THEANCIENTORDER

ofGoodFellows.The

IndependentUnitedOrderofMechanics.TheRoyal
NeighborsofAmerica.TheForty&Eight.

Arethesefictionalfraternalgroupsseenon

televisionoratthemovies?Ifyouguessed“no,”you
areright.

TheNationalHeritageMuseumcollection

includesobjectsfromallofthesegroups,helpingto
broadenourunderstandingofAmericanfraternalism
fromthe1700sthroughthepresentday.

Freemasonryisoftenacknowledgedastheearliest

fraternityestablishedintheNewWorld.Whilethis
distinctionlaysthefoundationformanyproud
traditionswithinthefraternity,italsomeansthat
Freemasonrywasamodelforhundredsofgroups
thatfollowed.

TheNationalHeritageMuseumiscommittedto

collectingobjects,booksandarchivalmaterials
associatedwithallformsoffraternalisminAmerica.

Theseitemsteachusaboutthehistoryofthese

groupsaswellasthehistoryofourcountry.Justas
Masonsdonotexistinavacuumtoday,instead
incorporatingthelessonslearnedandrelationships
forgedinthelodgeintotherestoftheirlives,
Brothersdidthesameindecadesandcenturiespast.

Exploringthecomparisonsandcontrastsbetween

Freemasonryandotherfraternalgroupsexpandsour
knowledgeandunderstandingofhowthey—and
thecraft—formedandsurvived(or,insomecases,
didnotsurvive).

Highlightedherearethestoriesoffourunique

objectsinthemuseum’scollection,helpingusto
preserveahistorythatissometimeslostinmore
traditionalsources.

TheAncientOrderofGoodFellows

Lastsummer,theNationalHeritageMuseum

acquiredamahoganybox,whichwasfoundin
ChesterCounty,PA.

Toppedwithabrasshandle,theboxhasgold

paintedlettersonthefrontreading,“BuenaVista
Lodge/No.16,A.O.ofG.F./InstitutedFeby.19th,
1848.”Identifyingthegroupthatoriginallyusedthis
boxwasthefirsttask–theonlyclue,theinitialson
thebox–“A.O.G.F.”

ThroughanInternetsearch,weidentifieditas

theAncientOrderofGoodFellows,butstandard
sourcesonAmericanfraternalgroups,suchasThe
CyclopediaofFraternities
byAlbertC.Stevens,
offerednolistingforthegroup.

Collectingobjectsfromthesetypesofgroups—

whicharenotwidely,orevenmoderately,known—
isanimportanttaskforthemuseum.

ThehuntwasontolearnmoreabouttheAncient

6

May2009/

TheNorthernLight

ByAIMEEE.NEWELL

GoodFellows,NeighborsandMechanics:

TheQuesttoCollect

Little-KnownFraternalGroups

AncientOrderofGood
FellowsDocumentBox,ca.1848,
collectionofNationalHeritageMuseum,
photographbyDavidBohl.