Monday, February 24, 2014

Elk Lodges: A Brief Photo Essay

While this blog is primarily concerned with things Masonic, I have on occasion commented on other fraternal organizations. One such group, worthy of note and admiration, is the fraternal organization most commonly referred to simply as "The Elks."

It began when a group of actors and entertainers decided to organize  so they could meet on Sundays and still avoid paying an excise tax, called themselves the Jolly Corks. That same year as membership grew, some members saw the vision to become more helpful in the community. In February of 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was chartered–and with a great new spirit and direction, began to help Veterans, Scouting, Scholarships and more–wherever Charity, Justice and Brotherly Love were needed!

FORMAL ORGANIZATION AND NAME The Order of Elks was formerly organized February 16, 1868, in the City of New York. Its full corporate name was "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America." Its declared purposes are to practice its four cardinal virtues, Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; and to cultivate good fellowship. 
The animal from which the Order took its name was chosen because a number of its attributes were deemed typical of those to be cultivated by members of the fraternity. The Elk is distinctfully an American animal. It habitually lives in herds. The largest of our native quadrupeds, it is yet fleet of foot and graceful in movement. It is quick and keen of perception, and while it is usual gentle and even timorous, it is strong and valient in defense of its own. A representation of the majestic head of the male, with its spreading antlers, was adopted as the first badge of the Order, and is still the most conspicuous element of its copyrighted, fraternal emblem. 

QUALIFICATIONS OF MEMBERSHIP Membership in the Order is limited to any citizen of the United States, not under twenty-one years of age, who believe in the existence of God, who subscribe themselves to the objects and purposes of the Order, and who have been duly initiated in a Subordinate Lodge. There are no branches, or degrees of membership in the Order; there are auxillary organizations, such as State Associations, and Past Exalted Rulers' Associations. STATE ASSOCIATIONS Under the laws of the Order, State Associations may be formed in any, or all states by such Subordinate Lodges as may voluntarily desire to organize into such groups. They have power to regulate their own internal affairs, and are authorized to inaugurate and foster such benevolent activities as may be selected
by them for their serious objectives.

Recently, a brother, who demonstrates his enthusiasm and quiet generosity, reached out to share his enthusiasm for all things BPOE with me. Since he was so kind as to permit the use of material from his personal collection and a friend's I am happy to share some select images related to The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) which is also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks. For those who don't know, the Elks is an American fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. It is one of the leading fraternal orders in the U.S., claiming nearly one million members. As with the Freemasons, many notable people who are or members of the Elks.  

The list of famous Americans who were Elks include Generals Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Presidents Warren G. Harding, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, and Gerald R. Ford. Others include Tip O'Neill, Lawrence Welk, Will Rogers, Jack Benny, Eddie Arnold, Clint Eastwood, Buster Keaton, William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill), Gene Autry, Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle.

Special thanks to Al Hoffman and Jason Castlebury, in whose collections the photos displayed here reside. This small display would not be possible without the dedicated work of these two brothers!  I hope with their assistance to provide some more detailed information and of course, more beautioful photographs. If anyone wishes to contact them, I will be happy to pass your information along to them. Just contact me at eoghanballard @ .

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