Posted 10 months ago
Recently found this Knights of the Maccabees pocket watch fob at one of the antique malls that I visit on occasion. I was unfamiliar with this group so I checked out Wikipedia.
Knights of the Maccabees was a fraternal organization formed in 1878 in London, Ontario, Canada. Most active in the U.S. state of Michigan, the group's fraternal aspects took a backseat to providing low-cost insurance to members. In the society's early years it also provided other final-expense related benefits such as society cemeteries.
The motto of the Knights of Maccabees was the Latin phrase "Astra Castra Numen Lumen" which means "The stars my camp, the Deity my light".
The Knights of the Maccabees was founded in London, Ontario by members of the Order of the Foresters. They based their name, ceremonies and rituals on the Maccabees, a group of Jewish rebels against the Seleucid Empire whose exploits are described in the Books of the Maccabees, considered part of the Biblical canon by Catholics, but included in the Apocrypha by Protestants. The first convention was held on August 7, 1878.
The group grew rapidly in Canada and several US States, reaching 10,000 members by 1880. The organization was not on an actuarially sound basis - no medical exams were required of new members, and assessments of death was 10 cents for each member. As death claims began piled up, the organizations expenses began to outweigh its income. A group of business men in Michigan, where the order had a number of members, endeavored to put the Maccabees on a sound financial basis. To this end a "grand review" was held in Buffalo, New York in 1880 to reorganize the society, drawing up a new constitution and laws. Major N. S. Boynton was elected the new Supreme Lieutenant Commander. This created a brief schism with the Canadian group seceding under a man named McLaughlin. In 1881 a meeting of the two factions representatives met at Port Huron, Michigan, and they agreed to reconcile their differences. A committee was appointed, chaired by Boynton, to draft a new constitution acceptable to both factions, and this was agreed to in February 1881.
Under the new constitution, Great Camps could be formed in states or provinces with more than 1,000 members and the Supreme Tent (overall organization) operated the beneficiary aspect of the organization. The Great Camp of Michigan was incorporated in that state on June 11, 1881, which was considered the foundation date of the reorganized order. Organizational stability remained elusive. At the Supreme Tent in July 1881 the Michigan delegates obtained an amendment to allow individual Great Camps to establish their own beneficiary programs, anticipating that the national organization would become defunct. By 1882, the order had indeed become dormant outside of Michigan, and Boynton became Great Record Keeper and then Great Commander of the state. The Supreme Tent was then revived, again, in September 1883.
In 1914 the organization changed its name from the Knights of the Maccabees to simply The Maccabees.
In terms of finances and benefits, the Maccabees adopted the National Fraternal Congress Tables in 1911 and the American Mortuary Table of Rates in 1920. A "Supreme Review" conducted in 1958, the Macabees became a mutual life insurance company effective 1961, though still kept some fraternal features.
Organizationally, the group suffered a split in 1905, when a group called the Western Bees seceded in 1905. This group eventually merged with the Highland Nobles in 1911. In the 1930s the Maccabees began absorbing some smaller fraternal benefit societies, including the Brotherhood of America in 1935, the Slavic Progressive Beneficial Union in 1937 and the Michigan Union Life Association in 1941.