Fez

New to the Collection: Pyramid Court Daughters

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Members of Pyramid Court No. 17, 1960s. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, 2022.008.4.

In this photograph, new to the collection in 2022, a group of women wearing white dresses and either white fezzes or a crown poses for a photo with a man in a suit wearing a darker fez. This image features members of a women’s auxiliary group of Prince Hall Shriners, the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South America and Its Jurisdictions, Inc. in Philadelphia in the 1960s. Historically Black fraternal groups in the United States have a fascinating history and objects like this photograph help us better understand it.

Based on organization proceedings and area newspapers, this photo appears to show members of Pyramid Court No. 17, Imperial Court Auxiliary, A.E.A.O.N.M.S., Philadelphia along with one member of Pyramid Temple No. 1, A.E.A.O.N.M.S., also of Philadelphia. The A.E.A.O.N.M.S. was founded in 1893 in Chicago as a charitable, benevolent, fraternal, and social organization, dedicated to the welfare and extension of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Its women’s auxiliary was founded in 1910 in Detroit. The latter group was established at the behest of a committee headed by Hannah Brown, Esther Wilson, and Lucy Blackburn, wives of Prince Hall Shriners from Maryland, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. These women and others had already created eight “courts” (similar to Shrine Temples or Masonic lodges) for female relatives of A.E.A.O.N.M.S. members. In 1909, they requested an official “Grand Court” to oversee the activities of the local groups.

This international organization, then known as the Imperial Grand Court of the Daughters of Isis, is now called the Imperial Court. The organization boasts more than nine thousand members that meet in more than two hundred courts throughout the United States, as well as Canada, Bahamas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Korea and Western Europe. Members are known as Daughters.

Their regalia includes ceremonial collars worn with white dresses, shoes, and gloves, along with white fezzes or crowns. Decorated with embroidery and/or rhinestones, these fezzes bear the name of the owner’s court and a profile of the Egyptian goddess Isis. When a Daughter serves as Imperial Commandress, the presiding officer of a court, she wears a crown in place of a fez. In this photograph, since a woman in the center of the group wears a crown, she was likely the Imperial Commandress of Pyramid Court No. 17 when the photo was taken.

In their analysis of African American fraternal groups over a period of around one hundred fifty years, social scientists Theda Skocpol and Jennifer Lynn Oser found that “black women played an unusually strong role in African American fraternal federations.” The Imperial Court is an excellent example of Black women leading fraternal groups. It exists because women who were already organizing local courts applied for official recognition from A.E.A.O.N.M.S. The auxiliary’s schedule of meetings, fundraising events, and annual sessions is very similar to that of the brother organization.

In the past and today, the women’s and men’s groups under the umbrella of the A.E.A.O.N.M.S. gather together at an annual joint session. Daughters of the Imperial Court Auxiliary and Nobles of A.E.A.O.N.M.S. work together at all levels to accomplish the charitable, social, and Masonic goals of Prince Hall Shriners.

If you know of or have any materials related to the A.E.A.O.N.M.S. or its women’s auxiliary, please let us know by writing in the comments section below.

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References and Further Reading:


New to the Collection: DeMolay Patrol and Band Photos

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DeMolay Patrol Group, 1920-1931. Museum Purchase, 2021.016.

Here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library we recently acquired several black and white photographs dating to the 1920s of Order of DeMolay patrol and band members. The order, a young men’s organization, was founded in 1919 by Frank S. Land (and is known today as DeMolay International). These images came into the collection with very little identifying information. They are intriguing not only because they depict DeMolay members from the some of the earliest years of the organization’s history, but also because they show a style of regalia that stands out in the context of the rest of our DeMolay-related collections. We set out to try to learn more about them.

A bit of initial detective work with our trusty magnifying glass helped us situate these images in place and time. In both images, the DeMolay emblem on the uniforms the members wear can be seen under magnification to be the one that the group’s founder, “Dad” Land, designed in 1920 and which the order used for the next 11 years. Beyond this, with the word “Oakland” emblazoned on the collar of the patrol members’ shirts (image at top), and “Hollywood” on the fez of the trumpet player (image below), it seems likely that these were members of California DeMolay’s Oakland and Hollywood Chapters.

As for the style of the costumes in these pictures, we have a number of helpful clues regarding their history. Land served for a time as Imperial Potentate of the Shrine, a group whose regalia and symbols were inspired by Middle Eastern designs; these uniforms likely reflect his involvement with this group, and the group's support of DeMolay. Further, a 1920s catalog from The C. E. Ward Co., a regalia maker in Ohio that was among a handful of manufacturers licensed to sell DeMolay supplies, shows a DeMolay fez for sale with the note that it was intended “for Patrols and Bands.”

2022_007_2DS1DeMolay Club Band Member, 1920-1931. Museum Purchase, 2022.007.2.

The phase of DeMolays in Middle Eastern-style garb appears to have been short-lived, however. In the Nebraska DeMolay 75th Anniversary booklet, a 1931 photo of the Lincoln Chapter’s marching band, some 40-odd members strong, shows members by and large in military-inspired clothing. The caption below it states, “Note the three members wearing Fezzes… that was yesterday.”

Regardless of the style of dress they wore, DeMolay bands and patrol groups remained popular within the organization for decades, providing entertainment at gatherings of all kinds and helping members build skills. These striking photos make for valuable additions to our collection of DeMolay objects documenting the group’s history.

If you have any objects or information that shed light on the regalia of DeMolay’s bands and patrol groups, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch in the comments section below!

 

Sources:

Land, Frank S. DeMolay Handbook. U.S.A.: The International Supreme Council Order of DeMolay, 1959.

Nebraska DeMolay Diamond Jubilee 1920-1995: A boy is the only thing God can use to make a man. Nebraska Masonic Youth Foundation, 1995.

“Where DeMolays Bought Jewelry and Regalia,” DeMolay International website, accessed Aug. 9, 2022. https://demolay.org/where-demolays-bought-jewelry-and-regalia/

“The Death of Frank S. Land,” DeMolay International website, accessed Aug. 15, 2022.  https://demolay.org/the-death-of-frank-s-land/

Special thanks to Christian Moore at DeMolay International for his research assistance on this post.


Caliphs of Bagdad

Caliphs of Bagdad CardRegular readers of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library blog may remember my previous post about the mystery of the green Caliphs of Bagdad fez (read it here and see one of the fezzes below).  I couldn't find any information about the group's history or location.  But, recently, another clue came my way.  A friend of the Museum called my attention to the membership card (pictured at left), which was offered for sale on ebay.  Imagine my surprise and delight to see that it seems to have a direct relationship to the same group as the two green fezzes now in our collection!  I was very excited to be able to add the card to our Archives collection.

I still have many questions about the Caliphs of Bagdad, but I'm pretty firmly convinced that the group was active in Pennsylvania in the early to mid-1920s.  Both of the fezzes donated to the Museum came from Pennsylvania and this card originated from Court No. 1 in New Castle, Pennsylvania.  I find it intriguing that the Caliphs may have been open to both men and women.  The card is for a James A. McKnight, but the "Chief M.C." at the bottom was a Judy Sypher.2009_022DP1

What do you think?  Does this jog anyone's memory about the Caliphs of Bagdad?  Did you know James McKnight or Judy Sypher?  Have you seen any other documents or objects associated with this group?  Leave us a comment below.

Membership Card, 1910-1950, unidentified maker, Pennsylvania, gift of Ron and Judy McKnight, 2012.

Fez, early 1900s, gift of Stanley A. McCollough, 2009.022.  Photograph by David Bohl.