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The odd history of the Odd Fellows

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Feb 05, 2020

The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows

A centuries-old secret society which counted among it’s members the likes of Charlie Chaplin, P.T. Barnum, Charles Lindbergh, Wyatt Earp and Al Pinkerton? Do tell! As this deeper dive in their history mentions, how very Wes Anderson. Or, depending on which visuals and bits of history you focus on, perhaps very Jules Verne? Either way, The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows weren’t necessarily “odd” in today’s sense but in a rather more friendly one.

For as long as records show, this has been an organisation solely aimed towards charity and helping the less fortunate. One of its most prominent symbols known as the “Triple Links” alludes to its motto, “Friendship, Love and Truth” - three words that aren’t hard to get behind in modern civil society. But not so long ago, such noble values were rare to come by…

In the 18th century, with the beginning of industrialization, it was indeed considered “odd” to commit oneself to the principals of charity and communal welfare. It’s been suggested that founding members might have been branded as odd due to the apparent strangeness of following noble values such as fraternalism, benevolence and charity.

Or perhaps they simply had were considered odd or rare careers at the time. Several British pubs’ names suggest a past affiliation, and the American chapter went through multiple splits including post civil war where “the whites-only order staying in one camp and a new branch, open to people of any race, in the other,” while a number of chapters internationally had parallel women’s organizations.

The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows