Monday, March 15, 2010

Fraternal Shaving Mugs: Woodmen of the World

Fraternal Mug | W.O.W | H, C. Gillen

From Fraternally Yours by Bernie Lukco:

Started as a result of a schism with the Modern Woodmen of America (MWA), the Woodmen of the World (WOW) was started by Joseph Cullen Root of Lyons, Iowa, who coincidentally was the founder of the MWA. Officially organized as a fraternal beneficiary society on June 3, 1890, at the Paxon Hotel, Omaha, Nebraska, Root remained as its Sovereign Commander until the time of his death in 1913 when he was succeeded by Morris Sheppard, U.S. Senator from Texas. It is interesting to note that the WOW continues to operate as a financially sound insurance company.

Fraternal Mug | W.O.W | C.J Wadsworth

The Woodmen had optional degrees of Morning, Noon and Night. The members met in Groves which were governed by the Supreme Nest, and boasted that it was the only order of its kind to place a monument at the grave of every deceased member. Woodmen of the World preserved in form and ceremony implements and teachings drawn from woodcraft. Originally, only white men were eligible for membership but there was no restriction as to religious creed or political conviction. During an elaborate initiation ceremony, hoods were placed over the heads of candidates and a human skull was used to add force to the obligations of the oaths taken. Although horseplay and pranks were a part of the initiation ceremony, the Woodmen took seriously their oaths to "banish poverty from the earth and unite honest men in democratic fellowship." That is probably the reason that their membership included such renowned Americans as William J. Bryan and Robert LaFollette. After three solemn oaths were administered, the ceremony was concluded with the conferring of the "secret word." After that, a song was sung and every participating member went to the altar and grasped the helve of the embedded ax, as a sign to keep silent about the transactions of the camp.

Fraternal Mug | W.O.W | Fay R, Ashby

The WOW were unique for a fraternal organization since they established their own radio station with the call letters, "WOAW" that operated from the roof of their WOW building in Omaha, NE. The first program was broadcast on the evening of April 2, 1923. At that time there were 542,000 active members throughout the United States. This rather large membership accounts for the fact that there are many WOW shaving mugs available. Two scenes are prevalent on WOW shaving mugs. One shows a'leaf and the other a tree stump- Usually the principal emblems are shown - the beetle, wedge, and ax - symbols of the woodmen's craft. A dove is frequently included as a symbol of peace and the Latin words, Dum Tacet Clamat, "While it is silent, it shouts."

Porcelain mug with six polychrome painted fraternal symbols:  Knights of Pythias, Modern Woodmen of the World, one  IOOF Encampment and 3 different Masonic images, including a Knights Templar emblem, a Masonic Keystone, and the square and compass of a Master Mason.  Gilt name is C.H. Johnson. The mug is imprinted Germany on its bottom. (Mug # 2417 in Blake Powell’s Occupational & Fraternal Shaving Mugs of the United States (1978) book.

When Joseph Cullen Root founded Woodmen of the World more than 100 years ago, one of his objectives was to provide a decent burial for all members.

Root made a special effort to honor deceased Woodmen. He created Woodmen Memorial Day, celebrated on June 6 each year, and included the following statement in the Objectives of Woodcraft: "... to give honorable burial to our sacred dead ..."

Early Woodmen certificates provided for a death and a monument benefit. Gravestones were originally furnished to members free of charge and later were offered only to those who purchased a $100 rider to their certificates.

However, during the 1920s the Society stopped providing stone markers to members when the cost of gravestones increased and cemeteries began prohibiting above-ground markers for maintenance reasons. The monument rider was discontinued and converted to an extra $100 of insurance protection, but for many years after that, members and lodges arranged for markers and monuments on their own.

Woodmen gravestones vary greatly in size and shape. Some resemble a tree stump, others a stack of cut wood. There are elaborate hand-carved monuments, simple stone markers and stake-type markers driven into the ground.