Relief organizations

Moses Dickson and the Order of Twelve

Moses_dickson_web Pictured here is Moses Dickson, from the frontispiece illustration of the 1879 book A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle. In 1872, the Rev. Moses Dickson founded the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an African-American fraternal order focused on benevolence and financial programs. Dickson was born a free man in Cincinnati in 1824, was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and afterwards became a prominent clergyman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dickson showed an interest in progressive fraternal organizations early on - in 1846 Dickson, with others, founded a society known as the Knights of Liberty, whose objective was to overthrow slavery; the group did not get beyond the organizing stages. Dickson was also involved in Freemasonry - he was the second Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri.

Dickson's International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor - or Order of Twelve, as it's more commonly know - accepted men and women on equal terms. Men and women met together in higher level groups and in the governance of the organization, although at the local level they met separately - the men in "temples" and the women in "tabernacles" (akin to "lodges" in Freemasonry). The Order of Twelve was most prominent in the South and the lower Midwest. The major benefits to members - similar to many fraternal orders of the time - was a burial policy and weekly cash payments for the sick.

What many people today remember about the Order of Twelve is an institution founded in Mound Bayou, Misssissippi in 1942 - the Taborian Hospital. Michael Premo, a Story Corps facilitator, posted his appreciation for the impact that the Taborian Hospital had on the lives of African-Americans living in the Mississippi Delta from the 1940s-1960s. The Taborian Hospital was on the Mississippi Heritage Trust's 10 Most Endangered List of 2000, and an update to that list indicates that the hospital still stands vacant and seeks funding for renovation. Here are some photos of the Taborian Hospital today.

Want to learn more about the Order of Twelve? Here are a few primary and secondary sources that we have here in our collection (with primary sources listed first):

Dickson, Moses. A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle, including the Ceremonies of the Order, Constitutions, Installations, Dedications, and Funerals, with Forms, and the Taborian Drill and Tactics. St. Louis, Mo. : G. I. Jones [printer], 1879.
Call number: RARE HS 2259 .T3 D5 1879

----. Ritual of Taborian Knighthood, including : the Uniform Rank. St. Louis, Mo. : A. R. Fleming & Co., printers, 1889.
Call number: RARE HS 2230 .T3 D5 1889

Beito, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number: 44 .B423 2000

Skocpol, Theda, Ariane Liazos, Marshall Ganz. What a Mighty Power We Can Be : African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2006.
Call number: 90 .S616 2006


Album of Masonic Impostors

Masonicimposter_web_2 Why would someone impersonate a Freemason? And why would someone publish a book showing some of the supposedly more nefarious characters who have impersonated Masons?

Pictured here is a page from a book called Album of Masonic Impostors [Call no.: 19.78 .A345 1903], which was published by The Masonic Relief Association of the United States and Canada, an organization which was a sort of clearing house for improving the methods for providing relief by various Masonic organizations, as well as a central organization for disseminating informaton throughout North America about men known to have tried (or, in many cases, succeeded) in defrauding various Masonic relief agencies by claiming membership in various Masonic bodies.

Especially during a time when receiving benefits in the workplace was uncommon, one of the benefits of joining a fraternal organization was just that - receiving benefits. Death benefits and various types of insurance were some of what you received for paying your dues. (In fact, many non-Masonic fraternal organizations went on to primarily become life insurance companies, many of which still keep "fraternal" in their name, although the fraternal aspect of many of these organizations has been de-emphasized, or disappeared altogether.)

Because there was money to be had by members of a fraternity who were genuinely in need, a brisk business grew of con-men who traveled around posing as Masons and trying to get relief (in the form of money) provided by various Masonic organizations in the different towns and cities they visited. The Masonic Relief Association published an "Official Warning Circular" on a regular basis (a number of which we also have in our collection), that warned various Masonic relief organizations about some of the con men that might come their way. The Album of Masonic Impostors is a bit of a rogues' gallery of some of these men.

Call me soft-hearted, but when I see these photos, like the one of C.S. Salisbury above, I wonder what desperate circumstances drove men like him to resort to becoming "Masonic Impostors."

If you want to learn more about the role of Masonic and fraternal organizations in providing "relief" and social services, we've got a number of great resources. A great place to start is:

Beito, David T. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number:44 .B423 2000