Independent Order of Odd Fellows

In Memoriam

In October and November, many people celebrate not only the changing seasons, but the lives of those who have passed before us. We memorialize the dead with different kinds of objects, including obituaries, photographs, grave markers, and jewelry. Here we highlight some items in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library collection related to remembrance and memorial in the Masonic and fraternal communities.

A Masonic Funeral

Funeral

This 1916 photograph (at left), captures a group of Masons gathered in Taunton, Massachusetts, for the funeral procession of Alden Hathaway Blake (1836-1916). Blake, a book keeper, was a Civil War veteran, and member of King David’s Lodge in Taunton. He was also a Past Commander of the William H. Bartlett Post No. 3, of the Grand Army of the Republic. The photograph shows the Masonic catafalque, horses draped with Masonic mourning blankets, and Freemasons wearing white aprons and sashes.  

 

Fraternal Ribbons

In the 1800s, regalia manufacturers produced reversible Masonic and fraternal ribbons made with one side in black for mourning. The ribbons at the right were used by

Fraternal ribbons

the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Arcturus Lodge, No. 35, in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the Ladies Society of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen from Denison, Texas. Badges like these, along with other funerary objects, such as casket clips, handles, and grave markers, were advertised in Masonic and fraternal regalia catalogs.

 Major John Farrar Gravestone

GravestoneAnother memorial object, the gravestone, is perhaps the most easily recognizable monument to a person’s life and death. In the past, to preserve the art and cultural significance of gravestones and burial grounds, people made gravestone rubbings. At left, is a gravestone rubbing taken from the gravestone of Major John Farrar (1741-1793) in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Farrar became a Master Mason in Trinity Lodge in Lancaster, Massachusetts in 1781.

This massive gravestone includes not only Masonic symbols but also a family roll that outlines the names of his wife and seven children. The epitaph engraved on the stone reads, “Farewell vain world, I've had enough of thee / And now I'm careless what thou say'st of me / The faults saw'st in me take care to shun / There's work within thyself that must be done.”

Do you have familial objects related to Freemasonry and mourning? Let us know in the comments below.  

Captions

Masonic Funeral Procession, 1916. Taunton, Massachusetts. Special Acquisitions Fund, 83.18.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Mourning Badge, 1880-1900. Pennsylvania. Special Acquisitions Fund, 88.42.133.

Ladies Society of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen Ribbon, ca. 1895. Whitehead & Hoag Co., Newark, New Jersey. Gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 94.011.30. 

Gravestone Rubbing, 1970. Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Fred R. Youngren, 85.46.1.


A Daughters of Rebekah Quilt

94_007T1Temple Hill Quilt, 1924-40. Members of the Temple Hill Daughters of Rebekah. Temple Hill, Illinois. Museum Purchase, 94.007.

Continuing our celebration of the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States, here we feature another object from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library representing women’s involvement in fraternalism: a quilt made by members of the Daughters of Rebekah in the Temple Hill, Illinois, area.

The Daughters of Rebekah is a women’s group associated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). Commonly known as the Rebekahs (and officially as the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies), this group was founded in 1851, making it the first women’s auxiliary connected to any American fraternal order. Its name honors the biblical character who offered hospitality to a humble stranger. When it was established, the group’s stated objectives were to “aid in the establishment and maintenance of Homes for aged and indigent Odd Fellows and their wives… [and the] care, education, and support of orphans of deceased Odd Fellows and deceased sisters of the Rebekah degree” as well as to cultivate social relations among these groups.

The quilt shown here, possibly made as a fundraiser by Rebekahs living in the Temple Hill, Illinois, area, was pieced by hand and machine. Measuring 85 by 64 inches, it is rendered in the symbolic colors of the Rebekahs, pink and light green. Like many quilts associated with fraternal groups, this one is replete with symbols. Many of these—such as the sword and scales, open bible, and coffin and scythe—are used in both Odd Fellowship and Freemasonry. At the quilt’s lower center, under a 48-star American flag and a panel bearing the I.O.O.F. three-link chain emblem, is a pink square dedicated to symbols used by the Rebekahs. It features the four main emblems of that order: the beehive, to remind members of the sweet rewards of industry and coordinated effort; the dove, to teach them to promote “peace on earth and good will to men”; the lily, to nudge members toward purity of thought and action; and finally, the moon and seven stars, to represent order in the universe and thus in one’s duties, as well as to evoke the idea of reflecting the glory of the Supreme Being as the moon and stars reflect the sun’s light in the darkness.

This quilt was likely made between 1924 and 1940, a period when the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs enjoyed popularity. Over the prior seven or so decades, Rebekahs had flourished, counting numerous first ladies and pioneering female civic leaders among their membership. These included Arizona state representative Vernettie O. Ivy (1876-1967); Warrenton, Oregon, mayor Clara C. Munson (1861-1938); and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962). Possibly due in part to the increased social buttresses of the New Deal, membership in such mutual aid societies began to decline precipitously by the mid-twentieth century. Today, Rebekah lodges continue to be active in community and charitable projects, with a creed to "live peaceably, do good unto all" and obey the Golden Rule.

Do you have a question or observation related to women's involvement in fraternal groups? Let us know in the comments section below! We also invite you to join us on Facebook and check out our online exhibitions and online collections

References:

Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb. As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 2015.

Max Binheim, ed. Women of the West: A Series of Biographical Sketches of Living Eminent Women in the Eleven Western States of the United States of America. Los Angeles, CA: Publishers Press, 1928 edition, https://archive.org/details/womenofwestserie00binh (accessed Aug 25, 2020).

George and J.C. Herbert Emery. A Young Man's Benefit: The Independent Order of Odd Fellows and Sickness Insurance in the United States and Canada, 1860-1929. Montreal and Kingston, Canada: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1999.

Alvin J. Schmidt. Fraternal Organizations (The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980.

Membership manual of the Sovereign Grand Lodge Office and Grand Lodge of Rebekah Assembly of CA, http://www.ioofmembership.org/Membership%20Manual.htm (accessed August 12, 2020).

 


The Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri

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Independent Order of Odd Fellows Home with Children, 1900-1940. Liberty, Missouri. Museum Purchase, 2016.004.

Modeled on the group founded in England in 1745, the American form of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861). As a fraternal and benevolent order dedicated to providing aid to members and their families, the Odd Fellows built and operated a number of homes throughout the United States. These homes provided care and shelter for elderly or ill Odd Fellow members, widows and their children.

The site of the Odd Fellows home pictured above was originally the location of the Reed Springs Hotel built in 1888. Constructed near the site of newly discovered mineral springs, the hotel, later named the Winner Hotel, became a popular wellness and relaxation site for visitors from across the country. The hotel changed hands a few times before the I.O.O.F Grand Lodge of Missouri  purchased it in 1895.  

The property included 12 acres of farm land with an option for 230 additional acres. The original hotel structure was destroyed by a fire in 1900. The brick administration building pictured here, a school, a hospital, a working farm, and a cemetery were erected between 1900 and 1930. A nursing home and new hospital were added in the 1950s. Physically able residents were expected to work on the farm. Its products provided food for the site and were sold for profit. At the height of its activity, the home housed  just under 200 children and adults. By the early 1950s the orphanage closed. The site remained open for permanent hospital patients and convalescent members. At this same time the Grand Lodge voted to allow paying non-members to stay at the hospital.

The Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of Missouri operated the home and hospital until 1993. A local family in the winery business purchased the Home in the early 1990s. The largest building on the site is now home to the winery's tasting room and offices.  The lobby of the main building houses a small exhibit of Odd Fellows artifacts and regalia, including a skeleton of a past member who, according to the current proprietors,  donated his body to the Odd Fellows after his death. Odd Fellows symbols are still visible in the architecture throughout the main site. In recent years the winery and other buildings on the site have become well-known landmarks and have been included in a variety of Travel Channel shows. The site has been on on the National Register of Historic places since 1987.

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

Interestingly, the Museum recently purchased a charming miniature chair in a bottle that was made at the Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri. Previous research from a past blog suggests that initials on the chair "G.G. Barnhart" are the initials of the maker, a George G. Barnhart. According to the 1920 United States Census, he was living at the "Odd Fellows Home" in Liberty, Missouri.

Do you or your family have any memories, photographs, or experiences related to this or other Odd Fellows Homes? Leave them in the comments section below.

 References:

Deon K. Wolfenbarger & Lacey Alkire. "Odd Fellows Home District." National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Office, Jefferson City, July 1, 1987.


The Importance of Research in Creating Connections to the Past

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Colored Odd Fellows Handbill

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 Envelope (front)

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Envelope (back)

At the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, research helps the museum’s staff of professionals not only to establish the history or provenance of the objects we collect, but also helps us to better understand the past lives of the people connected to these objects.

This week, we feature a new acquisition, a handbill that publicized an “Amateur Minstrels” show for the “Benefit of the Colored Odd Fellows.” The handbill was acquired with an envelope, postmarked February, 27, 1907, and is addressed to William Russ of Clarksburg, West Virginia. Research into this document has narrowed its sender to one of three people: Wilbur Miles, the headlining performer mentioned in the enclosed handbill, Agnes C. Stuart, or her daughter Katherine Stuart Godfrey. As this report from the society page of the Clarksburg Telegram (December 13, 1906) explains, it was customary for the Stuart family to spend their winters in Florida, and during the winter of 1906-1907, Agnes C. Stuart brought two members of her family with her.  

“Mrs. Agnes C. Stuart and daughter, Miss Kathyrine [sic], left today for St. Lucie, Fla., to spend the winter. Wilbur Miles, colored, joined them from Birmingham, Ala. Mrs. Stuart raised him and on that account, as he requested to be taken along she granted the request.”

The Stuart family were prominent citizens of Clarksburg, and as burial records for the town’s Odd Fellows cemetery reveals, at least three generations of Stuarts were buried there and were members of the Odd Fellows. It is likely that Wilbur Miles was introduced to Odd Fellowship through his relationship with the Stuarts and may have been a member of its African American counterpart, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America.

In addition to caring for the young Wilbur Miles, the Federal Census reports for the years 1870 and 1880 indicate that Agnes’ parents, William and Catherine, may have cared for another member of Wilbur’s family, Rosa D. Miles, who eventually 

 

became the family’s domestic servant and was identified as “mulatto” or mixed race in the records. Research has yet to establish her connection to Wilbur; however, it is possible that Rosa was either Wilbur’s mother or older sister.

As for the recipient of the handbill, William Russ, how was he connected to the Stuart family and to Wilbur Miles?  Federal Census records for the years 1900 and 1920 reveal that Russ, who was of mixed raced ancestry as well, worked as a construction worker for himself and later for Katherine Stuart Godfrey, Agnes’ daughter. In fact, for the 1942 draft, Russ listed Katherine as both his employer and as a “person who will always know your address” on his draft registration card.
 
Do you have any information regarding the history of this document or the people behind its creation? Or would you like to learn more about African American Minstrel performers? Feel free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.

 


Captions

Colored Odd Fellows Handbill and Envelope Addressed to William Russ, February 1907. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 160.001.


New to the Collection: Centennial Odd Fellows Lodge No. 178 World War I Honor Roll

Honor Roll Centennial Lodge 2015_030_2DP1DB
Centennial Lodge No. 178 Honor Roll, ca. 1919. Massachusetts. Museum Purchase, 2015.030.2.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Along with lodge furniture and banners associated with a group of Massachusetts Odd Fellows, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently purchased this painted sign for the collection.  Centennial Odd Fellows Lodge No. 178 in West Boylston, Massachusetts, commissioned this decorative sign to honor eighteen lodge members who fought in World War I.

Museum volunteer researcher Bob Brown recently dug into the service histories of the men listed on the sign in preparation for the exhibition, “Americans Do Your Bit: World War I in Posters,” which opens on June 3, 2017.  To uncover information about the eighteen men listed on the sign, Bob consulted records housed at the National Guard Museum and Archives in Concord, Massachusetts, and resources available online.  His research into the occupations and wartime experiences of the lodge members listed on the honor roll hints at how many men experienced World War I. 

Before they left to join the Army or the Navy, members of Centennial Lodge No. 178 worked locally in different professions.  The largest number of men listed on the sign worked in area factories in different positions.  Two were supervisors, one was a plumber, one was a machinist and another was a tool maker. Four members of the lodge who served in World War I earned their livings as farmers.  The group on the honor roll also included clerks, a doctor, a college student and a college instructor.  Four of the men also belonged to Boylston Masonic Lodge before the war.  Three joined the Masonic lodge afterwards. 

Of the eighteen men in Centennial Lodge who served, the youngest was 21 and the oldest was 42.  Most were in their twenties, reflecting the age of the millions of men who registered for the draft in 1917 and 1918.  The Selective Service Act required that men from age 21 to 31 register. Though many volunteered, over 70% of the American men who served in World War I were drafted.  At least seven of the men listed on Centennial Lodge’s honor roll were drafted and inducted, illustrating the national trend.  The others listed on the honor roll volunteered, were appointed or the records about their service are unclear.  Two of the men listed on the honor roll were foreign born, one in England, the other in Canada. 

Seven of the Centennial Lodge members who served were sent overseas; the rest filled military roles in the United States.  Lodge member and dairy farmer Harold N. Keith (1890-1918), whose name is listed on the sign, was killed in action in France. His fellow member, Arthur I. Hunting (1876-1938) received an injury during his service.  Each surviving member of Centennial Lodge had to resume his life and occupation after his time in the Army or Navy concluded.  The painted sign reminded all who saw it of numerous Americans’ shared effort and, in many cases, sacrifice, during and after the war.     

 


Marching with the Odd Fellows

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“The home boys and girls always present a pleasing appearance and they were at their best today.”

                                                    – The Elkins Inter-Mountain, Oct. 30, 1930

Mention a “marching band,” and many of us immediately think of large groups of high school, college, or military musicians, performing in perfect synchronization for a parade or a football game. Maybe you remember watching Robert Preston as Harold Hill leading seventy-six trombones in The Music Man (1962) or seeing members of The Ohio State University Marching Band form a moonwalking Michael Jackson on YouTube. But marching bands have not always been merely the purview of high schools, militaries, and universities.

In the photo above, we see twenty-two members of an Independent Order of Odd Fellows Home Band. Made up of boys and girls of a range of ages—and one older male cornetist, who was possibly a bandleader or conductor—this particular band represented the Odd Fellows Home in Elkins, West Virginia, around 1930. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows fraternity was, and is, primarily a beneficent organization. One of the more notable projects of the Odd Fellows was the establishment of dozens of homes “for training the orphans of Odd Fellows, [and for] the care of the aged and inform members [and] their wives and sister Rebekahs [the women’s auxiliary organization to the Odd Fellows].”

The Odd Fellows Home in Elkins was no small establishment. Dedicated in 1910, the stately brick facility housed some 210 “brothers, sisters, and orphans” and included a 225-acre farm. A 1927 Album of Odd Fellows Homes listed the value of the Elkins Home buildings and grounds at $300,000, or roughly $8.57 million in 2015 dollars.

Likewise, we can see a great deal of pride from among the group in this picture. Note that they elected to be photographed along with their bus, suggesting they traveled in the region. Though the band hailed from Elkins, the studio stamp in the bottom right corner of the photograph is from Newlon Studio in Spencer, West Virginia, about 100 miles to the west. Either they, or their photographer, traveled to make this photo. We see, also, that the band members have taken a great deal of care in their appearance. Note the pressed, matching uniforms, the well-shined bell of the sousaphone at the far right, and several girls set their hats at jaunty angles. Finally, there’s always a lot to learn from what happens in the background of a photograph. Along the ridge behind the street, we see that over a dozen men, women, and children turned out to witness this picture being taken—perhaps a testament to the notoriety of the event.

But this leaves aside a central question: why a band for the Odd Fellows Home? First, as with many fraternal organizations, the Odd Fellows themselves had a rich tradition of songs and ceremonial music. The Odd Fellows Pocket Companion and Minstrel from 1873, a manual of organization lore, ritual, and songs, included 144 pages of “odes” for occasions ranging from the opening of meetings to member funerals. However, it’s more likely that the function of this particular band would have been more for community entertainment than for ceremony. This Odd Fellows Home Band would have been one among many thousands of bands representing organizations, schools, and municipalities around the world in the early 20th century. Military and militia (i.e. civilian “military-style”) bands had been an important source of music and entertainment since the 1800s. As music historian Raoul F. Camus wrote, by one estimate there were 10,000 such groups in the United States by 1889. He continued:

Professional and amateur bands appeared at military and civilian ceremonies and parades, concerts, amusement parks, seaside resorts, county and state fairs, and national and international expositions. Their repertory ranged from the ever popular marches, songs, waltzes and novelties to the classical standards of the day. Many North Americans had their first, and usually only, exposure to the music of Mozart, Beethoven, Rossini, Verdi, Liszt and Wagner through these bands. Opera selections and variations were performed by leading soloists, and even grand operas were staged.

Following John Philip Sousa’s establishment of his own band in 1892, professional bands further expanded in popularity. By the time this photograph of the Odd Fellows Home Band was taken around 1930, Sousa had led his band on four tours of Europe and a world tour. In addition to the numerous professional bands that sprang up in Sousa’s wake, an even wider array of amateur bands arose, including bands for service organizations (including the Salvation Army), cities, and even companies and factories. So an Odd Fellows Home Band would not have been at all unusual in that respect, and indeed, several other Odd Fellows homes and chapters established bands of their own.

The Odd Fellows Home Band in Elkins likely served a deeper purpose for the organization. In his 2010 history of The Oddfellows, Daniel Weinbren wrote that a central concern of the Odd Fellows’ ceremony, practice, and belief structure was the establishment of respectability; in other words, the Odd Fellows organization wished to show that it was respectable and honorable. One way of doing so was though caring for the less fortunate. These philanthropic activities led to the establishment of the charitable home in Elkins. But another way to demonstrate respectability was through public ceremony, such as parades. In England (the Odd Fellows branch of Weinbren’s focus), brothers marched in parades dressed in their regalia and carried intricately decorated banners in order to promote their work and boost membership. Public ceremonies like parades “helped to remind members and potential members of the importance of ordered, organised mutuality.” By putting on attractive displays for spectators, Odd Fellows sought in part to express the high moral aims of their organization. And it seems that the Odd Fellows Home Band in Elkins had a similar effect.

On October 30, 1930, Elkins, West Virginia held its first Mountain State Forest Festival. The Elkins Inter-Mountain reported “brilliant sunshine” and a number of “distinguished visitors” in attendance, including the Governor, a congressman, and the chairman of the State Road Commission. Of special note were the bands and military cadets: The West Virginia University cadet band attended the festival, as did cadets from the Greenbrier Military Academy. And, at 11 o’clock, “the Odd Fellows home band made its appearance on the streets…and added to the color of the occasion. The home boys and girls always present a pleasing appearance and they were at their best today.”  

Visit our HistoryPin page to see this photograph and other collection items mapped!

Aaron Hatley volunteers in the Museum collections department.

 

Photo Caption:

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Home Band, 1930-1940. Newlon Studio, Spencer, West Virginia. Museum purchase through the generosity of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A., 2010.017.

References:

Ida F. Wolfe, ed.,  Album of Odd Fellows Homes (Minneapolis: Joseph M. Wolfe, 1927)

I.D. Williamson, The Odd Fellows Pocket Companion and Minstrel (Cincinnati: R.W. Carroll, 1873)

Keith Polk et al., “Band,” Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online

Daniel Weinbren, The Oddfellows, 1810-2010: Two Hundred Years of Making Friends and Helping People (Lancaster: Carnegie Publishing, 2010).

West Virginia Division of Culture and History. First Annual Mountain State Forest Festival. http://www.wvculture.org/History/entertainment/forestfestival02.html (accessed February 2017).

 

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Odd Fellows Props: David's Harp

2016.021 AutoharpRecently, a generous donor presented this autoharp (at left) to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library for our collection. The donor was intrigued by the label visible inside that mentions the Masonic Temple in Chicago, Illinois.  The reference to the Masonic Temple on the label relates to the location of the autoharp’s retailer rather than any implied Masonic ritual use.

A “Pianoette” like this one was first patented in 1916. For more on its development, see this website.  As the label indicates, Samuel C. Osborn was selling these instruments for $25 apiece.  While these were produced and sold for general musical use, there are similar autoharps that appear in catalogs for Odd Fellows lodges (see photo on right from a 1908 Pettibone Brothers Mfg. Co. catalog).  The catalog explains that it could be "very easily learned by anyone having any musical ability."Pettibone harp catalog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2001_084S1NPIn Odd Fellows ritual, a “self-playing harp” is a prop for the character of David in the fraternity’s First, or Friendship, Degree. The ritual traces the biblical story of David and Jonathan teaching that “Odd Fellows…should maintain their feelings and friendship to a brother under the most severe tests.”  David was known for his musical ability, which “had a pleasant effect upon the mind and a soothing effect upon the heart of King Saul.”  In our collection we have another autoharp (at left) that closely resembles several that are illustrated in Odd Fellows regalia catalogs from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The harp shown on the cover of the 1910 C.E. Ward Company catalog (see photo at right) shows a very similar crescent shape and decoration (called the “chaldean design”) and sold for $6.50. Harp on Ward Catalog Cover

“Pianoette” Autoharp, 1916-1940, United States, gift of Larry W. Toussaint in memory of Allison Howard Toussaint, 2016.021.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Self-Playing Harp, 1900-1930, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Purchase, 2001.084. Photograph by David Bohl.

References:

Rev. T.G. Beharbell, Odd Fellows Monitor and Guide, Indianapolis: Robert Douglass, 1881.


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.


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.

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.