A fraternal order is a fraternity organised as an order. Traits sometimes allude to aspects of the original religious or chivalric orders of the Middle Ages. Contemporary fraternal orders typically have secular purposes, including social, cultural and mutually beneficial or charitable aims.
Notable earlier examples include Freemasons and Odd Fellows, both emerging in the 18th century in the United Kingdom and the United States, as is the case with multiple orders comparable with friendly societies, benefit societies and mutual organisations. Prominent more modern-time examples include the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Independent Order of Foresters and the Loyal Order of Moose. Some may line with ethnic or religious affiliations, such as Ancient Order of Hibernians or Order of Alhambra for Catholics, or the Orange Order for Irish Protestants. Others may be associated with professions, like the Fraternal Order of Police, while yet others are focused on academic traditions.
Interconnection with friendly societies in the English-speaking world
In the more social type, each lodge was generally responsible for its own affairs, but it was often affiliated to an order of lodges such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows or the Independent Order of Foresters. There were typically reciprocal agreements between lodges within an order, so that if members moved to other cities or countries, they could join a new lodge without an initiation period. The ceremonies were fairly uniform throughout an order. Occasionally, a lodge might change the order that it was affiliated to, two orders might merge, or a group of lodges would break away from an order and form a new one. For example, the Independent Order of Foresters was set up in 1874 when it separated from the Ancient Order of Foresters Foresters Friendly Society, which itself was formed from the Royal Foresters Society in 1834.
Consequently, the histories of some fraternal orders and friendly societies are difficult to follow. Often there were different, unrelated organisations with similar names.
- "Adventure in Friendship: A History of The National Panhellenic Conference" (PDF). National Panhellenic Conference. National Panhellenic Conference. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
- "Fraternity Apparel". Archived from the original on November 23, 2016. Retrieved November 23, 2016.
- Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Cyclopedia of Fraternities: A Compilation of Existing Authentic Information and the Results of Original Investigation as to the Origin, Derivation, Founders, Development, Aims, Emblems, Character, and Personnel of More Than Six Hundred Secret Societies in the United States. E. B. Treat and Company.