TheNorthernLight

/May2009

7

OrderofGoodFellows.Apublished1884historyof
PhiladelphiaincludedtheshortnotethatAOGF
LodgeNo.1wasorganizedin1840inthatcity.

Anotherpublishedsource,ahistoryof

Pennsylvania’sMontgomeryCounty,whichborders
onPhiladelphiaCounty,explainedthat“theAncient
OrderofGoodFellowswastransplantedfromthe
cityofPhiladelphiaMay17,1869whenBuenaVista
Lodge,No.16,wasorganized.Thislodgehasbeen
extraordinarilysuccessful,themembershipnow
reachingonehundredandseventy.”

Whilethisreferencehelpstoestablishthe

existenceofthelodgenamedonthebox,italsoadds
confusion,suggestingthatBuenaVistaLodge,No.
16,wasformedin1869,notthe1848datepaintedon
theboxitself.

WasLodgeNo.16initiallyformedinPhiladelphia

in1848andthenmoved—or“transplanted”asthe
historybookreads—toMontgomeryCountyin
1869?

OrwereAOGFlodgesnumberedwithincounties,

ratherthanwithinthestate,meaningthattherewas
anotherBuenaVistaLodge,No.16,inChester
Countywheretheboxwasfound?Thesequestions
remainunanswereduntiladditionalevidenceis
found.

Regardlessofwherethelodgewaslocated,the

groupseemstohavebeenamutualbenefitsociety.

TheMontgomeryCountyhistory(publishedin

1884)explainsthatBuenaVistaLodge“haspaidout
inbenefitsthesumof$10,316.66,asfollows:Weekly
Benefits,$9246.66;funeralbenefits,$1070.”Before
insurancecompanies,societiessuchasthisoffereda
safetynetfortheirmembers.

Thosewhobelongedpaidfeesonaregularbasis

andwereentitledtobenefitsshouldaproblemor
crisisarise.Regardlessofitssuccessinthe
Philadelphiaareaduringthe1880s,theAncient
OrderofGoodFellowsseemstohavebeendefunct
by1924.

TheIndependentUnitedOrder

ofMechanics

LiketheAncientOrderofGoodFellowsbox,the

recentacquisitionofafraternalapronledtoasimilar
discoveryofalittle-documentedfraternalgroup—
theIndependentUnitedOrderofMechanics.

TheIUOMisstillactive,makingthesearchfor

informationaboutitshistoryeasier.However,like
AOGF,itisnotlistedinthestandarddictionariesof
Americanfraternalassociations.

Amembershipcertificatefortheapron’soriginal

owner,TorranceAshby(1897-1966),wasacquiredat
thesametimeandisnowhousedintheVanGorden-
WilliamsLibrary&Archives.

AshbyjoinedStarofCambridgeLodgein

Cambridge,MA,in1920,whenhewasabout23
yearsold.Whenhediedin1966,theapron,along
withacollarandthemembershipcertificate,passed
tohisson,DeightonAshby(1935-2006).

TheIndependentUnitedOrderofMechanicswas

initiallyformedinEnglandin1757asafriendly
society,atypeofmutualbenefitsocietyoftenserving
ceremonialandfriendshippurposes,aswell.
Reportedly,thisinitialgroupwasspurredtoactbya
localschismbetweentwoEnglishMasoniclodges.

Inthe1800s,theorderspreadtotheUnited

States,CentralAmerica,theCaribbean,the
NetherlandsandCanada.

TheIUOMbecameestablishedintheUnited

StatesinitspresentformonJanuary3,1910.
Membershipisopentomenandwomen,boysand
girlsof“highmoralandethicalstandards,who
believein‘ASupremeBeing’whorulesandgoverns
theUniverse.”

Membershipembracesallraces,creedsand

religions;indeedthegrouphasatraditionofastrong
African-Americanmembership,whichincludedthe
originalowneroftheapron,TorranceAshby.

Thegroup’smottois“Friendship,Truthand

Love.”Membersaimtopracticeandpromotejustice,
philanthropy,charityandbenevolence.Theylook
afterthewelfareoftheirmembersandareactivein
theircommunities,particularlyinhealthcareand
education.

IndependentUnitedOrderof
MechanicsApron,ca.1920,collection
ofNationalHeritageMuseum.