Friendship. Love. Truth. Ordinary people coming together to promote values that transcend language or nations. While these values are core to all spiritual practices, advocating them was unusual enough that the group of people, originally organized in 17th century England, were knows as the Odd Fellows.
On November 28, 1889, the German Odd Fellows laid the cornerstone for their new hall at 69 St. Mark’s Place. This occasion prompted the then Worthy Grand Master to state, “I regret very much that I don’t understand your language, but there is a language all of us understand; it is the language of friendship, love, and truth, and you will bear it often in this new hall.”
Friendship, Love, and Truth is the stated domain of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF). The fraternal society began its life as an American offshoot of the English Oddfellow societies born out of the 18th Century. Shortly after forming, however, the IOOF split from their English counterparts over the perception that the English Oddfellow’s work had deviated from its “ancient form”. While the IOOF was a primarily Anglophone society, the appeal of their mission helped the society spread to both Germany and German-American immigrants.
The society’s core mission has taken many manifestations, including protecting widows and orphans, burying the dead, and improving and elevating the character of man. On a progressive note, the IOOF also provides its members a measure of social safety with programs that mimicked later developments like health insurance, welfare, and Social Security. Over its history, it has counted a number of famous faces among its membership, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, and Charles Lindbergh.