National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry

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The Grange
National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
FormationDecember 4, 1867; 155 years ago (1867-12-04)
FounderOliver Hudson Kelley
William Saunders
Francis M. McDowell
John Trimble
Aaron B. Grosh
John R. Thompson
William M. Ireland
Caroline Hall
Founded atWashington, D.C.
TypeAdvocacy group
Fraternal organization
PurposeAgrarian interest group
Agricultural education
Grassroots organizing
HeadquartersNational Grange Headquarters Building
1616 H Street NW
Washington, DC
OriginsFarmers' movement
Region served
United States
National President
Betsy Huber
National Vice President
Christine Hamp
Executive Committee Chair
Lynette Schaeffer
Executive Committee Secretary
Susan Noah
Grange Hall in Solon, Maine, circa 1910

The Grange, officially named The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is a social organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture.[1] The Grange, founded after the Civil War in 1867, is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group with a national scope. The Grange actively lobbied state legislatures and Congress for political goals, such as the Granger Laws to lower rates charged by railroads, and rural free mail delivery by the Post Office.

In 2005, the Grange had a membership of 160,000, with organizations in 2,100 communities in 36 states. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C., in a building built by the organization in 1960. Many rural communities in the United States still have a Grange Hall and local Granges still serve as a center of rural life for many farming communities.


The commissioner of the Department of Agriculture commissioned Oliver Kelley, after a personal interview with President Andrew Johnson,[2] to go to the Southern states and to collect data to improve Southern agricultural conditions. In the South, poor farmers bore the brunt of the Civil War and were suspicious of Northerners like Kelley. Kelley found he was able to overcome these sectional differences as a Mason. With Southern Masons as guides, he toured the war-torn countryside in the South and was appalled by the outdated farming practices. In the western states, Kelley deplored the lack of "progressive agriculture", with illiterate "ignorant" farmers who were "using a system of farming [that] was the same as that handed down by generations gone by".[3] He saw the need for an organization that would bring people together from across the country in a spirit of mutual cooperation; after many letters and consultations with the other founders, the Grange was born.[4] The first Grange, Grange #1, was founded in 1868 in Fredonia, New York.[5] Seven men and one woman co-founded the Grange: Oliver Hudson Kelley, William Saunders, Francis M. McDowell, John Trimble, Aaron B. Grosh, John R. Thompson, William M. Ireland, and Caroline Hall.[6] In 1873 the organization was united under a National Grange in Washington, D.C.[7]

Paid agents organized local Granges and membership in the Grange increased dramatically from 1873 (200,000) to 1875 (858,050). Many of the state and local granges adopted non-partisan political resolutions, especially regarding the regulation of railroad transportation costs. The organization was unusual at this time, because women[3] and any teen old enough to draw a plow (aged 14 to 16[8]) were encouraged to participate. The importance of women was reinforced by requiring that four of the elected positions could be held only by women.[9]

1967 U.S. postage stamp honoring the National Grange

Rapid growth infused the national organization with money from dues, and many local granges established consumer cooperatives, initially supplied by the wholesaler Aaron Montgomery Ward. Poor fiscal management, combined with organizational difficulties resulting from rapid growth, led to a massive decline in membership. By the turn of the 20th century, the Grange rebounded and membership stabilized.

The Granger movement supported efforts by politicians to regulate rates charged by the railroads and grain warehouses. It claimed credit for the ideas of the Cooperative Extension Service, Rural Free Delivery, and the Farm Credit System. The peak of their political reputation was marked by the Supreme Court decision in Munn v. Illinois (1877), which held that grain warehouses were a "private utility in the public interest," and so could be regulated by public law. However this achievement was overturned later by the Supreme Court in Wabash v. Illinois (1886).[10] The Grange also endorsed the temperance cause to avoid alcohol, the direct election of Senators and women's suffrage.

Partisan politics[edit]

While the Grange was not a political party, Grangers were involved in several political movements in the Midwestern United States in the late 19th century, such as the Reform Party of Wisconsin.

Decline in membership[edit]

Grange membership has declined considerably as the percentage of American farmers has fallen from a third of the population in the early 20th century to less than two percent today. Between 1992 and 2007, the number of Grange members fell by 40%.[11] Washington has the largest membership of any state, at approximately 13,000.[citation needed]


Union Grange Hall in Slatersville, Rhode Island, now a community center belonging to the North Smithfield Heritage Association.

As of 2013 the Grange continues to press for the causes of farmers, including issues of free trade and farm policy. In its 2006 Journal of Proceedings, the organization's report on its annual convention, the organization lays out its mission and how it works towards achieving it through fellowship, service, and legislation:

The Grange provides opportunities for individuals and families to develop to their highest potential in order to build stronger communities and states, as well as a stronger nation.

In 2019, the National Grange revised their Mission Statement:

The Grange strengthens individuals, families and communities through grassroots action, service, education, advocacy and agriculture awareness.

As a non-partisan organization, the Grange supports only policies, never political parties or candidates. Although the Grange was founded to serve the interests of farmers, because of the shrinking farm population the Grange has begun to broaden its range to include a wide variety of issues, and anyone is welcome to join the Grange.

The Junior Grange is open to children 5–14. Regular Grange membership is open to anyone age 14 or older. The Grange Youth, a group within the Grange, consists of members 13 1/2 to 35.

In 2013, the Grange signed on to a letter to Congress calling for the doubling of legal immigration and legalization for undocumented immigrants currently in the United States. However, this position has been somewhat revised, and the Grange now emphasizes an expansion in the H-2A visa program to increase legal immigration and address the crisis-level labor shortage in agriculture. They support the enforcement of immigration law but urge discretion with regard to the impact on labor availability.[12]

Rituals and ceremonies[edit]

Grange in session, 1873

When the Grange first began in 1867, it borrowed some of its rituals and symbols from Freemasonry,[3] including oaths, secret meetings, and special passwords necessary to keep railroad spies out of their meetings.[13] It also copied ideas from Greek, Roman and Biblical mythology. Small, ceremonial farm tools are often displayed at Grange meetings. Elected officers are in charge of opening and closing each meeting. There are seven degrees of Grange membership; the ceremony of each degree relates to the seasons and various symbols and principles.[14]

During the last few decades, the Grange has moved toward public meetings and no longer meets in secret. Though the secret meetings do not occur, the Grange still acknowledges its rich history and practices some traditions.[citation needed]


The Grange is a hierarchical organization ranging from local communities to the National Grange organization. At the local level are community Granges, otherwise known as subordinate Granges.[3] All members are affiliated with at least one subordinate. In most states, multiple subordinate Granges are grouped together to form Pomona Granges. Typically, Pomona Granges are made up of all the subordinates in a county. Next in the order come State Granges, which is where the Grange begins to be especially active in the political process. State Masters (Presidents) are responsible for supervising the administration of Subordinate and Pomona Granges. Together, thirty-five State Granges, as well as Potomac Grange #1 in Washington, D.C., form the National Grange. The National Grange represents the interests of most Grangers in lobbying activities similar to the state, but on a much larger scale. In addition, the National Grange oversees the Grange ritual. The Grange is a grassroots organization; virtually all policy originates at the subordinate level.

The motto of the Grange is In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas ("In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity"). Indeed, the word "grange" comes from a Latin word for grain, and is related to a "granary" or, generically, a farm.

Notable people[edit]

Grange membership badge from Plainville, New York

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goss, Albert S. (February 1947). "Legislative Program of the National Grange". Journal of Farm Economics. 29 (1): 52–63. doi:10.2307/1232934. JSTOR 1232934.
  2. ^ Kelley, Oliver Hudson (1875). Origin and Progress of the Order of the Patrons of Husbandry in the United States; A History from 1866 to 1873. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J. A. Weggenseller. p. 12.
  3. ^ a b c d Commons, John R.; Phillips, Ulrich B.; Gilmore, Eugene A.; Sumner, Helen L.; Andrews, John B., eds. (1911). A Documentary History of American Industrial Society, Volume X: Labor Movement (PDF). Cleveland, Ohio: The Arthur H. Clark Company. pp. 71–138.
  4. ^ Barns, William D. (July 1967). "Oliver Hudson Kelley and the Genesis of the Grange: A Reappraisal". Agricultural History. Agricultural History Society. 41 (3): 229–242. JSTOR 3740337.
  5. ^ Nordin, D. Sven (1974). Rich Harvest: A History of the Grange, 1867–1900. University Press of Mississippi. pp. Chapter 1. ISBN 9781617034763.
  6. ^ Carr, Ezra Slocum (1875). The Patrons of husbandry on the Pacific coast: Being a complete history of the origin, condition and progress of agriculture in different parts of the world; of the origin and growth of the order of Patrons, with a general and special grange directory, and full list of charter members of the subordinate granges of California. Also, of the foes of the farmers, or monopolies of land, water, transportation and education; of a protective tariff, currency and banking. A. L. Bancroft. p. 105.
  7. ^ Kelley (1875), Publisher's Preface.
  8. ^ Kelley (1875), p. 39.
  9. ^ Sheingate, Adam D. (2003). The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State: Institutions and Interest Group Power in the United States, France, and Japan. Princeton University Press. p. 60. ISBN 0691116288.
  10. ^ Danbom, David B. (2006). Born in the Country: A History of Rural America. Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 154–156. ISBN 9780801884597.
  11. ^ Krishnan, Sonia (July 29, 2007). "Beyond Potlucks". The Seattle Times. In the past 15 years, Grange membership has fallen nearly 40 percent to 240,000 people. These days, fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm.
  12. ^ "Immigration & Visas". National Grange of The Order of Patrons of Husbandry. The National Grange. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  13. ^ Kinney, Jay (2009). The Masonic Myth: Unlocking the Truth About the Symbols, the Secret Rites, and the History of Freemasonry. HarperCollins. p. 70. ISBN 9780061985980.
  14. ^ Nordin (1974), p. 10.

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