Q: I'd like to know more about this framed sign that says "John Hunter, Mizpah Council No. 361, Washington, Pa." and has fraternal symbols on it. There is also a shield on it with the Masonic compass, an arm holding a hammer with the letters "Jr.O UAM," and another shield with a school building and the words "The Fortress of American Freedom." The words "Virtue," "Liberty," and "Patriotism" are on banners. Along the bottom it says, "Visit the sick" and "Bury the dead." Can you tell me what this represents?
A: All of the symbols on the sign were used by the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, which was founded in the Germantown section of Philadelphia in 1853. The original Order of United American Mechanics, at first called the Union of Workers, was a patriotic and nativist organization founded in the 1840s. (Nativists favored the established culture and were against the immigration of people from countries with different cultural or religious backgrounds.) The Junior OUAM, founded as a branch of the OUAM, became a separate organization in 1885 and dropped its age restrictions.
The sign in your photo apparently honors a member of the Junior OUAM's Mizpah chapter, located in Washington, Pa. ("Mizpah" is the name of a Biblical town.) The Junior OUAM eventually grew to be much larger than the OUAM. By the 1930s, the Junior OUAM had almost 3,000 councils and 200,000 members. The organization, by then open to non-mechanics, promoted trade among its members. It also supported public schools and the separation of church and state, but it encouraged Bible reading in public schools and continued to be against unrestricted immigration. It offered insurance benefits for sickness, disability, or death, and also founded an orphans' home in Tiffin, Ohio. In 1928 a second home was built in Lexington, N.C. That home is now known as the American Children's Home. The Junior OUAM is still in existence and describes itself as a nonsectarian "patriotic benefit society."