Fraternities have been around since ancient Greece and Rome. The term “fraternity” denotes a brotherhood, an organization of men who band together for a common cause and for camaraderie. The earliest fraternities were mystical groups that were quite secretive and intellectual. In medieval times, lay organizations (“confraternities”) allied with the Catholic Church formed so that the members could involve themselves more completely in prayers and the activities of the church. Other groups were tradesmen that formed guilds, a forerunner to the labor unions of the 20th century.
|Logos of some of the most familiar fraternal groups. Clockwise from top left: Masons, Shriners, Knights Templar, Odd Fellows, Knights of Columbus, Knights of Pythias.|
Some of these early fraternal organizations still exist – the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine in the Catholic Church and the Mason’s are a couple. Others grew out of the Mason’s, such as the Shriners and Knights Templar. While the religious fraternities were quite open and encompassing, the secular fraternities were often very secretive and had rigid membership rituals and requirements. Fraternities may be divided into groups: social, service, professional and honorary.
|Kappa Alpha Society|
A major subset of these organizations is the student fraternities on American college campuses. College campus fraternities date back to the 1770s, but the oldest active Greek fraternity on American campuses is the Kappa Alpha Society, established in 1825. Sororities are the equivalent societies for women, and while they have not been around as long as the fraternal groups, they have their own rich history.
Because of their long history, secretiveness and colorful ceremonial traditions, fraternal items are quite collectible. Ephemera and lodge related items are a large part of what is collected. Photographs, programs, certificates and more can be found quite easily. Medals, badges and jewelry are a bit harder to find and are thus quite desirable. Most of these items are very colorful and have distinct connections to lodges or regional groups. The highest end of collectibles from fraternal groups is the jewelry. While some medals and jewelry are gold-filled or silver, the high carat gold pieces are the most valuable.
We currently have a nice selection of fraternal items in the shop and online. These range from ephemera to medals and jewelry. Some of the groups represented in our selection are the Masons, Shriners, Knights Templar, Knights of Pythias, college fraternities and sororities, the American Legion and a few more.