What is the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (GUOofOF)?

The American Grand United Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization founded in 1843 for black members.  Created at a time when the IOOF was primarily a white-only organization, the GUOOF obtained its charter directly from Manchester in Great Britain and the American IOOF organization had no control over it. Although still in existence, membership in the US has declined, due to the mainstream IOOF no longer being segregated and the decline in fraternal membership in general.

Like many fraternal groups, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows found the need to have a quality piece of fraternal haberdashery to make them distinct. The odd part of the organization, however, is that there is little internal consistency of color, wording, or design of fezzes. This is perhaps a trademark of African American fraternal groups, as they generally have less stringent over sight when it comes to regalia, favoring devotion to ritual and customs more.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much information available about individual groups within the organization. Thankfully, the fez provides some clues. Based on the use of the three link emblem and the letters “F.L.T.” we know this comes from an regular Lodge and not an appendant organization. This fez is actually pretty new, being manufactured by the Lauterer Company; our best guess places this fez in the 1980’s or early 90’s.

Household of Ruth

For this fez we take a deep trip into the world of somewhat obscure fraternal organizations. Just as the Freemasons and Knights of Columbus were originally “whites only” organizations, so too was the Odd Fellows. In the late 1800’s, a group of African Americans petitioned the Odd Fellows of England and received a charter to form their own group, seperate from the Odd Fellows already operating in the U.S., thus creating the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. The group would go on to create appendant bodies as it grew. One of these organizations was the Household of Ruth. This organization was the women’s auxiliary to the African American Odd Fellows order. The Household of Ruth was organized in 1857 for the admission of the wives or women related to men in the fraternal order of Odd Fellows.

Hailing from Terre Haute, Indiana, this fez is a rare piece for the collection, and certainly makes a splendid addition! Based on its construction, we believe it dates to the mid twentieth century and probably belonged to a local past presiding officer.