Pair of Independent Order of Odd Fellows staffs
American, circa 1880
White pine, original painted decoration
In a very fine state of preservation.
Unlike this pair, most ceremonial staffs from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows were more literal in style, factory made in metal and wood, and sold through large American regalia houses. This rare pair is notable for the true individuality of the artist’s rendition of the hands in a simplified folk style, evident in the overall glove-like shape of the hands, flat wide-spread fingers, and palette. For these reasons and their superb condition, this pair of staffs ranks as a best of kind.
The heart and hand symbol is widely recognized for its association with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. The heart and hand incorporates values of candor, frankness, and sincerity, as well as the lesson that “whatever the hand finds to do, the heart should go forth in wisdom.” It features in the ritual teachings for the Second, or Love degree, and when mounted on a staff, was carried by the Conductor as he led initiates and visitors around the lodge. It was also used as the symbol of the past Grand. Most regalia catalogs show this type of staff in the official gesture of an open hand, the fingers and thumb pointing up. A few catalogs show the less common gesture of the thumb folded horizontally across the palm. This is described in some nineteenth century sources as the first phase of the three-part secret Odd Fellows countersign.