magazine 33 (1948).

Are there Women in the Elks?: Yesterday and Today

A95_016_elks_mawsimLast week we wrote about Elks and postcards, and this week we've got more on the topic. The women shown in this postcard - currently on display in our reading room exhibition on postcards - were probably helping out with an Elks lodge 'Mawsim', or Moorish-style event and bazaar.  The postcard dates from 1907-1912 (FR 005).

Although we haven't done enough research yet to know exactly where this real photo postcard was produced, we do have a description of an Elks' Mawsim from around this time period. On October 25, 1910, the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader newspaper published a story about an upcoming Elks' Mawsim, which was likely a charity event, that reveals more about what an Elks' Mawsim was. It also reveals a highly romanticized view of the Near and Middle East that was pervasive in American culture at the time: 

 "Memories of a vanishing race will be awakened by the rich Oriental decorations that will be a feature of the Moorish "Mawsim" and Bazaar to be conducted by the Scranton Lodge of Elks...Who that has read the delightful yarns of Washington Irving in his "Tales of Alhambra," has not yearned for a glimpse of the land that gave birth to the Moors? ...This opportunity will be afforded the thousands of pleasure seekers who attend the "Mawsim" of the Scranton Elks."

There is little information on the women who supported the Elks during this time period, and who formed an organization known as the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Does. This is partly because the Elks (formally known as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, or B.P.O.E.) didn't officially recognize this group. The Elks only accepted men as members during the early twentieth century, and the B.P.O.E. passed a resolution in 1907 that said that there would be no adjuncts or auxiliaries.

The Benevolent and Protective order of the Does (B.P.O.D.) operated only at the local level, with no centralized state or national authority.  According to some sources, they did not have a fixed ritual.  Other sources say their there were several versions of ritual practised.  One version bases the initiation rite on the Biblical story of Mary.  Another version makes reference the the thirteenth chapter of Saint Paul's first letter to the Corinthians which emphasizes love and charity.

In 1995, the Elks opened membership to women, by changing their constitution and removing the word “male” from the list of membership qualifications; members from the fraternal group’s 2,230 lodges across the entire United States voted on the change.  In 2009, women are not only members of the Elks, but they also serve as leaders.

[Women dressed for Elks “Mawsim” bazaar], ca. 1907
Real photo postcard
Museum purchase, 95/016

Postcards! Elks! Fun!

Case5-8_96_051_1_web Among the many fun and fabulous postcards currently on view in the reading room of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives are a handful that are related to the Elks. The Elks trace their roots back to New York City in 1867. The group was first known as the "Jolly Corks" and they were essentially a group of merrymakers whose members consisted of New York City entertainers. Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian became the official leader of the group, and on February 16, 1868, the group resolved to become a benevolent order and to change their name to the one they still carry today - the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, frequently abbreviated as B.P.O.E.

The postcards seen here (which are also on view in the reading room) were all produced in 1906 and 1907. In July 1907, the Elks had 254,532 members, and while this was in the heyday of American fraternalism (often called the "Golden Age of Fraternalism") it was still a far cry from the eventual number of members they would have - by 1950 there were approximately 1 million Elks, and by 1979 membership was at 1.6 million. Today the Elks' membership is just under 1 million.

The first two postcards seen here were produced to commemorate the annual national conventions of the Elks. With the phrase "Something-Doing-Every-Minute," the postcard for the annual Elks convention held in July 1906 in Denver, Colorado is a wonderful and fun example of the art noveau style popular at the time. In addition to the Elk head on the front of the car, the two clocks - with their hands pointing at 11 o'clock - allude to another BPOE tradition - the 11 O'Clock Toast, which is presumably what the female driver of the car is doing with her raised goblet. The postcard itself has a wonderfully short message that echoes to the phrase at the top. It says, simply, "Great doings," and is dated July 17, 1906. (Incidentally, before March 1, 1907, the back of the postcard was only used for the address - messages had to be written on the front, and often a blank space, as seen here, was left for the message.)

Case3-14_96_058_web The postcard from the 1907 convention, while not as colorful, reveals just how big these events were. This real photo postcard shows the illuminated "Court of Honor" for the convention held in Philadelphia in 1907. In its name, its illumination and its scale, the Court of Honor resembles the illuminated "Court of Honor" at Chicago's 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. A New York Times article reporting on the opening of the Elks' 1907 convention gushed "Elks by the thousand poured into Philadelphia to-day and to-night. They came with their wives, sweethearts, and friends from every section of the country, and the greeting of welcome they received took away their breath."  A few days later, on a decidedly different note, the Times reported that the "Sun Fells 2,500 At Elks' Parade," reporting that many parade watchers suffered from over-exposure to 90 degree temperatures and "excessive" humidity.

Case4-5_94_079_3_web It's clear that businesses were ready to tailor their advertisements toward Elks that visited their city for annual conventions. In Philadelphia, the S. Abeles & Co. produced this wonderful mixed-media postcard that uses fur cut out in the shape of an elk to advertise the "best line of trimmed hats." 

Case5-3_94_079_1_web And, finally, this last postcard, copyrighted 1906 in Chicago, is likely not related to a particular annual convention, but it's another Elks postcard in the exhibition and it's just too fun to leave out. The card depicts a young woman holding an egg - presumably the subject of the question "Is It Good Or Bad?" - and stands beside three elements that identify this as being part of Elkdom: the mounted Elk head, the clock reading 11 o'clock, and the letters B.P.O.E. The sender of the postcard has written a brief message on the card, which seems to keep with the playful, flirtatious nature of the card itself: "I'm an Elk, what are you?"

A Penny for Your Thoughts: Postcards from the Golden Age, 1898-1918 in on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room through September 2009.

Also, be sure to check out our Send a Postcard feature on our website, where we've made it possible to send electronic versions of penny postcards  - for less than a penny.

Something-Doing-Every-Minute BPOE, 1906
G. W. Richards, illustrator
Museum purchase, 96/051/1

Illumination of Court of Honor, Elks Convention, Philadelphia, 1907
Real photo postcard
Gift of Keith MacKinnon, 96/058

B.P.O.E.—The Best Line of Trimmed Hats…, ca. 1906
Fur, paper stock
Museum purchase, 94/079/3

Is It Good or Bad?, ca. 1906
Photograph Company of America, Chicago
Museum purchase, 94/079/1