Order of Owls
of the smaller orders, now nearly extinct.
The fob on the left is 10K gold and all three fobs
are new old stock.
All Owl pieces are fairly rare.
The below descriptions are taken from The
Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions "Fraternal Organizations"
by Alvin J. Schmidt - Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut - London,
Owls, Independent International Order of. -
This was a Masonically related group that organized itself in 1890 in St.
Louis, Missouri. Its objectives were to promote recreation and
sociability among the members. Only Master Masons were eligible to join.
Its local units were called "Nests." The head officer of each nest was
known as "Sapient Screecher." The national body was called "Supreme Nest
of the World."
Owls, Order of (OOO). - South Bend, Indiana, was
the city where this "animal" Lodge was born. John W. Talbot and a small
group of his associates in November of 1904 formed this fraternal group.
When it was founded, the order sought to assist its members in business and in
employment, provide help to the widows and orphans of the deceased members,
and to enjoy mutual fellowship with one another. This order has no
relationship with the onetime Masonically related group, the Independent Order
of Owls, that was organized in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1890.
OOO has four degrees, plus the presence of a ritual, passwords, and fraternal
grips. The ritual, as in most fraternal orders, is intended to be
secret. The OOO publications (e.g., brochures) contend that its ritual
has no religious elements. An older edition of the ritual states:
"We advocate no creed. We know there are so many gods, so many creeds,
so many paths that wind and wind. We believe that the art of being kind
is all this world needs."
Membership has been open only to white males. During the early 1920s the
OOO had over 600,000 members in 2,148 local Lodges, called "Nests."
Since the 1920s, the order has been losing members rather significantly.
Its 1979 membership roster has about 40,000 members.
Nowadays the order has Nests in five US states: New York, West Virgina,
Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.
The founder of the Order, John W. Talbot, was sentenced to five years at
Leavenworth in 1921 as a result of a morals charge involving a nurse at the
units, as noted, are called "Nests." The national governing body is
known as the "Supreme Nest." Its main officer is named "Supreme
Additional information may be gained by consulting William Whalen, Handbook
of Secret Organizations, 1966; Arthur Preuss, A Dictionary of Secret
and Other Societies, 1924. Back issues of the society's periodical,
The Owl, are also helpful.
is an early photograph of a Nest of Owls
Degree Team, Nest 1362, Emaus, Pa.
is a fellow dressed in the back row as an Owl. There is also pictured a
new baby owl and the skull of an Owl that has gone before.
broken column on the right is also an emblem in Freemasonry which represents
the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft. The use of the
column or pillar as a monument erected over a tomb was a very ancient custom,
and was a very significant symbol of the character and spirit of the person
interred. I'm sure the Order of Owls gave it the same respect and
Pictured Below is an early I.I.O.O.
Ritual of the First Degree
of Male Nests of the
Order of Owls
President calls Nest to order with rap of gavel.
PRESIDENT: It is my will, this Nest shall come to order.
Vice-President, have the inner and outer doors closed and Sentinel and Picket
at their stations to guard us against intruders.
VICE-PRESIDENT: President, the doors are closed and properly
PRESIDENT: Warden, ascertain if all present have acquired the
wisdom that qualifies them to remain.
The Warden advances to President’s station and gives in a whisper the
password, then proceeds around the hail and receives in a whisper
the password from each member. Should the Warden find
any without the password such shall proceed to President’s station.
The President ascertains from the Secretary or
member’s card the standing of the member, and if satisfactory communicates the
word, after which member will return to seat. The Warden goes to altar, faces
President and reports: "Mr. President, I find all present worthy to remain".
President seats Warden with wave of hand. President calls members to feet with
two raps of gavel.
PRESIDENT: You have met here as a branch Nest of the most sublime
of all human institutions.
That you may be reminded of the high character of this organization the Past
President will instruct us as to the basis of our order.
PAST PRESIDENT: The basis of this order is fraternity. The first
glimpse history and science give of man shows each striving for himself in
barbarism. When they met they fought. Each considered every other an enemy.
Each killed or sought to master every other. From this condition grew the
institutions of tyranny and slavery. The strife of man against man went on
until the world awoke to look upon the birth of liberty. But liberty developed
anarchy and from anarchy was reborn despotism. The efforts of humanity for men
were exercised in creeds that failed and governments that fell until it
Liberty turned the civilizations of the world into armed camps. Fraternity
wedded to this liberty will melt the cannon and the bayonet, make all
Dreams come true, the fairy phantom ship comes ultimately home. The dream of
yesterday is accomplished fact today.
If the gilded palaces you build in dreams topple, why mourn I Rebuild more
beautiful. The imagination of man sees much, and with man’s resourcefulness
and industry will build more. Then dream and work and fraternity in its ideal
will realize in the Order of Owls a brotherhood in fact.
PRESIDENT: By the authority vested in me, I declare our Nest
complete. I have a special duty to perform here. It is to preside over our
deliberations with dignity and justice; to preserve order and decorum and
enforce the laws of our order. This I am under solemn obligations to perform
and in the discharge of this duty I ask your earnest assistance. You also have
duties to perform in common with all our great order. What are the duties of
NEST TN CONCERT: To be friendly, charitable and honest with each
other, loyal to our order and faithful to its teachings.
PRESIDENT: Attention! The sign of the order.
Nest gives salutation sign.
President seats Nest with one rap of gavel.
PRESIDENT: The Past President will exemplify the secret work.
Past President goes to altar and explains the secret work.
PRESIDENT: Warden, retire and ascertain who is waiting for
WARDEN: I find in waiting … (names)
who wish to share in our secrets and sit in our Nest.
PRESIDENT: Secretary, have these parties been passed upon by the
proper committees, balloted on by the Nest and paid all fees?
SECRETARY: President, my records show these parties have fulfilled
all requirements of candidates for membership in our order.
PRESIDENT: Warden, retire and prepare the candidates for the first
lesson in our order.
Warden retires, masks candidates and stands them masked facing the lodge room
door. If masks are not to be had, the Warden stands candidates with backs to
lodge room door. When this preparation has been made, the Warden knocks on
door of lodge room. Warden stands on one and Picket on other side of
SENTINEL: Who interrupts our deliberations?
WARDEN: Inform the President a candidate is well prepared and
waiting to learn the first lesson of our order.
SENTINEL: Mr. President, a candidate is well prepared and waiting
in the ante-room to learn the first lesson of our order.
PRESIDENT: The Nest will be in order while I (or the monitor)
deliver to the candidates the first lecture of the order.
President or Monitor walk to position in lodge inside door. Sentinel gives one
rap on and Warden opens door.
WARDEN: Candidate, heed well, what you hear.
LECTURER: Life is the enigma of enigmas, the one inscrutable
mystery of every age. There are those who think human beings unimportant
things, scrambling about in a great ocean of chance, and not to blame, even
though they attempt to save themselves by grasping at forbidden straws. There
are some who say our lives end here, the rattling in the throat is indeed
finality. There are others who hope for happiness in a city of eternal light,
where none shall work, and none shall want; there shall be no private
property, no poverty, no class, no caste.
With such speculations we are not concerned.
Our care is not the soul’s future, but the body’s welfare. Our mission is to
make pleasant your stay on earth. There are two periods when we are the same,
the times we romp in childhood and moulder in the grave. Children recognize no
social grades. The offspring of the rich and the poor’s progeny’ together make
pies and castles from the sand; death knows no circles of society, waits no
We are about to admit you to a great fraternity that seeks to make, of all the
time, between infancy and death, common ground, where we can meet and mingle
in equal rank for common good. In the Owls Nest all are equals. We know no
high; no low; no rich; no poor; courtesy and kindness are our watch words.
You may have distinction, you may have attained success, you may have wealth
and the things it commands, we are about to give you something better,
something which money cannot obtain, which power cannot compel. In a moment
you will be admitted to a chamber richer than the mines of Ophir. In it you
will find the most precious of earth’s favors—
‘The Friendship of Your Friends.’
Warden here closes lodge room door and Lecturer resumes his place;
PRESIDENT: Sentinel, direct the Warden to introduce the candidate.
Sentinel raps on door once. Warden, outside, raps on door twice. Door is
SENTINEL: Warden, the President has ordered that you introduce the
If more than one candidate, the President may appoint an aide Warden for each
additional candidate. Warden brings in and marches candidate around hail to
altar facing President.
WARDEN: President, I present to you … who has qualified for
admittance, who wishes to share our secrets and join us in the practice of
PRESIDENT: What may we expect from this candidate in return for the
confidence we bestow?
Warden answers Loyalty.
PRESIDENT: In behalf of our order I bid you welcome and in doing so
it becomes my duty to in-’form you that our order requires each candidate for
membership to take a solemn obligation. Are you willing to take this
obligation and keep the same secret so long as life shall last?
PRESIDENT: Warden, conduct the candidate to the Invocator to be
given the obligation.
Warden marches candidate to altar facing Invocator. President calls Nest to
Invocator will require candidate to advance both hands and grasp roost on
altar, which will be fixed at about the height of the thigh. If no roost on
altar, have candidate advance hands and crook fingers as though grasping
WARDEN: I present a candidate under the orders of the President for
INVOCATOR: You will repeat after me, I swear in the presence of
these Owls, that I will abide by and obey all laws and regulations of this
order. I will never commit to writing or reveal any of its signs, grips or
other secrets, except within the body of a duly and regularly constituted and
sitting Nest of Owls. I further swear I will not cheat, wrong or defraud a
Nest of Owls or any Owl or allow the same to be done if within my power to
prevent. I will give an Owl due and timlely notice of any threatening danger,
and will, if able, render one assistance. I further swear that I will keep the
secrets of an Owl when communicated to me as such, and I will always respect
and protect the honor, sacredness and purity of an Owl’s home as I would my
own. I further swear I will not join or recognize an order of this name unless
recognized by or under control of the Home Nest. To all this I pledge my
sacred word, may God keep me steadfast.
Nest, in concert, Amen.
President seats Nest with one rap of gavel.
INVOCATOR: You have pledged your sacred honor. None can give a
higher pledge. I trust your vow will never be broken. Warden, conduct the
candidate to the Past President’s station for instruction in the lessons of
Warden marches candidate to altar and stands him facing Past President.
WARDEN: I present a candidate under the direction of the Invocator
for instruction in the lessons of our Order.
PAST PRESIDENT: The name and emblem of our order is that solitary
and mysterious bird of the night, the Owl. From its appearance and habits we
draw lessons, which you can practice with benefit to yourself as well as us.
In its native haunts the Owl is noted as being ever the enemy of the vermin
and rodents that prey on the fruits of the soil. In emulation of the Owl we
would have you ever be a foe of those evils which may prey on the character
and fortunes of our members. As the appearance of the Owl suggests strength,
wisdom and wakefulness, we would have you cultivate wisdom and strength, that
you may be prepared to protect the
rights and liberties of yourself and fellow Owls and ever awake to your
opportunities of doing good. As the plumage of the Owl is soft, we would have
your manner to other Owls gentle, courteous and friendly; as its flight is
swift and noiseless, we would have you go quickly and quietly to the aid of an
Owl when one needs assistance; as the Owl’s sense of hearing is acute, we
would have you ever with open ears for the cry of distress of an Owl. You have
come to us in the vigor of your existence, vowed your readiness to aid’ us in
our work of helping. each other. That you are sincere we believe; that you
have the necessary courage to make you worthy of our order we have yet to
ascertain. What we have taught you so far does not make you an Owl, and before
we reveal to your our secrets you will be subjected to tests by which we may
judge your courage. That you will meet them bravely I sincerely believe.
Remember, a coward sees danger where none exists and a brave person is not
afraid to refuse to try an act which seems foolhardy. With this admonition on
my part are you willing to proceed and meet the tests?
PAST PRESIDENT: Warden, conduct the candidate to the ante-room and
prepare him for the ordeal.
Warden conducts candidate to ante-room, where he is prepared for initiation.
Where possible he will be brought in riding on a goat.
Have two members put on the blacks gowns and masks and put the hoods of the
gowns on their heads. These men go out in the ante-room with the Warden and
blindfold the candidate with his own handkerchief and remove his coat, vest
and shoes. Then the crones grab the candidate by the arms and jerk him along
into the lodge room. As they do so the Warden should tell him to be careful
what he says and does. Before this is done the middle altar should have been
removed so as to leave the floor free for the work. The candidate is jerked
along to the middle of the room and stopped. He is then asked by somebody if
he is ready to take the second obligation of the order. He answers yes. He is
told to kneel on both knees, then to lean on his elbows and raise his feet and
hands in the air. Then the President or leader of team says to him, Repeat
after me the obligation, and solemnly recites something like this:
I solemnly promise to guard all the secrets I learn here. I further solemnly
promise that I will not cherish any ill will toward any brother because of
anything he may do to me in this meeting. I further promise that wherever I
meet an Owl—and whenever—in distress or otherwise—I will treat him—
Then say, Candidate, repeat that louder.
I will treat him.
The leader of the team says—SEE THAT YOU DO—get up.
Here he is taken to the hot chair. An ordinary chair has had the bottom cut
out and a tin bottom put on it. Under this bottom is placed an oil lamp. When
the candidate gets up, urge him to sit longer, but do not force him, and be
careful not to continue until he is burned.
The candidate is asked if his legs are sound. Two men then hold a stick across
the path of candidate like a hurdle at the knee. The candidate is made to step
forward until he touches the hurdle with his leg. He is asked if he feels
where the hurdle is. He is then told to step back two paces. He does so and he
is told that three owls have been placed on the Owl’s perch which he has
touched and at the count of three he must jump the perch and Owls, and if he
touches any of them he must get seven more tests. The leader of the team
counts three, but before the count the stick is removed and he is left to try
to jump over nothing.
Then somebody suggests the candidate can box and he is told he must box three
rounds with some person you name. You then put on him the leather belt and a
pair of boxing gloves. A referee and timekeeper are chosen, and the referee
says shake hands. Somebody shakes the candidate’s hand and steps back. The
crones hold the candidate, one in front and one behind with the ropes attached
to the belt. Two other members take the other pair of gloves, but do not put
them on. One takes a glove and holds it by the wrist and touches the candidate
from the one side. When the candidate strikes back the other touches the
candidate from the other side. Thus they keep the candidate striking at
nothing. After this the blindfold is removed and the candidate is asked to
kneel. Then a chamber half filled with tea is brought to him and he is asked
to drink or forfeit one dollar. Then the candidate is blindfolded and taken
against the lead test, which is prepared as follows. The two rings and three
iron legs are put together with the little ring at the top. You will find the
screws in the rings for putting this together. Then light the gasoline furnace
and put it under the iron stand. Then put the iron kettle on top of the stand
and half fill it with water and sprinkle aluminum bronze on it out of the
little can furnished with the outfit. Then put the ladle in the kettle and
ladle it up till the bronze spreads over the water. and it will look like
lead. Always have the kettle where the light can shine on it. Warden leads
candidate and crone to test.
Any of these tests may be omitted and any others may be put in, if the Nest
WARDEN: The candidate awaits the test.
PAST PRESIDENT: Before you went out of this room a few minutes
since you promised to meet any test prepared for you. Did you not so promise?
Candidate answers. The blindfold is removed.
Candidate may be given option of donating $5 or $10 to social fund in case he
refuses. Somebody in rear of candidate whispers to crone in such a manner that
candidate can overhear it. Don’t let him hurt himself.
PAST PRESIDENT: Promises are easily made, especially by one who
promises without knowing what he promises. If you are courageous you will now
keep our promise, no matters how it harms you. I command you to put your hand
in that pot of molten lead.
PAST PRESIDENT: This lesson teaches you to make no idle pledges and
not to obligate yourself without having weighed the extent of your obligation.
Warden, conduct the candidate to the Vice-President’s station for instruction
in the secret work.
WARDEN: Vice-President, I bring this candidate to you for
instructions in the secret work.
VICE-PRESIDENT: Desiring admittance to a Nest while in session, you
will make your presence known at the outer door. This may be done by knocking,
or in any other way that will attract the attention of the Picket. The Picket
will address you and you will give him in a whisper the password. He will then
admit you to the ante-room, where you will put on the collar or apron
appropriate for your membership or office. You will then rap twice on the
inner door. The Sentinel will answer with one rap. The Sentinel will then open
the wicket and you will give him your name and the location of your Nest. In
cases where you are unknown to the Sentinel you will be requested to exhibit
your card and prove your identity, to the satisfaction of the Sentinel, and in
case he is in doubt, then to the satisfaction of the acting Vice-President or
President, after doing which you will be admitted. When you are admitted you
will advance to the altar and make the courtesy sign by ho[ding out the hands,
with backs to the front and fingers crooked as though grasping a roost at the
height of the thigh, The President will answer with a motion of hand or gavel.
You will then take a seat. If you desire to leave a Nest which is in session
you will advance to the altar and make the courtesy sign. The President will
acknowledge the sign with a wave of the hand or gavel.
If the President does not answer you will return to your seat till given
permission to retire. On entering or desiring to leave a Nest, if when you
approach the altar, the President is engaged, and you cannot get his
attention, you may turn and salute the Vice-President.
The gavel in the hands of the President is the emblem of official authority
and control over the Nest. Give cheerful obedience to its signals. One rap
calls the Nest to order, two raps to its feet and one rap seats it. The
corresponding mark is made by using just before the signature of your letter,
the words: ‘Yours in O.O.O.,’ signifying, ‘Yours in the Order of Owls.’ We
have no test whereby you can recognize a fellow member, except one have an
emblem of our order on one’s person and be provided’ with a card signed by the
Secretary of one’s Nest, showing good standing. When you receive a card you
will find on it a blank space for your signature, where you must sign your
name. This is for the purpose of identification. A fellow member who doubts
your identity has a right to ask you to write your name to be compared with
the signature on your card. The greeting sign is ‘Hoo-Hoo.’ This greeting sign
is not to be considered secret, but may be used in public, at pleasure,
whenever you wish to greet or attract the attention of an Owl.
The grip is given thus:—(illustrates).
One who has been obligated, may, for nonpayment of dues or other reason be
excluded from meetings, but until death never ceases to be bound by his
obligation taken in this degree.
Warden, you will face the candidate to the President for the password, which I
am not allowed to communicate.
WARDEN: President, I present this candidate who has been instructed
in the secret work and desires the password.
PRESIDENT: Before giving you this, the last secret of our order, I
caution you that you are never to give it to another, no matter how strong
such persons’ claims, except when you are acting as, or under the direction
of, a President of a Nest, or as an installing officer authorized by the Home
Nest, or in gaining admittance to a Nest which is in session. The word, which
is changed every three months, for this term is—(Whispers
There is so much bad in the best of us,
And so much good in the worst of us,
It hardly behooves any of us
To speak ill of the rest of us,
Is the motto of the Order of Owls. This order has no questions to ask of what
you are. All such were asked and answered before you came here. We wish you to
be a good citizen, but we know you as an Owl and realize one touch of Nature
makes the whole world kin; that no person is good and no one is bad; we are
all good and bad. When we gave you our grip and password, we gave you our
faith. If the visitations of misfortune threaten you, whether as the result of
your own folly or mischance, an Owl must be your friend, not your judge. When
an Owl calls, an Owl must aid. There is one exception to this obligation and
that is if aiding an Owl would be injurious to the welfare of yourself or the
members of your family.
We teach the tenets of no faith; we interfere with no church; we advocate no
We know there are:
So many Gods, so many Creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind.
That just the art of being kind,
the old world needs.
Some fraternities on admitting you, warn you not to use your membership to
promote your own selfish ends. We tell you, when you came in here we permitted
you to do so, that we might use you, and in return we expect you to use us. It
is the duty of Owls, other things being equal, to trade with each other, and
to help each other by every possible means. The Warden will now decorate you
with our emblem.
Here the Warden puts apron on candidate.
Warden, you will take the candidate to a seat facing the Nest, which will
greet this new fledged Owl.
Warden takes candidate to seat. Each Owl cries, Hoo-Hoo.
PRESIDENT: Warden and Crones, take the new brother to the ante-room
to put on his coat, vest and shoes.
While that is being done one of the team can step out in the ante-room and say
to one of the crones, as though very angry, I’ve stood enough from that stiff.
If he says another word to me I’ll put a hole in him.
Here the crones tell the fellow to keep still and not to stir up any row
during the meeting, and he returns to the lodge room. Then the President comes
out and says to the crones, What did he say about me? The crones tell him to
cut out the trouble and the President says, I’ll show him trouble if he says
anything to me. I’ve stood all I’m going to stand from him. Then the President
goes back in. Then the candidate is taken in and is led to the Warden’s chair
and seated in it where he is directly in line between the President and the
quarreling brother. Then the quarreling brother says, contemptuously and half
aloud to the brother seated next to him, Look at him.
Here the President hollers angrily, What did you say?
The other brother says, What are you going to do about it? Each pulls out his
pistol and begins firing blank cartridges at the other. The candidate is of
course always in line if he’ll stay.
Be careful not to have the guns loaded with balls.
PRESIDENT: There being no further business before us we will now
proceed to close, but before doing so let me urge you to bear in mind the
lessons taught by our order.
President calls Nest to feet.
PRESIDENT: The Invocator will recite the creed.
INVOCATOR: I will take time to love my friends today. Any flower I
have to give I will give today. Costly blooms laid upon a casket bring no
fragrance to the dead. If I have any suffering friend I will visit him today,
lest, before I see him, death lay its quiet hand upon his longing heart and
still forever its fret and pain and power of glad response. I pass through
this world but once. Any good, therefore, I can do or any kindness I can show
I will do now.
PRESIDENT: Warden, collect the rituals. Sentinel, inform the Picket
we are about to close.
After rituals are collected.
PRESIDENT: Attention, the sign of the Order.
PRESIDENT: This Nest is adjourned until … at.... o’clock.