Fraternal groups (not Masonic)

Railroad Brotherhood

85_69_1DI2The transcontinental railroad was completed one hundred twenty years ago on May 10, 1896, in Promontory, Utah. It connected the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, revolutionizing travel, shipping, and commerce in the United States. Journeys that had taken months by wagon train or weeks by boat now took only days. The laborers who constructed the railway endured long hours of perilous work for little pay. Laborers formed dozens of organizations that also functioned as benevolent fraternities or societies, providing relief, contractual mediation, and representation.

There were a number of "railroad brotherhoods" in the United States by 1900, including the American Railway Union, Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, and the Order of Railway Conductors. (To learn more about the Order of Railway Conductors visit our previous blog here.) These labor groups often incorporated ritual and regalia into their organizational structure and meetings.  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library owns and collects badges, charts, and ritual books from these fraternities. This 1890 Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen chart is one example from our collection and outlines the three tenets of the brotherhood: benevolence, sobriety, and industry.

The Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen was founded as a labor organization for railroad employees in Oneonta, New York, in 1883. It was the largest brotherhood of operating railroad employees before merging with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, the Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen and the Switchmen’s Union of North America to form the United Transportation Union in 1969.

 To see a detailed image of the chart featured here, and others like it, visit our Flickr page at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalsrmml/sets.

Caption:

Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Chart, ca.1890, Enterprise Litho Co., Cleveland, Ohio, Gift of Richard Gutman, 85.69.1.

References:

Paul Michel Taillon, Good, Reliable, White Men: Railroad Brotherhoods, 1877-1917, Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009.


The Impressive Odd Fellow

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Unidentified I.O.O.F. Member, 1883-1908, Osborn Company, Binghamton, NY, Museum Purchase, 2016.010.

Can you ever have too many badges, ribbons, or medals? Not according to this particularly proud and active Odd Fellow. We recently acquired this fantastic cabinet card featuring a sepia-toned portrait of an unidentified I.O.O.F. member wearing more than twenty badges, medals, and ribbons. The card was printed between 1883 and 1908 by the Osborn Company in Binghamton, New York.

Cabinet cards, introduced in the 1860s, were similar to carte-de-visites (for more on CDVs read this post). They served as   a popular alternative to cased photographs like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, and tintypes. Cabinet card photos measured approximately four inches by six inches and were mounted onto card stock. The cards usually featured a photographer’s decorative stamp, name, and location. The Osborn Company was a family-run photography business owned by Emerson Osbourne from about 1883 to 1908 in Binghamton.

This particular photo caught our eye because many fraternal portrait cabinet cards feature a member wearing regalia with only one or two medals or ribbons. The ribbons commemorate various Odd Fellows events and field days in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.  There is a ribbon that reads “Calumet 62” and another that reads “Canton Scranton No. 4.” There are records of an active Calumet Lodge No. 62 in Binghamton, New York, from the mid-1860s to the late 1940s. There are also local Pennsylvania newspapers from the late 1880s that reference an I.O.O.F. Canton Scranton No. 4 group.

These findings lead us to believe that this proud unidentified Odd Fellow was most likely a member of these two lodges and perhaps others. Can you help us identify this photograph? Do you have information about  I.O.O.F. lodges in New York or Pennsylvania? Let us know with a comment below or email Ymelda Rivera Laxton, Assistant Curator, ylaxton[@]srmml.org.

References:

The Scranton Republican, Scranton, Pennsylvania, March 13, 1896.

William Summer Lawyer, Binghamton: it's settlement, growth and development, and the factors in its history, 1800-1900, Binghamton, N.Y. : Century Memorial Publishing Co., 1900.


A Violation of Our Principles: Political Discussion within Walls of the Lodge

One of the central rules adopted by many fraternal societies is the prohibition of political discussion within the walls of the lodge. Freemasonry adheres to this prohibition, as does the International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT), the fraternity highlighted in this letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.

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Utica Oct 27th 1871

E. S. Hughes Esq.
Dear Bro.

It having come to my knowledge that Bro. Lewis H. Babcock the Democratic candidate for Dist. Attorney has been visiting the several Lodges of our order in the county for the purpose of soliciting the votes of Temperance men. I deem it my duty to caution Lodges against allowing themselves to be drawn into any political controversy as Lodges.

At the same time, I would state the facts as they are in relation to the candidates for district atty for the information of such voters of our order as are unacquainted with them. Lewis H. Babcock, the Democratic nominee, and Capt. D. C. Stoddard, the Republican nominee, are both members of Utica Central Lodge, No. 240, and have been for 3 or 4 years. During that time, Bro. Babcock has repeatedly violated his obligation

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and has been disciplined therefor. It is only since his nomination that he has returned to the Lodge. Bro. Stoddard has maintained his standing from the first and is known as a consistent and persistent Temperance Man. Good Templars should consider these facts and judge accordingly.

This circular is not intended to be read in Lodge but is for the information of members outside the Lodge room.


Fraternally Yours,

C. D. Rose
County Chief Templar

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Letter from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27.

​The IOGT, a temperance society which still exists today, was begun by a “few printer boys” or apprentices in Utica, New York, during the winter of 1850-1851. Research into this letter reveals that the author was most likely Corydon D. Rose of Utica. Rose worked as a printer, and Federal Census records for 1870 reveal that he worked for the Temperance Patriot, the official newspaper of the Grand Lodge of the Order of Good Templars of the State of New York, and may have served as an editor. While Rose cautions his recipient, E. S. Hughes, about political discussion taking place within the walls of the lodge, amusingly, he holds no such reservation about such discussions taking place “outside of the Lodge room” and proceeds to provide “the facts” regarding the candidates’ temperance reputation.

As for who won the district attorney’s race of 1871, Henry Cookingham reports in his History of Oneida County that Rose’s choice, David C. Stoddard, a Temperance man and a Freemason, would go on to carry Oneida county by a majority of 845 votes over Lewis H. Babcock, who was also a Freemason.



Captions

Letter and envelope from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27. Museum Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 430.002.

References

Ancestry.com (2011). U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995: Boyd’s Business Directory of Utica, Rome, Sherburne, Norwich, and Intermediate Villages, 1871-72. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Ancestry.com (2009). 1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, Utah, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Chase, Simeon B. (1876). “Section 74.” In A Digest of the Laws, Decisions, Rules and Usages of the Independent Order of Good Templars with a Brief Treatise on Parliamentary Practice. (pp. 236). Philadelphia: Garrigues Brothers.

Cookinham, Henry J.(1912). History of Oneida County, New York: from 1700 to the Present Time. (Vol. 1) Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=oMspAQAAMAAJ&q

Durant, Samuel (1878). History of Oneida County, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, PA: Everts and Fariss.
https://archive.org/details/cu31924100210974

Grand Lodge of New York (1875). “Charges of a Free Mason: Charge VI: 2.” In Constitution and Statutes, Rules of Order and Code of Procedure of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. New York: Thomas Holman.

Heinmiller, Gary L. (2010). “Craft Masonry in Oneida County, New York.” Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society. Accessed: 25 February 2016. http://www.omdhs.syracusemasons.com/sites/default/files/history/Craft%20Masonry%20in%20Oneida%20County.pdf

Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Independent Order of Good Templars. In Cyclopædia of Fraternities. (pp. 404 - 406). New York: E. B. Treat and Company. https://archive.org/stream/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich/cyclopdiaoffra00stevrich_djvu.txt

Wager, Daniel Elbridge (1896). “David Curtis Stoddard.” In Our County and Its People: A Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York. (pp. 74 – 77). [Boston, MA]: Boston History Company. https://books.google.com/books?id=ss44AQAAMAAJ&dq


New to the Collection: Fraternal Needlework Mottoes

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Independent Order of Odd Fellows Motto, 1860-1900, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.036. Photograph by David Bohl.

Recently, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library added the needlework picture on the left to its collection.  Stitched on brown perforated paper in a tent stitch (commonly used in needlepoint, the thread or yarn is stitched diagonally, making a slant), it bears the motto “Friendship, Love and Truth” along with several symbols related to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  Originally formed in England in the 1740s, the Odd Fellows are a fraternal organization for men.  The group’s founders looked to Freemasonry (formalized in London in 1717) as a model for their fraternity.  Like Freemasonry, the Odd Fellows perform degree rituals using a symbolic language, wear aprons and pursue fellowship and charity, among other activities.

Needlework mottoes like this one were especially popular for home decoration during the late 1800s.  The perforated paper mimicked woven fabrics and allowed the stitcher to create designs quickly using the simple tent and cross stitches.  The front of this needlework is quite faded, suggesting that it hung in a sunny area of the owner's home for many years.  The photo on the right shows the back of the picture, which was covered while it hung on the wall.  As this photo shows, the original colors were very bright.  It helps to demonstrate the fading and damage that prolonged sunlight can cause for textiles.

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The back shows the original colors. Photograph by David Bohl.

Shortly before we acquired the Odd Fellows motto shown above last year, we also added the motto at the bottom to our collection.  Initially, because of the all-seeing eye and the square and compasses symbols, the dealer offered it to us as a “Masonic picture.”  However, the lettering, which reads “Honesty, Industry and Sobriety,” identifies it as an Order of United American Mechanics motto.  Patterns for these mottoes came in many designs, including ones targeted to members of American fraternal groups.  Like the Odd Fellows, the Order of United American Mechanics also took inspiration from Freemasonry when establishing itself.  This is evident from the symbols on this motto.

The Order of United American Mechanics was founded in 1845 as a nativist anti-immigration organization.  One of its objectives was to help its native-born members find employment.  Given its focus on labor, the square and compasses emblem used by the OUAM usually has an arm in the center wielding a hammer, although that part of the symbol is not included on this motto.

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Order of United American Mechanics Motto, 1860-1900, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2015.018. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Order of Railway Conductors and American Freemasonry’s Influence upon Labor Unions

One of my favorite objects in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is this minute book from the Order of Railway Conductors (ORC), Lincoln Division, No. 206. Besides being one of my first acquisitions as the newly appointed Archivist for the Museum and Library in October of 2014, my research for this object provided me with a new appreciation for the work performed by railway conductors and in the role that these men played in the development of fraternalism.

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Order of Railway Conductors Minute Book, Lincoln Division, No. 206, 1941-1960.
 

As I learned from this online exhibit by the National Museum of American History, the job of railroad conductor in the mid-nineteenth-century was much more difficult and important than I had originally imagined. In addition to collecting tickets, the conductor served as the train’s “captain.” He supervised the train’s crew and determined when a train “could safely depart” the station. He also was the person “in charge during emergencies,” such as train derailments. The conductor’s role was the equivalent of a ship’s captain in many ways, and many of the first men to become railway conductors in the “1830s had previously worked as steamboat or coastal packet captains.”

In addition to the many duties mentioned above, a conductor’s workday was extremely long, highly dangerous, and offered little pay, and it was in response to these hardships that the first “Conductors Union” was formed by a young twenty-two year old conductor, T.J. Wright, in the spring of 1868 at Amboy, Illinois. While Wright’s fledgling organization only lasted a few months, his idea to organize quickly spread across North America, and by November 1868 the Conductors Brotherhood, the original name of the Order of Railway Conductors, was formed in December 1868 at Columbus, Ohio. The new organization “was not a labor union,” in the conventional sense, however, but a “fraternal benefit and temperance society” organized upon Masonic principles as historian Paul Michel Taillon explains in his book, Good, Reliable, White Men: Railroad Brotherhoods, 1877-1917. The typical ORC Division or local lodge was modelled after the Masonic Blue Lodge: An “altar with a copy of the Bible on it stood at the center of the brotherhood lodge room. At the far end of the room sat the lodge master, at his ‘station,’ on a raised platform with a table and gavel.”

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Letter to the Members of Lincoln Division, 206, on the Passing of Brother Allton, February 1943.

While fraternal and beneficial features always remained strong throughout the history of the Order of Railway Conductors, events within and without the organization would change it in significant ways. In the year 1890, the old leadership was replaced, and a “more aggressive program of trade regulation was adopted.” Furthermore, ORC would adopt the strike clause, which had previously been forbidden and punishable by expulsion from the Order. Technological changes in the railway industry also had a great impact upon the Order, which were only delayed by the outbreak of World War II. The conversion to diesel locomotion after the war brought “greater operating efficiency,” a Life Magazine article reported in 1949, and with this operating efficiency came a reduced need for the many men (and trains) that kept America moving. Placed within its historical context, this minute book by Lincoln Division, No. 206, covering the years 1941-1960, captures the postwar decline of the Order, which by 1969 had merged with the several small railway unions to form the United Transportation Union.



Captions

Order of Railway Conductors Minute Book, Lincoln Division, No. 206, 1941-1960. Museum Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 200.001.

References

Ehrlich, Leslie, and Bob Russell. “Employment Security and Job Loss: Lessons from Canada's National Railways, 1956-1995.” Labour/Le Travail 51 (Spring 2003): 115-152. 

“Locomotive Graveyard” (1946). Life, December 5. https://books.google.com/books?id=VkEEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA155#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed: 12 December 2015.

National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution (no date). “Railroad Conductor.” America on the Move: Lives on the Railroad. http://amhistory.si.edu/onthemove/exhibition/exhibition_9_5.html Accessed: 12 December 2015.

Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen (1968). O.R.C & B., 1868-1968: Serving the Man on the Road for 100 Years. Cedar Rapid, Iowa: Order of Railway Conductors and Brakemen.

Steward, Estelle M. (1936). Conductors of America, Order of Railway. In Handbook of American Trade-Unions, (pp. 253-256). Washington, D.C.: United States. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://books.google.com/books?id=iCGWrdBpT_8C&dq=%22order+of+railway+conductors%22&q=%22order+of+railway+conductors%22#v=onepage&q=%22Organized%20at%20mendota%22&f=false Accessed: 12 December 2015.

Taillon, Paul Michel (2009). Good, Reliable, White Men: Railroad Brotherhoods, 1877-1917. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.


New to the Collection: IOOF Astoria Lodge No. 38 Apron

2015_027DP1DBFreemasonry is widely recognized as the first fraternal group to organize in America.  There are accounts of men meeting together in informal lodges during the 1720s. The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts was formally established in 1733.  As the most venerable group of its kind, Freemasonry served as an inspiration for other American fraternal groups throughout the 1700s and 1800s.  When the Independent Order of Odd Fellows began in England in the mid-1700s, and came to the United States in the early 1800s, it followed the degree structure of Freemasonry and incorporated similar symbols and regalia. 

Among the early regalia items worn by the Odd Fellows were aprons.  Recently, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library acquired this Odd Fellows apron that was originally worn by a member of Maine’s Astoria Lodge No. 38.  Based on the lodge’s history, the apron dates between 1846 and 1862.  In 1846, the lodge was founded in Frankfort, Maine.  By 1849, the lodge numbered 83 members.  The last meeting of the lodge was held on December 30, 1862.  A brief published history of the lodge alludes to its dramatic end, “various causes combined led to the death of the Lodge.  Many of the members moved away, others lost all interest in the order, and a few proved themselves unworthy.  One, who held a prominent position, used a large portion of the fund, leaving worthless paper as security.  This soured and disappointed many, and finally the Lodge ceased work.”

Accompanying the apron is a receipt dated July 1, 1849, documenting that Brother Leonard B. Pratt (1820-1882) paid his quarterly assessments for nine months, for a total of $2.25.  Pratt lived in Bucksport, Maine, near Frankfort, where the lodge met.  Like many Odd Fellows aprons, this one is shield shaped and includes the fraternity’s three-link chain emblem, signifying “the only chain by which [members] are bound together is that of Friendship, Love and Truth.”  Odd Fellows used the red and white colors for regalia worn by the Noble Grand, the Outside Guardian and state Grand Officers.

The apron will be on view in our lobby, starting in February 2016, as part of a small exhibition of some of our recent acquisitions.  We hope you will be able to come by and see it in person.  See our website for hours and directions.  And, if you have seen any similar aprons or know more about Astoria Lodge, please leave us a comment!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Astoria Lodge No. 38 apron, 1846-1862, unidentified maker, probably Maine, Museum purchase, 2015.027.

 


New to the Collection: A Miniature Chair in a Bottle

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Miniature Chair in Bottle, 1924, George Barnhart (b. 1851), Liberty, Missouri, Museum purchase, 2015.044. Photograph by David Bohl.

Recently, this small chair inside a bottle caught our eye because it is inscribed on the legs, "Liberty / Odd F. Home / FLT / IOOF / G.G. Barnhart 1924."  We were charmed to add it to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection.  I am pleased to share what I've learned about it so far, but I hope that readers will help us to learn even more about it.

The bottle is only 4 1/2 inches high and 1 3/8 inches square, just to give you a sense of its diminutive size.  Crafting small items like this and placing them in bottles was a popular pastime during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  Perhaps the most well-known example is the ship in a bottle.  However, chairs were not unusual.  There are several known examples that show a strikingly similar style to this one and most are inscribed with Odd Fellows initials, or "Odd Fellows Home."  Several also have inscriptions suggesting that they originated in Liberty, Missouri, like ours.

The Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri, was one of many institutions erected and run by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternity across the United States.  Odd Fellows members are encouraged to visit the sick, educate the orphan and bury the dead, so homes like this, which offered lodging and care for orphans, the elderly and the destitute, fit well with the tenets of the organization.

The first home in this location burned down in 1900 and was subsequently rebuilt.  The "School Building" was erected in 1904; the "Old Folks Building," originally known as the "Old Folks Pavilion," was built in 1907 and 1908; and the hospital went up in 1923.  Given the inscriptions on this chair, it seems likely that it was made by a resident at the Home in 1924.  Further research suggests that the "G.G. Barnhart" named on the chair was George G. Barnhart, born in Missouri in 1853.  According to the 1920 United States Census, he was living at the "Odd Fellows Home" in Liberty, Missouri.

Have you seen other chairs in a bottle like this?  Do they have a connection to the Odd Fellows Home in Missouri?  Do you know anything about George Barnhart's life?  If so, please write a comment below!

 


Research into Masonic Dance Card Reveals a Vibrant Fraternal Community in late 19th-Century Vermont

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Built along the historic and now-defunct Rutland Railroad line, Todd’s Hotel in Wallingford, Vermont, attracted tourists from Boston and New York who wished to escape the summer heat and desired to experience the rustic scenery or to fish for trout in streams that surrounded the hotel.  Under the proprietorship of Joel Todd, the Hotel enjoyed an enviable reputation, and its dance hall, reputed to be the largest hall connected with a hotel in the state of Vermont, was the site of many elegant balls (including the Masonic ball described in the above dance card) and game suppers, which Todd gave with increasing frequency.

Sadly, Todd’s Hotel was gutted by fire in 1888, but research into this small dance card held in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library has revealed the presence of a very active and growing fraternal community in late 19th century Rutland County, Vermont. In addition to the 12 Masonic Lodges listed in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Vermont for 1882, Rutland County hosted 4 Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) Lodges and 6 Grand Army of the Republic Posts.

The proprietor of Todd’s Hotel, Joel Todd, was active in fraternal circles, as well, and in 1871 Todd and his older brother Horace, along with several other men, founded Pico Lodge, No. 32, I.O.O.F, in Wallingford, Vermont. As for Todd’s possible ties to Freemasonry, records held at the Grand Lodge of Vermont reveal that Todd took his first Masonic degree on January 7, 1878, in Anchor Lodge, No. 99, but did not continue any further.



Captions

Masonic Dance Card: Masonic Ball at Todd's Hotel, 1882. Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 015.

References

Smith, Henry Perry, and William S. Rann (1886). History of Rutland County, Vermont: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. (Vol. 2) Syracuse, New York: Heritage Books. https://archive.org/details/historyofrutland00smit 18 August 2015.

Thorpe, Walter (1911). History of Wallingford, Vermont. Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle. https://archive.org/details/historyofwalling00thor 18 August 2015.



Please Pass the Butter! A New Acquisition

2014_021a-dDP1DBAs we always like to tell people, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects not just Masonic objects and documents, but items associated with all types of American fraternal groups.  Recently we purchased this butter dish, which is engraved on one side, “Pilgrim Lodge No. 75 I.O.O.F.”  Like many Masonic lodges and groups, other fraternities, such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge that owned this butter dish, often combined social activities, like a meal, with their meetings.  This butter dish may have been part of a set of serving dishes that the lodge purchased for use at group meals.  The dish was manufactured by the Wilcox Silverplate Company of Meriden, Connecticut, which was established in 1865 and merged with several other companies to become the International Silverplate Company in 1898.

Pilgrim Lodge No. 75 was founded in Abington, Massachusetts, in 1845.  After meeting for almost 15 years, during which time the lodge paid out about $600 for benefits and buried one member, the lodge surrendered its charter in 1859.  In 1871, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, I.O.O.F., reinstated Pilgrim Lodge No. 75.  At its first meeting, three members of the old lodge joined five members from Mattakeeset Lodge No. 110 and ten new initiates to begin a new era of its existence.  In 1873, the lodge purchased the town’s old high school building and fitted it up as a hall.  This may be when they purchased this butter dish, although it is impossible to know without more information.  Over the next ten years, members from Pilgrim Lodge went on to start Odd Fellows lodges in Rockland, Bridgewater and South Abington. 95_061_25DI1

A quick search of our collections database for “Pilgrim Lodge No. 75” also turned up a World War I ID tag, or “dog tag.”  Unfortunately, we do not know who the tag originally belonged to, but it is stamped with the Odd Fellows three-link chain and the words “Pilgrim Lodge No. 75 IOOF.”  World War I marked the first time that Americans fought after identification tags were made mandatory in the Army Regulations of 1913.  However, the serial number system was not adopted until 1918, so many World War I-era tags, like this one, do not include a number.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Pilgrim Lodge No. 75 Butter Dish, 1871-1900, Wilcox Silverplate Company, Meriden, CT, Museum Purchase, 2014.021a-d.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows World War I Dog Tag, 1917-1919, unidentified maker, United States, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 95.061.25.

Reference:

D. Hamilton Hurd, comp., History of Plymouth County, Massachusetts, Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1884.


Drawing a Fraternal Identity

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While “Masonic” is in our name and we often focus on American Masonic history, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library also actively collects, studies and presents fraternal history – stories, objects and people associated with the history of non-Masonic fraternal organizations, like the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. 

At its center, this drawing shows an arrangement of symbols used in Odd Fellows rituals.  Unfortunately, we do not know who the artist or original owner of the drawing was.  “Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681” is written along the top, so presumably the drawing was produced by or for a member of the lodge, or for the lodge itself.  Boquet Valley Lodge No. 681 met in Wadhams, New York, a hamlet, or unincorporated settlement, located along the Boquet River in the Adirondack Mountains, near Westport.  By the end of 1920, Boquet Valley Lodge counted 73 members, although other details about its history and activities are proving elusive.

Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch of the Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861).  The group took several cues from Freemasonry – they share a three-degree structure for initiation, although the specific rituals are different.  They also share some symbols, like the all-seeing eye, winged hourglass and the scales of justice on the drawing.  However, the three-link chain with the initials “FLT” (for Friendship, Love and Truth), also seen on the drawing, is a symbol unique to the Odd Fellows.

This drawing could have been framed and hung on the wall at the lodge or in a member’s home.  In a home, it would serve to identify the owner as a member, and in a home or a lodge, it would help members to learn and remember the lessons taught during ritual work.  To see examples of similar Masonic drawings, visit our current [December 2014] exhibition, “Every Variety of Painting for Lodges”: Decorated Furniture, Paintings and Ritual Objects from the Collection, which features over fifty paintings, aprons, furniture and other decorative and illustrated items, exploring the ways that Freemasons have expressed their involvement with the fraternity.  Visit our website for more information and leave us a comment below if you have seen similar drawings or know more about Boquet Lodge No. 681!

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Drawing, 1875-1900, Wadhams, New York, Special Acquisitions Fund, 82.3.1