Independent Order Of Odd Fellows, a secret charitable society, existing chiefly in Great Britain and the United States.
From societies of mechanics and laborers which existed in London in the latter part of the 18th century, calling themselves " Ancient and Honorable Loyal Odd Fellows," and holding convivial meetings, sprang the "Union Order of Odd Fellows," which had its seat of government in London and spread rapidly to other English cities. From attempts to abolish its convivial character arose a schism which culminated in 1813, when several seceding lodges formed the Manchester unity. In 1825 a central standing committee was established in Manchester to govern the order in the interim between the sessions of the grand lodge or national movable committee, as it is termed, and the Manchester unity still constitutes the main body of British odd fellows. It numbers about 500,000 members.
Thomas Wildey and four others organized Washington lodge No. 1, in Baltimore, Md., April 20, 1819, to work according to the usages of the London or union order. A lodge was organized in Boston, Mass., March 26, 1820, and one in Philadelphia, Dec. 26, 1821, both of which received grand charters from Baltimore in June, 1823. At the same time a grand charter was granted to the past grands in New York. Since then the order has been established in every state and territory of the Union. There were in the United States and Canada at the date of the last report 48 grand lodges, 36 grand encampments, 5,480 subordinate lodges, 1,512 subordinate encampments, and 512 Rebekah degree lodges. Candidates for admission to the order must be free white males of good moral character, 21 years of age or over, who believe in a Supreme Being, the creator and preserver of the universe. Fidelity not only to the laws and obligations of the order, but to the laws of God, the laws of the land, and all the duties of citizenship, is strictly enjoined; but the order is a moral, not a religious organization. Its secrecy consists solely in the possession of an unwritten and unspoken language, intelligible only to its members, which serves simply for mutual recognition.
Five or more members may constitute a subordinate lodge, whose functions are chiefly administrative; it provides the means to meet the claims of its sick and distressed members, to bury the dead, to relieve the widow, and to educate the orphan. The by-laws constitute the legal contract between the initiate and the lodge. To the lodge belong a series of degrees, known as the initiatory, white, pink, blue, green, and scarlet, representing a code of moral lessons. In 1851 the degree of Rebekah was adopted by the grand lodge of the United States, for the use of ladies legally connected with subordinate lodges by male membership. The lodge is officered by a noble grand, vice grand, secretary, and treasurer, elected semi-annually. The grand lodge consists of the past grands of its subordinate lodges in good standing, or it may be made a representative body. It is officered by a grand master, deputy grand master, grand warden, grand secretary, and grand treasurer, elected annually. Subordinate encampments are composed of scarlet-degree members in good standing in subordinate lodges. The beneficial feature of the order is optional with them.
They have the exclusive right to confer the patriarchal, golden rule, and royal purple degrees, and are officered by a chief patriarch, high priest, senior warden, scribe, treasurer, and junior warden. All past chief patriarchs in good standing are members of grand encampments. The grand encampment meets annually, and is officered by a grand patriarch, grand high priest, grand senior warden, grand scribe, grand treasurer, and grand junior warden, elected annually. The grand lodge and grand encampment derive their revenues from charter fees and percentage on lodge or encampment revenues, or a per capita tax. The grand lodge of the United States, the supreme head of the order there and in Canada, is composed of representatives elected biennially by state and provincial grand lodges and grand encampments. Its elective officers are a grand sire, deputy grand sire, grand secretary, and grand treasurer, elected biennially. Its seat of government is at Baltimore. On Dec. 31, 1873, it had 414,815 lodge members and 80,131 encampment members. The aggregate relief for 1873 was $1,490,274 72, and the total revenue of subordinates $4,434,-001 08. Its revenue is derived from a direct tax of $75 for each representative, and the profit on the manufacture and sale of books and supplies.
Since 1843 the order in America has had no connection with that in Great Britain. There are organizations of odd fellows in Germany, Switzerland, Australia, South America, and the Hawaiian islands, working under charters received from the American order.