Order of Owls

  One of the smaller orders, now nearly extinct.  The fob on the left is 10K gold and all three fobs are new old stock.  All Owl pieces are fairly rare.  The below descriptions are taken from The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Institutions "Fraternal Organizations" by Alvin J. Schmidt - Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut - London, England.

Owls, Independent International Order of. -  This was a Masonically related group that organized itself in 1890 in St. Louis, Missouri.  Its objectives were to promote recreation and sociability among the members.  Only Master Masons were eligible to join.  Its local units were called "Nests."  The head officer of each nest was known as "Sapient Screecher."  The national body was called "Supreme Nest of the World."

Owls, Order of (OOO). - South Bend, Indiana, was the city where this "animal" Lodge was born.  John W. Talbot and a small group of his associates in November of 1904 formed this fraternal group.  When it was founded, the order sought to assist its members in business and in employment, provide help to the widows and orphans of the deceased members, and to enjoy mutual fellowship with one another.  This order has no relationship with the onetime Masonically related group, the Independent Order of Owls, that was organized in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1890.

The OOO has four degrees, plus the presence of a ritual, passwords, and fraternal grips.  The ritual, as in most fraternal orders, is intended to be secret.  The OOO publications (e.g., brochures) contend that its ritual has no religious elements.  An older edition of the ritual states:  "We advocate no creed.  We know there are so many gods, so many creeds, so many paths that wind and wind.  We believe that the art of being kind is all this world needs."

Membership has been open only to white males.  During the early 1920s the OOO had over 600,000 members in 2,148 local Lodges, called "Nests."  Since the 1920s, the order has been losing members rather significantly.  Its 1979 membership roster has about 40,000 members. 

Nowadays the order has Nests in five US states: New York, West Virgina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana.

The founder of the Order, John W. Talbot, was sentenced to five years at Leavenworth in 1921 as a result of a morals charge involving a nurse at the Owls' Hospital.

Local units, as noted, are called "Nests."  The national governing body is known as the "Supreme Nest."  Its main officer is named "Supreme President."

Additional information may be gained by consulting William Whalen, Handbook of Secret Organizations, 1966; Arthur Preuss, A Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies, 1924.  Back issues of the society's periodical, The Owl, are also helpful.

Below is an early photograph of a Nest of Owls

Owls Degree Team, Nest 1362, Emaus, Pa.

There is a fellow dressed in the back row as an Owl.  There is also pictured a new baby owl and the skull of an Owl that has gone before.


The broken column on the right is also an emblem in Freemasonry which represents the fall of one of the chief supporters of the Craft.  The use of the column or pillar as a monument erected over a tomb was a very ancient custom, and was a very significant symbol of the character and spirit of the person interred.  I'm sure the Order of Owls gave it the same respect and reverence.

Pictured Below is an early I.I.O.O. Petition


Ritual of the First Degree
of Male Nests of the
Order of Owls


President calls Nest to order with rap of gavel.
It is my will, this Nest shall come to order. Vice-President, have the inner and outer doors closed and Sentinel and Picket at their stations to guard us against intruders.
President, the doors are closed and properly guarded.
Warden, ascertain if all present have acquired the wisdom that qualifies them to remain.
The Warden advances to President’s station and gives in a whisper the password, then proceeds around the hail and receives in a whisper
the password from each member. Should the Warden find any without the password such shall proceed to President’s station. The President ascertains from the Secretary or member’s card the standing of the member, and if satisfactory communicates the word, after which member will return to seat. The Warden goes to altar, faces President and reports: "Mr. President, I find all present worthy to remain". President seats Warden with wave of hand. President calls members to feet with two raps of gavel.
You have met here as a branch Nest of the most sublime of all human institutions.
That you may be reminded of the high character of this organization the Past President will instruct us as to the basis of our order.
The basis of this order is fraternity. The first glimpse history and science give of man shows each striving for himself in barbarism. When they met they fought. Each considered every other an enemy. Each killed or sought to master every other. From this condition grew the institutions of tyranny and slavery. The strife of man against man went on until the world awoke to look upon the birth of liberty. But liberty developed anarchy and from anarchy was reborn despotism. The efforts of humanity for men were exercised in creeds that failed and governments that fell until it learned fraternity.
Liberty turned the civilizations of the world into armed camps. Fraternity wedded to this liberty will melt the cannon and the bayonet, make all men-brothers.
Dreams come true, the fairy phantom ship comes ultimately home. The dream of yesterday is accomplished fact today.
If the gilded palaces you build in dreams topple, why mourn I Rebuild more beautiful. The imagination of man sees much, and with man’s resourcefulness and industry will build more. Then dream and work and fraternity in its ideal will realize in the Order of Owls a brotherhood in fact.
By the authority vested in me, I declare our Nest complete. I have a special duty to perform here. It is to preside over our deliberations with dignity and justice; to preserve order and decorum and enforce the laws of our order. This I am under solemn obligations to perform and in the discharge of this duty I ask your earnest assistance. You also have duties to perform in common with all our great order. What are the duties of all Owls?
To be friendly, charitable and honest with each other, loyal to our order and faithful to its teachings.
Attention! The sign of the order.
Nest gives salutation sign.
President seats Nest with one rap of gavel.
The Past President will exemplify the secret work.
Past President goes to altar and explains the secret work.



Warden, retire and ascertain who is waiting for initiation.
I find in waiting … (names) who wish to share in our secrets and sit in our Nest.
Secretary, have these parties been passed upon by the proper committees, balloted on by the Nest and paid all fees?
President, my records show these parties have fulfilled all requirements of candidates for membership in our order.
Warden, retire and prepare the candidates for the first lesson in our order.
Warden retires, masks candidates and stands them masked facing the lodge room door. If masks are not to be had, the Warden stands candidates with backs to lodge room door. When this preparation has been made, the Warden knocks on door of lodge room. Warden stands on one and Picket on other side of candidates.
Who interrupts our deliberations?
Inform the President a candidate is well prepared and waiting to learn the first lesson of our order.
Mr. President, a candidate is well prepared and waiting in the ante-room to learn the first lesson of our order.
The Nest will be in order while I (or the monitor) deliver to the candidates the first lecture of the order.
President or Monitor walk to position in lodge inside door. Sentinel gives one rap on and Warden opens door.
Candidate, heed well, what you hear.
Life is the enigma of enigmas, the one inscrutable mystery of every age. There are those who think human beings unimportant things, scrambling about in a great ocean of chance, and not to blame, even though they attempt to save themselves by grasping at forbidden straws. There are some who say our lives end here, the rattling in the throat is indeed finality. There are others who hope for happiness in a city of eternal light, where none shall work, and none shall want; there shall be no private property, no poverty, no class, no caste.
With such speculations we are not concerned.
Our care is not the soul’s future, but the body’s welfare. Our mission is to make pleasant your stay on earth. There are two periods when we are the same, the times we romp in childhood and moulder in the grave. Children recognize no social grades. The offspring of the rich and the poor’s progeny’ together make pies and castles from the sand; death knows no circles of society, waits no one’s influence.
We are about to admit you to a great fraternity that seeks to make, of all the time, between infancy and death, common ground, where we can meet and mingle in equal rank for common good. In the Owls Nest all are equals. We know no high; no low; no rich; no poor; courtesy and kindness are our watch words.
You may have distinction, you may have attained success, you may have wealth and the things it commands, we are about to give you something better, something which money cannot obtain, which power cannot compel. In a moment you will be admitted to a chamber richer than the mines of Ophir. In it you will find the most precious of earth’s favors—
‘The Friendship of Your Friends.’
Warden here closes lodge room door and Lecturer resumes his place;
Sentinel, direct the Warden to introduce the candidate.
Sentinel raps on door once. Warden, outside, raps on door twice. Door is opened.
Warden, the President has ordered that you introduce the candidates.
If more than one candidate, the President may appoint an aide Warden for each additional candidate. Warden brings in and marches candidate around hail to altar facing President.
President, I present to you … who has qualified for admittance, who wishes to share our secrets and join us in the practice of fraternity.
What may we expect from this candidate in return for the confidence we bestow?
Warden answers Loyalty.
In behalf of our order I bid you welcome and in doing so it becomes my duty to in-’form you that our order requires each candidate for membership to take a solemn obligation. Are you willing to take this obligation and keep the same secret so long as life shall last?
Candidate answers.
Warden, conduct the candidate to the Invocator to be given the obligation.
Warden marches candidate to altar facing Invocator. President calls Nest to feet.
Invocator will require candidate to advance both hands and grasp roost on altar, which will be fixed at about the height of the thigh. If no roost on altar, have candidate advance hands and crook fingers as though grasping roost.
I present a candidate under the orders of the President for obligation.
You will repeat after me, I swear in the presence of these Owls, that I will abide by and obey all laws and regulations of this order. I will never commit to writing or reveal any of its signs, grips or other secrets, except within the body of a duly and regularly constituted and sitting Nest of Owls. I further swear I will not cheat, wrong or defraud a Nest of Owls or any Owl or allow the same to be done if within my power to prevent. I will give an Owl due and timlely notice of any threatening danger, and will, if able, render one assistance. I further swear that I will keep the secrets of an Owl when communicated to me as such, and I will always respect and protect the honor, sacredness and purity of an Owl’s home as I would my own. I further swear I will not join or recognize an order of this name unless recognized by or under control of the Home Nest. To all this I pledge my sacred word, may God keep me steadfast.
Nest, in concert, Amen.
President seats Nest with one rap of gavel.
You have pledged your sacred honor. None can give a higher pledge. I trust your vow will never be broken. Warden, conduct the candidate to the Past President’s station for instruction in the lessons of our Order.
Warden marches candidate to altar and stands him facing Past President.
I present a candidate under the direction of the Invocator for instruction in the lessons of our Order.
The name and emblem of our order is that solitary and mysterious bird of the night, the Owl. From its appearance and habits we draw lessons, which you can practice with benefit to yourself as well as us. In its native haunts the Owl is noted as being ever the enemy of the vermin and rodents that prey on the fruits of the soil. In emulation of the Owl we would have you ever be a foe of those evils which may prey on the character and fortunes of our members. As the appearance of the Owl suggests strength, wisdom and wakefulness, we would have you cultivate wisdom and strength, that you may be prepared to protect the
rights and liberties of yourself and fellow Owls and ever awake to your opportunities of doing good. As the plumage of the Owl is soft, we would have your manner to other Owls gentle, courteous and friendly; as its flight is swift and noiseless, we would have you go quickly and quietly to the aid of an Owl when one needs assistance; as the Owl’s sense of hearing is acute, we would have you ever with open ears for the cry of distress of an Owl. You have come to us in the vigor of your existence, vowed your readiness to aid’ us in our work of helping. each other. That you are sincere we believe; that you have the necessary courage to make you worthy of our order we have yet to ascertain. What we have taught you so far does not make you an Owl, and before we reveal to your our secrets you will be subjected to tests by which we may judge your courage. That you will meet them bravely I sincerely believe. Remember, a coward sees danger where none exists and a brave person is not afraid to refuse to try an act which seems foolhardy. With this admonition on my part are you willing to proceed and meet the tests?
Candidate answers.
Warden, conduct the candidate to the ante-room and prepare him for the ordeal.
Warden conducts candidate to ante-room, where he is prepared for initiation. Where possible he will be brought in riding on a goat.
Have two members put on the blacks gowns and masks and put the hoods of the gowns on their heads. These men go out in the ante-room with the Warden and blindfold the candidate with his own handkerchief and remove his coat, vest and shoes. Then the crones grab the candidate by the arms and jerk him along into the lodge room. As they do so the Warden should tell him to be careful what he says and does. Before this is done the middle altar should have been removed so as to leave the floor free for the work. The candidate is jerked along to the middle of the room and stopped. He is then asked by somebody if he is ready to take the second obligation of the order. He answers yes. He is told to kneel on both knees, then to lean on his elbows and raise his feet and hands in the air. Then the President or leader of team says to him, Repeat after me the obligation, and solemnly recites something like this:

I solemnly promise to guard all the secrets I learn here. I further solemnly promise that I will not cherish any ill will toward any brother because of anything he may do to me in this meeting. I further promise that wherever I meet an Owl—and whenever—in distress or otherwise—I will treat him— Then say, Candidate, repeat that louder.
I will treat him.
The leader of the team says—SEE THAT YOU DO—get up.
Here he is taken to the hot chair. An ordinary chair has had the bottom cut out and a tin bottom put on it. Under this bottom is placed an oil lamp. When the candidate gets up, urge him to sit longer, but do not force him, and be careful not to continue until he is burned.
The candidate is asked if his legs are sound. Two men then hold a stick across the path of candidate like a hurdle at the knee. The candidate is made to step forward until he touches the hurdle with his leg. He is asked if he feels where the hurdle is. He is then told to step back two paces. He does so and he is told that three owls have been placed on the Owl’s perch which he has touched and at the count of three he must jump the perch and Owls, and if he touches any of them he must get seven more tests. The leader of the team counts three, but before the count the stick is removed and he is left to try to jump over nothing.
Then somebody suggests the candidate can box and he is told he must box three rounds with some person you name. You then put on him the leather belt and a pair of boxing gloves. A referee and timekeeper are chosen, and the referee says shake hands. Somebody shakes the candidate’s hand and steps back. The crones hold the candidate, one in front and one behind with the ropes attached to the belt. Two other members take the other pair of gloves, but do not put them on. One takes a glove and holds it by the wrist and touches the candidate from the one side. When the candidate strikes back the other touches the candidate from the other side. Thus they keep the candidate striking at nothing. After this the blindfold is removed and the candidate is asked to kneel. Then a chamber half filled with tea is brought to him and he is asked to drink or forfeit one dollar. Then the candidate is blindfolded and taken against the lead test, which is prepared as follows. The two rings and three iron legs are put together with the little ring at the top. You will find the screws in the rings for putting this together. Then light the gasoline furnace and put it under the iron stand. Then put the iron kettle on top of the stand and half fill it with water and sprinkle aluminum bronze on it out of the little can furnished with the outfit. Then put the ladle in the kettle and ladle it up till the bronze spreads over the water. and it will look like lead. Always have the kettle where the light can shine on it. Warden leads candidate and crone to test.
Any of these tests may be omitted and any others may be put in, if the Nest wishes.
The candidate awaits the test.
Before you went out of this room a few minutes since you promised to meet any test prepared for you. Did you not so promise?
Candidate answers. The blindfold is removed.
Candidate may be given option of donating $5 or $10 to social fund in case he refuses. Somebody in rear of candidate whispers to crone in such a manner that candidate can overhear it. Don’t let him hurt himself.
Promises are easily made, especially by one who promises without knowing what he promises. If you are courageous you will now keep our promise, no matters how it harms you. I command you to put your hand in that pot of molten lead.
This lesson teaches you to make no idle pledges and not to obligate yourself without having weighed the extent of your obligation. Warden, conduct the candidate to the Vice-President’s station for instruction in the secret work.
Vice-President, I bring this candidate to you for instructions in the secret work.
Desiring admittance to a Nest while in session, you will make your presence known at the outer door. This may be done by knocking, or in any other way that will attract the attention of the Picket. The Picket will address you and you will give him in a whisper the password. He will then admit you to the ante-room, where you will put on the collar or apron appropriate for your membership or office. You will then rap twice on the inner door. The Sentinel will answer with one rap. The Sentinel will then open the wicket and you will give him your name and the location of your Nest. In cases where you are unknown to the Sentinel you will be requested to exhibit your card and prove your identity, to the satisfaction of the Sentinel, and in case he is in doubt, then to the satisfaction of the acting Vice-President or President, after doing which you will be admitted. When you are admitted you will advance to the altar and make the courtesy sign by ho[ding out the hands, with backs to the front and fingers crooked as though grasping a roost at the height of the thigh, The President will answer with a motion of hand or gavel. You will then take a seat. If you desire to leave a Nest which is in session you will advance to the altar and make the courtesy sign. The President will acknowledge the sign with a wave of the hand or gavel.
If the President does not answer you will return to your seat till given permission to retire. On entering or desiring to leave a Nest, if when you approach the altar, the President is engaged, and you cannot get his attention, you may turn and salute the Vice-President.
The gavel in the hands of the President is the emblem of official authority and control over the Nest. Give cheerful obedience to its signals. One rap calls the Nest to order, two raps to its feet and one rap seats it. The corresponding mark is made by using just before the signature of your letter, the words: ‘Yours in O.O.O.,’ signifying, ‘Yours in the Order of Owls.’ We have no test whereby you can recognize a fellow member, except one have an emblem of our order on one’s person and be provided’ with a card signed by the Secretary of one’s Nest, showing good standing. When you receive a card you will find on it a blank space for your signature, where you must sign your name. This is for the purpose of identification. A fellow member who doubts your identity has a right to ask you to write your name to be compared with the signature on your card. The greeting sign is ‘Hoo-Hoo.’ This greeting sign is not to be considered secret, but may be used in public, at pleasure, whenever you wish to greet or attract the attention of an Owl.
The grip is given thus:—(illustrates).
One who has been obligated, may, for nonpayment of dues or other reason be excluded from meetings, but until death never ceases to be bound by his obligation taken in this degree.
Warden, you will face the candidate to the President for the password, which I am not allowed to communicate.
President, I present this candidate who has been instructed in the secret work and desires the password.
Before giving you this, the last secret of our order, I caution you that you are never to give it to another, no matter how strong such persons’ claims, except when you are acting as, or under the direction of, a President of a Nest, or as an installing officer authorized by the Home Nest, or in gaining admittance to a Nest which is in session. The word, which is changed every three months, for this term is—(Whispers password).
There is so much bad in the best of us,
And so much good in the worst of us,
It hardly behooves any of us
To speak ill of the rest of us,
Is the motto of the Order of Owls. This order has no questions to ask of what you are. All such were asked and answered before you came here. We wish you to be a good citizen, but we know you as an Owl and realize one touch of Nature makes the whole world kin; that no person is good and no one is bad; we are all good and bad. When we gave you our grip and password, we gave you our faith. If the visitations of misfortune threaten you, whether as the result of your own folly or mischance, an Owl must be your friend, not your judge. When an Owl calls, an Owl must aid. There is one exception to this obligation and that is if aiding an Owl would be injurious to the welfare of yourself or the members of your family.
We teach the tenets of no faith; we interfere with no church; we advocate no creed.
We know there are:
So many Gods, so many Creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind.
We believe:
That just the art of being kind,
the old world needs.
Some fraternities on admitting you, warn you not to use your membership to promote your own selfish ends. We tell you, when you came in here we permitted you to do so, that we might use you, and in return we expect you to use us. It is the duty of Owls, other things being equal, to trade with each other, and to help each other by every possible means. The Warden will now decorate you with our emblem.
Here the Warden puts apron on candidate.

Warden, you will take the candidate to a seat facing the Nest, which will greet this new fledged Owl.
Warden takes candidate to seat. Each Owl cries, Hoo-Hoo.
Warden and Crones, take the new brother to the ante-room to put on his coat, vest and shoes.
While that is being done one of the team can step out in the ante-room and say to one of the crones, as though very angry, I’ve stood enough from that stiff. If he says another word to me I’ll put a hole in him.
Here the crones tell the fellow to keep still and not to stir up any row during the meeting, and he returns to the lodge room. Then the President comes out and says to the crones, What did he say about me? The crones tell him to cut out the trouble and the President says, I’ll show him trouble if he says anything to me. I’ve stood all I’m going to stand from him. Then the President goes back in. Then the candidate is taken in and is led to the Warden’s chair and seated in it where he is directly in line between the President and the quarreling brother. Then the quarreling brother says, contemptuously and half aloud to the brother seated next to him, Look at him.
Here the President hollers angrily, What did you say?
The other brother says, What are you going to do about it? Each pulls out his pistol and begins firing blank cartridges at the other. The candidate is of course always in line if he’ll stay.
Be careful not to have the guns loaded with balls.


There being no further business before us we will now proceed to close, but before doing so let me urge you to bear in mind the lessons taught by our order.
President calls Nest to feet.
The Invocator will recite the creed.
I will take time to love my friends today. Any flower I have to give I will give today. Costly blooms laid upon a casket bring no fragrance to the dead. If I have any suffering friend I will visit him today, lest, before I see him, death lay its quiet hand upon his longing heart and still forever its fret and pain and power of glad response. I pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, I can do or any kindness I can show I will do now.
Warden, collect the rituals. Sentinel, inform the Picket we are about to close.
After rituals are collected.
Attention, the sign of the Order.
This Nest is adjourned until … at.... o’clock.





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