My great-uncle, Walter Meinzen, was a member of the Knights of the Golden Eagle, as were several of his half-uncles, in the early 1900s. I learned about the organization when I noticed that "KGE" was mentioned in their obituaries. I began searching to see what organization KGE represented.
I guessed it was a fraternal organization of some kind and found "Knights of the Golden Eagle" listed in several of the Steubenville, Ohio, city directories of the time. It told the days, time, and location of meetings.
Next I searched the catalog of the Ohio Archives Library at the Ohio Historical Society and learned that it has an undated catalogue of uniforms and paraphernalia manufactured by The M. C. Lilley & Co., in Columbus, Ohio, for the Knights of the Golden Eagle. It seems that Lilley & Co. began making swords in 1865 and then expanded its product line to include uniforms and other accoutrements for various organizations.
The catalogue (cover and one page below) has illustrations and price lists for its items for sale. It would have been interesting to photocopy and post the whole catalog because it had some pretty unusual looking garb in addition to what's pictured below. Looking through the catalogue I wondered what kind of organization this could possibly be. It all seemed so strange.
I decided to see what other information I could find. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania shares the following information about the Knights of the Golden Eagle:
"Founded in 1873 by John Emory Burbage, the Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal organization with rituals based on those of the crusaders. Members pass through three stages: pilgrim, knight, and crusader. In addition to giving moral and intellectual guidance, the society provided relief to sick or unemployed members and gave survivor benefits to widows and orphans. In 1900 the Knights of the Golden Eagle had approximately 20,000 members and functioned in twenty states. The society's motto is 'Fidelity, Valor, and Honor,' and rituals reflect the emphasis placed on the word of the Bible."
The Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library devotes a section of its website to the Knights of the Golden Eagle. There you can see photographs of two young men in their uniforms and learn more about the organization.
Do you have an ancestor who belonged to the Knights of the Golden Eagle?