The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), also known as the Three Link Fraternity, is an altruistic and benevolent fraternal organization derived from the similar British Oddfellows service organizations which came into being during the 18th century, at a time when altruistic and charitableacts were far less common. In the U.S., it is a Mutual Benefit Corporation (U.S. IRS tax code 501(c)(8)).
While several unofficial or self-institued lodges had existed in New York City sometime in the period 1806 to 1818, because of the charter relationship, the American Odd Fellows is regarded as being founded in Baltimore at the Seven Stars Tavern on April 26, 1819, by Thomas Wildey and some associates who assembled in response to a newspaper advertisement. The following year, the lodge affiliated with the Manchester Unity and was granted the authority to institute new lodges.
In 1842, after an elementary dispute on whether the American lodges were to be involved in decision-making procedures, the American Lodges formed a separate governing system from the English Order, and in 1843 changed their name to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The word “Independent” in the organization’s name was given by the English parent organization as part of the chartered title in the new North American chapter. In the following years, lodges were instituted all over the country, first in the east and later in the west.