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A fraternity (from Latin frater: “brother”; “brotherhood”), fraternal order or fraternal organization is an order, organization, society or a club of individuals associated together for various religious or secular aims.

Fraternity in the Western concept developed in the Christian context, notably with the religious orders in the Catholic Church during the middle ages. A notion eventually further extended with the middle age guilds, followed by the early modern formation of gentlemen’s clubs, Freemasons, odd fellows, student fraternities and fraternal service organizations. Members may be referred to as a brother or sister, but many variations on this tradition exist.

Today, connotations of fraternities vary according to the context, including companionship and brotherhoods dedicated to the religious, intellectual, academic, physical and/or social pursuits of its members. Additionally, in modern times, it sometimes connotes a secret society, especially regarding freemasonry, odd fellows and various academic and student societies.


No Strict Classifications

For ease of use it is necessary to classify fraternal organizations. However, these classifications are neither precise nor fair. Many organizations straddle two or more classifications while it is likely others should be reclassified. Understanding these dilemmas, but confident this website will grow and develop in due time, we expect to create new means to cross-classify and categorize American fraternal organizations. In the mean time, we welcome you suggestions and support to make this website all that it can and ought to be. Thank you.

Information in Progress and the Cyclopedia of Fraternities

The fraternal information in this website, and posted under each fraternal organization’s page is basic. Because there is no on-line database of fraternal organization, or indeed, any website so dedicated, the Historical Society for American Fraternalism is attempting to fill a huge gap of information. Rather than writing entries in a systematic manner, we thought it best to supply visitors with what reliable information is available. The foundation of all knowledge of American fraternal orders is Albert C. Stevens, 1899, The Cyclopedia of Fraternalism .(NY: Hamilton Printing). By placing each of that book’s more than 600 fraternal entries into individual webpages, while not in anyway perfect, they  provide the visitor some information.

Naturally the HSAF is dedicated to building upon Stevens, and there are plans underway to add to the many entries information from Arthur Preuss’ 1924 Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies, Alvin Schmidt’s 1979 Fraternal Organizations, and other fraternal reference books. Through this technique, along with links to organizations’ websites, each entry will hopefully have several blocks of information to help the reader to get a range of knowledge, and provide future editors the raw information to craft fair and accurate up-to-date entries.

Further information, more especially graphics and images will be added as financial support becomes a reality. The charts, graphics and thousands of images related to the hundreds of fraternal orders are available, only time, talent and money prevents them from posting.

Lastly, entries on each fraternal order is only the first step. With the mission to document the whole history of American fraternalism, this website will therefore have individual pages for each and every local chapter of every fraternal organization, along with lists of national, state and local officers and members. It plans to have webpages on fraternal orphanages, retirement homes, hospitals, schools, cemeteries, conventions, parades, monuments and indeed the full range of fraternal material culture.

Classifications are only the first stones in a vast and wonderful world waiting to be build. We welcome all who wish to sincerely help us to construct that world.

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