Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
In 1813, at Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania, a group of men met to form a fraternal organization that they called the Society of Red Men. The name was changed to The Improved Order of Red Men in 1834. According to the current organization, the order modeled itself after Iroquois Confederacy. The organization became national in 1847 in Maryland, with the formation of the Grand Council of the United States. The Improved Order of Red Men still exists today, and believes in democracy, free government, the United States of America, and “perpetuating the beautiful legends and traditions of a once-vanishing race and the keeping alive some of the traditional customs, ceremonies, and philosophies” (IORM website - http://www.redmen.org/redmen/info/).
The order uses American Indian-inspired terminology for its structural organization and correspondence. For instance, tye call their chapters “wigwams” and name then after different tribes, such as Tecumseh Tribe, Number One, in Pennsylvania. Their calendar is based on the Columbus's voyages to the New World, with A.D. 1491 being year one of the organization.
Morris H. Gorham wrote the History of the Improved Order of Red Men, which was published in 1884. Gorham appeared to have been a very active member of the order during his lifetime, having attained the high rank of “Great Incohonee” within the Great Council of the United States at 1879 (Lindsay et. al., 1893).
The Louis H. Hollis collection was assembled to write the History of the Improved Order of Red Men by Morris H. Gorham, with additions by William G. Hollis (Philadelphia, 1884). Records of the order were gathered into the collection for research, and they include minute books from chapters in Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York state, member lists, account books, a scrapbook, and a small amount of correspondence, ephemera, and miscellanea. The collection also contains several manuscripts by Gorham that he made in preparation for his book on the history of the order.
The Hollis collection spans five boxes, one volume, and one item. It dates discretely from 1817 to 1902. While Gorham's manuscripts are all undated, they are attributed to the late 1870s to early 1880s. While some scattered information could been gleaned about the Hollis family from a few miscellaneous items, the collection primarily documents the history of the Improved Order of Red Men from its beginnings in 1813 to the 1880s, with scant information available up to 1902 in one of the membership books.
Gift of Louis H. Hollis, 1951.
The scrapbook (Volume 1) and Centennial memorial certificate (Item 1) have been removed from the collection for repair and are unavailable at this time. Researchers wishing to use them should contact the library for further information.
- Improved Order of Red Men. Great Council of Maryland.
- Improved Order of Red Men. New York (State).
- Improved Order of Red Men. Pennsylvania.
- Improved Order of Red Men.
- Fraternal organizations--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
- Fraternal organizations--United States--19th century
- Secret societies--History
- Secret societies--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia--19th century
- Secret societies--Pennsylvania--Philadelphia
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto.
- Finding Aid Date
- , 2018
- Processing made possible by a generous donation from the Abington Junior High School History Club.
- Access Restrictions
The collection is open for research.