American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA)

The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (more commonly known as AHEPA) is a fraternal organization formed by Greek nationals / descendants in 1922 in Atlanta, GA. During that period many Greeks were being targeted by racism in the American South, primarily by the Ku Klux Klan. In light of those attacks, ethnic groups banded together to form their own organizations. AHEPA was born from this period. The group is closely tied to the Greek Orthodox Church and retains a friendly relationship with the faith. Like all good fraternal organization, they spawned a ladies group – the Daughters of Penelope, and two youth groups – the Sons of Pericles for Boys and the Maids of Athena for girls. The group was organized into local Lodges which were led by a President. They were also known to have District Level governors. All of the groups still exist today, although much less emphasis is placed on the fraternal aspects.

Our first example of an AHEPA fez is a later piece, probably from the 1970’s or 80’s. As you can see, it is well labeled as belonging to AHEPA and bears the updated logo and symbols of the group. It is blue with a white tassel to emulate the traditional colors of Greece. Otherwise, the fez is relatively plain and done in embroidery with a patch. This style of fez was the most prevalent in the later years of the group.

The second of our AHEPA fezzes is more traditional, being made of red a very soft red wool. This is the only fez in the collection with this type of material. Its tassel is white and blue in the same braid, representing the colors of Greece. The logo is a patch which has been sewn on while the word AHEPA has been embroidered on the piece. We place this fez from sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s.

The Museum sometimes gets contacted by persons who have come into possession of fezzes from family members or through other means. Often times these individuals are interested in the history of the piece and perhaps selling it to ensure that it goes somewhere that its historical significance can be of use. That was just the case with this piece. Karen, the previous owner, contacted us and wanted to make sure that the fez would be well taken care of. The piece belonged to her uncle, who was a member of AHEPA in the San Francisco area of California. This hat is especially nice as it is done in bullion and embroidery, including the eagle, which really stands out. The tassel remains the traditional blue and white and is in excellent shape. The piece is constructed out of a red wool, similar to the one above, and is one of the tallest in the entire collection.

We always enjoy finding fezzes that designate national officers as they aren’t usually produced in large quantity. This fez, designating the Supreme Treasurer of the Order of AHEPA, is slightly different than our other pieces. It includes rhinestones and gold metallic thread, on blue instead of red. The tassel is white, while the logo is slightly different and presented in the more modern, circular format. A fairly new fez, this hat probably dates from 1975 or later.

Greek American Protective Association (GAPA)

The Greek American Progressive Association was founded in December of 1923 to assist immigrants and their families. Its aims were similar to that of the AHEPA, but GAPA had a bigger emphasis on Greek language, culture, and religion. At one time, the group had over twenty five thousand members.

This “fez” is another that breaks the rules we generally follow. The construction of the hat is most definitely a blue fez that has been creased in the middle and sewn together. On the front of the hat is an arm holding a lightning bolt in a metallic disc, the symbol of GAPA. Also, the letters GAPA appear above the emblem in bullion. On the side of the fez is a piece of ribbon, sewn on, in the colors red, white, and blue. Our estimates date this piece to the 1920’s.

This fez was a donation from the fine folks at the Cambridge Massachusetts Masonic Temple. This museum has worked with them in the past on identifying objects and dating items. We very much appreciate their assistance in obtaining this fez.