Improved Order of Red Men, Tohickon Tribe No. 386 (Green Lane, Pa.) records
Held at: Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc. [Contact Us]Red Men's Hall, PO Box 476, Green Lane, PA, 18054
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Overview and metadata sections
The Improved Order of Red Men (IORM) is considered by some to be the oldest patriotic fraternal organization in the United States, with roots tracing back to the "Sons of Liberty" and the Boston Tea Party. For most of its existence, the group was primarily a beneficial aid society that paid out death and sick benefits to the family of members. It is also a social, patriotic, and political fraternity with elaborate secret rituals. The local organizations are called tribes, and IORM's governmental structure, rituals, ritual costumes, and language are based on a stylized interpretation of Native American culture. Ironically, Native Americans were barred from membership for most of the organization's history.
In 1813, the Society of Red Men was formed when members of Sons of Liberty and several other fraternal organizations merged. The name was changed to the Improved Order of Red Men in Baltimore in 1834, and the national organization--the Grand Council of the United States--was formed in 1847. Within 30 years, there were over 150,000 members of the IORM belonging to 21 State Great Councils. By the mid 1920s, membership was over 500,000 individuals in 46 states and territories. At that point, the popularity of the group began to decline. The advent of Social Security and other social support programs during Franklin D. Roosevelt's presidency diminished the need for IORM's beneficial aid function, which was eventually phased out. The Improved Order of Red Men still exists as a national organization as of 2012, but is mostly focused on philanthropic and patriotic activities. The national charity project of the Improved Order of Red Men is Alzheimer's research: since 1991, IORM has given over two million dollars to the Alzheimer's Association.
The Degree of Pocahontas is the Women's Auxiliary of the Improved Order of Red Men. It was organized in 1885. Men can be members of Degree of Pocahontas tribes, but women cannot belong to the Improved Order of Red Men.
A tribe of the Independent Order of Red Men was organized in Green Lane, Pennsylvania in 1899. Tohickon Tribe #386 began construction on a meeting space, Redmen's Hall, in 1907. In addition to serving as a home location for tribe meetings, the Tohickon Tribe also rented out the hall as an income source: IORM booked traveling minstrel shows and allowed the space to be used by the local school district for elementary school graduation ceremonies. At the turn of the century, the leadership of Tohickon Tribe was Green Lane's upper-middle class: the president of the Schwenksville Bank, local doctors and lawyers, country school teachers, and successful farmers were all involved. Membership was 95 percent Pennsylvania German and exclusively male. Women (and a few men) belonged to the affiliate Degree of Pocahontas group, Macoby Tribe No. 269. By the second half of the 20th century, the group's membership was dwindling. In 1971, the few remaining members of the Tohickon Tribe disbanded and sold Redmen's Hall to the Goschenhoppen Historians.
Goschenhoppen Historians. Fact sheet on Redmen's Hall, undated.
Herbert, Keith. "Red Men's Legacy Hall, Group's Artifacts Are In Historians' Hands." The Morning Call, November 14, 1996. Accessed May 30, 2012. http://articles.mcall.com/1996-11-14/news/3118817_1_camp-fire-upper-perkiomen-valley-ritual
The Improved Order of Red Men. "Information." Access May 30, 2012. http://redmen.org/redmen/info/.
The Improved Order of Red Men, Tohickon Tribe No. 386 (Green Lane, Pa.) records consists primarily of records from the Tohickon Tribe, with a small amount of records of the women's auxiliary Macoby Tribe, 21 printed annual reports of the state and national Great Councils of the Improved Order of Red Men, and some artifacts of the Tohickon Tribe. The collection includes minute books, membership logs, financial ledgers, correspondence, receipts, financial records, printed reports, and many other record types. The collection is arranged in six series: "I. Administrative records, 1899-1963"; "II. Financial records, 1901-1961"; "III. Membership records, 1899-1943"; "IV. Great Councils, 1898-1951"; "V. Degree of Pocahontas, Macoby Tribe No. 269, 1921-1944"; and "VI. Artifacts."
"Series I. Administrative Records" includes minute books (1899-1963), correspondence, construction and property records for Redmen's Hall (Green Lane, Pa.), catalogs/advertisements for IORM ritual supplies, electioneering materials, and the tribe's annual reports (Twelve Moons' Reports, circa 1935-1948). There are some materials relating to the "State Haymakers' Association of Pennsylvania," which appears to be a "fun" branch of the lodge, and which feature a layout of the inner sanctum and secret code.
"Series II. Financial records" includes cash books, collections books (dues received), audit reports, receipts and bills, bank records, treasurer's records, expense records, and tax and insurance records.
"Series III. Membership records" includes membership lists, attendance lists, and applications for "adoption" (membership). There are seven "Ledger and Membership Record" books, which do not provide much information other than an account of each member's dues. Of special interest are the undated "Membership List" (Volume 38), and "Membership Record, 1908-1916" (Volume 40), which contain names, occupations, ages, and towns of residence for the members listed.
"Series IV. Great Councils" consists primarily of printed annual reports of the Great Councils of the United States and Pennsylvania, with a small amount of correspondence, other publications, and miscellaneous materials. Annual reports of the Great Council of Pennsylvania span from 1898 to 1951, and annual reports of the Great Council of the United States span from 1901 to 1915; there are many gaps and some duplicates over the time spans.
"Series V. Degree of Pocahontas, Macoby Tribe No. 269" consists of a minute book, a roll of Chiefs (tribe leadership), a Ledger and Membership record (listing member names and dues), and a small amount of bills and receipts, all dating from 1921 to 1944. Additional materials relating to the Macoby Tribe, especially regarding its interactions with the Tohickon Tribe, may also be found in "Series I. Administrative records" and other locations in the collection.
Finally, "Series VI. Artifacts" contains various ritual supplies, ribbons/pins, and other objects from the Tohickon and Macoby Tribes.
This collection provides rich documentation for a case-study of a fraternal organization of the type that flourished in the United States around the turn of the twentieth century. This chapter is particularly interesting because of its proximity to the insular societies of the Pennsylvania Dutch and the largely Pennsylvania German make-up of its membership. It is curious that this particular brand of secret society, with its fetishization of Native American culture and powerful patriotic orientation, flourished in such an environment. Moreover, the extensive membership records may be useful for local historians and genealogists.
When the Goschenhoppen Historians purchased the meeting hall of the Improved Order of Red Men in 1971, these records were inside in the building.
This finding aid was compiled in 2011-2012 as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR), using data provided by the Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc. The HCI-PSAR project was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
- Degree of Pocahontas. Macoby Tribe No. 269 (Green Lane, Pa.).
- Degree of Pocahontas.
- Improved Order of Red Men.
- Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc.
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Michael Gubicza through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This finding aid was created by staff of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) using data provided by Goschenhoppen Historians, Inc. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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