What is the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)?

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.

Lodge Fez

The IOOF continues in the 21st century with lodges around the world, and is claimed to be the “largest united international fraternal order in the world under one head”, with every lodge working with the Sovereign Grand Lodge located in the United States. Also, the British “Independent Order of Oddfellows, Manchester Unity”, and the IOOF have recognized each other inter-fraternally; members of the Manchester Unity and the IOOF can visit each other’s lodges, and are welcome as brothers and sisters. Currently, there are about 12,000 lodges with nearly 600,000 members.

Our first fez, hailing from Agency Lodge No. 505, located in Buchanan, Missouri, this fez shows that even the basic Odd Fellows Lodge was not immune to the fez craze that swept fraternal groups in the 20th century.

Junior Lodge Fez

Much like every other Fraternal organization, the Odd Fellows got in on the idea of a youth branch in the early 20th Century. The Order of DeMolay, attached to Freemasonry, provided a template for the success of such a movement. It was also viewed as a potential source of future members. Sadly, the youth groups attached to Odd Fellowship never flourished to the extent of their Masonic counterparts. Junior Lodges, set up for boys 10 to 18, and Theta Ro Girls, for young women of a similar age, do still exist; albeit, they are very small. There is also the modern United Youth Group, that is for both girls and boys, though it too remains small.

This fez dates from the early 20th century, probably pre-1950. It is embroidered with “Scott Valley” and “JR.I.O.O.F.” above the traditional three links of Odd Fellowship. The felt is blue and the tassel is yellow. It is thought that this was the regalia for a local Jr. Lodge.

Encampment Fez

The Odd Fellows Encampment is a higher branch in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Membership is open to all Third Degree members in good standing. The branch aims to further the work of Odd Fellowship and impart the principles of Faith, Hope and Charity. The Degrees in the Encampment are:

  • Patriarchal Degree – Aims to teach the lessons of transparent honesty, domestic purity, genuine hospitality and unfeigned righteousness.
  • Golden Rule Degree – Aims to teach good will, tolerance, and true brotherhood. It also teaches that members should unite with the virtuous and good irrespective of country, religion, or politics in the discharge of duties which all agree are paramount to universal peace and cooperation.
  • Royal Purple Degree – Aims to teach alertness and determination as basis for a possible success in the journey called life.

This piece displays the tent and crossed crooks, which are the traditional symbol of this branch of Odd Fellows. The fez is embroidered with “Green Valley, No. 38.” Based upon information from the seller, the group may have been located in Nebraska.

Here we find another variation on the Encampment Fez. This piece is fairly old, as we are able to date it with the storage bag and construction. Created by MC Lilley, this fez dates from the early 20th Century, probably before 1930. The logo is the standard Encampment symbol, but rendered in multiple colors of thread instead of just a single hue. It comes from Tolerance Encampment No. 20, location unknown.