Knights of Pythias

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Knights of Pythias
Knightsofpythias.png
Knights of Pythias in a parade in Racine, Wisconsin, ca. 1910.jpg
Knights of Pythias in a parade in Racine, Wisconsin, 1910
FormationFebruary 19, 1864;158 years ago (1864-02-19)
Founder Justus H. Rathbone
Founded at Washington, DC
PurposeHumanitarian
HeadquartersSupreme Lodge Knights of Pythias, Stoughton
Location
Membership (2003)
Over 50,000
Website Official website OOjs UI icon edit-ltr-progressive.svg
Knights of Pythias membership certificate, 1890 Knights of Pythias membership certificate 1890.jpg
Knights of Pythias membership certificate, 1890
Knights of Pythias in a parade in Toledo, Ohio, 1890s Knights of Pythias on parade - DPLA - 5e1ff2f87a171dfcc218705071ffe751 (cropped).jpg
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. [lower-alpha 2] 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.

Contents

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knights of Pythias of North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa

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

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

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

Notable Pythian buildings

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

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

Notes

  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]

Related Research Articles

Pythian Home of Missouri United States historic place

The Pythian Home of Missouri, also known as Pythian Castle, in Springfield, Missouri, was built in 1913 by the Knights of Pythias and later owned by the U.S. military. German and Italian prisoners-of-war were assigned here during World War II for medical treatment and as laborers. Some prisoners were kept in the detached powerhouse and laundry room behind the castle. The laundry room is still owned by the U.S. Army.

A Pythian Castle was a local meeting place of the Knights of Pythias. It may refer to one of the following :

King Arts Complex Arts center in Columbus, Ohio

The Martin Luther King Jr. Performing and Cultural Arts Complex is a historic building in the King-Lincoln Bronzeville neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. It was built in 1925 as the Pythian Temple and James Pythian Theater, and was added to the National Register of Historic Places and Columbus Register of Historic Properties in 1983. The building was renovated into the King Arts Complex in 1987, and was vacated in 2019. Community leaders restored the building's use as an arts center in 2021.

Pythian Temple (Tacoma, Washington) United States historic place

The Pythian Temple, built in 1906 for Commencement Lodge Number 7 of the Knights of Pythias, is an historic building located on Broadway in the Theater District of Tacoma, Washington. It was designed by noted Tacoma architect Frederick Heath.

Knights of Pythias Building (Fort Worth, Texas) Historic place in Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Texas

The Knights of Pythias Building is an historic three-story redbrick Knights of Pythias building located at 315 Main Street in Fort Worth, Texas. Also known as the Knights of Pythias Castle Hall, it was built in 1901 on the site of an 1881 structure, the first Pythian Castle Hall ever built, which had burned earlier the same year. The building housed the city's first offset printing press and coin-operated laundry. On April 28, 1970, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The building is also a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark (RTHL). In 1981, it was restored and is now part of the Sundance Square area of downtown Fort Worth. The lead tenant in the building today is Haltom's Jewelers.

Knights of Pythias Building, Knights of Pythias Lodge, Pythias Lodge Building, Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall, or Knights of Pythias Temple may refer to:

Pythian Castle (Portsmouth, Virginia) United States historic place

The Pythian Castle is a historic 3-story brick and stone Knights of Pythias building located at 610-612 Court Street in Portsmouth, Virginia. Built between 1897 and 1898 for the Atlantic Lodge, Knights of Pythias, it was designed by architect Edward Overman in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture. Like many multistory urban fraternal buildings built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its street floor was rented out for retail and office spaces while the upper floors were reserved for lodge use. In 1908 a single-story brick and stone Romanesque Revival addition was built to the north of the original building. In 1979 the Pythian Castle was sold by the knights. On October 30, 1980, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Today the ground floor is a Mexican eatery.

Frederick Heath (architect) American architect

Frederick Heath was an American architect responsible for numerous projects in Tacoma, Washington. He worked out of his own office and as a senior partner at architectural firms. He was involved with Spaulding, Russell & Heath, and Heath & Gove. His work included designs for several historic and notable schools, churches, stadiums, and commercial properties.

Masonic Temple (Mechanicsburg, Ohio) United States historic place

The Masonic Temple is a historic Masonic temple in the village of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, United States. Built in the 1900s for a local Masonic lodge that had previously met in a succession of buildings owned by others, it is the last extant Mechanicsburg building constructed for a secret society, whether Masonic or otherwise, and it has been designated a historic site because of its well-preserved American Craftsman architecture.

Highlands Masonic Lodge United States historic place

The Highlands Masonic Lodge, also known as the Pythian Building, is a historic building located in Denver, Colorado. Built in 1905 and constructed in the Classical Revival style, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall (Weiser, Idaho) United States historic place

The Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall, also known as Pythian Castle, in Weiser, Idaho is a building built in 1904. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.

Pythian Castle (Arcata, California) United States historic place

The Pythian Castle is a building in Arcata, northwestern California, that was built during 1884-85 for the North Star chapter of the Knights of Pythias fraternal order. It is notable for its commercial Queen Anne style architecture which features five projecting towers: two square towers projecting from the center of the two street-fronting sides of the building, and three round towers projecting from the street-side corners. Patterned shingles covered the tower roofs in the past. The corner ones have "witch hat"-shaped tops and used to sport tall finials. The side ones once had cresting.

Pythian Castle Lodge United States historic place

The Pythian Castle Lodge, also known as Crystal Palace, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States, was built in 1927 by the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization. In 1988 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eagle Harbor Schoolhouse Historic schoolhouse

The Eagle Harbor Schoolhouse is a school located at the corner of Third and Center Streets in Eagle Harbor, Michigan, United States. It is significant as the location where Justus H. Rathbone was first inspired to write the ritual which was the basis of the Order of the Knights of Pythias. The schoolhouse was designated a Michigan State Historic Site in 1971 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is also known as the Pythian Shrine and as the Rathbone School.

Walter T. Bailey American architect

Walter Thomas Bailey was an American architect from Kewanee, Illinois. He was the first African American graduate with a bachelor of science degree in architectural engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the first licensed African-American architect in the state of Illinois. He worked at the Tuskegee Institute, and practiced in both Memphis and Chicago. Walter T. Bailey became the second African American that graduated from the University of Illinois.

Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan Fraternal description

The Dramatic Order of the Knights of Khorassan or Dokeys are a side degree of the Knights of Pythias, somewhat analogous to the Shriners in Freemasonry. The Order was founded in 1894.

The Pythian Sisters are the female auxiliary to the Knights of Pythias.

Rush, Endacott and Rush was an American architectural firm known for its designs in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from 1912 to 1929.

References

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