Junior Order of United American Mechanics


The Junior Order of United American Mechanics was founded in 1853 as a fraternal and political secret society for American citizens of both sexes. Insurance was added later. If the order is still extant, it is probably only at a local lodge level. The full title of the governing body, incidentally, was even longer than the version at the head of this entry: the National Council of the Junior Order of United American Mechanics of the United States of North America, Inc.
The Union of Workers was founded in Philadelphia in 1845 by a group of working men; their aims were to stop immigration, especially Catholic immigration, and (almost incidentally) to provide the usual mid-19th-century benefits of a sick fund and a funeral fund.

It changed its name to the Order of United American Mechanics shortly after its foundation (in those days, “mechanic” was closer in meaning to “artisan” rather than connoting a practical engineer). Membership was open only to native-born white Americans who professed belief in a supreme being, supported the separation of church and state, and were not engaged in the liquor trade.
In 1853, the O.U.A.M. authorized a junior lodge, to be called the J.O.U.A.M. The J.O.U.A.M. soon outgrew the parent organization, which it absorbed some time after declaring its independence from them in 1885. Age was no longer an issue, and eventually the organization also admitted women in their own right, though there was also a short-lived women’s auxiliary, which was founded in 1875.

The J.O.U.A.M. originally wanted to prevent sectarian influence upon the public school system while upholding the reading of the Holy Bible. Its enthusiasm for Bible reading may have stemmed from the fact that Catholics objected strongly to the use of the Vulgate. Since the 1840s and 1850s, which were the high point of xenophobic nativist parties in the United States, the J.O.U.A.M. settled down more and more into a conventional fraternal benefit society.
The nature of the rituals is unclear, but they apparently contain no prayers in the name of Jesus Christ, and there seems to have been only a single degree, complete with an oath of initiation. There is a form of burial service sanctioned by the J.O.U.A.M.
At some point, racial and religious restrictions were removed, but membership was still open only to American citizens, though they might be “of both sexes and all ages from the cradle onward.” In addition to very modest fraternal benefits and dues, the J.O.U.A.M. also operated a legal reserve insurance department, which had been in operation since 1899.

There were 200,000 members at the organization’s height in 1900; 35,172 members (15,000 social, the rest insured) in 1,000 Councils (lodges) in 27 states in 1965; 8,500 members in 1979; and the subsequent history of the order is unclear.
There is also a ladies' order, the Daughters of America, which has an own initiation ritual.

Ritual of the First, or Degree of Virtue  
Ritual of the Second, or Degree of Liberty  
Ritual of the Third, or Degree of Patriotism