United Commercial Travelers (UCT)

The United Commercial Travelers are an interesting case amongst fraternal organizations in America. Started in 1888, it was created as a mutual benefit society for one of the most hated professions around – the travelling salesmen. As the men in this job were not well liked or respected, they found a need to band together to help one another. The organization still exists today, but is more of an insurance company than a fraternal organization.

This fez dates from the mid 20th Century – estimated at the 40’s or 50’s. It’s of a cheaper quality, keeping in line with the blue collar nature of the supposed owners. Like many fraternal groups, the UCT were aware of the image they needed to possess, hence their use of fezzes to show how much “fun” they were – all in an effort to gain more members. This fez is blue in color, being stitched with “C.C. 202″ – referencing the local Chapter number the owner belonged to. The design is a crescent shape having a traveling salesman’s case chained to it, bearing the letters “U.C.T.” The tassel is worn, but is still rather white. This is a great example of a fez from a relatively unknown group and we are glad to have it in the collection.

Anicent Mystic Order of Bagmen of Bagdad (AMOB)

Like many fraternal organizations, the UCT had an internal organization develop, that only members of the UCT could join. The Ancient Mystic Order of Bagmen of Bagdad (sic) – sometimes referred to as AMOB or AMOBB – was founded in 1895 in Ohio as the “fun” and burial insurance arm of the Order of United Commercial Travelers of America. There were 6,000 Bagmen in 1994.

Today, the Ancient Mystic Order of Bagmen of Bagdad is variously seen as a “fun” organization and as the “inner circle” of the Order of United  Commercial Travelers of America. Members dress up in pseudo-Arab costume and fezzes for parades (though they do not parade very much, anymore), but the organization also provides the more sober service of funding burial of deceased members. Membership has fluctuated through the years, about 4,000 in the mid-1960s, about 6,600 in the mid-1970s, and about 6,000 a decade later. At one time, there were rituals which may have been in use into the 1970s.

This fez is believe to have been a basic members fez. Internet and archival searches haven’t turned up much infomration on where Comus chapter would have been located. The fez is white, with tarnished silver bullion and a blue tassel. Our guess is that it dates prior to the 1950’s. The structure of the Order isn’t well documented. Research shows that a local President would have been styled a “Grand Ruler,” while the national head of the organization is called the “Imperial Ruler.”

This fez belonged to a Past Imperial Ruler (past national president) of the AMOB. You can see the traditional symbols of the organization rendered in metallic thread (rather than bullion), which are the moon, the star, and the “bag.” There are some rhinestones on the hat, usually at the crux of the formation of the letters. This would have made the piece a bit flashier. The whole hat is black with a white tassel. Based on construction, we believe this to be a newer fez, probably from after 1990.

Fire and Square Club

The Fire Square Club of New York City was composed of Freemasons who were either employed by or affiliated with the Fire Department of the City of New York. Founded in the early 1920’s, it acted as a social club for men who were in a dangerous line of work, to say the least. Like many “Masonic Clubs,” it fielded its own degree team and provided some extra charitable benefits to members.

Few records can be found for this organization and it appears to no longer exists. Most of the activity for the club dates from the 1920’s. Based upon the construction of the piece and this data, we date it to between 1920 and 1935. It is made of dark blue felt, the tassel being yellow. The logo is a patch that has been sewn on to the fez with care; no makers tag is present.

Railroad Workers

This fez is pretty unique. It came to us via an attendee at a lecture given by the Curator. The story he told was that the fez belonged to an Uncle who had been employed on the Pennsylvania Railroad. This Uncle also happened to be a Freemason. In the early to mid 20th Century, it was not uncommon for professions to gather together within Fraternal groups and create their own little clubs. That seems to be the case with this fez.20140710_204841

As one can see, it definitely has the lettering of the Pennsylvania Railroad on it, as well as a Square, a common Masonic Symbol. No records of this club exist, but we were told it was active in the Altoona, PA, area. We’re unsure what the 925 stands for, as there were no Masonic Lodges numbered that high in Pennsylvania. Regardless, this is a very unique and wonderful addition to the collection.

Shield and Square Club

This fez comes from Pennsylvania and features a keystone, the emblem of the State. The fez is blue, with a yellow tassel. Within the keystone is a square. The entire design is rendered in yellow thread. It probably dates from the 1930’s to 50’s.

Based on the imagery, it’s thought that this piece came from a Shield and Square Club. These clubs are usually formed by police officers who are also Masons. They help by conferring Masonic Degrees on other law enforcement officers joining the fraternity and by hosting additional social functions.