It is one of the oldest and largest fraternity in the world yet it remains humble and discreet up until today. And unlike other fraternal orders, IOOF is never involved in conspiracies and political issues.
Its aim is the elevation of human character to a higher, nobler plane; to extend sympathy and aid to those in need, making their burdens lighter, relieving the darkness of despair; to war against vice in every form, and to be a great moral power and influence for the good of humanity.
WHY THE NAME "ODD FELLOWS"
In the 1700's in England, a group of laboring men, just like labor unions of today, associated themselves together and formed a fraternity for social unity and fellowship and for mutual help which was a marked violation of the trends of the times that’s why they became known as 'peculiar' or 'odd', and hence they were called 'Odd Fellows.'
nother, similar explanation is that the original Odd Fellows were men who were engaged in various or odd trades. Because of the appropriateness of the name, those engaged in forming these unions accepted the name. One says that they were called "odd" because in the beginning of Odd Fellowship in the 17th century, at the time of industrialization, it was rather odd to find people who followed noble values such as benevolence, charity and fraternalism.
EARLY HISTORY TIMELINE
The exact date of its birth in England has not been clearly established by historians because, as we know, storing such information during those days was not of that importance yet.
1500 - In smaller towns and villages, there weren't enough Fellows from the same trade to set up a local Guild, so Fellows from a number of trades banded together to form a local Guild of Fellows from an odd assortment of trades. Hence, Guilds of Odd Fellows.
1545 - Societies like the Odd Fellows were the 'parents' of modern-day trade unions and could organize effective local strike action. For a time, societies like the Odd Fellows met with varying degrees of opposition and persecution from the people in power. As a result, such organizations were driven "underground" and forced to use codes, passwords, special handshakes and similar mechanisms. Many documents were deliberately destroyed to protect members from identification and arrest.
1688 - When the Catholic King James II was deposed in favor of the Dutch Protestant William of Orange, the Organization split into two factions: Patriotic Order of Odd fellows (based in the south of England and supporting William) and the Ancient Order of Odd fellows (based in the north and favoring the Stuarts).
1748 - The earliest surviving rules of an Odd Fellows lodge appear in a reference to Loyal Aristarcus Lodge in London. This lodge was numbered nine, so apparently there were at least nine associated Odd Fellow lodges at that time.
1789 - The two factions formed a partial amalgamation as the Grand United Order of Oddfellows abandoning all political and religious disputes and committing itself to promoting the harmony and welfare of its members. Then as now, the Oddfellows has no religious or political affiliations and accept members from all walks of life regardless of sex, color or belief.
1810 - Members of the Odd fellows in Manchester area formed an independent Order with the title 'Manchester Unity'. This organization is now referred to as "The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (Manchester Unity)", or more simply, "The Manchester Unity Order of Odd Fellows".
1850 – The penal law that banned societies such as the Odd fellows ended and both Grand United Order and Manchester Unity continues to function as a friendly society, fraternity, and mutual-benefit corporation up to this date.
HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES
Odd Fellows reached America before the 1800’s but most of the lodges were self-established without authorization from the Odd Fellows in England. Many lodges were formed but each was independent from each other.
1806 - Among the first recorded lodge is the Shakespeare Lodge No. 1 in New York City. The lodge seized to operate during British-American war.
1818 - Shakespeare Lodge was revived in the Red Cow tavern and claimed to have received a charter from the Manchester Unity which gave them authority to oversee all other Odd Fellows Lodges in the United States, but this was not accepted by other lodges. Several more lodges were founded in the New York City area, and one in Philadelphia, due to the efforts of the Brothers of Shakespeare Lodge.
April 26,1819 - The Independent Order of Odd Fellows as we know it today began in Baltimore, Maryland, where five members of the fraternity from England founded Washington Lodge No. 1.
Founders: Thomas Wildey, John P. Entwisle, John Welsch, James Gettys, and James L. Ridegely.
1820 - A charter was received from Duke of York Lodge in Preston, England of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows which gave Washington lodge the authority to institute lodges all over the United States.
1824 - The "Grand Lodge of the United States" now termed as the "The Sovereign Grand Lodge” was founded and was separated from the Grand Lodge of Maryland.
1834 - The Odd Fellows in the United States became Independent from Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.
September 20, 1851 - The Independent Order of Odd Fellows became the first national fraternity to accept both men and women when it formed the Rebekah degree. Schuyler Colfax, Vice President of the United States under President Ulysses S. Grant, was the force behind the movement. Though the term sorority was not yet coined in this year, it is considered that the Rebekah is the first and oldest sorority in the world.