The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine a.k.a. Shriners
The Independent Order Of Odd Fellows
Members of the Rocky Hill Lodge, Knights of Pythias
More membership meant more dues for an organization's coffers, and in turn allowed for these lodges to increase their own endeavors, whether it be for their standing in the local community or within their own lodges.
Certificate of membership for the Modern Woodmen of America
An early print depicting the DeMoulin Bros. & Co factory
First started by only one of the DeMoulin brothers, the other two also soon joined, with one of the brothers bringing his fondness for exquisite, hand-built craftsmanship to the company. Not only did The DeMoulin Brothers, churn out high quality they prided themselves in, they also wrote primers on how to use their items, and scripted scenarios for putting this use into rituals and initiations. They also happily encouraged submissions for new products from their many customers, which increased sales.
Nowadays it may seem startling to see the items offered knowing the dangers involved, and the outcome they would or could sometimes produce.
Here you could find a world that knew little of warning labels such as "Dangerous," "Strange" or "Not for the faint of heart!"
These catalogs were meant for an era when litigation was not as bloated as it is today; a time when a free-for-all of joviality and reckless misbehavior at the expense of others solely for the amusement of onlookers was a lesson to be learned and to be laughed at. Oh yes, these were truly the good old days my friends.
Seating your blindfolded initiate atop a bucking goat, may not be standard laugh material today, but at the time these catalogs serviced customers, they were one of The DeMoulin Bros. best selling gags. Pages are filled with variations on the theme but of course there are the many other gems such as water spurting alters and "Lung Testers," collapsing chairs, fake branding irons, electric carpets and electric seats.
Below: a selection of beards and wigs
and above: an actual DeMoulin Bros. mask used for an Odd Fellows ritual
The original cover to catalog No. 439
Years later, thanks to the all powerful internet, I found a web site where someone scanned a bunch of pages from a DeMoulin Bros. catalog. At long last I had a company name to go along with my search. Finding a complete catalog however, was expensive and difficult, but patiently I hoped.
Fantagraphics Books, saviors and protectors of so much that is illustrated and grand, have given me my holy grail. They reproduced, in its glorious entirety, the final catalog, #439, that was published by The DeMoulin Bros. in 1930.
This mother lode of catalogs contains all of their fraternity props, gags and devices along with a history of the company and appendices that include the how to's, the scripts as well. The brilliant introductions including one by a Freemason examining the era, and one by the person who may well be the world's largest collectors of DeMoulin Bros. ephemera, magician David Copperfield, are a joy. Copperfield's anecdote about appearing on Late Night With Conan O'Brien bearing an exploding spanking device is as hilarious as the fact that the device ever existed at all.
A DeMoulin Bros. classic spanking paddle
A giant in the industry, DeMoulin is the go to company for marching band uniforms throughout the world. They are as respectable as the Macy's Day Parade.
Nothing is mentioned on their web site about bucking goats, trick cameras, collapsible chairs, the "Electric Spiked Pathway," or the "De Stink/Bad Egg Test," but we all know that somewhere tucked inside DeMoulin's prestigious history is a snickering member of The Grand United Order Oddfellows just waiting for you to come forward and step into the "Rejuvenating Machine."
Catalog No. 439: Burlesque Paraphernalia and Side Degree Specialties and Costumes is available from Fantagraphics Books, Comics and Graphic Novels and from all fine purveyors of unusual or delicate literature everywhere.