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by Brian K Pitman

Brian here. Today was a busy day in the office, which was much needed. I had just finished putting up some video projects for clients and I had a moment to look at the clock (which is always a bit of a goofy thing for the week after daylight savings goes away, leaving us in dark in the late afternoon.) The clock was way off and stopped at 11:55 and it hit me: Elks.

You see, some people look at an Elks piece and see 11:00, while some other people look at an Elks piece and see 11:55. Okay, that may make no sense, so let me back up a bit...

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America has quite the history. The organization was founded in New York City on February 16, 1868 under the name "Jolly Corks" by 15 actors, entertainers and others associated with the theater. Later, they would add many other professions to their ranks. The Order was founded "To promote and practice the four cardinal virtues of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American Patriotism and cultivate good fellowship."

The BPOE has an Annual Grand Lodge Convention, which is a big party with lots of work to be done, including the election each year of the "Grand Exalted Ruler" (or GER.) The first Grand Lodge Convention was in 1890 in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1910, and August "Garry" Hermann was elected as the GER at the Grand Lodge Convention in Detroit, Michigan. Hermann served as president of the Cincinnati Reds of the National League from 1902 to 1927. He served as the president of National Baseball Commission from 1903 to 1920. Hermann was known for throwing lavish parties (which cost him personally as he left an estate of only $10 when he died in 1931.)

For the 1910 Grand Lodge Convention, the Fenton Art Glass Company produced several pieces (bowls in multiple colors and a known green plate.) Pictured below are the amethyst ice cream shape (ICS) bowl and the amethyst ruffled bowl. From this year, the green plate and the marigold bowls are highly valuable if you can find them. Interestingly, Millersburg also produced an amethyst bowl for this event which is more valuable than the Fenton one (and is known as the "two-eyed elk" because a second eye is seen on the pattern for the elk.)

In 1911, the Grand Lodge Convention was held in Atlantic City, New Jersey and John P. Sullivan, an Irish attorney from New Orleans was elected the GER. He was a Captain in the Army and had fought in the Spanish-American war.

Fenton produced blue bowls, plates and a bell for this event, with the blue ICS bowl and bell pictured below. The 1912 event was in Portland, Oregon and Fenton produced a bell (only one known) that is extremely valuable. (I saw it once on a trip to Pennsylvania.)

In 1914, the Parkersburg, West Virginia chapter held a two day convention that Fenton also produced a blue bell and a blue plate to commemorate the event. Both are pictured (the bell above, the plate below.)

Now, as I mentioned above, Millersburg also released pieces for the 1910 Detroit Grand Lodge Convention (also amethyst bowls), but the pattern was different and is known as the "two-eyed elk." Here are two six-sided ruffled bowls in amethyst (with wildly different iridescent treatments), as well as an ice cream shaped bowl.

In addition to the bowls, Millersburg made a paperweight in rare amethyst and very rare green. It is presumed the paperweight was made for the 1910 Detroit Grand Lodge Convention, although it isn't denoted on the pattern. Beware, however, that the paperweight was reproduced (but the fakes are pretty easy to spot to an experienced collector.)

Some differences between the Fenton and Millersburg versions of note: the elk is facing to your right on the Fenton version, to your left on the Millersburg version. And, the fact that started me on this journey today: on the Fenton version, the clock reads 11:00, while on the Millersburg version it is set to 11:55. Both hands on both pieces are pointed at the 11 and the 12 of the clock, but the small hand and big hand are switched based on the manufacturer. Brilliant!

But of course, that is possibly why Millersburg didn't do any Elks pieces after Detroit because, you see, 11:00 is significant to the BPOE, and it goes all the way back to many centuries before the creation of the Elks or even the Jolly Corks. It goes back to a similar group formed in England back in 1010 AD (yep, 1015 years ago!) The group was called the Royal and Antedeluvian Order of Buffaloes. You see, on October 14, 1066, the Battle of Hastings officially kicked off Duke William II of Normandy's conquest of England. William and his band of 10,000 merry men soundly defeated the 7,000 Englishmen who fought valiantly to defend England.

On Christmas Day that same year, William was crowned King of England. Following his victory, William enacted a series of rules, both martial and civil in nature, to keep control of an angry population always on the edge of a revolution.Among those rules was a curfew law requiring all watch fires, bonfires (basically all lights controlled by private citizens that could serve as signals) to be extinguished at 11:00 each night. This also served to discourage secret and treasonous meetings, as chimney sparks stood out against the black sky. Anyone out after 11:00 each night would be seriously at risk.

The hour of 11:00 quickly acquired a somber meaning, and in the centuries that followed, became the synonym throughout Europe for someone on his deathbed or about to go into battle: i.e."His family gathered about his bed at the 11th hour," or "The troops in the trenches hastily wrote notes to their families as the 11th hour approached when they must charge over the top.

Charles Richardson, the stage name of Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian and founder of the American branch of the Jolly Corks, had belonged to the Royal and Antedeluvian Order of Buffaloes. And so he "borrowed" the 11:00 tradition to enact the following toast for BPOE at 11:00 each night when meeting:

The Original Jolly Corks Toast
Now is the hour when Elkdom's tower
is darkened by the shroud of night,
And father time on his silver chime
Tolls off each moment's flight.

In Cloistered halls each Elk recalls
His Brothers where'er they be,
And traces their faces to well-known places
In the annals of memory.

Whether they stand on a foreign land
Or lie in an earthen bed,
Whether they be on the boundless sea
With the breakers of death ahead.

Whate'er their plight on this eerie night
Whate'er their fate may be
Where ever they are be it near or far
They are thinking of you and me.

So drink from the fountain of fellowship
To the Brother who clasped your hand
And wrote your worth in the rock of earth
And your faults upon the sand.


And how can we post Elks pieces without mentioning Dugan's contribution? These weren't believed to be connected to the BPOE, and were presumably only samples that weren't ever mass produced. Very rare and very valuable, they make both a great find and perhaps a way to dispense your salad dressing in a provocative and conversation starting way (especially if you frame it with the history above!)

So, the next time you look at your clock and wonder if it is saying 11:00 or 11:55, know that it should be 11:00, and a merry band of actors in the 1800s started something that led to some amazing carnival glass...

By Brian K. Pitman - 2015
Reprinted (with permission) from the November 2nd www.cga mailing list.

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