National Haymakers' Association (NHA) 

There were two organizations that used the title Haymakers:  The National Haymakers' Association (NHA) and the Ancient and Honorable Order of Haymakers.


The first group was founded in 1879 as the fun and honor group (or side degree) of the Improved Order of Red Men. In 1980, the organization had 10,000 members and was headquartered in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. It is not listed in the more recent additions of the Encyclopedia of Associations and may likely be defunct. 

The NHA had all the familiar trappings of an American fraternal order. Local meeting places were called Haylofts, and officers bore titles such as Collector of Straws (secretary), Guard of the Hayloft, Guard of the Barn Door and so forth. It was reported in my research sources that their initiation ritual was very much influenced by the Masonic Fraternity.

We were loaned a copy of the Ritual Ceremony used in the installation of officers. This booklet or handbook of eighteen pages was found recently in a garage. It was printed by Berger Bros. in Philadelphia. The only date found in it is on the last page indicating the ritual was adopted at the Annual Convention held January 9, 1888. The place of the convention is not listed. On page three we found the following "forget not, that the positions you are called upon to occupy when created for the purpose of helping your fellow laborers in the laudable work of making hay". "You are not to act as mere drivers, but as advisors; you are servants, not masters". The officers were Chief Haymaker, First Farmer, Second Farmer, Guard of the Hayloft, Collectors of Straws, Overseer, Keeper of Bundles, Boss Driver, Hornblower and Guard of the Barndoor.

This organization was very secret. This was pointed out on page fifteen with the duties of the Guard of the Hayloft—" you will be required to guard with care the approach to the Hayloft, and see that no tramp enters unless conducted by the Boss Driver. The guard of the Barn door had the "duty to guard the barn door from all unworthy tramps and to see that none enter but duly qualified companions". To gain entrance one had to give the password to the guard. Each officer had to wear certain regalia.

The Boss Driver's duty was to carefully guide all tramps over the rugged pathway. The Collector of Straws' duty seemed to be that of a secretary, while the Keeper of Bundles was that of treasurer. His duty was to receive all straw bundles, giving receipt for same and to pay all orders properly drawn and attested.

We found various references to the "Ancient Craft". It appeared that all candidates seeking initiation into the order were referred to as "tramps". There seemed to be several points or stations where the Second Farmer would conduct the Chief Haymaker to the First Farmer for an obligation. The officers were places in the following positions when taking the obligation—1-13-20-2-16 2-7-17-3—817—2-6-7-1-16—15-6-12-16—2-7-17-3-8-17—19-7-2210 8-12—2-6-7-3

We know the meaning of the above figures. Anyone having any data on this organization, what it was, where it was formed, were only farmers eligible for membership, was it State or National Society and what became of it is asked to contact Mr. Floyd Roberts, 41 Ridge Avenue, Everett, Pa., 15537. He is most anxious to know more about this unknown organization.

P.S.  In case you have not solved the mysterious mathematical figures quoted above, we will interpret them for you. "Right hand on heart, left hand on back of head".

The second order, the Ancient and Honorable Order of Haymakers, was fictitious. It was nothing more than a made-up example in a June 5, 1923, speech by President Warren G. Harding, but mistaken by some historians of  secret and fraternal societies as a reference to an actual organization.

Interesting vintage badge from the 14th Annual Session " National Haymakers Ass'n of U.S. ", Norfolk, Va. August 19, 1907. It is made of a gold toned, embossed/impressed tin ( light-weight metal ). The round medallion depicts a man holding a sickle standing by a hay field. There is a mirror on the back of the medallion. The back of the pin has a long prong for fastening.  It measures 1 3/4" x 2 3/4".

A special "Thanks" to Brothers Burke Gray, Denis P. McGowan and Jerry Stotler who provided the history and pictures of these Orders.  These brothers are fraternalism enthusiasts and major contributors to our museum.  




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