One of the largest fraternal orders today, the Loyal Order of Moose was founded in Louisville, Kentucky in 1888 by Dr. John Henry Wilson and a group of friends. The founders wanted to establish a social and drinking club for working-class men to rival the Elks. The new order had a single degree of initiation to start with, and the usual panoply of robes, collars, and fezzes for the members. In the crowded fraternal world of 1880s America, however, the Moose struggled to find an audience. By 1906 Wilson himself had left the order and only two lodges, in the small Indiana towns of Crawfordsville and Frankfort, still survived.
In that year James J. Davis joined the Crawfordsville lodge. Davis, a labour organizer and steel mill worker, became convinced that the organization could flourish if it copied other fraternal orders and offered funeral and survivor benefits. Given the title of Supreme Organizer and approval for his benefits scheme, he and a small group of organizers travelled back and forth across the United States and Canada, with dramatic results. By 1912 the Loyal Order of Moose could count more than 1000 lodges and a membership over half a million.
Three major developments occurred in 1913: the founding of a ladies auxiliary, Women of the Moose; the establishment of a second degree, the Moose Legion; and the founding of a home for orphans at Mooseheart, 38 miles (60 kilometers) west of Chicago. In 1922 the order founded a home for elderly members, Moosehaven, on the Florida coast. These steps boosted membership to new heights and made the Moose lodge a popular place to be; American presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Harry Truman were all members of the Moose. In the aftermath of the First World War, Moose lodges began springing up in Great Britain as well, and the Grand Lodge of Great Britain, Loyal Order of Moose, was founded in 1923.
Unlike many fraternal orders, the Moose suffered no significant loss of membership during the middle years of the twentieth century, and membership peaked at well over a million in the early 1980s. It has declined since that time, though the Loyal Order of Moose remains large and active. Most of the traditional practices of secret societies were, however, abandoned in 1992, and the order now functions as a social club with a busy charitable program.
The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006