What are “Animal Lodges?”

As the Freemasons, Odd Fellows, and Knights of Pythias grew, so did the other fraternal organizations that popped up around the United States. A major trend in these organizations was that of the “animal Lodge.” These were so dubbed as they were often named after a patron animal. Examples include the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Loyal Order of Moose, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, and the Order of Owls.

In almost all cases, the ritual and happenings of these groups closely resembled that of a Masonic Lodge. Early on in their lives, the animal Lodges distinguished themselves by being more socially oriented and purchasing buildings in which they had dance floors and lounges that served alcoholic beverages. They also offered many insurance benefits to their members. The key difference in the modern day is that animal Lodges have done away with most of their ritual, becoming even more social than they have previously been.

Fraternal Order of Eagles

The Fraternal Order of Eagles was founded February 6, 1898, in Seattle, WA, by a group of six theatre owners. The group was originally intended to admit those invovled in the performing arts. The Eagles are probably best known for campaigning for the establishment of Mother’s Day as a national holiday and for thier support of Social Security. The group meets in Aeries and is led locally by a President.

Our first fez was purchased from a dealer in the Southwest, but it is uknown as to which local affiliate this fez may have come from. The number “1” would lead us to believe it is from the Seattle group, but nothing can be ascertained for sure. It should also be noted that for a group that was founded in the theatrical arts, there are very few variations of Eagles fezzes, making this a rare addition to the archives.

The Eagles remain strongest where they were founded, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. This fez is slightly newer piece, probably dating from the 1970’s or later. The tassel has been repaired. The fez itself is blue with patches applied to it via iron applique. They are beginning to detach slightly. The top rocker says “Spokane 2,” leading us to believe that the fez was used by the Aerie in that city.

When this fez popped up for auction, we knew it belonged in the collection because we had never seen another one like it! Obviously, it hails from the Fraternal Order of Eagles. But, nothing about it relates to a typical Eagles fez. Other examples in our collection are either blue or white, where this one is purple. All of the lettering done in silver thread, with the center eagle being done on a patch. The lettering states “Alameda 1076 Silver Eagle”, rendered off center so that the “Silver Eagle” portion aligns to the front. The tassel is missing. Based on construction, we think this fez is from the 50’s or 60’s.

Using our powers of inference, it is assumed that the “Silver Eagle” was some form of recognition or honor provided to a member for outstanding service. If you know the actual back story, drop us a note in the contacts section!

Rarer still is this Eagles fez, rescured from an online auction site. It belonged to John Lester, who served as Grand Worthy President of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1991-1992. The Grand Worthy President is the highest ranking officer in the organization, with only 116 men having served in that position since 1898. Mr. Lester resided in Cadiz, OH, and a was a member of the local Aerie there before assuming national office. The fez is white, with a yellow tassel. The eagle is rendered in gold thread (not bullion) and is facing the left, as opposed to the previous example, where it is facing the right. The tassel is held in place by a band that has the name “Les” on it, linking it to the owner even further. We’re very lucky to have this piece in the collection and proud to be able to display it for all to enjoy!

Fraternal Order of Orioles

The Fraternal Order of Orioles was founded in Rochester, NY, in August 1910. While membership has waned, there are currently more than 50 local “Nests” still operating in nine states. The leader of the Order is the Supreme Worthy President. At one time, the Orioles had a large headquarters building in Buffalo, NY. Today, records indicate they operate out of Reading, PA. The organization practiced an Initiatory Degree for new members; there was also a Supreme Degree and an Invincible Degree, both awarded by the Supreme Nest. The FOOs watchwords are liberty, integrity, fraternity and equality spelled out as “LIFE” on the Orders emblem.

This fez was found in an antique shop in upstate New York. The Orioles were not known to wear fezzes, so it was quite a suprise to come across this piece. It is made of black felt, with the emblem of an Oriole embroidered on it. The letters spell out “FOO” for Fraternal Order of Orioles. The tassel is yellow and is of standard length. After a review of materials used and the type of embroidery, this fez probably was manufactured before 1940.

This unusual piece is thought to come from the Fraternal Order of Orioles, but we aren’t entirely sure. It is the traditional Orioles colors, orange and black, and does prominently feature an embroidered Oriole. The embroidery, done in yellow thread, says “King Court.”

Our guess is that it dates from the early 1900’s. The piece has some pitting and is folded into shape, with the sweatband not wanting to bend much anymore.

This is one of those pieces that treads the fine line between hat and fez. It has a tassel, but is structured and domed, with a button in the top middle. It’s an unusual little part of fraternal millinery for sure!

Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World

It’s important to note, that just like in Freemasonry, there were often Caucasian animal Lodges operating along side their African American cousins. While most people know of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, lesser known is their African American counterpart, the Improved and Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World (IBPOEW.)

According to their website “The Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World were granted a copyright as an organization September 28, 1898, in Cincinnati, Ohio.  A Pullman porter Arthur James Riggs, and Benjamin Franklin Howard, who were both members of another fraternal organization, met in that city, and they discovered that they both had a dream of forming an Elks organization for people of color.  Their dreams and plans were realized when the first Lodge, Alpha Lodge No. 1, was organized in Cincinnati, Ohio.  As the Elks prevailed, the organization struggled against many racist attitudes and legal efforts to deny the existence of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World.

On June 13, 1902, Emma Virginia Kelly Organized the Daughters of Elks in Norfolk, Virginia.  This group was later adopted by the Grand Lodge and became an auxiliary body to the Brothers of Elks.  The first Temple was Norfolk Temple No. 1, Norfolk, Virginia.

The Elks is the largest predominately Black, fraternal organization in the world, and boasts a membership of over 450,000, with Lodges and Temples in the United States, Canada, Mexico, West Indies, Panama, and the Bahamas.  In 1998, the organization celebrated its international centennial, which was hosted in the City of Las Vegas, Nevada – one hundred years – since their founding.  The second one hundred year centennial celebrated was held in 1999, hosted by the City of New Orleans for the founding of the Grand Lodge.  The parent body of the organization.  Congratulatory acknowledgements were received from the United State President William Jefferson Clinton, every presiding Governor of the twenty-seven State Association representing domestic jurisdictions personage, corporations, and letters from governing authorties of foreign jurisdictions under the umbrella of Elkdom.”

Here we have two of the fezzes from the lot and it is presumed that one person owned all three fezzes. Interestingly enough, it means that we can trace the gentleman’s involvement from first joining to his later service as a regional President. We begin his journey with a purple fez and white tassel, which each member would have worn.  The fez states that its hails from Ames Lodge No. 106 in Minnesota. Following, we can see that the owner became an Exalted Ruler and went on to serve on the Past Exalted Rulers Council No. 32 (hence the PERC initials on the fez.) The fez is remarkably similar in design and construction, exchanging the white tassel for a yellow with the increase in rank. These fezzes date to around the 80’s, with most of the work being done with rhinestones, excepting the patch in the middle on both pieces.

The third fez, and most ornate of the group, is pictured above. The fez is white, meaning that the owner was an officer on a state level. It is heavily bejeweled, with the elk being done in gold bullion thread. It is fairly rare to see IBPOEW fezzes done in bullion, as the group seems to favor rhinestone decoration. The fez reads “Past Pres. M.W.S.A.” and “P.E.R.C. 32 Minnesota.” We believe this to mean that the owner was a Past President of the Mid West State Association and a member of the Past Exalted Rulers Council No. 32 in Minnesota. The tassel is yellow and is held to the fez with a similar piece of thread. We date this fez to the the 80’s as well. The best part of these pieces is the evidence that a man joined the IBPOEW and gave much time and effort to the organization. We here at the museum are proud to display this man’s fezzes as a testament to his love of fraternalism.

This example of an IBPOEW fez belonged to a basic member, one “P. Greene,” who’s name appears on the back of the fez. As indicated, it comes from Curfew Lodge No. 1162, located in Nassau , Bahamas. This is an important distinction, as it shows just how international this fraternity really was! It is also a great example of the rhinestone work done on fezzes from the late 60’s to the late 80’s.

It has been a while since we acquired an Elks fez. This piece came as part of a lot with other items of interest. The fez itself is quite old, certainly dating from the early 1900’s. Thanks to the writing, we know that it hails from Elks Lodge No. 189 in Danville, VA. The emblem and information are rendered in gold bullion thread. The tassel is typical of early fezzes, being thinner and wispy. Unfortunately, the top knot has started to come part. The purple felt is also showing evidence of damage and pitting. But, this fez is a great example of an early, basic members fez.

This fez was purchased at auction and added to the collection for a couple of reasons. It is quite old – probably dating from the 30’s. We base this determination by the size of the tassel, the construction of the fez, and the quality of the craftsmanship. The design is done in multi-layered silver bullion, with an intricate design for the elk’s face. The bullion threads are in great shape and really shine in the light. This fez comes from one of the biggest Elks Lodges in Philadelphia, Quaker City No. 720, which remains active today. It should also be noted that this is the only Elks fez in the collection that does not show IBPOEW (which would designate it as having belonged to the African American branch.)

Special thanks to Ms. Mashona Troublefield of Hackensack, NJ, for clearing up some errors in the original text.

The three fezzes above all come from the same collection, purchased at auction. They appear in approximate order of when they would have been earned. The first fez is unique in that the Elk is embroidered in bullion rather than done in rhinestones, as is more commonly seen. It shows that the wearer was a Past Exalted Ruler of King Tut Lodge No. 389, located in Cleveland, Ohio. Unfortunately this fez is in poor shape, with several stains and missing design pieces. In similar fashion, the gentlemen who owned these fezzes would go on to be a part of the Shrine Department in Cleveland (depicted by the second fez.) It has a more traditional design, with the patch and rhinestones, but the top is very discolored and well stained. However, of particular note, is the tassel, which is composed of three different colors – yellow, purple, and white. This color combination denotes the rank of a Past Grand Exalted Ruler, which is the highest honor that the organization confers. This honor is confirmed on the third fez in the collection, which is labeled as such. The rhinestones and designs on this fez are immaculate and he couldn’t have worn it very much for it to be in this condition.

Loyal Order of the Moose

The Loyal Order of Moose (now called Moose International) was founded in 1888 in Louisville, KY. They quickly grew in membership and remain one of the largest of the “animal” based fraternal organizations. Best known for Mooseheart (a private facility to help children in need) and Moosehaven (a retirement village) the fraternity continues to have a strong presence nationally.

This fez comes from the Moose Legion, which is a body designed for members who showed dedication to the Moose mission and have been affiliated with the group for at least 6 months. The Legion was best known for its support of the once popular ritual of the Moose as well as providing even more family events for its members.

Originally, the Moose Legion was called the “Mooseheart Loyal Legion” and organized in 1914. Mr. R.H. Nesbit was an early champion of the group, taking on the title of Supreme Herder. Later, as the Moose distanced itself from light-hearted fraternal tropes, the group changed its name to the Moose Legion and the leader became simply the Director.

Research shows that the Moose stopped using the fez in 1928 because of its association with other fraternal orders. The group wanted to have a unique piece of headgear to call their own, hence the next entry on this list. This fez appears to be a very early example, dating from the nineteen-teens. The emblem is made of crushed velvet with the symbol embroidered upon it in metallic thread. The word “Legion” is rendered in gold bullion, which has tarnished significantly. While the fez isn’t in perfect shape, it’s a great example of what the early Moose Legionnaires would have worn.

This piece almost didnt’ make it into the collection. Called a “Tah” (which is just hat spelled backwards), we’ve debated if this style of hat counted a fez or not. This hat was a gift to the museum, so we decided that it should go on display anyways. As you can see, it retains the purple color and familiar Moose fraternity emblems – a heart and a moose. The Tah was generally used by Moose Degree Teams while performing ritual work.

In 1989 Moose International abolished most of the regalia once used by the fraternity, including collars, robes, fezzes, and the Tah. Today the Moose uses colored blazers to reflect rank.

Benevolent and Protective Order of Reindeer

At first thought, many believe this fez to be related to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Rather, it hails from the Benevolent and Protective Order of Reindeer, a similar group with no actual connection to the Elks. The BPOR was started in the early part of the twentieth century by some unhappy members of the Loyal Order of the Moose. These members, from New Jersey, were appaled that the Moose would not let in African American members. In response, they created thier own version of the Moose that did not have these prejudices. However, the Moose sued the group and forced them to change their name. In a fit of brilliance and defiance they decided if they couldn’t be Moose they’d be Reindeer instead! The group still exists, mainly in the Northeastern United States, albeit in a much more limited capacity.

This fez was a miraculous find that was discovered thanks to a tip from a friend of the museum. It is an encrusted reminder that the owner came from the Philadelphia area and was an Honorary Past Grand Director (a Grand Director being the head of the Grand Lodge.)

In September of 2011, the Museum was contacted by a Past Grand Director of the organization. He spoke to the Curator at length and the information from their conversation can be found in the document titled Information on the Benevolent and Protective Order of Reindeer.

Lions Clubs International

When you think of “animal lodges,” the Lions generally don’t come to find. They are usually lumped in with the “service organizations,” such as Rotary, the Kiwanis, and the Optimists. When we saw this fez, we knew it was unusual because these groups don’t usually get into the silly hats business. But, here we are!

The Lions were established in 1917 in Chicago, IL, by a local business leader and Freemason named Melvin Jones. The group was founded by business leaders who wanted to make a bigger impact on their local community. The organization’s motto “We Serve” remains their driving mission to this day. It is sometimes said that the name Lions is also an acronym for “Liberty, Intelligence, and Our Nation’s Safety.” Today, the Lions have more than 46,000 local units, with more than a million members world wide.

Other than its unusual origin, this fez is pretty standard. It consists of a purple body, with a yellow tassel that is coming apart. The traditional Lions seal is found in the middle, on a patch. The words “El Monte Lions Club” are embroidered in gold thread. Naturally, this leads us to believe that the fez comes from the local club in El Monte, California.