(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Elks

Purple Hazing…


Freemasonry was born out of medieval craft guilds — working men distinguished by their freedom, not bonded into serfdom, indenture, or slavery. Their ceremonies and regalia were legendary, and their initiations mimicked harsh entries into religious order, initiations which might involve ritual humiliation, pain, or fear. Masons were primarily aristocratic, and if not wealthy, then at least refined. The fraternal lodges of the Elks, the Shriners, the Woodsmen, and the Moose, to name a few, offered a more casual form of brotherhood. Developed with masonic screeds in mind, they populated small towns and suburbs and its provided its members with a reason to get together once or twice a week. What they did each week was up to the members, sometimes they provided food and drink, more often they would debate bylaws and initiation fees (the lodges were originally developed to provide insurance for injured workers). Things could get a little sleepy.

Enter the DeMoulin brothers and their wonderfully strange DeMoulin Brothers catalogs, collected by New Yorker cartoonist Julia Suits in her new book, The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions. In 1892, a Woodsman lodge member asked his friend Ed DeMoulin to make him something that would really shake up dull lodge meetings. DeMoulin owned a local factory that manufactured uniforms, flags, patches, hats, seating, upholstery, and regalia of all kinds, and he was also at heart a trickster. When the Woodmen asked him to come up with a set piece that would really impress and scare the newly initiated, he delivered something darkly delightful: The Molten Lead Test, a flaming pot of seemingly boiling metal that turned out to be nothing more than mecurine powder dissolved in water (an element still not without its hazards). The pledge was convinced he was being burnt with hot lead, and the lodge would laugh uproariously at his misfortune…

The motives were the same as any college fraternity hazing: to scare, humiliate, and confuse the pledge. A lodge could order any number of devices to humiliate, including spanking machines, trick telephones, wobbly floors, and something called Throne of Honor, in which a pledge is led up a set of stairs transformed into an embarrassing slide…

Read more about the implements of initiation– and see more of them (and larger)– in Michelle Legro’s “The Extraordinary Catalog of Peculiar Inventions: Vintage Arsenal of Masonic Pranksters” on Brain Pickings.


As we prepare for the ceremony, we might might send “Don’t Tread on Me” birthday cards to Robert Nozick; the philosopher was born on this date in 1938.  While he made contributions to both epistemology and decision theory, he is surely best remembered as a political philosopher, and for his 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia, the Libertarian “answer” to John Rawl’s’ 1971 A Theory of Justice.


Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 16, 2011 at 1:01 am

Seizing the instant in its flight…

Hamburg, 1952-3 (The sign reads, “Looking for any kind of work.”)

We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.
– Henri Cartier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson was the father of modern photojournalism.  An early master of the 35mm format, he pioneered “street shooting” and more broadly, a form of candid photography that set the model– and the standard– for generations of photojournalists who’ve followed.  Indeed, after World War II (most of which he spent as a prisoner of war) and his first museum show (at MoMA in 1947), he joined Robert Capa and others in founding the Magnum photo agency, which enabled photojournalists to reach a broad audience through magazines such as Life, while retaining control over their work.

The first major retrospective of Cartier-Bresson’s work in the U.S. in three decades opens later today at MoMA in New York, where it will run until late June, then travel to The Art Institute of Chicago, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Readers can whet their appetites by visiting MoMa’s online gallery of Cartier-Bresson’s work.

Of all forms of expression, photography is the only one which seizes the instant in its flight.
– Henri Cartier-Bresson , 1968., The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson

As we reload our Brownies, we might recall that it was on this date in 1876 that a group that had started in 1868 in New York City as “The Jolly Corks” reorganized and renamed itself The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.  After the death of a member of the Corks left his wife and children without income, the club took up additional service roles and rituals– and a new name.  Clear that they wanted to name their organization for “a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America,” the fifteen members couldn’t reach consensus on which one.  In the end, they voted 8-7 in favor of the elk over the buffalo.


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