Loyal Order of Moose

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).

You Can’t Miss It! The Loyal Order of Moose Neon Sign

Moose sign in Curators' ChoiceThis sign harkens back to an era in which both neon signs and the Loyal Order of Moose populated many American cities.  The museum first purchased and installed it for the 2002 exhibition, To Build and Sustain:  Freemasonry in American Communities.  With vibrant colors and bright lights, this object gave us a chance to illustrate twentieth-century fraternal organizations’ impact, not only on American’s social lives, but also on downtown landscapes.  And, as a staff member notes in Curators’ Choice:  Favorites from the Collection, “This sign is just plain cool!”      

Since 2002, we have learned a lot about neon signs at the museum, most notably from our experience displaying and interpreting antique signs from the collection of Dave and Lynn Waller in the exhibition, New England Neon.  Born of a marriage between advertising and science, neon signs have long enlivened American streets.  After their introduction in the mid-1920s, neon signs--inexpensive to operate, colorful and suitable for a variety of designs--trumped previously popular forms of electric signs.  Solid construction, appealing curved shapes and bold, enameled colors mark this neon Moose sign as a great example of the commercially produced neon signs made in the 1930s and 1940s. 

When new, this sign advertised Loyal Order of Moose Lodge #1369 in Robinson, Illinois.  Information fromDetail of Moose sign the Museum of Moose History suggests that lodges could purchase these signs from the Supreme Lodge Supply Department of the Moose in the 1930s.  We are also glad to know the manufacturer of this sign, the Swanson-Nunn Electric Co. of Evansville, Indiana, who inscribed their company name along the bottom of the sign.  Not all neon sign companies did, so this information is valuable to us.  As time passes, wear, weather and changing tastes have made neon signs from this era increasingly rare—we count ourselves lucky to have this one to share with visitors.

Sign, 1930–1950. Swanson-Nunn Electric Co., Evansville, Indiana.  Museum Purchase, 2000.055.

All Dressed Up: The Loyal Order of Moose

2009_045_1DP1 Is this a theater troupe? A group photo at a costume party? Neither – it’s a photograph of members of a fraternal group, dressed in costume for a ritual. Judging by the moose-shaped pendants that they wear, these men probably belonged to the local Loyal Order of Moose lodge in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Originally founded in 1888 in Louisville, Kentucky, the Loyal Order of Moose offered sick benefits to members and worked to construct a school in Illinois to provide vocational training for orphaned children of members. Today, the fraternity has almost 800,000 members in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Bermuda.

Unfortunately, the National Heritage Museum does not have any Moose costumes in its collection. So, if you have any regalia or items associated with the Loyal Order of Moose and would consider making them a donation to the Museum, please post a comment below or contact us by phone or email.

Fraternal Group, ca. 1915, George D. Elson, Maynard, Massachusetts, National Heritage Museum collection, Museum Purchase, 2009.045.1.  Photograph by David Bohl.