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Exhibition Join In: Voluntary Assocations in America

A. C. Golsh, photographer. African American Man, Member of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, between 1890 and 1900. Gladstone Collection of African American Photographs, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (033.00.00)
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Order of Odd Fellows and Grand United Order of Odd Fellows

The Odd Fellows was founded in London in 1730 as a fraternal association that emphasized friendship among its members and used rituals and degrees similar to those found in Freemasonry. The organization came to the United States in 1819, when an immigrant from England, Thomas Wildey (1782–1861), founded Washington Lodge No. 1 in Baltimore. In the 1840s, membership split over race, resulting in the creation in 1843 of the exclusively White Order of Odd Fellows and the predominantly Black Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, led by Peter Ogden (d. 1852), an African American sailor from New York. Shown here is a member of the Grand United Order wearing the fraternal order’s collar and apron. Membership in all Odd Fellows lodges peaked in the early 1920s at more than 2.5 million members worldwide.