This robe is one example of nine in the museum’s collection worn by Pythian Sisters of Colorado Hermione Temple 1. Each is a different color depending on the position. During the decades following the Civil War, fraternal orders and secret societies held significance at the local, state, and national level. Membership grew in existing groups and new organizations. This “Golden Age of Fraternalism” corresponded with the founding and growth of Colorado Springs.
Fraternal organizations provided members entertainment, companionship, identity, and for some, mutual aid, such as insurance. Colorado Springs supported a large number of fraternal orders with the 1900 directory listing among others: the Ancient Order of the Pyramids, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and of course, the Freemasons. In 1910, the city directory listed over 29 different “secret organizations,” many with multiple lodges or chapters.
Justus Rathbone founded the national Knights of Pythias in 1864. He drew inspiration to create the order’s rituals from the friendship of Pythias and Damon. The first local Knights of Pythias Lodge, Myrtle Lodge No. 34 formed in 1888. The women’s auxiliary, the Pythian Sisters of Colorado Hermione Temple No. 1, soon followed in 1891. Other Pythian groups emerged, including Syracuse Lodge No. 111 and Sublime Temple No. 34, but they merged with the larger Colorado Springs organizations. Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs had their own Knights of Pythias and Pythian Sister lodges.
Black men joined Damon Lodge No. 2 that operated during the 1890s or beginning around 1904, the Pleasant Home Lodge No. 6 at 124 East Huerfano. While black Knights of Pythias had the same name, both nationally and locally they were considered to be separate organizations. A majority of the other lodges held their meetings at the Knights of Pythias Hall in the McIntyre Building at 107-109 N. Tejon Street.
In 1913 the local Knights of Pythias purchased the Majestic Block on East Bijou for $45,000. They renovated the second floor into a temple, lodge rooms, clubrooms, a banquet hall, library, and reception room. At the time, the Knights of Pythias numbered over 400 members and the Pythian Sisters over 200. To celebrate the opening, the Knights and Sisters held a reception with musical programming.
Submitted by Caitlin Sharpe, CSPM Registrar