Historic Mysterious Fraternal Organizations

Updated: May 12, 2024
Photos of fraternal organizations and their members since photography was first used over 150 years ago.

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.
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