FELLOW SERVICE JEWELS
The Odd Fellows, at least according to one story, got its curious name from the fact that it was a lodge that opened its doors to the working class who at that time did not ordinarily belong to fraternal orders--and were thus "odd". This may or may not be true as the Odd Fellows have been around for a long time and a good many things get lost in the fog of history. The first documented reference to an Odd Fellows lodge is in the year 1748. The Lodge was number nine which suggests other lodges preceded them. There may also have been predecessor organizations. It seems likely that they are nearly as old as modern (Free and Accepted) Masons. Membership in both the Masons and Odd fellows has been common as evidenced by numerous pins showing the square and compass conjoined with the three link chain.
These service jewels have been in continuous production since 1889 when the copyright was first issued and the design has remained virtually unchanged for the last 126 years as of 2015. This likely makes them the longest continuously running series of any fraternal jewel and accounts for the ready availability of these pieces, especially the 25 year jewel.
They are awarded for years of continuous membership in the Odd Fellows and range from 25 to 75 years. They are made in both gold fill/plate and solid 10K gold with a few pieces being made in gold plated silver. Most 10K pieces are rose gold with yellow gold accents but they are occasionally found in solid 10K yellow gold as well. The karat gold pieces weigh an average of 8-9 grams. It is possible that 14K and even 18K pieces exist but this has not been verified and if they do exist, they are rare. Many karat gold pieces are unmarked and pieces marked 14K on the chain link hanger only are suspect—14K stamping tools are readily available at any jewelry supply store. (After-market stamping of the jewel itself would shatter the enamel.) The karat mark on genuine pieces will be on the jewel itself or on both the jewel and hanger. Karat marks on older pieces may be engraved rather than stamped.
The 25 year jewels are quite common in both 10K and gold plate. In fact, they (along with recent IOOF and Rebekah Past Grand jewels,) are probably the most common karat gold fraternal jewels on the market. Consequently, they can often be acquired for something near scrap value—sometimes less.
Pieces become increasingly less common as the years increase and this is especially true of jewels of more than 50 years. The relative commonality of 50 year jewels (compared to 30-45 year jewels) may be the result of some lodges awarding the jewels only at the 25 and 50 year mark. Jewels for 65, 70, and 75 years are quite scarce with the 75 year jewel being rare. (Given an initiation age of 21, they would correspond to ages of 86, 91, and 96 for the recipient.) Prices correspond with rarity. Like all fraternal pieces, engraved names, lodges, and especially dates add to value.
There are numerous variations in design and color as should be evident from the examples shown here. Some pieces feature a raised “button” in the center of the jewel with the number of years while others are flush. Manufacturers include the M. C. Lilley Company, L. G. Balfour, and numerous others. The large 25 year jewel bears the imprimatur of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the I.O.O.F. and while this particular jewel is in base metal, it was also available in gold. Service jewels also exist in the form of watch fobs as in the two examples shown here. They are considerably less common than the standard jewel. Lapel pins are similar in design to the fob shown top right. There is a related jewel for non-continuous membership but it is very rarely awarded. For a comprehensive listing of IOOF and related jewels, click the link below:
The principal tenants held dear by Odd Fellows are friendship, love, and truth (FLT). The principal Odd Fellows emblem is the three links, standing for the virtues of Friendship, Love, and Truth. The duties enjoined upon Odd Fellows are to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.
The far left jewel is made of gold plated silver. Compare the color of the metal to the standard 10K jewel in center. The seventy year jewel is 10K but the manufacturer used a different alloy which also resulted in a color difference.
This jewel is for non-continuous service. It is awarded to an Odd Fellow who has left the Order but later returned to be re-instated. It shows total years of active service. Given the scarcity of these pieces, it is obvious that the IOOF never issued many of them. This piece is plated base metal but it also may have been available in gold. The last one I saw, some years back, went for something over $40 and I don't think it was gold.
Unlike the constructed base metal jewel in the previous picture, this jumbo is solid 10K, a bit over twelve grams of it (compared to 8-9 for the regular issue). It has a barrel hinge and "C" catch suggesting in was made around the turn of the (Twentieth) Century. It's a real good bet this piece is over a century old. Being a premium item, there weren't that many of them made. Not impossible but hard to find.
This watch fob version of the jewel was not a best seller but the IOOF retained the design, using it for the lapel pin version of the Service Jewels. This is not a common piece; most everyone preferred the traditional hanging jewel.
IOOF Patriarchs Militant and Encampment Jewels
The pieces in the above pictures are a mix of Patriarchs Militant, Ladies Auxiliary to the PM, Encampment, and Ladies Encampment Auxiliary. Odd Fellowship is structured more or less like the York Rite; the Odd Fellows Lodge is roughly parallel to the Blue Lodge, the Encampment to the Royal Arch Chapter, and the Patriarchs Militant to the Knights Templar. There are equivalent women's groups -- the Rebekah Lodge to the Odd Fellows Lodge, the Ladies Encampment Auxiliary to the Encampment, and the Ladies Auxiliary Patriarchs Militant to the PM. How do you tell the difference between Encampment and PM? Anything that has a tent, two crossed shepherds' crooks, a triangle, or the letters F.H.C. (for "Faith, Hope, Charity") belongs to the Encampment. If it has a shepherd's crook crossed with a sword, a crown, or the Latin mottoes "Justitia Universalis" or "Pax aut Bellum," it's Patriarchs Militant; if it has a white rose, a Maltese cross, or the letters LAPM, it's LAPM.
Odd Fellow Oddities
Most American Odd Fellows belong to the Independent Order (I.O.O.F.). In England, the predominant branch of Odd Fellowship is the Manchester Unity whose jewels are shown in the first row. The first and last two pieces are from their women's branch, the United Order of Independent Odd Ladies. One of them features a very antique flying machine.
The jewel marked "C.O.O.F." is probably a Canadian branch of the Odd Fellows. The inscription is in English.The piece is clearly Odd Fellows with the three link chain and the initials "P.G.M." (Past Grand Master.) It dates from 1898.
The two jewels bottom center are from the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, Black American Odd Fellowship. The first American Black lodge was chartered by the Manchester Unity Grand Lodge in 1843. That same year, American white Odd Fellows declared their independence from Manchester Unity (which had originally chartered the white lodges as well.) The two events are probably related. American frateralists were adamantly opposed to allowing blacks into their orders and took exception to anyone who favored it.
This old District Deputy Grand Sire jewel is looking good for its age--likely a century or more. District Deputies--many orders had them--were sort of Vice Presidents who served under the State President. Sadly, most orders today no longer have sufficient membership to justify District Deputies. The position of Grand Sire has been maintained in European Odd Fellowship but seems to have fallen by the wayside in America.
Past (Noble) Grand
In 1937, the Odd Fellows standardized the design on all their jewelry and have been boringly consistent ever since. However, prior to '37, there was a huge assortment of different Past Grand jewels with only a few of them shown here. The red ribboned pieces (both pictures) date from the early 1900's to the '30's. The large silver star set with a ruby and sapphire (below) is from Australia and dates from 1916. Pieces to the right of it are contemporary Past Grand jewels.
Below is a collection of Rebekah Past Noble Grand jewels. The contemporary (post '37) piece is top row center. The others are older with the large star being dated 1882. These pieces, along with others, are shown in higher definition in the following Rebekah section.
Odd Fellow 50 Year Presentation Jewel
This jewel is 1 5/8 inches wide X 2.75 inches tall made of gold and trimmed in blue enamel. The "50" has 23 diamond chips. The globe stands out a good 1/4 inch. Engraved on the back it says: " L. E. Aling, Admitted Cresco Lodge #269, March 6, 1876. Admitted Suburban Lodge 110, Feb. 19, 1910. Illinois 839." If he became a member in 1876 he was a 50-year member in 1926. That makes this jewel 89 years old as of 2015. Its in great condition and clean.
ODD FELLOW MISCELLANEOUS PIECES
The ribbon is fairly typical of a Member/Parade/Funeral ribbon. The ribbon is reversible on the hanger and the black side would be worn out for funerals. Most, unlike this one, would be inscribed IN MEMORIUM. The reverse of this ribbon is red. The hanger and pendant are silver plate. Such pieces are quite common and generally inexpensive.
The little silver case is perhaps the most misunderstood of fraternal pieces being commonly mis-identified as a stamp holder, cigarette paper holder, and heaven knows what all else. It is, of course, a dues receipt holder.
Traditionally, most lodges collected membership dues on a quarterly basis. In return, the member would be given a dated receipt and the password for that quarter. Should the member find himself in need of assistance in a strange town, the receipt and password would identify him to the lodge there as a member in good standing. The cases were meant to hang on a watch chain like a watch fob. Wrist watches became popular for men during World War One and by the 1930s these cases, like other watch fobs, were mostly residing in dresser drawers never to be worn again.
International Association of Rebekah Assemblies
One of the most fiercest battles in fraternal history occurred at the session of the Grand Lodge IOOF of the United States held in Baltimore, Maryland, September 20, 1851. After the clouds had passed away it was 46 votes for the Rebekah Degree and 37 against. At the time it really was only a hollow victory because it became a side or Honorary Degree. For seventeen years, there was no real organization and the Rebekahs began to hold their meetings without benefit of a Subordinate Lodge and to make matters worse, their meetings, as well as socials, were held on Sundays.
In 1866, the Most Worthy Grand Sire Veith appointed a committee to study the violations; to either take the Degree off the books or furnish the necessary means to improve it. On September 25, 1868, by a vote of 69 to 28, Resolutions were presented authorizing the institution of Degree Lodges of the Daughters of Rebekah. This authorization put the Degree on a plane with Odd Fellow's Lodges. This gave them the right to elect their own Officers, charge for initiation fees, collect dues and minister to relief and suffering. It is recorded that Past Grand Sire Farnsworth said, "It sure seems silly to call a Brother a sister". In 1874, the name of Daughters of Rebekahs was changed to Degree of Rebekah.
It is clear to see that the Grand Lodge of the United States organized the Rebekah Degree and then left it entirely alone. It soon became apparent that further legislation was needed because the reports were confused and unsatisfactory. A better system was employed with proper papers to report on. Great improvements were made which led to better service.
The first National Convention of the Degree of Rebekah was held in Columbus, Ohio, September 17, 18, 19, 20, 1889. It was quite a celebration with a banquet with 500 in attendance. Many eloquent speeches were made by distinguished guests. The convention was called to order by Past Most Worthy Grand Sire Nickolson of Boston as he was chairman.
Mrs. Mary E. Rea of Missouri was the first President elected. The International Association of Rebekah Assemblies was founded in 1922 at Detroit, Michigan. By 1927, all Rebekah Assemblies had joined except California. That Assembly joined at Sacramento, California in 1949. Being a large Assembly, it added greatly to its membership. The Rebekah Assembly of Cuba joined in 1955.
It was natural and logical that Colfax should use the women of the Bible in creating a Degree for women. He chose Rebekah for affection. He chose Ester for Patriotism. He chose Sarah for Faith. He chose Deborah for Courage. He chose Miriam for Zeal and Devotion. He chose Mother of Sampson and Hannah for Piety. Why did he chose the name Rebekah? Was it because she was the most lovable woman of the Bible? Was it because Daughters of Rebekahs sounded better than Daughters of Sarah?... or Ruth? ... or Ester? It must have been because he wished to symbolize unselfishness because Rebekah, more than others, displayed that trait in the scene at the well. There is a hint of self in all the others, Hannah, Deborah, Ruth, Sarah and Miriam were serving their own loved ones, but Rebekah is shown ministering to the poor unknown stranger. For that reason, the Daughters of Rebekah pledge themselves to follow her example.
Please note that the Degree of Rebekah, I.O.O.F. was written and adopted in 1851. Author: Schuyler Colfax of Indiana, later Speaker of the House, then VP under President Grant.
Rebekah Past Noble Grand Jewels
Here are a few of the many varieties of Rebekah Past Noble Grand jewels that existed prior to 1937 when the Odd Fellows standardized, homogenized, and sterilized their jewelry. Contemporary (post 1937) pieces are on the far right.Rebekah Service Jewels
The three over-size jewels at top date from the turn of the Twentieth Century and are 10K gold. They weigh about half again as much as the standard issue below. Unlike their Odd Fellow counterparts, Rebekah service jewels start at the fifteen year mark.
The fifty year jewel on the top far right is of more recent vintage and is made of high quality gold fill. The numeral fifty is set with small brilliant cut stones which may be diamonds.
Consider the 75 year jewel at bottom right. Ever see one? Probably not. If the lady who earned this one was 21 at her initiation, she would have been 96 when receiving this. It is said that the age of admission to a Rebekah Assembly varies and that some ladies have been admitted as young as 16. But even if so, after 75 years she would still be 91. Needless to say, 75 year jewels are rare in any order and even 65 and 70 year pieces are scarce. Most people simply don't live that long.
Riding the Goat is a cherished part of fraternal mythology but the Odd Fellows seem to be the only order that has ever memorialized it with a celluloid button. This little goat riding button dates from the turn of the century. It was made and distributed by The Pettybone Mfg. Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio. It measures 3/4 of an inch across. It was donated to our museum by Mrs. Juanita A. Sutton, In Memory of her father (who owned and wore the button) Lloyd M. Mahr (1897-1991).
A special "Thank You" to Vicky Tesnar of Duncan, S.C. (the daughter of Mrs. Juanita A. Sutton) who was instrumental in the donation process! Thank you Vicky!
Above is an early daguerreotype photograph of an Odd Fellow dressed in his regalia. Daguerreotypes are an obsolete photographic process in which a picture is made on a silver surface and developed by mercury vapor.
Above is an early cabinet card of an Odd Fellow dressed for the old Uniformed Encampment Degree (similar to the Knights Templar). This was Odd Fellowship's first attempt at a quasi-military degree, and it was replaced in the early 1880s by the Patriarchs Militant Degree.
A special "Thanks" to Brother Burke Gray of Washington state and Brother John Michael Greer of Doric Lodge No. 92, F.& A.M., Seattle, WA; Ballard Alki Lodge No. 170, IOOF, Seattle, WA; Ballard Encampment No. 76, Seattle, WA; Canton Seattle No. 3, P.M. for assisting us with the information to build this page.
The International Order of Odd Fellows
422 Trade Street N.W.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27101-2830
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