Knights of Pythias

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Knights of Pythias
FormationFebruary 19, 1864; 158 years ago (1864-02-19)
FounderJustus H. Rathbone
Founded atWashington, DC
PurposeHumanitarian
HeadquartersSupreme Lodge Knights of Pythias, Stoughton
Location
Membership (2003)
Over 50,000
WebsiteOfficial website Edit this at Wikidata
Knights of Pythias membership certificate, 1890[a]
Knights of Pythias in a parade in Toledo, Ohio, 1890s

The Knights of Pythias is a fraternal organization and secret society[1] founded in Washington, D.C., on February 19, 1864. The Knights of Pythias is the first fraternal organization to receive a charter under an act of the United States Congress.[b] 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 had over 2,000 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.

Organization[edit]

The structure of the Knights of Pythias is three-tiered. The local units are called "Subordinate Lodges." State and provincial organizations are called "Grand Lodges" and the national structure is called the "Supreme Lodge" and meets in convention biennially. The officers of the Supreme Lodge include the sitting Past Supreme Chancellor, Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Prelate, Secretary, Treasurer, Master at Arms, Inner Guard and Outer Guard.[2]: 186 

The order's auxiliaries are the Pythian Sisters, the Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan,[2]: 184  and the Nomads of Avrudaka.[3]

Membership[edit]

Membership has historically been open to males in good health who believe in a Supreme Being. Maimed individuals were not admitted until 1875. Members are accepted by blackball ballot.[2]: 184 

A member must be at least 18 years of age, and must take the following oath:

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.[4]

By the end of the so-called "Golden Age of Fraternalism" in the early 1920s, the order had nearly a million members. By 1979, however, this number had declined to fewer than 200,000.[2]: 185 

Rank structure[edit]

The ranks of Pythian Knighthood in a subordinate lodge (or "Castle") are:

  1. Page
  2. Esquire
  3. Knight

In 1877, the order adopted an optional rank, called the Endowment Rank, which provided fraternal insurance benefits. In 1930, this department split from the Knights of Pythias and became a mutual life insurance company, later known as the "American United Insurance Company".[2]: 185 

Finally, members who obtained the rank of Knight were eligible to join the now-defunct Uniform Rank, which participated in parades and other processions.[2]: 184 

Sword[edit]

Early in the group's history, when a man was inducted into the Knights of Pythias, he received a ceremonial sword.[5] Such a sword might be given to a Pythian by family members, business associates, or others as a token of esteem.

Markings on swords varied widely. Most swords were inscribed with the initials "FCB", which stand for the Pythian motto ("Friendship, Charity, Benevolence"). Images on swords were also somewhat common, and included: A man, woman, and child (symbolic of Damon saying good-bye to his family); a man looking out of a building, with a group of people below (symbolic of Pythias' pending execution); a man (Samson) between some pillars, pulling them down, 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).

Swords owned by a member of the Uniformed Rank might be inscribed with the initials "UR," a dove, or a lily.

Philanthropy[edit]

The order provides for "worthy Pythians in distress" and has given aid to victims of national or sectional disasters. It runs camps for underprivileged youth and homes for aged members. It has sponsored scholarship funds, blood drives, highway safety programs, and the Cystic Fibrosis Research Foundation.[2]: 185 

Other Pythian organizations[edit]

Knights of Pythias of North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa[edit]

After a black lodge was denied a charter by the Knights of Pythias' Supreme Lodge meeting in Richmond, Virginia on March 8, 1869, a number of black Americans who had been initiated into the order formed their own Pythian group, the Knights of Pythias of North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. By 1897, the KPNSAEAA had 40,000 members, with Grand Lodges in 20 states and other lodges in the West Indies and Central America. It distributed US$60,000 worth of benefits annually and had a woman's auxiliary and uniformed rank.[6]: 266 

Canada[edit]

The Grand Lodge of Ontario was instituted on April 8, 1872. Rowena L. Rooks composed "K of P grand march [for piano]," which was dedicated to Collin H. Rose, Grand Chancellor, and the officers and representatives of the Grand Lodge K of P of Ontario, Canada. The march sheet music, which was published in London, Ontario, by C. F. Colwell, c. 1876, was illustrated with the Knights of Pythias emblem and Latin motto Amico Fidus ad Aras or, in English, "True friends are a refuge".[7]

Improved Order, Knights of Pythias[edit]

In 1892, the Supreme Lodge ruled that the work of the order would only be conducted in English. This upset some members who were accustomed to using German. After this ruling was reiterated at the Supreme Lodges of 1894 and 1895, a number of German-speaking Pythians split off and formed the Improved Order, Knights of Pythias at a convention in Indianapolis in June 1895. The new order was reportedly not very popular, and a movement toward reconciliation occurred a few years later.[6]: 238 

Notable Pythian Knights[edit]

Notable Pythian buildings[edit]

Plaque in Washington, D.C., designating the location where the Knights of Pythias were founded in 1864
Knights of Pythias Castle, Houston, Texas (postcard, circa 1898)
(by state then city)

In popular culture[edit]

The Knights are mentioned in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock; an ill-fated marine excursion organised by the Knights is the subject of Chapter 3, entitled "The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias". Several characters in the book are said to be members of the Knights.[54]

In the Marx Brothers movie Animal Crackers, Groucho, as the character Captain Spaulding, reports on his recent big game hunting trip to Africa. He says, "The principal animals in Africa are moose, elks, and Knights of Pythias."[55]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 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 [sic] 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."
  2. ^ Approved May 5, 1870 [16 Stat. at L. 98, chap. 80]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Schmidt, Alvin J. (1980). "Knights of Pythias". Fraternal Organizations. The Greenwood encyclopedia of American institutions. Vol. 3. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 183–89, 281. ISBN 978-0-3132-1436-3. OCLC 567954407. OL 4404074M. Retrieved 2022-06-06 – via Internet Archive.
  3. ^ "Knights of Pythias". Museum of Fezology. August 2011. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  4. ^ "Application for Membership" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  5. ^ Glickman, Lawrence B., ed. (1999). Consumer Society in American History: A Reader. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-8014-8486-5. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  6. ^ a b Stevens, Albert Clark (1907). The Cyclopedia of Fraternities: A Compilation of Existing Authentic Information and the Results of Original Investigation As to More Than Six Hundred Secret Societies in the United States (2nd ed.). New York City: E. B. Treat & Co. pp. 238, 263–66. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  7. ^ Rooks, Rowena L. (1876). K of P grand march : [for piano]. London, Ontario: C.F. Colwell. OCLC 1007652604. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  8. ^ "Endorsed by Bryanites". The Eureka Herald. 1900-11-01. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  9. ^ "Louis Armstrong". Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon. 2005-05-01. Archived from the original on 2013-01-01. Retrieved 2022-06-07. Armstrong wrote in his autobiography that he was a member of a lodge of the Knights of Pythias.
  10. ^ Armstrong, Louis (1986). Satchmo. My Life in New Orleans. New York City: Da Capo Press (Prentice-Hall). p. 225. ISBN 0306802767. Retrieved 2022-06-07 – via Internet Archive. Among the clubs represented were…The Knights of Pythias (my lodge)…
  11. ^ "Hugo L. Black". Encyclopedia of Alabama. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  12. ^ Chambers, Henry E. (1925). A History of Louisiana: Wilderness, Colony, Province, Territory, State, People. Vol. 2. Chicago and New York City: American Historical Society. LCCN 25024986. OCLC 1544272. OL 6684175M.
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  16. ^ "Dictionary C". Louisiana Historical Association. Archived from the original on 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  17. ^ "Robert E. Lee Chancey - 44th Mayor Of Tampa". City of Tampa. 2022-04-04. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
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  19. ^ "Eliot Engel". NNDB. Archived from the original on 2020-06-15. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  20. ^ Herndon, Dallas Tabor. "Centennial history of Arkansas online". ebooksread.com. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  21. ^ "Services Tomorrow for Realty Pioneer". Los Angeles Times. 1919-11-18. p. 7. Retrieved 2022-06-06.
  22. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence (2022-05-10). "Knights of Pythias: Politician members in California". The Political Graveyard. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  23. ^ The Biographical cyclopedia of representative men of Rhode Island. Providence, Rhode Island: National Biographical Publishing. 1881. LCCN 03018891. Retrieved 2022-06-07 – via Internet Archive.
  24. ^ Herreid, Charles N. "Early History of the Knights of Pythias". Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  25. ^ Kestenbaum, Lawrence (2022-05-10). "Knights of Pythias: Politician members in Minnesota". The Political Graveyard. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  26. ^ Owen, Thomas McAdory; Owen, Marie Bankhead (1921). History of Alabama and dictionary of Alabama biography. Vol. 3. Chicago: S. J. Clarke. p. 940. LCCN 21018194. OL 6638148M. Retrieved 2022-06-07 – via Internet Archive.
  27. ^ "Assembly Jt. Res. 19". The Laws of Wisconsin, Volume 1. Madison, Wisconsin: Atwood & Culver. 1965. pp. 837–38. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
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  29. ^ "Bio: McDonough, Frank (1846–1904)". Clark County History Buffs. Archived from the original on 2022-06-07. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
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  31. ^ "Nappanee Advance-News, Volume 28, Number 25,Nappanee, 21 August 1907". Nappanee Advance-News. 1907-08-21.
  32. ^ Seeds, Russel Marlborough (1899). History of the Republican Party of Indiana: Biographical Sketches of the Party Leaders. Vol. 1. Indiana History Company. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-7222-0805-2.
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  35. ^ "Park Trammell". NNDB. Archived from the original on 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  36. ^ "Secret Societies". Chicago Tribune. 1875-05-30. p. 7. Archived from the original on 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2022-06-07. Gen. Lew Wallace, in an address to the Knights at Crawfordsville, Ind., the other day, told them that "secret societies flourish and grow strong only when they are agreeable to the wants, taste, and character of the people among whom they are erected."
  37. ^ "Knights of Pythias Building". National Park Service. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  38. ^ "Pythian Castle". National Park Service. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  39. ^ "Pythias Lodge Building". National Park Service. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
  40. ^ "Knights of Pythias – Salida, Colorado". WayMarking. 2014-03-03. Archived from the original on 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
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  42. ^ "Knights of Pythias Building and Theatre". National Park Service. Retrieved 2022-06-07.
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  55. ^ "Animal Crackers (1930) Movie Script". Springfield! Springfield!. Archived from the original on 2022-06-08. Retrieved 2022-06-07.

External links[edit]