Journal of a graduate student in military history and the American Civil War

On Know Nothings and Secret Societies – 3

with 2 comments

order-of-united-americans4In the spring of 1850, another nativist fraternity, The Order of the Star Spangled Banner (OSSB) was founded in New York City by Charles B. Allen, a thirty-four-year-old commercial agent born and educated in Massachusetts. (1)  At first a simple “local fellowship numbering no more than three dozen men, there was little to distinguish their order from many other ‘patriotic’ groups, little reason for anyone to expect that it would be the core of a major political party, the greatest achievement of nativism in America.” (1)  By 1852, it began to grow quickly and leaders of the Order of United Americans (OUA) took notice. Many of their membership joined and the OSSB membership swelled “from under fifty to a thousand in three months.” (1)  Later that year, the two organizations joined under the leadership of James Barker and, with astute organizational skill, hundreds of lodges were formed “all over the country with an estimated membership ranging up to a million or more.” (2) Those who joined promised, as a part of secret rituals, to “vote for no one except native-born Protestants for public office” and “the Order endorsed certain candidates or nominated its own” in secret councils. Because their rules required them to say they “knew nothing” about the organization if asked, the movement became known as the “Know Nothings” (3)

(1) David H. Bennett, The Party Of Fear: The American Far Right from Nativism to the Militia Movement , 107.partyoffear
(2) James McPherson, battlecryoffreedomtarget=”_blank”>Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, (New York: Oxford Press, 1988), 133.
(3) Ibid., 135.

About the image: Cropping of Order of United Americans / M. Lafever, del. ; drawn on Stone by K[arl] Gildemeister.
Library of Congress Call Number: PGA – Nagel & Weingaertner–Order… (D size) [P&P]
REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-DIG-pga-02260 (digital file from original print)
LC-USZ62-91369 (b&w film copy neg.)
SUMMARY: A certificate for the nativist fraternal organization the Order of United Americans. The central illustration shows one of the society’s ceremonies in the interior of a massive neoclassical building with dome and barrel vault. The vignette is signed “M. Lafevre del,” as is the vignette of the “Adopted design for Washington Monument, New York.” Other scenes include (clockwise from upper right): “Adopted design for Washington Monument, New York”; a parade of United Americans passing a public school, with the title “Patriotism and Education Our country’s hope!”; the inauguration of George Washington; Washington’s reception at Trenton; the capture of Major Andr; the American Army at Valley Forge; General Marion at Snow Island; the Battle of Trenton; Bunker Hill; the British retreat from Concord; the Bunker Hill Monument; and the signing of the Declaration of Independence (after the painting by John Trumbull). At the top is an eagle with shield, and a streamer with the arms of the thirteen original states.
MEDIUM: 1 print on wove paper : lithograph printed in buff, black, and gold ; image 63 x 48.2 cm.
CREATED/PUBLISHED: [New York] : Printed by Nagel & Weingaertner N.Y., c1850.

2 Responses

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  1. Have you gotten into Potter’s “The Impending Crisis”? I think it will add a great deal to your study, though it’s long.
    Any thoughts on good books on Reconstruction? I just ordered Blight and Foner’s books.
    Happy New Year!


    January 1, 2009 at 8:49 pm

  2. Hey Mark,
    I’ve not sat down to read Potter cover-to-cover yet but have been using it as a source for discussion background and essays. Agree that it’s quite good.

    On Reconstruction, Paul Taylor over at the “With Sword and Pen” blog posted the Wall Street Journal’s top five books on reconstruction back in February of last year. They included the following:

    1) The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877 by Kenneth Stamp
    2) The South As It Is, 1865-1866 by John Richard Dennett
    3) Those Terrible Carpetbaggers by Richard Current
    4) Yazoo by Albert T. Morgan
    5) Reconstruction by Eric Foner

    The reading list for my program’s graduate course on Reconstruction lists the following of which it looks like you’ve ordered two:

    West From Appomattox : Reconstruction of America after the Civil War
    Author Richardson, Heather Cox

    Race and Reunion : The Civil War in American Memory
    Author Blight, David W.

    Forever Free : Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction
    Author Foner, Eric

    I have always found Eric Foner’s and Kenneth Stamp’s work to be exceptional.

    Books I’ve come across on the era but don’t yet own include:

    Steven Hahn, A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration (2003)

    This looks intriguing because it is written from the perspective of the black man. It also won a Pulitzer.

    W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction: An Essay Toward A History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in America, 1860-1880 (1935)

    Leon F. Litwack, Been In the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery (1979)

    C. Vann Woodward, Origins of the New South, 1877-1913 (1951)

    Dorothy Sterling, We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the 19th Century (1984)

    Rene Tyree

    January 2, 2009 at 1:05 pm

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