The Sovereigns of Industry

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
WB Gregory Knott

I found a small booklet recently entitled “Ritual of the Sovereigns of Industry”. This booklet had a ritual for initiation of persons who became members of the Sovereigns of Industry (SOI). But exactly who were the Sovereigns of Industry?

In my research I found that the group was founded in 1874 and was inspired by the The National Grange of Patrons of Husbandry and had its origins in Massachusetts when Dudley W. Adams, National Master of the Grange in 1873 asked his old friend William H. Earle to organize the Grange in Massachusetts.

There was a great deal of agriculture in Massachusetts, however the state was more heavily focused on industry and manufacturing. Earle saw the potential to create an organization to unite American Workers and formed the Sovereigns of Industry as a labor reform organization.

The SOI had a much different approach to solving problems than the labor unions that were forming about the same time. The SOI approach was described as cooperative instead of confrontational. They were in some aspects the forerunner of the modern cooperatives in bringing their collective purchasing power together. But as organized labor gained strength during this period, they did not like the means used by the Sovereigns of Industry. Instead of cooperation, the unions utilized the confrontational methods (i.e. labor strikes) as method to improve their working conditions.

Like the Grange at the time, The Sovereigns of Industry chose to become a secret society. They developed a ritual and a set of by-laws. The ritual was very short and could be conferred upon men or women of 16 years age or older. The obligation said in part:

“You do now, in the presence of this Council, solemnly affirm that your only motive in seeking to become a member of our Fraternity, is to aid in establishing those principles and measures of reforms proclaimed by the Order; that you will never unlawfully reveal any of the secrets of the Order; that you will, to the best of your ability, fulfill all the obligations which membership in the Order impose upon you; and that you will not print, write, or cause to be printed or written, any part of this Ritual, or any of the unwritten work of the Order…” (Ritual of the Sovereigns of Industry, 1874)

Unlike the Grange, The Sovereigns of Industry didn’t survive long. Their membership peaked at 27,984 in 19875 and they were out of existence by 1880.


WB Gregory J. Knott is the Past Master of St. Joseph Lodge No. 970 in St. Joseph (IL) and a plural member of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), Homer Lodge No. 199 (IL) and Naval Lodge No. 4 in Washington, DC. He’s a member of the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star and is the Charter Secretary of the Illini High Twelve Club No. 768 in Champaign-Urbana. He is also a member of ANSAR Shrine (IL) and the Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees. Greg serves on the Board of Directors of The Masonic Society and is a member of the Scottish Rite Research Society and The Philathes Society. Greg is very involved in Boy Scouts—an Eagle Scout himself, he is a member of the National Association of Masonic Scouters

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