Knights of Pythias
The Knights of Pythias was the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the United States Congress. It was founded by Justus H. Rathbone, who had been inspired by a play by the Irish poet John Banim about the legend of Damon and Pythias. This legend illustrates the ideals of loyalty, honor and friendship that are the center of the order.
The order has over two thousand lodges in the United States and around the world, with a total membership of over 50,000 in 2003. Some lodges meet in structures referred to as Pythian Castles.
The order's auxiliaries are the Pythian Sisters, the less serious Dramatic Order Knights of Khorassan, The Nomads of Avrudaka, and two youth organizations: the Pythian Sunshine Girls and the Junior Order, Knights of Pythias for boys.
A member must be at least 18 years of age. He cannot be a professional gambler, or involved with illegal drugs or alcohol and he must have a belief in a Supreme Being. The oath taken by members:
I declare upon honor that I believe in a Supreme Being, that I am not a professional gambler, or unlawfully engaged in the wholesale or retail sale of intoxicating liquors or narcotics; and that I believe in the maintenance of the order and the upholding of constituted authority in the government in which I live. Moreover, I declare upon honor that I am not a Communist or Fascist; that I do not advocate nor am I a member of any organization that advocates the overthrow of the Government of the Country of which I am a Citizen, by force or violence or other unlawful means; and that I do not seek by force or violence to deny to other persons their rights under the laws of such country.
Early in the group's history, when a man was inducted into the Knights of Pythias he received a ceremonial sword. Such swords might be given to a Pythian by family members, business associates, or others as a token of esteem. In recent decades, rather than require each member to own a sword, the local chapter maintains a collection of swords for use by its members. Long, narrow swords are generally used in public during parades and drills, while short swords are used in displays.
Markings on swords varied widely. Most swords were inscribed with the acronym "FCB," which stands for the Pythian motto ("Friendship, Charity, Benevolence"). Images on swords were also somewhat common, and included: A man, woman and child (symbolic of Pythias saying good-bye to his family); a man looking out of a building, with a group of people below (symbolic of Damon's pending execution); a man between some pillars, pulling them down (similar to Samson destroying his enemy's temple); or various types of weapons (swords, axes, hammers, etc.). A full Knight of the Pythian order often inscribed his sword with the image of a knight's helmet with a lion on the crest. Many also carried the image of a sprig of myrtle (the Pythian symbol of love) or a falcon (the Pythian symbol of vigilance).
Early in the group's history, some Pythians formed the Uniformed Rank, which adopted military terminology for its organization. Swords owned by a member of the Uniformed Rank might be inscribed with the acronym, "UR," a dove, or a lily. (The Uniformed Rank was banned in the organization in the 1950s.)
The degrees of Pythian Knighthood in a subordinate lodge (or "Castle") are:
Notable Pythian Knights 
- Louis Armstrong, jazz musician, actor
- Hugo Black, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
- William Jennings Bryan, U.S. Secretary of State and presidential candidate
- Robert Byrd, U.S. Senator
- Benjamin Cardozo, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
- Leopold Caspari, member of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature
- Warren G. Harding, U.S. President
- Hubert Horatio Humphrey, U.S. Vice President
- Peter T. King, U.S. Congressman
- Richard Irvine Manning III, Governor of South Carolina
- Freddie Martin, musician, band leader
- John Ellis Martineau, Governor of Arkansas, U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas
- William McKinley, U.S. President
- Sun Ra, jazz musician, composer, and band leader
- Nelson A. Rockefeller, U.S. Vice President
- Joe Rollins, Texas Attorney General, Houston Asst. City Attorney, prominent private practice attorney
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. President
- Charles Schumer, U.S. Senator
- Bob Jones, Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, prominent evangelist
- J. Millard Tawes, Governor of Maryland
- Lee Emmett Thomas, Mayor of Shreveport, Louisiana and Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives
- Lew Wallace, Territorial Governor of New Mexico, Major General (U.S. Army), diplomat
- Francis E. Warren, first governor and longtime senator of Wyoming
- Anthony Weiner, U.S. Congressman
- James E. West, first professional Chief Scout Executive of the Boy Scouts of America
- Frederick Hinde Zimmerman, banker, businessman, and founder of the Grand Rapids Hotel.
- Colton Overcash, the youngest Chancellor Commander to preside over a Pythian Lodge in North Carolina in the past ten years at least.
Notable Pythian buildings 
- (by state then city)
- Knights of Pythias Building (Phoenix, Arizona), NRHP-listed
- Pythian Castle (Arcata, California), in Humboldt County, California, NRHP-listed
- Pythias Lodge Building (San Diego, California), NRHP-listed
- Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall (Weiser, Idaho), NRHP-listed
- Knights of Pythias Building and Theatre, Greensburg, Indiana, NRHP-listed
- Knights of Pythias Lodge (South Bend, Indiana), NRHP-listed
- Knights of Pythias Temple (Louisville, Kentucky), NRHP-listed
- Pythian Opera House, Boothbay Harbor, Maine
- Eagle Harbor Schoolhouse, Eagle Harbor, Michigan, NRHP-listed - where Justus Rathbone developed the idea of the Order
- Pythian Home of Missouri, also known as Pythian Castle
- Knights of Pythias Building (Virginia City, Nevada)
- Pythian Temple (New York City)
- Pythian Temple and James Pythian Theater, Columbus, Ohio
- Pythian Castle (Toledo, Ohio), NRHP-listed in Lucas County
- Knights of Pythias Pavilion, Franklin, Tennessee, NRHP-listed
- Knights of Pythias Temple (Dallas, Texas), also known as the Union Bankers Building
- Knights of Pythias Building (Fort Worth, Texas), also known as Pythian Castle Hall
- Pythian Castle (Portsmouth, Virginia), NRHP-listed
- Pythian Temple (Tacoma, Washington), NRHP-listed
- Pythian Castle Lodge, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, NRHP-listed
See other 
Notes and references 
- Caption: "Friendship, Charity, Benevolence. Knights of Pythias. Founded February 19th, 1864. The Order is founded upon naught but the purest and sincerest motives. Its aim is to alleviate the suffering of a brother, succor the unfortunate, zealously watch at the bedside of the sick, soothe the pillow of the dying, perform the last sad rights at the grave of a brother; offering consolation to the afflicted, and caring, with all a brother's love, for the widow and orphan. Brotherly love and charity are the Pillars on which it rests; Friendship and Truth the bond and surety of its preservation. Peace on earth and goodwill toward men. K. of P. Record. Certificate of Membership. This is to Certify That — was initiated as Page in — Lodge N° — Located at — State of — on the — day of 18 — Charged as Esquire — day of 18 — and proved as Knight — day of 18 — . In memory of brother — born — died — aged — yrs. — ms. — dys. In memory of sister — born — died — aged — yrs. — ms. — dys. Entered according to Act of Congress in the y. 1889 by J. M. Vickeroy, in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D. C. Published by J. M. Vick[e]roy & Co., Terre-Haute, Indiana."
- Carnahan, James R. Pythian Knighthood: Its History and Literature, 2nd Ed, Revised and Enlarged. The Pettibone Manufacturing Company, Fraternity Publishers, Cincinnati, 1892.
- Approved May 5, 1870 [16 Stat. at L. 98, chap. 80]
- Application for Membership.
- Glickman, Lawrence B. Consumer Society in American History: A Reader. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999, p. 223.
- The Political Graveyard: Knights of Pythias, politicians, Nebraska
- Benjamin N. Cardozo Lodge at www.cardozospeaks.org
- "Caspari, Leopold". Louisiana Historical Association, A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved December 22, 2010.
- The Political Graveyard: Knights of Pythias, politicians, California
- The Political Graveyard: Knights of Pythias, politicians, Minnesota
- The Political Graveyard: Knights of Pythias, politicians, New York
- History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography, Volume 3, 940.
- "Thomas, Lee Emmett". Louisiana Historical Association, A Directory of Louisiana Biography (lahistory.org). Retrieved December 29, 2010.
- Crawfordsville Saturday Evening Journal, June 19, 1875
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
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