"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Crowdfunding Campaign for Indiana University's Center for Fraternal Collections & Research

by Christopher Hodapp

(UPDATED: The faulty hyperlinks to the Center's crowdfunding contribution page has been fixed. My apologies to all for the error.)

Back in August 2021, Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana announced the opening of the new Center for Fraternal Collections & Research (CFCR), headed up by Dr. Heather Calloway. This Wednesday, April 20th is #IUDay at Indiana University and the Center is attempting to raise $5,000 with a crowdfunding campaign to help establish an endowment.

The mission of the CFCR is to collect, preserve, and protect objects and ephemera of fraternal and religious groups for study and research in a permanent and accessible collection. 

During the "Golden Age of Fraternalism" from the end of the American Civil War until the Great Depression, over a thousand fraternal, ritual-based or "secret societies" formed in the U.S. For too long, American fraternalism wasn't considered to be important enough for respectable historians to investigate. Yet the fraternal movement with its so-called "secret societies" was critical to the building and strengthening of American communities, and every bit as important as churches, political clubs and parties, social activist groups, and other local institutions. Masons, Elks, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Woodmen - these were the most widely known. But there were hundreds and hundreds more. 

Besides camaraderie, the groups often provided insurance benefits, mutual aid, funeral funds and more. These groups weren't just for white, middle-class men or college students – there were societies that supported immigrant and ethnic communities, religious denominations, women, children, even certain professions or occupations, such as traveling salesmen (National Travelers) or logging workers (Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo).

Current generations have little or no understanding of the very existence and importance of these organizations, and too many of their publications, artwork, artifacts and jewelry disappear into the garbage or get melted down for their precious metals. The CFCR is now a welcome and secure repository for the quickly vanishing ephemera of American fraternal history. 

The CFCR is located in the new IU Collections, Teaching, Research and Exhibition Center, located in the historic McCalla building on the IU Bloomington campus. Following a $6 million renovation of this one-time elementary school building, the Center now provides a safe, climate controlled facility for collections, plus seven display galleries, meeting areas, and a state-of-the-art media digitization and preservation department, all under one roof.

So if you're interested in helping to support this new center, CLICK HERE to donate for #IUDay.


  1. The conservation of fraternal records is much needed, so this is a welcome initiative.

  2. As a Trustee Chairman, Lodge and District Historian in NY, this is an important step in preserving our artifacts. We have all heard the horror stories of artifacts discarded by uneducated relatives over the years. I am pleased that our lodge (Jephtha 494, Huntington, NY) has received over 100 donations of Masonic artifacts in the past 12 months, but it is very small step in saving our heritage. Much work needs to be done by local lodges & historians, but kudos to Indiana U in taking this important step.


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