Judge Frazier

Vice Noble Grand Humbug, Lucinda Jane Saunders Chapter 1881

Material for this guide has been gathered from various sources including liberally plagiarizing, stealing, absconding, purloining, pilfering, looting and misappropriating the work of others. Be that as it may, I believe it is reasonably accurate. It is unsolicited, unofficial, unsanctioned, unblessed and unapproved. And, like other perfectly good stories, it is subject to spoilage by an eye witness.

Credo Quia Absurdum

What is E CLAMPUS VITUS anyway? And who, or what, are these men dressed in red shirts adorned with impressive looking badges, pins and other strange items? Many things, really, but perhaps some history would be helpful in order to better understand the organization and its members who are known as CLAMPERS.

Back in the Gold Rush Days of the mid-nineteenth century literally thousands of mining camps and towns sprang up throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains and in neighboring territories that now comprise the western states. A new town would appear almost overnight at the mere rumor of a fresh strike. But as the gold or silver petered out the mines closed, claims were abandoned and most of the people moved on. What had been a thriving town was soon reduced to empty buildings and a few hardy souls struggling for existence. Today many tiny hamlets no bigger than a small dot on a seldom traveled back road map once boasted an area population of fifteen or twenty thousand at its peak. Stripping away the fictional glamour, one finds a picture that stands in stark contrast to the romantic Hollywood image. The miner’s life, whether working his own claim or in a larger operation, was rugged, dangerous, often short and, for many, a nomadic existence that took them from one area to another in search of riches. For all but a few their arduous labor produced scant reward. Entertainment was whatever they could make of whatever was at hand and a good prank or practical joke brought much needed relief from the serious business of just getting through the day. Not infrequently, their revelry consisted of exchanging gold dust for a raucous night at one of the many saloons or gambling halls and, whenever possible, at some unsuspecting person’s expense.

By 1850 two fraternal organizations, the Masonic Lodge and the Odd Fellows (IOOF), were well established in California and virtually all men of influence were members of either or both of these orders. Both groups were viewed as very strict in nature with impressive badges of office and formal attire.  In short, they provided little humor and certainly no relief from the arduous task of just staying alive.  In 1851 a group of men at Mokelumne Hill, California, felt another fraternal organization, one much less serious of nature, was needed and The Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, with an avowed dedication to the protection of "Widows and Orphans", came to life in the west.  Originally, the order was a spoof or mockery of the well known fraternal orders.  But it also recognized a certain absurdity that was so much a part of their lives and, indeed, had become something that was cherished whether viewed as an escape or just another thing that had to be endured. One can only imagine the difficulty in maintaining a serious expression as these Clampers carried on their satire by addressed each other with lofty sounding titles of "Noble Grand Humbug", "Clamps Vitrix", "Roisterous Iscutis", "Royal Gyascutis", "Grand Imperturbable Hangman". To further their mockery the members bedecked themselves with badges and self created awards fashioned from tin can lids. The latter became known as "wearing the tin". Rather than having a strict officialdom, all members were declared officers with none ranking higher than his fellow Clampers. Initiates, known as Poor Blind Candidates or PBCs, were subjected to a withering blast of humiliation and relieved of as much gold dust as possible which was promptly used to sustain the gathering at the saloon. The PBC was instantly transformed into a full fledged Clamper. Although there are no formal uniforms, Clampers today maintain a tradition of wearing red shirts at their functions as a remembrance of the red union suits of old. And most will be seen wearing a vest of some sort that is adorned with a multitude badges, pins and patches. There were no dues then and none are collected today. E Clampus Vitus is now and has been since its inception a "men only" organization.

Just how E Clampus Vitus came to be is a matter of some conjecture and sometimes subject to a variety of versions and interpretations well suited to the occasion at hand. Legend tells of its creation in 4004B.C. but most of the supporting historical records and tablet archives were destroyed in a cataclysmic event many centuries ago when a huge comet passed near the Earth and wrecked havoc on our planet before being trapped in our solar system. That catastrophic celestial passing was described by the late Immanuel Velikovsky in his book "Worlds in Collision" with the comet identified as what we now know to be the planet Venus. The surviving records are thought to have been lost in the fire that destroyed the Great Libraries of Alexandria, Egypt in the third century B.C. What is know is that in 1845 a tavern, hotel and stable owner in Lewisport, West Virginia, named Ephriam Bee received a commission authorizing him to extend the work and influence of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus from the Emperor of China. The commission was handed to Mr. Bee by a Mr. Caleb Cushing who had returned from China in 1844 while serving the government in establishing diplomatic and trade relations in the far east. E Clampus Vitus, or ECV as it is also known, succeeded and flourished where other orders failed for it was Bee’s belief that any man of upstanding character who was of age could join, unencumbered by the restrictions of other fraternal organizations.  ECV was brought to California by Mr. Joe Zumwalt in 1849, although the exact route is subject to debate. One account has Zumwalt leaving Illinois in March of 1849 and arriving in Sacramento in late October of the same year. Others believe he left Missouri with a Clamper companion named W.C.Wright and first settled in Hangtown (later renamed Placerville) before moving on to what is now properly known as Mokelumne Hill in 1850. Typical migration routes to the gold fields could have made either or both versions correct. Regardless of which path Zumwalt took, Mokelumne Lodge Number 1001 first opened its doors in September, 1851. In later years an argument arose claiming Clamper activity in both Sierra City and Downieville before the generally accepted beginnings in Mokelumne. No doubt that debate will never be settled to everyone’s satisfaction.

Clamper membership grew like wildfire and chapters sprang up nearly everywhere there was mining activity. Before long it was the largest organization in the Gold Rush country and had spread to the nearby territories. As noted in Back Roads of California (Sunset, Lane Publishing), nearly every man was a Clamper and those who weren’t found themselves on the outside of business and social life. Itinerant salesmen, known as Drummers or Hawkers, soon learned that Clampers only did business with other Clampers. It was, after all, a fun loving group that provided diversion and camaraderie in what was more often than not a hazardous life.

"The exalted ruler of the "Clampers," as the members were called, was a mockstern official known as the Noble Grand Humbug. He was assisted by the Clamps Petrix, The Clamps Matrix, the Royal Platrix, the Grand Gyascutis, and the Grand Iscutis. In fact, every Clamper had a title of some sort, and all were held in equal indignity by their fellows. The ritual greeting between Clampers, according to E Clampus Vitus historian Carl I. Wheat, was the "raising of both hands to the ears, with thumbs against ears and fingers extended." The reply was a closed right fist, with arm raised from the beltline, striking the chest forcibly.

"Everything about E Clampus Vitus was a jest, a philosophy embodied in the Clamper motto, Credo Quia Absurdium--take nothing seriously unless it is absurd. Even the name of the order was a humbug, for E Clampus Vitus has no meaning in true Latin. The high-spirited miners loved it, for they belonged. Their mascot was a decorated billy goat, and their banner was a hoop skirt, to which they attached the words, This is the flag we fight under. In parades they carried a seven-foot-long Sword of Justice and Mercy, and they toted an equally long "Blunderbusket," with a two-inch bore.

"Pranks and practical jokes abounded, finding victims in members and non-members alike. Soon Joe Zumwalt's Mokelumne Hill lodge of parody caught on in other camps, and within a few years other ECV chapters had sprung up throughout California's gold country, from Yreka in the north to the southern outpost of Mariposa. In 1855, even Hangtown (by then called Placerville) relented.

"Clamper meetings were held in the Hall of Comparative Ovations, commonly in the back room of a saloon. They also met in hotels, dance halls, and if the attendance was too large, in barns. Some chapters even constructed their own Hall of Comparative Ovations building. But most met in, as one newspaper put it, "libation emporiums, where they reached stages of well-being, free from pain and distress."

"The brethren were called together by the tinny braying of the "hewgag," a big horn sounded in the street by the Royal Grand Musician. Strict Clamper rules required meetings to be held "at any time before or after a full moon."

"Much Clamper business involved taking in new members, called Poor Blind Candidates, and they were really 'taken in.' The only requirement for a membership was a poke of gold dust. The amount depended upon the candidate's means, and in some cases it was waived entirely.

"Whenever a new member was to be inducted, the hewgag brayed and the brothers headed for the Hall of Comparative Ovations. After all were assembled, the Noble Grand Humbug, the Clamps Petrix, and the Clamps Matrix, all masked, began the solemn ritual of initiation, complete with elaborate phony Latin phrasing. The Poor Blind Candidate--right shoe off, pants leg rolled up, and wearing a blindfold--was then led into the hall and brought before the Noble Grand Humbug. His Eminence would ask the nervous candidate a series of questions, after which the newcomer was led around the hall, stopping at different points where he was lectured on various Clamper policies and rules. Next he was placed in the Expungent's Chair, a wheelbarrow padded with a large, cold, wet sponge, and taken over the Rocky Road to Dublin, a ladder laid on the floor. As the Poor Blind Candidate bounced over the rungs, the brethren sang out repeatedly, "Ain't you glad to get out of the wilderness, get out of the wilderness, get out of the wilderness."

"Upon completion of his "soul cleansing" ride, the initiate was asked if he believed in the Elevation of Man. When he said he did, he was immediately lifted onto a saddle and hoisted by block and tackle to the ceiling. Often the "elevation" was accomplished by a blanket toss, where the candidate was bounced on a blanket that the brethren firmly held on all sides.

"Finally, sometimes after several hours of good-natured torture, the Scales of Darkness--the blindfold--was removed from the fledgling member, and he was given the sacred Staff of Relief. Meanwhile, his new comrades sang to him the revered Clamper ode, "We'll take a drink with you, Dear Brother." And was he ready for one! After surviving the ritual ceremony, the new member was immediately appointed Chairman of the Most Important Committee to instill a sense of Clamper self esteem. With his new title he equaled all his brothers in rank.

"The Noble Grand Humbug then completed the rite by explaining the importance of the Order's Clampatron, St. Vitus, and the significance of the Clamper sacred emblem, the Staff of Relief. He closed by asking the ritual question, "What say the Brethren?" to which the reply was "Satisfactory!". The initiation was over.

"There were no dues in E Clampus Vitus, and often the treasury consisted only of the initiation fee put up by the evening's inductee, which was immediately converted to liquid assets for the refreshment of the assemblage. Because the Hall of Comparative Ovations was usually a saloon, the barkeep often had the drinks dispensed before the Scales of Darkness came off the Poor Blind Candidate.

"In Mokelumne Hill, where it all started, Van Pelt's saloon served as a Hall of Comparative Ovations until George Leger became a Clamper and opened his hotel to the braying of the hewgag. In Ione, Ringer's saloon was where the Clampers met. In Amador City it was Mooney's, and in Georgetown, Clamper-saloonkeeper Pat Lynch hosted the raucous meetings. The Noble Grand Humbug E.H. Van Decor presided over the Georgetown gatherings in 1856 until a fire swept away that sacred Hall and most of the town. Stevens' Young America Saloon in Jackson was a Hall of Comparative Ovations and Al Dudley was the Noble Grand Humbug in 1861. In the booming gold rush town of Columbia there were two Clamper Halls in the 1850's: Soderer and Marshall's drinking emporium, later called the Stage Driver's Retreat, and Albert Aberdeen's saloon, where the Clampers met downstairs in Darling's Oyster Parlor.

"As the popularity of E Clampus Vitus grew, Clamper lodges formed in nearly every town in the California mining districts. Many community leaders and business owners found it to their advantage to join the Order and follow the bray of the hewgag, for Clampers were loyal and tended to vote for their brothers and trade in Clamper-owned establishments. Besides, there was refreshing if ironic honesty in the Clamper philosophy. By the mid-1850's, E Clampus Vitus numbered among its brethren such worthies as judges, senators, state assemblymen, newspapermen, sheriffs, bankers, and mayors, as well as scores of lawyers and doctors.

"When E Clampus Vitus was in full bloom, from the mid-1850's to about 1870, it was not unusual to find towns almost closing down at the call of the hewgag. Shops, banks, saloons, homes--and placer diggings--were temporarily abandoned when the summons of the sacred clarion shattered the stillness of the air. Indeed many mining towns in the Mother Lode, such as Downieville, Placerville, and Sierra City had more Clampers in residence than all the members of the serious lodges combined. Over the years, the secret Clamper grip passed between thousands of hands, even extending over the Sierras in 1859 to Nevada's Comstock Lode silver mines.

"Some of the enlightened, having the Scales of Darkness removed in the Hall of Comparative Ovations, were names not lost to history. Philip D. Armour, the Auburn and Placerville butcher who would later found on of the world's largest meat-packing firms, was a Clamper, as was John Mohler Studebaker, who made the wheelbarrows for Mother Lode miners in the 1850's. When he had saved enough money, Studebaker joined his brothers in their Indiana wagon shop and lived to manufacture the first gasoline-powered Studebaker auto in 1904. John Hume, lawyer, well-known state assemblyman, and brother of famed Wells Fargo Chief Detective James Hume, was a member of E Clampus Vitus' Placerville and Coloma lodges.

"Also a young newspaperman named Sam Clemens, who lived for a time at the Jackass Hill diggings near Angels Camp, was a brother of E Clampus Vitus. There, on a cold January day in 1865, the fun-loving journalist heard someone relate a funny anecdote about a frog-jumping contest. A few months later, Mark Twain wrote The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County and found fame overnight.

"The Clampers also claimed Ulysses S. Grant, J. Pierpont Morgan, Horace Greeley and Horatio Alger as members. All of these historic figures visited the California gold rush country, but it is doubtful that they were ever really Clampers. Some Clamper membership claims are certainly suspect, such as Solomon, the Ceasars, Henry VIII, Sir Francis Drake, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and even Adam himself, the alleged first Clampatriarch.

"In its lapses from buffoonery the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus showed a benevolent side. Frequently, and quietly, the brethren performed charitable acts, and though they would whimsically state that the purpose of their society was to "care for widows and orphans, particularly the widows," the ECV was widely lauded for valuable services to the needy. They sponsored benefit shows and other fund-raising events for the sick and the destitute, with no hoaxes involved. And when the Mother Lode was struck with disaster, such as fires and floods that devastated whole towns, the Clampers were among the first to lend a hand with rescues and rebuilding. They were jokesters, but good citizens as well.

"The strength and spirit of E Clampus Vitus began fading by the 1890's as the miners drifted away. The last Clamper meeting in Sierra City was in 1907, and the hewgag brayed for the last time at Quincy in 1916.

One should never overlook the fact that the Clampers were in fact a highly respected and honored organization. In spite of their well deserved reputation as hard drinking pranksters, there was a benevolent serious side to their activity. Caring for the "Widows and Orphans" of miners was more than a mere slogan. Indeed, E Clampus Vitus was by far the largest charitable organization of the time and certainly the only one assisting the families of killed or injured miners. Mining accidents and injuries were common. A man killed or injured and unable to work left an almost instantly destitute family. In many cases gifts of money or food mysteriously appeared but the donor was always anonymous. In other instances the widow, or "widder" as they were known, discovered some unnamed person had made the mortgage or rent payments and saved her and the children from homelessness in a hostile land. Clamper charity was unique in that, with few exceptions, it was always done anonymously, quietly and without fanfare although there was rarely any question as to the benefactor’s true identity.

The heyday of western mining and the wild life that accompanied it lasted actually less than thirty years before starting to decline. Thriving communities saw their population dwindle from the thousands to the hundreds or less and many were abandon altogether. The decrepit ruins of these ghost town stand today as a stark reminder of an age gone by. With the decline of mining activity the popularity of E Clampus Vitus also faded until in 1910 there was only one chapter, in Marysville, California, still functioning. By 1930 the order was all but extinct and had become just another useless relic of the past confined to history.

Not long after the order was declared dead and buried, a group of California historians lead by Carl Wheat, George Ezra Dane and Leon O. Whitsell became interested in the many references to Clamper activity found in old newspaper articles and letters. They also shared a belief that a significant part of California and U.S. history was being lost in the frantic pace of the twentieth century.  Resuscitating the Order of E Clampus Vitus seemed a proper vehicle to commemorate and preserve that history. Through their efforts and assisted by Mr. Adam Lee Moore, the last known survivor of the old Clamper days, the order was revived with the incorporation of a chapter in San Francisco known as Yerba Buena Number 1. The chapter was christened "Capitulus Redivivus E Clampus Vitus", or Revived Capital of E Clampus Vitus, in 1931 and the modern era of Clamperdom had begun. Yerba Buena was followed in 1934 by Platrix Chapter 2 in Los Angeles. Then came Lord Sholto Douglas Chapter 3 and Quivira Chapter 4. Sometime after 1936 it was determined that numbering chapters in consecutive order constituted a flagrant violation of the spirit of absurdity that was such an important aspect of the original Clamper activity. From that time on new chapters took whatever name and number seemed fitting. The mining camp originally named Pair-O-Dice had been incorporated and changed its official name to Paradise and is the home of aptly named Pair-O-Dice Chapter 7-11. Arroyo Grande, located midway between San Francisco (Chapter 1) and Los Angeles (Chapter 2) is home to De La Guerra y Pacheco Chapter 1.5 while we in Elko belong to Lucinda Jane Saunders Chapter 1881. In all there are now over forty chapters in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Oregon and Colorado. And one must not forget the offshore Floating Wang Chapter or the Cyber-Wang Chapter 68040/48.1 located in cyberspace.

Modern day E Clampus Vitus combines a dedication to preserving western and mining history with a never ending quest for fun. And, lest we be untrue to our heritage, a liberal dash of the absurd is added for good measure. In both California and Nevada the Clampers are the largest historical organization. We have erected many hundred historical markers and plaques to commemorate sites, people and events that played a role in our western heritage but might otherwise be lost or forgotten. Many of these plaques are recorded in state and national registries. Before a plaque is erected the subject is clearly identified, documented and researched. The research work alone, often taking a year or more to complete, involves many people spending long hours digging through libraries, official records, newspaper files and interviewing people. The work is, of course, voluntary. A single large cast bronze plaque, typical of that used, frequently cost a thousand dollars or more to erect.

Following such a dedication, or Plaquing as it is called, there is a traditional party still called a doin’s. As one writer noted, these party gatherings of red shirted pranksters wearing vests covered with pins, medals, ribbons and badges lead to the organization’s reputation as either a "Historical Drinking Society" or a "Drinking Historical Society". While there is no denial that distilled and fermented beverages freely flow, the group is officially and vehemently opposed to public intoxication and require that those who partake have a "Brother of sobriety holding the reins".

Becoming a Clamper is not an easy task. Certainly a man may express a desire but he must be invited. Clearly, the prospect must have a genuine interest in western history. Other requirements have been listed as a good sense of humor, a relatively thick skin, a cast iron stomach, an open mind, a flare for the ridiculous, and an appreciation of absurdity. If the invitation is accepted, the candidate is presented by his sponsor at a doin’s and must survive a time honored ritual at the hands of the Grand Imperturbable Hangman. It is also important to know that an invitation is only given once. If refused it is never tendered again. But who, we ask, would refuse such an honor? After all, among our members are college professors, truckers, U.S. Presidents, clerics, sheriffs, mechanics, miners, judges, laborers, pilots, bartenders, senators, carpenters, lawyers, plumbers, entrepreneurs, authors and just about anything else you could think of. Each treated the same or, as we say, "with equal indignity". In the words of a noted Brother, "Clampers are not made, they are born. Like gold, they just have to be discovered."

E Clampus Vitus Initiatory Ritual

Here followeth the true, authentic and clampotent Order and Ritual of Initiation, the sole and solitary Ceremonial and Liturgy of THE ANCIENT AND HONORABLE ORDER OF E CLAMPUS VITUS, carefully compiled, ostentatiously elaborated and prayerfully purged of both egregious error and hateful heterodoxy, to be celebrated and auspidously performed by and before the Brethren at the Imperishable Hall of Comparative Ovations, before or after the Full Moon, whenever the Bray of the Hewgag shall announce unto them the opportune appearance in the Diggins of some Poor Sightless Sucker, ripe for immolation on the Order’s effulgent Altar of Sacrifice.
Nihil Obstat G.N.R.
Imprimatur N.G.H.
The Order of Initiatory Functionaries
N.G.H.            The Noble Grand Humbug
C.                    The Clampatriarch

G.N.R.             The Grand Noble Recorder
G.I.H.              The Grand Imperturbable Hangman
G.M.                The Grand Musician
R.I.                  The Roisterous Iscutis
R.P.                 The Royal Platrix
C.P.                 The Clamps Petrix
C.M.                The Clamps Matrix
C.V.                 The Clamps Vitrix
D.F.D. #1        Damfool Doorkeeper Number One
D.F.D. #2        Damfool Doorkeeper Number Two
The Schedule of Initiatory Clampedimenta
All Initiatory Functionaries shall be suitably robed and hatted. They shall be hirsutely adorned and shall bear Clamparaphanalia as follows:
N.G.H.             Bushy red beard; the Leather Medal and the Clampregnant Scepter.
C.                    Long white beard; the Ineffable Staff of Relief.
G.N.R.             Effulgent sideburns; the Great Charter borne upon a pillow.
G.I.H.              Bushy black mustachios; the Chain of Punishment.
G.M.                Heavy black beard; the Horrendous Hewgag.
R.I.                  Grey goatee.
R.P.                 Red beard and mustache.
C.P.                 Red beard; long white candle.
C.M.                Red beard; long white candle.
C.V.                 Bushy grey beard; the Corruscated Candelabrum.
D.F.D. #1        Massive mustachios; the Blunderbusket.
D.F.D. #2        Massive mustachios; the Sword-of-Mercy-tempered-with-Justice.
The Scene and Settings of the Ceremony
At the horrendous Sound of the Hewgag, all Brethren of E Clampus Vitus, casting aside whatsoever other task or onus, will seasonably assemble within the Hall of Comparative Ovations, whereupon and wherein—at the behest of the Noble Grand Humbug—the Brethren and Functionaries will assume their traditional posts, as follows:
At the head of the Chamber will stand the NOBLE GRAND HUMBUG, with the CLAMPATRIARCH and GRAND NOBLE RECORDER upon his right hand, and the GRAND MUSICIAN and CLAMPS VITRIX upon his left. Halfway down the left side of the Chamber will stand the ROYAL PLATRIX, opposite whom will stand the ROISTEROUS SCUTIS. At either side of the Portal, at the far end of the Chamber, will stand the two DAM FOOL DOORKEEPERS, each leaning upon his respective Clamparaphanalium.
Without the closed Portal will stand the CLAMPS PETRIX and the CLAMPS MATRIX, their candles lit, together with the GRAND IMPERTURBABLE HANGMAN, in whose custody will be the miserable bodies of such POOR BLIND CANDIDATES for admission to the Order as may then and there be mustered for sacrifice, with Bewildering Blindfolds securely affixed before their eyes.
The remaining host of CLAMPERS will assume such posts within the Chamber as the NOBLE GRAND HUMBUG may direct, at all times maintaining seemly decorum. At the HUMBUG’s behest the lights will be lowered, the candles of the Corruscated Candelabrum will be lit, and due solemnity will suffuse the Chamber.
The Order and Liturgy of Initiation
N.G.H. raps with his Clampregnant Scepter for order.
N.G.H.: Let there be Order in the Hall of Comparative Ovations.
Let all the Brethren maintain seemly decorum.
N.G.H. solemnly raps again three times.
Grand Musician, sound the Hewgag.
G.M. stentoriously sounds the Hewgag.
Grand Noble Recorder, what is the occasion of this riotous assemblage?
G.M.R.: Noble Grand Humbug, without yon impenetrable portal there attend certain Supine Suckers, without honor, shame or sense, who have nevertheless signified their aspiration to become members—even Brothers—of our Ancient and Honorable Order.
N.G.H.: Have these brazen individuals made fitting and appropriate supplication?
G.V.R.: Verily, sir, they have.
N.G.H.: Have they deposited the prescribed treasure?
G.N.R.: Their gold dust is securely within our custody.
N.G.H.: Are they attended by the Clamp Functionaries thereunto privileged?
G.V.R.: They are indeed.
N.G.H.: Clamps Vitrix, have these pitiable wretches been duly interrogated?
C.V.: Verily, sir, they have.
N.G.H.: And are their responses satisfactory?
C.V.: Such, sir, is the report I have received.
C.: Well, sons, what the Heck are we waiting for?
N.G.H.: Yea, Brethren, what might in anywise necessitate delay?
G.N.R.: Naught, sire, save the Hewgag’s mournful Bray.
C.: In due course let her Bray, but first make due obeisance to him from whose unpublished, nay unwritten words, arises our Brotherhood’s Clampotent liturgy—Our Worthy Patron Vitus.
All Functionaries bow and tip hats. N.G.H. raps thrice with his scepter.
N.G.H.: Rise, Brethren of E Clampus Vitus.
All rise.
C.: Give unto him the Sign of the Well Jackass. All give the sign with vigor.
N.G.H.: Let us repeat his words—CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM. I believe because it is absurd.
ALL: CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM. I believe because it is absurd.
N.G.H.: And our benevolent motto—PER CARITATE VIDUARIBUS.
N.G.H.: For the benefit of widows and orphans, but more especially of widows.
Let us repeat the majestic Password—THE HEWGAG BRAYS.
N.G.H.: And the memorable Response—BEFORE OR AFTER THE FULL MOON.
N.G.H.: Brethren of E Clampus Vitus, it is for you to signify whether the Hewgag shall be sounded and these miscreant malefactors immolated. What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Royal Musician, the Brethren have spoken. Sound the Hewgag.
G.M. vociferously sounds the Hewgag.
Damfool Doorkeepers, throw open the Portal and let these emaciated s—o—b—s in.
The D.F.D.’s open the Portal, whereupon enter C.P. and C.M., with lighted candles, followed by G.I.H., clanking his chain, and thereafter the assembled P.B.C’s., marching two-by-two. The C.P. and C.M., followed by G.J.H., escort the P.B.C.’s. slowly and solemnly three times about the Chamber, the assembled Clampers meanwhile mournfully chanting the Order’s Official Chant of Doom. At last the procession halts before the N.G.H.
N.G.H.: Grand Imperturbable Hangman, who are these grotesque impotents you thus parade before us?
G.I.H.: They are Poor Blind Candidates, O Humbug, who have long groped in Darkness, and who now yearn to see the light by admission into the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus.
All Functionaries bow and tip hats.
N.G.H.: Roisterous Iscutis, what say you to this importunity?
R.I.: They seem lost in darkness, but I say let the Suckers in if they can pass the tests.
N.G.H.: And you, Royal Platrix, what is your clampotent judgment?
R.P.: I say let the Clampastards have it.
N.G.H: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Clamps Petrix, have you anything to add?
C.P.: Oh, horrors of Humbuggery!
N.G.H.: And you, Clamps Matrix?
C.M.: Oh, wonderment of widows yet unwon!
N.G.H.: And you, Clamps Vitrix?
C.V.: Oh, joys of Californication!
All Functionaries bow and tip hats.
N.G.H.: Well said, my Brethren. Hangman, conduct these withered souls to the Roisterous Iscutis for appropriate examination.
While the Brethren chant, G.J.H., assisted by C.P. and C.M., conduct P.B.C’s. about the Chamber, finally halting before R.I.
G.J.H.: O wise Iscutis, I and my official coadjutors bring to the Altar of Sacrifice these Poor Blind Candidates who have long groped in darkness. Prithee, interrogate them.
R.I.: Answer me these queries in a loud voice. Where were you born?
From what state or Country did you emigrate to California?
Do you belong to any secret organizations of a benevolent, political or otherwise outrageous character?
Are you at this time afflicted with any loathsome hallucinations of grandeur?
Have you irrevocably obtained your own consent to take the step you now seem determined to take?
Noble Grand Humbug, these seem likely Candidates.
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Conduct them now to the Royal Platrix for counsel and instruction.
While the Brethren chant, G.I.H., assisted by C.P. and C.M., conduct P.B.C.’s. about the Chamber, finally halting before R.P.
G.J.H.: Royal and revered Platrix, to you these purblind individuals look for guidance and admonition.
R.P.: Strangers, you are now in the Hall of Comparative Ovations of the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, an Order founded by the Patriarchs of Old and coeval with the human race; an Order whose significance has been illumined by some of the greatest names of history, ancient, mediaeval and modern. Our first Clampatriarch was Adam, who absconded from the Garden of Eden with the seeds and symbols of our Order hidden beneath his figlike apron, while Eve, our first Honorary Widow, sedulously abetted and ecstatically assisted his every impulsive Act.
All Functionaries bow and tip hats.
From such relics and reminders of that first blissful state of man all the subsequent glories of our Noble Order have indubitably sprung.
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
R.P.: Founded thus by Adam and brought to incredible perfection by our exalted Patron Vitus, the Order’s Clamphilosophy was early spread to the very ends of the earth by the Vituscan Missionaries. Into the land of California the Order’s truths were long ago insinuated by that clampotent Oriental Sage and Navigator, none other than the redoubtable Low Hung Whang, who was at all times assisted by his delightsome and clampfertile concubine, Hop Me,
All Functionaries bow and tip hats.
for love of whom he finally died debilitated, leaving the bewitching Hop Me to follow Eve as Honorary Widow.
All Functionaries bow and tip hats.
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
C.P.: Oh, horrors of humbuggery!
C.M..: Oh, wondernent of widows yet unwon!
C.K.: Oh, joys of Californication!
R.P.: Consider well, therefore, the magnitude of the step you seem ignominiously determined to take, and while there is yet time, should scruples intervene between your apparently fixed purpose and the mystery of the darkness into which you now seek to penetrate—WITHDRAW.
Answer me categorically— do you, or do you not, still desire to become a brother of the Order of E Clampus Vitus?
P.B.C.’s: We do.
N.C.H.: Hangman, conduct these obstinate individuals once again to the Roisteous Iscutis for further counsel.
While the brethren chant, G.I.H., assisted by C.P. and C.M., conduct P.B.C.’s about the Chamber, finally halting before R.I.
R.I.: Candidates, poor and blind though you still are, you have already learned of Vitus and of Low Hung Whang. But this Ancient and Honorable Brotherhood can never forget our valiant yet clampitiable martyr, Brother Dumbellicus, who, when set upon by the comely Priestesses of Venus, chained prone upon a bed of orchids and palpitatingly attacked by one of the most luscious and lascivious of women, rose manfully to the occasion—and bit off his tongue, thus retaining inviolate his pristine virtue. Should you, poor devils that you appear to be, successfully survive the ordeals that now await you, you will do well to emulate the perils and pastimes that beset Dumbellicus. And now, Grand Imperturbable Hangman, conduct these poor blind candidates to the Noble Grand Humbug for words of wisdom anent the mysteries and secrets of E.C.V. While the Brethren chant, G.I.R., assisted by C.P. and C.M., conduct R.B.C.’s. about the Chamber, finally halting before the N.G.H.
N.G.H.: You are now about to be initiated into the Ancient and Honorable Order of E Clampus Vitus, through the instrumentality of its imposing and solemn ceremonies. Incredible as it may appear to you, this venerable institution has been held in admiration and esteem by great and good men since that time whereof the memory of man wotteth not to the contrary—not only by Adam, our original Clampatriarch, and by Low Hung Whang, of whom you have heard, but by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Kit Carson and the late lamented Emperor Norton All Functionaries bow and tip hats—to mention but a few of the illustrious host—while in California the Order has been revered and respected since the earliest days of the American era.
In those early days, Chapters of this Order sprang up like wildfire and flourished from end to end of the diggins. Even today, once each year, on the anniversary of his discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, our erstwhile Clampatriarch, James W. Marshall, turns over in his grave no less than three times and gives the Clamper sign. To him, and to all things memorable of those elder days, we adjure your admiration and interest. I need hardly add that in California the Order has risen to its highest glory and has made its deepest impression on mankind.
C.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
C.P.: Oh, horrors of humbuggery!
C.M.: Oh, wonderment of widows yet unwon!
C.K.: Oh, joys of Californication!
N.G.H.: You have been instructed as to the venerability and significance of E Clampus Vitus in order that you may observe and perform its ceremonies with due understanding and becoming decorum, knowing that you are about to follow in the footsteps of so many great and upright men. Our ceremony, in which you shall now partake, may be traced far into ancient times, and its Ordeals represent significant epochs in world history. Of these Ordeals there are three, to which all candidates must submit.
Are you ready to do so?
P.B.C.’s: We are.
N.G.H.: The first Ordeal is PASTORAL. Our worthy and Roisterous Iscutis, Grand Farmer of the Order, will place in front of each of you a reaping hook of olden times, ground to the sharpness of a razor. Each reaping hook will be set eighteen inches from the floor, and it will be necessary for each of you to step over it with your left leg.
When the order is given, step high and clear, for it is a bad omen if blood be drawn.
Roisterous Iscutis, proceed with the first Ordeal.
R.I.: Each Poor Blind Candidate will roll up his left pant-leg. Then, step high as I count. One, two; step.
N.G.H.: Royal Platrix, as our Grand Surgem, will you advance and ascertain whether blood has been drawn.
R.P. examines P.B.C.’s.
R.P.: The report is negative. No blood, no gore, no claret, not a single drop, Noble Grand Humbug.
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Our second Ordeal is MARTIAL. It is the march—instituted by King Saul when he commanded David to take his musicians and march up and down in front of the armies of Israel before he slew Goliath—even as you will now march up and down in the presence of these assembled Brethren.
Grand Musician, provide these Candidates with martial strains.
G.M. sounds Hewgag in march time, and P.B.C.’s execute several steps in place.
What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Our third Ordeal is SENSUAL. You will dance as King David danced after he had committed the heinous sin with Ukiah's wife. It was a rampant and tempestuous dance, passionate, heedless and impetuous.
You will now execute this celebrated dance before the assembled Brethren.
Grand Musician, provide them with the appropriate strains.
G.M. sounds Hewgag in jazzetime, while P.B.C.’s dance in place.
What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Clamps Vitrix, you will now propound the fateful queries. Give truthful answers under pain of mortal obloquy and odium.
C.V.: Will you feed the hungry?
P.B.C.’s respond.
Will you clothe the naked?
P.B.C.’s respond.
Will you be a father to the orphan?
P.B.C.’s respond.
Will you be a husband to the widow?
P.B.C.’s respond.
Will you at all times emulate the glorious example of our martyred Brother Dumbellicus, and if you should find your virtue weakening—bite off your tongue?
P.B.C.’s respond.
Would you, if you were in the desert without water and espied a wild ass and were fortunate enough to catch her—would you mount her, knowing full well she did not belong to you?
P.B.C.’s respond.
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
N.G.H.: Grand Hangman, escort these candidates to the Royal Platrix and remove the blinders from their respective eyes.
G.I.H. does so, assisted by C.P. and C.M.
Royal Platrix, it is now your privilege to reveal to these no longer blind candidates the enigmatic secrets of our Ancient and Honorable Order.
Candidates, will you hold these revelations inviolate?
Candidates respond in the affirmative.
Then, standing as you now stand, in the presence of these assembled Brethren, and before that Power which alone can fully disclose to you the profoundest secrets of our Order, you will each repeat after me this solemn pledge.
I do aver Repeated by Candidates
On my honor as a man Repeated
That I will not disclose Repeated
To man Repeated
Woman Repeated
Child Repeated
Or Widow Repeated
Either verbally Repeated
In writing Repeated
Or by gesticulation of any part of my body Repeated
The secrets Repeated
Signs Repeated
Or passwords of this Order Repeated
Or the wonders of any portion thereof Repeated
Now to be disclosed to my view. Repeated
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
R.P.: The Grand Imperturbable Hangman will now instruct you in the Order’s signs and passwords.
G.I.H.: When you wish to enter a Hall of Comparative Ovations, signify your desire by knocking three times on the outer door thus He raps three times and clanks his chain, thereupon giving the password to be revealed to you hereafter.
If you meet a person in the street, or anywhere outside a Hall of Comparative Ovations, and wish to ascertain whether he is a Brother of this illustrious Order, signify your own membership by placing your right thumb next to your person, preferably your ear, describing a semicircle with your fingers.
He illustrates.
Imitate my example. They do.
If the person thus accosted responds with a similar sign, you may be assured that he is a Brother of the Order.
Now for the secret sign, given only to a Brother Clamper known to you as such, as you approach one another. It is the symbol of the Well Jackass.
He gives the sign.
Imitate my example. They do.
There is still another secret sign, known as the sign of distress, and while no widows are apt to respond to it, it will at all times and places bring Brother Clampers from far and near to your assistance. It is the symbol of the Ill Jackass.
He gives the sign.
Imitate my example. They do.
It is my fervent hope that fate will never demand that you shall ever again be constrained to display this distressing sign.
C.: Amen!
G.I.H.: Our secret password is to be guarded with the utmost care. It I shall now reveal: THE HEWGAG BRAYS.
The G.M. sounds the Hew gag.
Repeat the password.
G.I.H.: To this there exists a still more secret reply. Guard it with all possible virility, for it is: BEFORE OR AFTER THE FULL MOON.
Repeat these mystic words.
G..I.H.: Noble Grand Humbug, it is for you to afford these candidates the final honor.
N.G.H.: Nothing remains, my new-found Brothers, to complete your initiation into our Ancient and Honorable Order’s mysteries, save for you to receive from your Brethren the ineffable Staff of Relief—a rite reserved for those alone who have successfully survived these arduous Ordeals and who have been instructed in the Order’s secrets. But first, I ask you to stand reverently before our worshipful Clampatriarch, whose words you should mark well and venerate.
C.: Strangers ye are no more, my sons. When first you entered this horrendous Hall, I pondered to myself what manner of dubious devotees be these who huddle thus before me. Later, after you had successfully passed the three arduous Ordeals, I found my virtue weakening and started to bite off my tongue. I was saved from that ignominious fate only by the manner in which you manfully mastered the signs and passwords of the Order, and thereupon I became convinced that you might well be entrusted with its innermost secrets.
My sons, I am deeply gratified that such is the consequence of these, our ancient ceremonials. Figuratively, therefore, I embrace you and welcome you to our Symbolic Brotherhood.
However, there is yet another secret, not as yet revealed to your ken—the secret of the words E Clampus Vitus From time to time persons not privileged to enter this Hall of Comparative Ovations will ask of you the meaning of these mystic words. Answer them truthfully, “I do not know,” for to no one, not even to me, has their significance been unveiled. This, then, is the magnificent and innermost secret—the secret of the meaning of our Ancient and Honorable Order’s name and style—which secret, I pray you, keep ever inviolate.
If at any time you, or any of you, should be struck by the paucity of information that has come down to us of the Order’s present Dispensation in respect of the doings and carryings on of the Brethren of yore, you have but to recall that during the Conclaves of our earlier Brethren no one was ever in any condition to take the minutes, and that after the conclusion of such assemblages no one could ever remember what had happened. Be assured, however, that this lamentable predicament applies no longer within this fraternal circle. Today, by solemn Decree, each Clamper has been constituted Chairman of the Order’s Most Important Committee, and with responsibility thus adroitly divided our history will indubitably survive.
Consider well, therefore, your responsibilities in the important post to which you thus will shortly be promoted. Consider also your weighty responsibilities under our Majestic Constitution, the sublimity of which is evidenced by the fact that, though it affords the most harmoniously possible fundament for our achievements, it contains but two brief Articles, to wit:
ARTICLE I. All members are Officers.
ARTICLE II. All offices are of equal Indignity.
And now it is my privilege to state that though merriment frequently surrounds our esoteric conclaves, there is a far more weighty and impressive side which should never be neglected. For we of E C V are gathered as well to revere the past, to delve into the doings of the early days, to discover the truths of our Californian background, and to recall the Brethren of the elder days. It is for this reason, and to symbolize this aspect of our fraternal efforts, that we have raised throughout the diggins divers monuments to the forgotten miners and to our illustrious Brothers of old. Let them never be neglected by E Clampus Vitus!
And now for the Ceremony of Passing the Staff of Relief, by means of which alone full admission to the Order may be gained.
Steel your nerves, O embryonic Brethren, for there is more to this than ye yet wot.
Hangman, advance and receive from me the Staff.
G.I.H. advances. C. raps with the Staff three times upon the floor.
This, sir, is the Staff of Relief. What shall I do with it?
ALL: Pass it on to the next Brother.
C.: It is prepared, ready and annointed. Proceed, sir, with this final immutable rite and ceremony.
G.I.H. takes the Staff and faces P.B.C.’s. From them C.P. and C.M. select five who, with C.P., C.M. and G.I.H., now form a circle in the censer of the Chamber, one of the P.B.C.’s; being upon the right hand of G.I.H.
N.G.H.: What say the Brethren?
ALL: Satisfactory!
G.N.R.: And so recorded.
G.I.H.: Brothers, you are now joined in the unscrutible circle of E C V, and this, my newfound Brethren, is the ineffable Staff of Relief. It is of ancient origin. Note well its symbolic contours. Three times it shall be passed about this circle. Three times each Brother shall hold it, reverently, within his hands, to the end that each of you may personally have opportunity to draw from it its mystic power, may note its fraternal function and may determine your ability to handle it properly.
Pay close attention, for it is the privilege and duty of all good Clampers to be proficient in the passing of this Staff. I will rap with it three times upon the floor thus.
He raps three times and faces the P.B.C. to his right.
Then I will say to you, “This is the Staff of Relief. What shall I do with it?” To which all others who stand within this circle shall stentoriously reply, “Pass it on to the next Brother.” And soon, each to the other, three times about the unscrutible circle. Take the Staff in your hands, Brother. Tremble no more. Face him who stands upon your right hand, rap three times upon the floor and repeat the words of which I have advised you. I shall again perform the rite and place the Staff in your waiting hands.
And remember, it must three times be passed about the entire circle.
He does so, and they follow, even unto the final denouement. The ceremony of initiation is thus concluded with the passing of the Staff of Relief, and each newly-accepted Brother may now affix his name and style to the Great Register of the Order.






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