Historic Mysterious Fraternal Organizations

Photos of fraternal organizations and their members since photography was first used over 150 years ago. See more...


Do you use Facebook or Linked In? Both are current of examples of ways of networking - but fraternal organizations are the time-tested way to network. Without the internet, a fraternal order allowed you to meet people - usually men - of like mind, character, and purpose and to often advance your status in life.

Examples of a few of the fraternal organizations of the past that still exist today, despite the internet:

The Knights of Columbus, founded in 1882. You must be a male Catholic in good standing and must vow to “defend your country, your family and your faith.”

The Junior Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1920, is comprised of men and women between the ages of 18 and 40 and is a leadership and civic organization for young people.

The Kiwanis was founded in 1915 and just about anyone can join. Originally, their motto was "We build" but in 2005 the motto "Serving the Children of the World" was chosen.

The Rotary Club was founded in 1905. Membership is by invitation only and you must be 18. The Club is proud of "being an organization of business and community leaders who strive to make a difference in the world."

The Loyal Order of Moose was founded in 1888 and membership is by invitation only. Prospective members must profess a belief in a supreme being. The Order donates about $75 million each year to serve at-risk youth and the elderly, as well as other charities.

The Independent Order of Oddfellows was founded in the 1700's. Men or women can join but he or she must believe in a supreme being and be “faithful to their country.” Their three links stand for friendship, love, and truth. The Order spends about $775 million annually on relief projects worldwide.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was founded in 1868. Members must be U.S. citizens and believe in God. Both men and women are eligible and membership is by invitation only. Elks donate mainly to student scholarships and veterans.

The Freemasons was founded around 1717 in London - the oldest written records - but scholars say that the order may even date back to the stonemasons' guilds of the Middle Ages. Fourteen U.S. Presidents were known to be Masons, as well as many of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Prospective members must believe in a supreme being, be a man of good repute, be able to support himself and his family, and live a moral and ethical life. It is estimated that Freemasons donate approximately $2 million per day to charitable causes.

Did you know that fraternal organizations are known to have existed as far back as ancient Greece and Rome? These historic societies may have been religious or secular - or they may have consisted of tradesmen - and were comprised of men, women, or both. In the United States alone, there are hundreds of fraternal organizations: Fraternal organizations include college fraternities, the Freemasons, the Fraternal Order of Eagles, the Elks, the Knights of Columbus, the Fraternal Order of Police, and many more. Browse the historic photos of some members of fraternal organizations from the past century below.

A photo of the Lodge room, Paul Revere Lodge, Brockton, Massachusetts.
African American man wearing fraternal order collar and apron] / A.C. Golsh, 411 Main St., opp. Pico House, Los Angeles, Cal. Photograph shows a full length portrait of an African American man wearing a fraternal order collar and apron. His collar is embroidered with a three links symbol on the left and stars on each side, he holds a sword in his left hand.
A 1908 photo of a man wearing Mason hat, seated, embracing a woman.
A photo of an unidentified man, about 60 years of age, in Masonic regalia, three-quarter length portrait, three-quarters to the left, seated at table with tablecloth]
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
New York, New York. Saturday night gathering of the members of the Venetia Giulia fraternity, an International Workers' Order section made up of Italians from the southern section of Austria. Singing the songs of their native country
I love to love a Mason, 'cause a Mason never tells Caricature of secret aspects of Freemasonry, showing attractive woman hugging man in dirty workclothes holding trowel; facial features (leprechaun beard, short-stemmed clay pipe, missing front teeth) are stereotypical caricature of Irishman.
Elizabeth Aldworth was the first recorded woman to be initiated into Freemasonry. Masons of Cork plaque: In Pious Memory of The Honorable ELIZABETH ALDWORTH, Wife of RICHARD ALDWORTH, Of Newmarket Court, Co. Cork, Esq., Daughter of ARTHUR, FIRST VISCOUNT DONERAILE. Her Remains Lie Close to This Spot. Born 1695, Died 1775. Initiated into Masonry in Lodge No. 44, at Doneraile Court In this County, A.D. 1712
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1695 - 1775 1695 - 1775
A photo of Peter Westfalius, who came to USA like a lot of european young men ,when he was a teen. He settled in San Francisco, and was a captain and did shipping until he started his own business. He was born in Sweden .His father was a big shipping man in Sweden. He was a member of various organizations. He had oyster business in San Francisco Bay area and in Conn. Somehow he is related to George Bruns, in a way we have not figured out , yet!
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
A photo of a weird Cabinet Card - Kewanee Illinois. No idea what this man is dressed up for. Maybe some kind of organization perhaps ? Fascinating .
Jrena Fromberg Shapiro, my grandmother, who was the 2d National President (1934-42) of the Mizrachi Women's Organization
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Oct 11, 1887 - c. Jun 21, 1947 1887 - 1947
A photo of Julian Skelton (1923 - 1984) during his Presidency of the Rome Shrine Club
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Jan 14, 1923 - Oct 13, 1984 1923 - 1984
Added Mar 10, 2015 by: Juli Skelton
Juli Skelton
12 favorites
This is my Great-great fraternal grandfather. He is the Father of William B. Tew and the grandfather of Flossie Tew Tidwell. He had been a prisoner of the Civil War at Appomatox, Virginia and survived. He married 3 times and out-lived two wives.
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February 1842 - Unknown 1842 - ?
Added Oct 13, 2001 by: Charlotte Miller
Charlotte Miller
20 favorites
This is where the children of Granville D. Roach resided after his death in 1932. The Masonic Home and School in Fort Worth, Texas. Five sons and a daughter.
This is a photo of Joseph Henry Chatterson added by Brigette Meeker on July 19, 2020.
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Mar 27, 1801 - Jul 4, 1876 1801 - 1876
Added Jul 19, 2020 by: Brigette Meeker
Brigette Meeker
3.82k+ favorites
A photo of an early group of Co-Masons, founded in England in 1908 (inspired by France). In the first years, all Grand Masters were men but in 1912, women became the Grand Master. By the 1930's, only women were members of this group.
Added Jul 12, 2016 by: Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna
28.8k+ favorites
A photo of Annie Besant in her Co-Mason regalia. She also fought for women's rights and was a Theosophist.
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1847 - 1933 1847 - 1933
Added Jul 12, 2016 by: Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna
28.8k+ favorites
A photo of Cordelia Powell Odenheimer, my great great grand aunt . She was President General United Daughters of the Confederacy
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
A photo of George Vickers in the Regalia of Knight of Royal Antideluvian Order of Buffaloes. (Not Masonic)
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Added Sep 11, 2013 by: Tony Burleton
Tony Burleton
12 favorites
George Washington, the first President of the United States, was initiated into Freemasonry in the Fredericksburg Lodge in Virgina, 1752 (age 20). Mr. George Washington was an active Freemason, and was even nominated for Grand Master of the Independent Grand Lodge but he declined. It is speculated that Freemasonry played a critical role in the defeat of the British army as he was known to have never willingly given independent command to officers who were not Freemasons.
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Feb 22, 1732 - Dec 14, 1799 1732 - 1799
This is a photo of John L. Twyman added by L Owens on December 15, 2020.
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Unknown - Jun 13, 1952 ? - 1952
Added Dec 15, 2020 by: L Owens
L Owens
30 favorites
This is a photo of William D Aydelette added by Julie Aydelette on September 16, 2020.
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Jul 2, 1926 - Jan 1, 2008 1926 - 2008
Added Sep 16, 2020 by: Julie Aydelette
Julie Aydelette
9 favorites
This is a photo of Raymond Arnold Disney added by Emma Jones on August 13, 2020.
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Dec 30, 1890 - May 24, 1989 1890 - 1989
Added Aug 13, 2020 by: Emma Jones
Emma Jones
16 favorites
Marvin was a prominent business man, local leader, mason and friend of Newberry County South Carolina.
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Mar 1, 1884 - July 1966 1884 - 1966
A photo of a portrait of Joseph Smith, Founder of Mormonism and a Freemason. Many of the symbols of Freemasonry are a part of the Mormon religion.
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Dec 23, 1805 - Jun 27, 1844 1805 - 1844
Added Jul 13, 2016 by: Kathy Pinna
Kathy Pinna
28.8k+ favorites
Masons, Connersville,Indiana 1960's. Elmhurst Warren Lodge.
Added Jul 12, 2016 by: Cynthia Long
Cynthia Long
275 favorites
The back of the photo says Boy Scout band, Okemah, Okla. The license plate on the car is 1917. It was probably taken on the day of a parade, maybe 4th of July?
A photo of Anthony Braunger Knighted into the Holy Order of the Jerusalem Sepulcher under the direction of Pope Pius XII where he became a Knight Commander. 1950
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Unknown - Unknown ? - ?
Added May 23, 2016 by: Jan Doss
Jan Doss
558 favorites
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