Detail from the recently purchased
two-handled loving cup showing
a fraternal meeting
Friendly and fraternal societies provided mutual support
in hard times, sociability and moral leadership for their
members of all ages, men and women alike, from the 1700s.
By the end of the 19th century their membership numbered
several millions and they were part of a family of voluntary
associations that included co-operatives, trades unions and
The flamboyant aprons and badges, mottoes and
commemorative objects of groups such as the Sisters of the
Phoenix, the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Free Gardeners
and the Oddfellows were once familiar in every town and city
in the country.
Many of these objects now lie, largely forgotten, in local
museums. Supreme Grand Chapter has, over a number of
years, supported projects to raise awareness of the Library and
Museumís collection of friendly and fraternal society material.
In 2003, Library and Museum staff initiated and participated
in an event at the Museums Association conference to
introduce curators from museums across the country to the
importance and diversity of fraternal material.
In 2005 they organised a ground-breaking exhibition,
Brothers and Sisters, Knights and Nobles, which drew on these
collections. Alongside the exhibition, the Library and Museum
worked with Shire Publications to produce the first book to
provide a comprehensive guide to the identification of fraternal
and friendly society regalia and objects (Discovering Friendly
and Fraternal Societies: their Badges and Regalia by Victoria