What are the American Woodmen?

The American Woodmen, not to be confused with the Woodmen of America, is an interesting organization in the history of fraternal organizations. Originally started by a group of Caucasian men in 1901, the group was quickly transformed into an African American Fraternal Society by the nineteen-teens. Throughout their history, the American Woodmen have worked hard to support charitable causes, especially within the African American communities they served. From just $9,000 in 1910, the group managed to amass assets of over ten million by the late 1960’s. In 1966, the organization transitioned, with the fraternal aspect being separated from the financial benefit administration. This created the American Woodmen Stock Company, which worked along side the American Woodmen. This corporation was purchased in 1972 by Crusaders Life Insurance, wresting control of the insurance group away from the Woodmen. Legal battles ensued, as the Fraternalists tried to regain control of their assets. The groups reconciled in 1978 and have worked together ever since, operating as a fraternal benefit society restricted to black citizens. A full history of the American Woodmen can be found here: http://www.denverwoodmen.com/shared/content/documents/SCAW%20History.pdf

This fez hails from Dayton, Ohio, as can be found with the wording rendered in rhinestones. The emblem is a patch, sewn on to a blue felt fez, bearing a white tassel. The patch shows a log, being hewn with an axe, bearing the letters “AW,” standing for American Woodmen. The tassel hangs on the right hand side of the wearer, which is an anomaly, as most fraternal groups (especially men’s) wear their tassels to the left.