University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Records of the
Junior Order United American Mechanics
Harmony Council, No. 23
Cheswold, Delaware

1895 - 1898

Manuscript Collection Number: 286
Accessioned: Gift of Harold W.T. Purnell, 1963.
Extent: 65 items.
Content: Correspondence, forms, receipts, advertisements, documents.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: August 1993 by Rhonda R. Newton, September 1999 by Dianne K. Pledgie

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Table of Contents

Introductory Note

The United American Mechanics was founded in Philadelphia in 1845 under the name Union of Workers. It began as a nativist workingmen's organization to fight against labor pressure from increasing immigration populations, specifically the Irish, Germans, and Roman Catholics. In 1853 a junior branch of the organization was founded. The Junior Order American Mechanics (J.O.U.A.M.) became an independent society in 1885. Its members were white males, between the ages of 16 and 50, of good moral character, believers in the existence of a Supreme Being, in favor of separation of church and state, and supporters of free education through the Public School System.

At the height of its popularity, the Junior Order had 200,000 members, dwarfing the high of 40,000 members for its former parent organization. The word "Junior" in the organization's name had no reference to the age of its members after 1885 and similarly, the word "Mechanic" had no relevance to the members' occupations. The Junior Order defined its objectives as promoting the interests of Americans by shielding them from the economically depressing effects of foreign competition, establishing a Sick and Funeral Fund and working to maintain the Public School System.

The J.O.U.A.M. had initiation and obligation procedures which, like other fraternal groups, were religiously oriented. Membership eligibility requirements changed over the years to include Jews, blacks, Roman Catholics, and women. The Junior Order's mission evolved into one of developing a legal reserve for life insurance benefits. This was due in part to the declining membership in the early twentieth century. Membership was divided into two categories: social members and those enrolled in the insurance program. By 1965 insurance memberships had dropped to 35,172 with 15,000, social members, and by 1979 the group boasted only 8,500 social members and about half as many insurance members.

This collection includes 65 items related to the Harmony Council, No. 23, located in Cheswold, Delaware. The collection spans the years 1895 to 1898 and among the items included are council forms, correspondence, and assessments from the Junior Order's Funeral Benefit Association. Specific information about the Harmony Council is limited. Another council in Delaware, the Caesar Rodney Council, No. 8, was instituted in April of 1893. The formation of later councils such as Dover, No. 27 and Dagsboro, No. 30 can be traced through notation on the Junior Order's Funeral Benefit Assessments. It appears that the numbers of the Councils correspond to their formation date, and so the Harmony Council may have come into existence sometime between April 1893 and March 1895 (earliest dated correspondence).


Ferguson, Charles W. Fifty Million Brothers: A Panorama of American Lodges and Clubs. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc, 1937. 173-175.

Preuss, Arthur. A Dictionary of Secret and Other Societies. St. Louis, Mo.: B. Herder Book Co, 1924.

Schmidt, Alvin J. Fraternal Organizations. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980. 171-172.

Whalen, William J. Handbook of Secret Organizations. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1966.

Note: Additional information from contents of collection.

Contents List

Folder -- Contents

F1   Council Forms and Advertisements
     Consists of a variety of blank membership applications, receipt slips, and expense
     assessments.  Also included are a blank election notification form and a blank Treasure's
     bond.  Several advertisements from the J.O.U.A.M. Supply Company, Ward & Stilson,
     Prop. in New London, Ohio, for items such as ledgers and collars (illustrated).

F2   National, State Council, and Intra-State Correspondence, 1895-1898
     Includes a letter about a lecture fee (Mr. Boo Bedford, New Haven, CT), handwritten
     supply lists and receipts, and two membership transfer slips from the Kenton Council,
     No. 20.  Some pieces of stationery have color letterhead and the J.O.U.M.A. emblem. 
     Also includes a letter from the Funeral Benefit Association regarding the embezzlement
     of funds by the Treasurer, Harry A. Heiser, and his subsequent suicide attempt.

F3   National Orphan's Home, Tiffin, Ohio, 1895-1896
     Includes circular with a letter from J.H. Zimmerman, Secretary of the Orphan's Home
     Committee and a copy of the second address by the Committee about adopting
     architectural plans and the transfer of deeds.  A letter from the Delaware State Council
     about raising funds for the Orphan's Home and a sample application for the Home are

F4   Funeral Benefit Assessments, 1895-1898
     National lists of member name, Council, length of membership, and cause of death.  
     Assessments show the number of members in the Harmony Council penciled in at the
     corner.  Contains one proposed amendment redefining the terms of benefits which was
     submitted for The Council's approval in December 1897.

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