Personal Effects, April 29
By JERRY SAMPSON
Question: Mr. Sampson, we’re going through some of my parents’ things due to downsizing. No one can remember these pieces. I assume that they are cuff links. But the symbols have us stumped. I thought they were the International Odd Fellows with the three links. My great-grandfather was a life time member but the initials don’t make sense. I doubt that they have much value but we’re curious. Thanks for the great articles. We look forward to them every week.
Answer: You were pretty much on the right track. These are cuff links and they are Odd Fellows. The proper name is Independent Order of Odd Fellows, not International, though they are a huge international group.
It evolved from the Order of Odd Fellows that was founded in England in the 1700s. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is a non-political and non- sectarian fraternal group. It was established in America in 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland by Thomas Wildey.
The Washington Lodge No. 1 was housed in the Seven Stars Tavern. There were several unofficial IOOF lodges in America that predate 1819, such as New York City circa 1806 – 1818.
But due to charter relationships or issues, the Baltimore lodge is considered the first.
The IOOF was the first fraternal group to include both men and women when it adopted the Beautiful Rebekah Degree for women in 1851. The IOOF promotes charity works and according to its purpose, “Visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
Although there was a decline in membership in fraternal organizations in general during the 20th century, membership in the 21st century has started to increase. The IOOF continues in the 21st century with lodges around the world, and is claimed to be the “largest united international fraternal order in the world under one head.”
Ahhh, all of these fraternal groups are ripe with symbolism. The Odd Fellows are also known as the Triple Link Fraternity, hence the three interlocking links.
The FLT initials will make sense when I tell you. They stand for Friendship, Love and Truth. The three traits that all Odd Fellows were to live by.
Believe me, in doing the research for this article the symbols, meanings and philosophies are mammoth! If you have a passing interest in IOOF, or any other fraternal organizations, their history and lore is fascinating and long. Look it up some time.
I’d date these cuff links to the 1890s or the early 1900s. I see some wear to the edges and I’d wager that they are gold-filled.
You’re right about the value. These might appeal to a IOOF member or historian but other than that the market interest is going to be sporadic. I would expect them to be priced in a nice antiques store for about $15. Thanks for sharing them with us.