Antique Odd Fellows Ceremonial Mask c.1900
An antique wire mesh mask used by members of the Odd Fellows organization. Hand painted with black eyebrows, blue eyes and faint red lips. The mask is molded to easily fit the face. Originally held secure to the head with an elastic band at the back of the head.
- CREATOR DeMoulin Brothers, Illinois
- DATE OF MANUFACTURE c.1900-1920.
- MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES Wire Mesh, Metal, Paint
- CONDITION Good. Wear consistent with age and use. Missing elastic band.
- DIMENSIONS H 8.25 in. W 6.5 in. D 4 in.
Along with the Freemasons, the Odd Fellows are considered one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world. Created in a time where social services were non-existent, the Odd Fellows dedicated themselves to charity, helping the poor and sick. It is the aim of members to "to improve and elevate every person to a higher, nobler plane; to extend sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form, and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity."
Many of the founding members were Catholic, which in 1700s England was still a marginalized religion. The Odd Fellows were forced underground, being a member was considered a criminal offense. Passwords and secret handshakes were employed and the organization was shrouded in secrecy to avoid the watchful eyes of the Protestant ruling class. This secrecy followed the Odd Fellows into the Americas where they split from England over concerns of allowing African Americans to join. The I.O.O.F. only removed racial language from their membership guidelines in 1971.
The 1930s and the Great Depression saw the decline of the Odd Fellows. Members were suddenly unable to pay their fees and with Roosevelt's new social reforms the charitable work of the Odd Fellows was not needed. Many of their buildings were repurposed and skeletons were quite literally found in their closets. One of the initiation rites of the Odd Fellows was to kiss or look a human skeleton in the face to face ones own mortality. Other initiation rites were a little more comedic and downright goofy. In the 1800s, the DeMoulin Brothers of Illinois, started a Fraternal supply mail order catalogue. With a background in the prank industry, creating wooden goats to ride during initiations and spanking machines for Fraternal organizations only seemed a natural fit. The DeMoulin brothers also sold Fraternal regalia such as robes, uniforms and masks.