PATRIOTIC ORDER SONS OF AMERICA
The Patriotic Order Sons of
America was one of several Nativist organizations founded in the wake of the
anti-alien riots of 1845-46. It was anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic and its
philosophy was not that far removed from the Know-Nothing Party, a violent
political movement that today would easily be classified as a terrorist
organization. This well documented part of their history is conveniently
ignored in the official account below.
The women's branch was the
Patriotic Order of America. The Free Education they touted was meant to
include a healthy dose of Protestant religion to counter the Catholic menace
seen to be arriving with recent immigrants.
The Patriotic Order Sons of
America (P.O.S. of A.) is one of America's oldest patriotic and fraternal
societies still in existence. It once had several hundred Camps
(lodges) with several thousand members in the United States of America and
its territories, but is now only found in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, New
Jersey and Louisiana. Its motto is "God, Our
Country and Our Order."
Origin of the Order:
The Order of the Junior
Sons of America was founded December 10, 1847 in Philadelphia, PA, by Dr.
Reynell Coates (December 10, 1802 - April
27, 1886). Dr. Coates was a surgeon, scientist, statesman, naturalist,
teacher, poet, lecturer and essayist, and
wished to found a fraternity for American boys to serve as a "High School of
The organization was open
to American boys aged sixteen to twenty-one years of age. Upon turning
twenty-one, their membership would be transferred to the United Sons of
America, the parent organization of the Junior Sons. Dr. Coates was the
organizer and chief promoter of the Junior Sons of America, wrote the
constitution and by-laws, the ritual and ceremonies, and chose the
Order's songs which still remain in use.
The first meeting of the
Junior Sons of America was conducted on December 10, 1847, on Ridge Road,
near Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA.
Dr. Coates devised the
Order on the Masonic lodge system, with local units called "Camps," meeting
around fraternal altars on which the Holy Bible was placed. Secret modes of
recognition, such as hand signs, grips or secret
handclasps, and passwords were devised and taught to the members.
Immediately after lighting
the first Campfire of the Order, the Order expanded throughout the great
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and by 1859, the Order of Junior Sons of
America was established in twenty States and Territories of the Union. The
Roll Call of the Order consisted of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York,
Indiana, the District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut,
Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware, New
Hampshire, Maine, Iowa, and Texas.
The first national
convention of the Junior Sons of America was convened in Philadelphia, PA,
August 12th and 13th, 1857. The second was conducted in New York City on the
second Tuesday of August, 1858, with eight States and the District of
While the parent
organization, the United Sons of America, had dissolved in the 1850's, the
Junior Sons of America continued on. Pennsylvania always had the largest
number of members and Camps. Each Lodge is called "Washington Camp #___," a
tradition started by Dr. Coates to honor the great "Father of Our Country,"
General George Washington.
The American Civil War:
When the tragic American
Civil War (1861-1865) broke out, the first Pennsylvania volunteer regiments
were members of the Junior Sons of America. So many members volunteered
that only one Camp in Pennsylvania remained active. Some camps enrolled into
the Union Army as a whole, proving their loyalty and patriotic love of Flag
The Order disbanded and
fell apart throughout the newly-formed Confederate States of America, and
its Camps south of the Mason Dixon Line disappeared.
Towards the conclusion of
this unfortunate conflict, a convention was held by several Brothers of the
Junior Sons of America in Norristown, PA on August 17th, 1864, to reorganize
the Order. It was at this time that the name was changed to the
Patriotic Sons of America (P.O.S. of A.) and the age limit of 21 was
A State body, the "State
Camp," was created in August 1866 in
Minersville, PA, through whose
efforts or reorganization saw some twenty-six subordinate Camps of the
P.O.S. of A. represented by the time of the first annual session of the
Pennsylvania State Camp in August, 1867.
The Order adopted a
sash, worn from the right shoulder to the left hip, bearing the blue
canton and white stars, and red and white stripes, of "Old Glory" as
the official regalia for P.O.S. of A. brothers. Jewels of office,
consisting of red, white and blue ribbons and silver emblematic
devices, were adopted for the Camp's
officers to wear on their sash.
In the Masonic
tradition, a three-degree ritual was adopted by the Order, and was
designated as the Red Degree, White Degree and Blue Degree.
period of 1870-1900, the P.O.S. of A. expanded rapidly,
establishing Camps along the Eastern seaboard of the United
States, and in States as far west as Wyoming and Colorado.
The P.O.S. of A. participated in many parades and other
social functions, and their
Commandery units were always dressed in military
style uniforms with plumed
chapeaux, swords and black uniforms similar to the
Knights Templars of the
Masonic York Rite.
The uniform was later changed to more
modern U.S. Army-style dark blue uniforms, with the round
peaked cap bearing badges with the letters "P.O.S. of A."
Answering the Nation's Call to Arms:
Brothers of the P.O.S. of A. have always been ready to
serve our nation in times of war, and answered the
nation's call to arms. 5,000 Brothers volunteered for
military service during the outbreak of the
Spanish-American War of 1898. Many made the ultimate
sacrifice for our nation; they maintained their bonds
of brotherhood during the war, and even held Camp
meetings while on duty in Puerto Rico.
1917, when the United States of America entered the
First World War (1914-1918), 27,413 P.O.S.of A.
Brothers enlisted; over 500 gave their lives.
the United States of America was drawn into the Second
World War (1939-1945), close to 5,000 Brothers served
in the armed forces; more than 100 made the supreme
above is a whimsical folk art hand-carving piece made
by a P.O.S.A. member. It is 38 inches long when
laid out. Photos courtesy of Judith Waight.
Accomplishments of the Order:
the turn of the last century, the P.O.S. of A. helped
purchase and restore General George Washington's
Headquarters in Valley Forge, PA. Soon after, the
State of Pennsylvania took it over as a park, and it
was years before the P.O.S. of A. got the recognition
for their tireless efforts. The P.O.S. of A. was also
responsible for making Flag Day (June 14) a National
holiday in the United States of America on August 3,
1949, the Congressman who drafted the legislation
was Brother Francis E. Walter, a member of the Order.
Order helped save the Betsy Ross Flag House in
Philadelphia, PA in 1898, placed monuments and markers
at key national shrines such as the birthplace
of Francis Scott Key, author of "The Star-Spangled
Banner," in Frederick, MD, Washington's Crossing
in New Jersey, aided in the preservation of Mount
Vernon, VA, and St. Paul's Church, New York, NY, and
other notable activities.
P.O.S. of A. also played a large role in having the
U.S. battleship Olympia, Admiral
from the Spanish-American War, preserved in
Philadelphia. The Order continues to present flags to
Valley Forge Park, and the flag that flies at
Independence Hall comes from the P.O.S. of A.
P.O.S. of A. stands for education, patriotism,
respect for the American Flag. One of the main
things we do is donate flags to local organizations
and try to spread our love for America. The Order
is still proudly in existence and is active in our
The P.O.S. of
A. is looking for loyal American patriots
who love their country, and wish to carry
on the Order's
traditions of teaching American patriotism
and Flag etiquette, maintain the national
shrines of Valley Forge, Betsy
Home, Washington's Crossing, and numerous
monuments to such American heroes as
George Washington, Molly Pitcher, Francis
Scott key, and other patriots of old. The
Order is non-sectarian, and open to all
American men and women of all creeds,
faiths, colors and heritage.
invited by a member of this Order, shall
be eligible for consideration for
membership in the Fraternity if he be of
good moral character; of age as included
by the scope and of the Membership
involved; a native born or naturalized of
the United States of America and who is in
favor of all of the
Principles as established in its "Platform
Please note: The Patriotic Order
Sons of America is not affiliated in any
way with the Masonic Order or any of its Appendant Bodies. However there are
Freemasons who are POSA members.
Patriotic Order Sons of America Office
240 S. Centre Ave. Leesport, Pa. 19533
A special "Thanks" to Brother Denis P. McGowan who provided the history of
Order. Brother McGowan is a dedicated fraternalist and student
of the history of American fraternal organizations.