Loyal Order of Moose

Through my research into moose I have become more and more interested in an organisation known as the Loyal Order of Moose. This well established society refers to itself as a "family fraternity" and has many members across the world though mainly in the US. Female members belong to the Women of the Moose.

The moose emblem was apparently chosen because it is a large, powerful animal, but one which is a protector not a predator. Perhaps overlooking the moose's more anti-social characteristics. This emblem appears on many things related to the society including minor items such as pins and keyrings (see Collector's page).

These members, now over 1.6 million strong, make up the two components of the fraternal organisation known as Moose International. Their membership is held in any one of several thousand lodges throughout the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Bermuda with headquarters in Mooseheart, Illinois.

Men and women join the Order for a variety of reasons, including family activities, Community Service projects, sports programs or maybe just a simple love of moose. The main endeavours of the fraternity are Mooseheart, a 1,200 acre Illinois home and school for children in need and Moosehaven, a 63 acre Florida retirement community for senior members.

The Moose fraternal organisation was founded in 1888 by Dr. John Henry Wilson (right) with the simple goal of offering men an opportunity to gather socially. Later lodges were instituted in a number of surrounding towns by the early 1890s but Dr. Wilson himself became dissatisfied and left the order well before the turn of the century.

It was just two Indiana Lodges that kept the Moose from disappearing altogether, until the autumn of 1906, when an outgoing young government clerk, James J. Davis, was invited to enrol into the Crawfordsville Lodge on his 33rd birthday and became just the 247th member of the Loyal Order of Moose.

Davis, who had worked since childhood in the steel mills of Pennsylvania, immediately saw the potential to build up this small Moose fraternity into a force to provide protection and security for a largely working-class membership. At the time little or no government "safety net" existed to provide benefits to the wife and children of a breadwinner who had died or became disabled. Davis proposed a membership fee as a way to provide such protection at a small price. Given a green light and the title of "Supreme Organiser," Davis and a few other colleagues set out to solicit members and organise Moose Lodges across the U.S. and southern Canada. In 1926, the Moose fraternity's presence extended across the Atlantic, with the founding of the Grand Lodge of Great Britain.

Davis' marketing instincts were on-target. By 1912, the order had grown to a colossal 500,000 in more than 1,000 Lodges. The organisation began a program of paying "sick benefits" to members too ill to work and, more ambitiously, Davis and the organization's other officers made plans for a "Moose Institute," to be centrally located somewhere in the Midwest that would provide a home, schooling and vocational training to children of deceased Moose members.

After careful consideration of numerous sites, the Moose Supreme Council in late 1912 approvedthe purchase of what was known as the Brookline Farm, more than 1,000 acres about 40 miles west of Chicago. Ohio Congressman John Lentz, a memberof the Supreme Council, conceived the name "Mooseheart" for the new community: "This," he said, "will always be the place where the Moose fraternity will collectively pourout its heart, its devotion and sustenance, to the children of its members in need."

In mid 1913 the first few youngsters were introduced to their new home. At about the same time the Women of the Moose received formal recognition.

Mooseheart's construction proceeded furiously over the next decade, from a farmhouse with 11 children to nearly 1,000 by 1920. Mooseheart officials now consider the campus' ultimate maximum capacity as no more than 500.)

Still, by the Twenties, Davis and his colleagues thought the fraternity should do more, this time for aged members who were having trouble making ends meet in retirement. (A limited number of elderly members had been invited to live at Mooseheart since 1915.) They bought 26 acres of shoreline property just south of Jacksonville, Florida, and in the fall of 1922, Moosehaven, the "City of Contentment" was opened, with the arrival of its first 22 retired Moose residents.

Moosehaven has since grown to a 63-acre community providing a comfortable home, a wide array of recreational activities and comprehensive health care to more than 400 residents.

As the Moose fraternity grew in visibility and influence, so did Jim Davis. President Warren Harding named him to his Cabinet as Secretary of Labour in 1921, and Davis continued in that post under Presidents Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover as well. In November 1930, Davis, a Republican, won election to the U.S. Senate from Pennsylvania, and he served there with distinction for the next 14 years. Davis' health was uncertain as he left the Senate in early 1945, and he settled into an elder statesman's role with the Moose. He collapsed on the podium while addressing the Moose convention in August 1947, and died that November.