The United Ancient Order of Druids was one of the earliest fraternal groups to hit the scene. Founded in 1771 in London, England, it was only two years later that the group formed a Grand Lodge of it’s own. The first Lodge in the Americas was chartered in 1830 in New York, New York. However, the area that would become the greatest supporter wouldn’t see a local “Grove” until 1858, when the first Grove was chartered in California.
Like many fraternal organizations, the Druids resembled Freemasonry, working several side degrees and forming many different appendent organizations. More information on Druidism can be found on the Marin County Historical Site.
It appears that Druid Groves still exist in parts of California and Nevada, but the group was reported to have less than 6500 members by the middle of the twentieth century. In California the Druidic family is composed of three separate bodies: Groves, being the Brotherhood, Circles, known as the Sisterhood, and the Chapters, known as the Fun Branch. A member of the brotherhood branch can in due time join the sisterhood. However, a member of the sisterhood cannot join the brotherhood branch. Both members of the brotherhood and the sisterhood are eligible to join the Chapter branch. All three branches of the Druidic Fraternity claim a root in antiquity and each branch has its own moral precepts. The home page of the Druids of California can be found here.
This fez hails from a Grove located in San Francisco, CA. Based upon the construction and embroidery, it can be dated to sometime in the mid twentieth century.
This piece represents an amazing and rare addition to the collection. As the fez states, this hat belonged to a Past Grand Chief Knight, or State President, of a Grand Chapter, known as the fun arm of the United Ancient Order of Druids. The fez came to the museum in a degraded state. But, after a good once over with a lint brush, much of the color was restored. This piece has some minor damage to the rhinestones, so discoloration to tassel, and major cracking to the sweatband. However, this fez is quite rare and is a valued addition to the collection, even with these flaws. Based on the date on the fez, this piece comes from the mid 1980’s.
We were contacted by the Druids in California and provided with this additional information – “This is a standard issue fez given each year to the Past Grand Chief Knight of our Grand Chapter for that term year. This one Belonged to PGCK Thomas Durkee who served in that capacity in 1983 to 1984. He was a member of California Chapter in San Francisco. He has passed away. That Chapter has closed but we still have three local chapters in the state still in operation. ” Thanks go out to Mr. John Zeni, Past Noble Grand Arch, 2007-2008, Druids of California