Believe it or not, an organization with the name “Independent Order of Odd Fellows” was officially inaugurated on April 26, 1819 in Baltimore, Md. by individuals from England. The main purpose of this organization is to render help to members in need. But the idea of this kind of assistance is a concept that goes back to ancient times when Israelites were exiled in Babylon. Some of these people banded together to form a kind of brotherhood for mutual support.
This idea persisted among Jewish prisoners taken to Rome. Even the Emperor Titus Caesar recognized the concept, and from there it spread across the Empire.
Several fraternal societies were formed in England to provide workers with benevolence if they fell on hard times. Even such help as medical treatment was included. The Odd Fellows group was one of these societies.
As for the name, one explanation says that it comes from men doing various odd jobs in trades that did not have enough numbers to provide security through a trade guild. These odd job workers banded together and often met in a local pub. Each person paid one penny a week in dues to help members in need. Eventually this group developed its own ideas, philosophy and purpose.
The reason for the name is not known or documented anywhere. Whatever it might be, it has been the object of public curiosity (occasionally with mirth or derision) for well over 200 years.
The Visiting Certificate shown was issued on July 7, 1897 in Baltimore. The owner had apparently paid $1.80 to the group and had permission to visit any other jurisdiction with this certificate in hand. At upper left is the emblem of the Odd Fellows, with inscription around: ‘We command you to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.’ Beneath the two figures and shield is text: ‘The sovereign grand lodge of the independent order of odd fellows 1834’. Size is 123 x 96mm, printer is ABN office in Philadelphia.