Are The Odd Fellows Part Of Freemasonry?

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason33°

The All Seeing Eye is only one of the symbols used by both Fraternities
"In 18th century England, it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind.  Those who belonged to such an organization were called 'Odd Fellows.'"

I get the question a lot.  Believe it or not, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) is not affiliated with or an appendant body of Freemasonry.  However, it is pretty obvious that the two Fraternities are very similar in both the symbolism they use, the values they share, and in the way they began.  Both Fraternities use many of the same symbols--the "All Seeing Eye," the sun and moon, the Holy Bible, and the beehive are of a few of many symbols used by both Fraternities.  Freemasons will readily recognize nearly all of the symbols on the Odd Fellows chart below.  They also have an initiation and degree system much like Masonry, and use aprons as part of their regalia.

Some of the symbols used by the I.O.O.F.
Another cause of confusion is because throughout history, many Freemasons have also been Odd Fellows.  Famous Freemasons like Winston Churchill, William McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt, Red Skelton, and Chief Justice Earl Warren were also members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  In fact, one of the best known Masons, Albert Pike, was an Odd Fellow! It has been so common that you'll find the Freemason Square and Compass, and the Odd Fellows' three links used together often in Fraternal jewelry and elsewhere--I have an example of a joint Freemasonry/Odd Fellows lapel pin in my collection, and have often seen the symbols used together on grave stones of men who were members of both Fraternities as in the example below.

Common engraving of a man who was both a Freemason and an Odd Fellow
Much like Freemasonry, the Odd Fellows claim their roots go back to the trade guilds in the 12th and 13th centuries.  They are a values based organization like Freemasonry with a desire to help men improve themselves, but while Freemasonry's main objective is to "make good men better" the emphasis of the Odd Fellows  is in contributing to charitable works and providing aid and assistance.  The three chain links of their symbol represent Friendship, Love and Truth.

While the similarities between the two fraternities are obvious, they are very different organizations.  The Odd Fellows was the first Fraternity in the United States open to both men and women.  They were also the first to build homes for their senior members and for orphaned children.

There is a common misconception that the Odd Fellows is a copy of Freemasonry.  Many fraternities have borrowed heavily from the rituals and traditions of Freemasonry, and there are a lot of comparisons that could be made between Freemasonry and the Odd Fellows.  Maybe the Odd Fellows borrowed from the Freemasons, or perhaps the two organization evolved their rituals and traditions along similar lines because they share a common history going back to the trade guilds.  Or maybe it is because so many of their members throughout history have belonged to both organizations.

Whatever the truth may be, both Fraternities have done remarkable work in making good men better and the world a better place in which to live.  In fact, there has always existed a mutual respect between the two Fraternities, which is why so many Freemasons have become Odd Fellows, and so many Odd Fellows belong to Masonic Lodges.

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary.  He's also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199.  He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research.  He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

16 comments:

  1. Terrific GreaT.)
    Freemasonry is mr.Originality!!!
    Odd Fellows is Original (c)opy(r)ight.com

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    1. Not correct both came out of the trade guilds As stated in the article they have a common history. I would not call the Odd Fellows a copy if you do a little more digging perhaps you will have a different outlook...

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  2. Great article. However the Oddfellows discontinued wearing aprons in the 1800's, the exact date I forget. Thank you for the kind words about the Odd Fellows. Kelly Hughes Nobel Grand

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  3. Excellent article, thanks! I have seen IOOF on tombstones often however I have also seen IOS which I've been trying to track down. Do you or anyone else reading this article know what organization IOS stands for?

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  4. DSB, I believe you are referring to the Independent Order of Svithiod. see Link http://www.svithiod.org

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  5. Great article! I think a lot of those symbols have been in use by organizations since, who knows...Mesopotamia, even. One can find scales and eyes on Egyptian hieroglyphs and when one looks at alchemy, the symbols really go wild. So, who knows?

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  6. That looks like what I'm looking for. Thanks RW Brother Kleiner!

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    1. It took a bit of research, but it sounds like you're referring to the Knights and Ladies of Honor, a splinter group of the Knights of Honor, a defunct fraternal society. Its founder, Dr. Darius Wilson, was a Mason and an Oddfellow. Its origins are entrenched in a few other workmen organizations, namely, the Order of United American Mechanics, and Ancient Order of United Workmen. You can read more on Wikipedia. My research indicates the K of H and the K & L of H are completely defunct.

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  8. Interesting. I becam a person's of the odd fellow'eary roughly two some odd years ago.from being disabled and with stout military and medical service
    . I could not stop going out and rendering aid to those who were in need. I did so to the point of great personal sacrifice and damage. I gave what I felt my simple duty called for. And when there was nothing left I found the odd fellows. A whole brother and sister hood devoted to what and who I am. When I felt all alone. And at the end of the cave. I found em. And the showed me that life is not a cave. It's a tunnel. And... one should always strive to make any good man woman or child better. For what else is there to do. Thank you for your time.

    Lawrence E. Seward Jr. The Warden Errant of Bremerton Friendship Lodge#145

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  9. My mother recently passed down an old Odd Fellow medallion to me. It was originally my Grandmothers Great Great Uncles. They thought it was Masonic but with a little research I realized it was from the Original Order of Odd Fellow in England previous to the IOOF. One thing I can't decipher on the Medallion is "A.N.U" can anyone tell me what this may represent. I can send pictures of the Medallion if that helps.

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  10. How can I find out if my Grandfather was in the OOOF?

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  11. It is good that Freemasons themselves are beginning to write about Odd Fellows to clarify some misconceptions. There are masons who failed to do research and assume that Odd Fellows is a part of Freemasonry or accuse as a copy. The accusations that the Odd Fellows is a copy of Freemasonry only began in 1840's when both Orders competed for membership. In 1840's, a Committee of Masons-Odd Fellows were formed to study this claim. They compared the degrees and rituals of both Orders. Conclusions showed a negative finding because the degrees of Odd Fellows and Freemasons are very different, etc. I have written one article to further clarify this topic: http://oddfellowsorder.blogspot.com/2011/01/odd-fellows-freemasons-modern-insight.html

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    1. Three of the contributors to the Midnight Freemasons blog recently joined the Odd Fellows (myself included). I'm sure there will be a little more on the Odd Fellows going forward.

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  12. Thank you for this wonderful article. I know my Great Grandfather was a member of I.O.O.F. In his obit it says "I.O.O.F.; Auburn lodge. K. of P.; the National Union (at Orting) and the M.W.A. at (Orting. ) When I searched M.W.A., I did come up with a reference to a current day home for veterans - as you stated above was part of the IOOF charity to create these homes. Can you tell me what M.W.A. stood for? Also, what is K. of P.? Knights of ? I haven't been abel to find anything on The National Union or the M.W.A. - but these may not be connected to I.O.O.F. Any help is greatly appreciated!

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