What is Clandestine Freemasonry?

The question of “Regularity” in Freemasonry is a touchy subject. As Chris Hodapp says in his book Freemasons for Dummies “… everyone is regular to someone.” The heart of this matter really comes into debate most often when dealing with Prince Hall Freemasonry and the many “Clandestine” groups that have splintered off from it.

In Freemasonry, Clandestine is defined as a Lodge that is unrecognized by the predominant Grand Lodges of the world. To put it even simpler, if the Lodge or group isn’t recognized by the largest and oldest of the Masonic groups, it’s considered “Clandestine” and Masons from those Lodges are not supposed to be involved with members of the Clandestine body. What this really means is that not every person styling themselves as a “Mason” is truly recognized as such by every other Mason. It’s like a New Yorker trying to explain why a person from the Hamptons isn’t really a New Yorker when they live on the same island.

For our purposes, a group is considered Clandestine if it is unrecognized by the Conference of Grand Masters of North America or the Conference of Prince Hall Grand Masters.


The Shriners are one of the most recognizable fraternal organizations in the world. It is no wonder that they are often imitated. This has especially been a challenge in the African American community, with several spurious organizations purporting themselves to be a legitimate Shrine organization (for reference, the only legitimate organizations are Shriners International and the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.) Sadly, this also makes very difficult to determine if a fez comes from a legitimate or clandestine group.

This fez, designated as being from Rameses Shrine No. 6, of Chester, PA, certainly fits the bill. We can find no reference to a legitimate Shrine organization with that name, number, and location. Additionally, the fez is white, making it even more suspect. White fezzes are often used by women’s groups, though no sign of that exists with this fez. In another twist, the tassel is pinned to the right. Most men’s organizations pin the tassel to the left; the ladies often pin to the right. So, while we think it is a spurious Shrine fez, it may belong to a spurious ladies organization.

The construction of the fez leads us to believe that it was made from between 1950 and 1980. The emblem and lettering are done in bullion and rhinestones, so it would not have been a cheap hat to have produced at the time. The tassel is plain black and is held in place with a simple single-row rhinestone chain guard.

Daughters of Isis

The Daughters of Isis is the female auxiliary of the AEAONMS, Prince Hall Affiliated. Groups began to pop up around the early 1900’s.

Originally, this fez proved to be a mystery to the museum. It clearly states that it belonged to a member of Arabia Court No. 1, located in Georgia. But, Court No. 1 of the Daughters of Isis is located in Baltimore, Maryland. The Museum was then contacted by Noble Tony James who explained that this fez comes from a Clandestine Prince Hall Affiliated group, who stole the image and artwork of the legitimate Daughters of Isis, to form their organization. Clandestine groups are a major probelm in Prince Hall Freemasonry and this fez serves as an example of that. Hence, this fez resides in the Clandestine portion of the Museum’s collections.

Order of the Eastern Star

Perhaps you’ve noticed that this page has the same title as another page over in the Prince Hall area. This fact causes much confusion, not only for the general public, but within fraternal circles as well. There is no copyright on the name “Eastern Star” and as such, any group can set up shop and call themselves that. The original Eastern Star ritual was written and published by the Macoy Company, which still sells copies for less than $20. This leads to a situation that is very conducive to anyone calling themselves “The Order of Eastern Star.” Naturally, it can be very difficult to find out who is the real, legitimate organization, and who is just a spurious contender.

The fez above comes from one of those clandestine organizations. Hailing from Universal Chapter No. 1, claiming to be in Michigan, this fez is a pretty standard Eastern Star example. It has some nice rhinestone work and is well constructed by the Lauterer Company, per the inner label. However, the real Order of the Eastern Star, PHA, in Michigan, recognizes Martha Chapter No. 1 as their first Chapter. This means that Universal No. 1 is not part of the mainline and accepted group, hence it’s inclusion in the Clandestine category.

Heroines of Jericho

This entry has been placed in the Clandestine portion of the collection as we presume it to be from an unrecognized imitation body, but we could be wrong about that. If you have anymore information relating to this piece, please let us know!

The Heroines of Jericho is traditionally a Prince Hall Affiliated women’s group that serves as an auxiliary to the Royal Arch Chapter. Normally it uses the symbol of spinning wheel as its main logo with the ritual of the group revolving around the ladies of the Old Testament and their bravery in the face of conflict. This fez, however, seems to have nothing to do with any of those traditions.

We relate this fez to the Heroines only because of the prominent initials in the center of the crown – “H. of J.” The symbol on the fez is one that is usually associated more closely with the Knights Templar. We also have no clue what the other letters on the fez represent. The piece is in good condition and has the original maker’s tag still inside – Lauterer. We guess this fez was created for a clandestine Heroines of Jericho group sometime in the mid 1990’s. Based upon the location of the seller, we think that it came from Texas or somewhere in the South.

International Free and Accepted Modern Masons (I.F.A.M.M.)

Freemasonry is an old institution, with lots of history and many accomplishments to be proud of. However, just as with any good idea, people will soon latch onto it as a way of boosting themselves at the expense of others. These spurious groups often claim true Masonic heritage, but have no proof. Accordingly, these organizations become known as “Clandestine” Lodges amongst regular Freemasons.

One such group is the International Free and Accepted Masons. The group works primarily in the African American community. It claims to be “a world-wide fraternity.  Organized in 1950 by the late Dr. William V. Banks; a very prominent Attorney and a Mason with very high ideals.  His dream became a reality at the birth of this new Masonic Organization. ” However, it is simply a claim, as no recognized Grand Lodge currently engages in fraternal communication with this group.

The group was a prodigious purchaser of fraternal headwear. They especially enjoy fezzes, which mainly sport a square and compass surmounting a key. The name and location of the Lodge is usually embroidered as well. This hat comes from Sons of Solomon Lodge No. 220, in Trenton, NJ, and was donated to the museum by Tyler Anderson, of NM.