Let me see if I can value this medal sent by E.S. without pouring a glass of wine because I have never seen anything like this before — and I collect medals.
She sent me a huge dangling medal in sterling, and it had me foxed.
Marked at the top clasp as “OGJOTASP,” the medal reads in etching that it was presented to PCN Bro James R. Grant by the William Hoyle Lodge in 1894.
Naturally, I searched for a Grand Master Mason, a William Hoyle, and indeed I found that he was Grand Master in Ontario, Canada, serving the Grand Lodge in Ontario from 1894-1918 as a Grand Master of the Orange Order. He was also a speaker of Legislative Assembly of Ontario 1912, and a Conservative MLA.
The medal must be Masonic.
But the iconography of a Phoenix Rising on the front of the medal didn’t tally with anything I had appraised “Masonic” before. So I looked further in the esteemed William Hoyle and found he was also an Oddfellow, a different fraternal order with little if any relationship to the Masons.
Yes, the two organizations share similar symbols: The All-Seeing Eye, the Sun, Moon, Bible and Beehive. In fact, my great-grandfather, Harry A. Gould, in St Louis was an Oddfellow, and we have his pin, so I looked at that again, and noticed the triple link design, which stands for friendship, love and truth. (By the way, my great-grandfather’s national organization was the first to include women in 1851.) A nice story, but I couldn’t make E.S.’s medal “fit” with either Masonic or Oddfellows iconography.
And here we see that Bro James R. Grant was a “PNC,” whatever that may mean, and when I searched Masonic abbreviations, for which there are thousands, PNC didn’t fit.
So, what do the abbreviations on the bar from which the medal is suspend — the engraved letters “OGJOTASP” — mean?
Well, I was so wrong to search for Masonic or Oddfellow medals, because the last four letters stand for “The Total Abstinence of the Sons of Phoenix.”
And here we see that the Phoenix rising from the ashes matched the moniker.
Now, it is late as I write this, and I AM pouring a glass of red.
Looking further into the history of this medal — the brotherhoods who were devoted in the late 19th century to abstinence in both England and America — is a total head-rush. They awarded such medals to all levels of teetotal-ism, from imbibing healthy drink and food, to the formations of orphanages for children abused by drunk parents to asylums for drunk women and men.
They gave lectures, Bible studies upon demon drink, wrote songs, churned out badges, printed journals, sewed sashes and formed their children into young people’s brigades.
These organizations fall under the general category in the history of fraternal organizations in the late 19th century of “Friendly Societies.”
And friendly they were, because many of them acted on certain political platforms and acted as insurance companies for their members as well. You paid certain dues, and you were guaranteed a decent burial.
The late 19th-century temperance societies had a real problem because many of the other Friendly Societies began by meeting in English Pubs and American Ale Houses, as they were begun by and for working men. By the late 19th century, drink was perceived by some as a social ill. The women of the households had a lot to do with this perception, and they let their weight be felt.
Thus, many wealthy American women and English noble women began women’s movements against drink in the late 19th century, established safe houses and temperance societies that also espoused the vote for women.
The Sons of Temperance, from which the Sons of Phoenix literally arose, was established in 1842 in the U.S. and Canada. There’s a long history of calling out the evils of drink, which culminated in the late 19th century in many U.S., Canadian and English fraternal organizations. These died in the 1930s, as legislation was passed in the U.S. banning the sale of alcohol.
And that is how that story abided.
In this little medal we see this all combined because we find that “PNC” means Past Chief Noble, which means that he had lived the temperate life for many years. A Noble life.
Now that I know the history of E.S.’s medal, I think I will have another glass of red to celebrate that I cracked the code of OGJOTASP!
Dr. Elizabeth Stewart’s “Ask the Gold Digger” column appears Mondays in the News-Press Life section.
Written after her father’s COVID-19 diagnosis, Dr. Stewart’s book “My Darlin’ Quarantine: Intimate Connections Created in Chaos” is a humorous collection of five “what-if” short stories that end in personal triumphs over present-day constrictions. It’s available at Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara.