Drawing a Fraternal Identity
December 09, 2014
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