Royal Order of Jesters Billiken Collection

   

Brass Paperweight Billiken

   

Bobbing Head Billiken Named "Sunny Boy"

   

A porcelain Billiken with a cute Rat Tail

A Royal Order of Jesters Billiken paperweight wearing his Crown

ROJ - McCormick Whiskey Decanter Billiken

   

   

This is either a paperweight or a small ashtray.  4”  deep by 2” wise, by 4” tall.  On the sides are:  “June 1924” - “Kansas City Court # 54” - “Royal Order of Jesters” - Back side is blank.  On the crown is “Mirth is King”.  On the soles of his feet “54”.

A special "Thank You" to Brother Fred Lowstetter for sharing pictures of his Billiken with our museum!

The Billiken

I am the god of luckiness, so always keep me nigh.

Misfortune's frown will disappear, at one flash from my eye.

Be sure that I am on the spot, when projects you begin.

I am the god of luckiness. My name is Billiken

THE ORIGIN OF THE BILLIKEN

The most frequently quoted of the many theories of interesting versions was that the Billiken originated in Egypt. It has been said that the Egyptian considered the Billiken to be a symbol of good luck, and the God of Laughter, Happiness, Merry making and Good Health. He was a patron of beauty and guardian angel of children. They believed that the presence of the little figure with his pointed head, pot belly, bat-like ears and whimsical smile, when kept in their homes, would protect and insure a happy, harmonious atmosphere. When worn, it would dispel clouds of trouble and bring joy into life ! This theory was proven to have no basis in fact. A noted archeologist of the Cairo museum was supplied with a copy of a billiken statue. The archeologist indicated that the figure was not of Egyptian antiquity.

The second most frequent theory was that the Billiken originated with the Alaskan Eskimos. The Eskimos began carving Billikens in ivory sometime between the turn or the century and the year 1913, either at Nome, Alaska, or Diomede Island. A squat Oriental figure was commercially produced by the ivory carvers which might have served as the Billiken original model. It was supposed that early-day whaling vessels plying the Alaskan-Siberian coast may have carried from the Orient a small Buddha like image which the Eskimo carvers copied and sold to as souvenirs to enthusiastic sailors. However, the arrival of Billiken in Alaska must have been comparatively recent since no evidence to the contrary has been found in excavations of ancient Eskimo village sites.

A magazine article published September 1960 in Alaska Sportsman by Dorothy Jean Ray unraveled the mystery of the Billiken. She related how she discovered by accident who " invented " the original Billiken. On a visit to Seattle's YE OLDE CURIOSITY SHOP she discovered a Billiken, not a carved ivory figurine, but a big gray cast iron coin bank. Almost illegible writing on the back turned out to be, Patent No. D-39603. An inquiry to the U.S.. Patent Office disclosed that in 1908 a young woman, Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Missouri was awarded a patent for a " new design " for an image called " A Billiken ". In 1909 the Billiken was manufactured as a coin bank and as a statuette, followed the next year by dolls. The American Doll and Toy company made more the 200,000 dolls which were the rage for 6 months and then disappeared. The slogan which Miss Pretz placed on the base of the plaster of Paris statuette read, "THE GOD OF THINGS AS THEY OUGHT TO BE", a paraphrase of Kipling's famous words from "L'Envoi": Shall draw the things as he sees it for the God of things as they are!

The Billiken was introduced into Alaska by a store keeper on Diomede Island. He gave the statuette to an Eskimo, Angokwaghuk, nicknamed "Happy Jack ", who was probably one of the most famous ivory carvers of all time. " Happy Jack " made one exactly like it with toes, belly, head and smile then made more and they sold fast. The Eskimos have continued to carve the Billiken to the present time. An interesting fact about today's Alaskan Billiken is the remarkable similarity to the original Pretz design. The carvers have continued to copy faithfully "Happy Jack's" copy. The Billiken is regarded by the Eskimos as a good luck symbol. Luck is supposed to be generated by ownership of a Billiken in any form. To bring greatness of health, happiness and good fortune one must rub his belly twice a day, always thinking of others, and for them " good things!"

In 1908, a Kansas City artist received a patent for the design, and evidently the name Billiken was attached to it, because the design was purchased by the Billiken Co. of Chicago, which manufactured it as a bank, a statuette and dozens of other permutations. In fact, it was the national rage for six months.   The Royal Order of Jesters adopted the Billiken as an ambassador of Good Luck for its organization, but the proof is in the U.S. Patent Office that the Billiken's origin preceded the formation of the ROJ.

For those interested, photos of a real Billiken Bank are pictured here.

  

Here is a Royal Order of Jester Ring with the Billiken

   

And a Billiken Pocket Medallion.

Them what knows, knows.

Them what don't know, don't care!

 

Jester's Creed

Laugh and the glad world laughs with you;

Weep and the sad world will sigh!

Mirth is our life's true elixir;

It shows you're a "regular guy."

 

There's nothing that so banishes worry,

Nor puts such a big crimp in sin;

Nor smoothes out the wrinkles of trouble,

like a jolly old Jester-mans grin!

 

It rolls of the years from your shoulders;

You'll forget that you've grown to be men!

Your youth turns once more to embrace you;

For you've grown to be school boys again!

 

So, if you've got grouches, don't bring 'em;

Its your laugh and your joke that we need;

For mirth is the doctor of trouble,

And Laughter, the Jester-man's Creed!

 

 

 

         

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