In the 1800s and 1900s selling regalia and costumes to fraternal groups became big business. Regalia companies seeking to attract customers produced richly illustrated catalogs and colorful advertising material to highlight the costumes and uniforms they manufactured. The artwork and advertising material in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s new exhibition, “From Head to Foot: Fraternal Regalia Illustrations,” were produced by the Cincinnati Regalia Company (1895-1998), of Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Ihling Bros. Everard Company (1869-1995), of Kalamazoo, Michigan. These regalia makers, along with others, produced uniforms, regalia, and accessories for Masons, Shriners, Elks, and additional fraternal groups. These items can help us better understand how companies marketed and sold fraternal regalia between 1900 and 1980.
The number of Americans who were members of fraternal groups grew to millions by the beginning of the 1900s. Regalia companies attempted to outfit this large consumer base with everything they needed, from head to foot, as advertised in this flyer. Ihling Bros. Everard Company offered many types of Shrine regalia to appeal to two national Shrine organizations, the Ancient Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, with 87,000 members by 1904, and the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, which had established more than sixty temples across the US by the start of World War I. Shrine organizations took inspiration from traditional Middle Eastern clothing for their ritual and regalia. That taste is illustrated in this flyer by the turban, wide-leg pants, and curved-toe shoes worn by the model.
Some of the artwork displayed in this exhibition was created to be reproduced in catalogs. This illustration, for example, appeared in an Ihling Bros. Everard Company catalog, printed around 1970, that featured costumes and accessories for the Knights Templar. This group, part of the York Rite of Freemasonry, draws inspiration from the crusading knights of medieval Europe. This model is presented in a “Pilgrim Warrior” costume, which, in addition to a pointed helmet, a sword, and a cape, included a full suit of what Ihling Bros. Everard Company called “armor cloth.” This cloth was patterned to look like scale mail, protective metal clothing worn by medieval knights and soldiers. These catalogs, printed in black and white, featured a variety of items, including hats, shoulder braid, jackets, pants, robes, tights, and shoes. Catalogs were used by fraternal groups to order uniforms and regalia for their members to wear for meetings, ritual work, parades, and other activities.
Some of the colorful illustrations, like the one shown here from the Cincinnati Regalia Company, were sent to customers to present color and design variations to supplement the black and white images in catalogs. Regalia companies served both women’s and men’s organizations and produced catalogs specifically designed for women’s organizations which displayed the regalia and costumes of particular orders. Because of the distinct American flag-inspired design of this costume, it was likely created for a group with a patriotic agenda, such as the Daughters of America, a Junior Order of United American Mechanics women’s auxiliary.
These attractive advertisements offer insight into the vibrant regalia industry during the 1900s. This exhibition will be on view at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library until July 26, 2024.