Ancient and Illustrious Star of Bethlehem


This order, once known as the Knights of the Star of Bethlehem, was introduced in the United States from England in 1691 by Giles Corey of London. Colonial authorities suppressed it. Over 200 years later it was again brought to the city of New York in 1849 or 1850 by John Bell, who established several commanderies in 1851. Permanent establishment of the order did not really occur until 1869, when the society organized on the state level in Pennsylvania and New York. Between 1878 and 1884 the order completely reorganized with new titles, officers, and organizational name: Ancient and Illustrious Star of Bethlehem.
The AISB was a fraternal benefit order that provided death, sickness, and disability benefits. The society also helped its members find employment in the event they became unemployed. Another objective of the AISB was to perpetuate its traditions.
In terms of its history, the society traced its origin to the first century of the Christian era. More specifically, however, the AISB drew upon the thirteenth century for its tradition. According to the society, the thirteenth century had a monastic order known as the Bethlehemites, whose members wore a five-pointed star on the left breast, in commemoration of the star that appeared over Bethlehem at the time of Christís birth. In the four≠teenth century the order apparently became a semi-military organization known as the Knights of the Star of Bethlehem. The order spread to various parts of Europe in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In 1571 the order became a benevolent and scientific society in England. In 1813 the order suffered a schism, apparently because some members objected to women being admitted to membership. The schism apparently led to the formation of the Royal Foresters in England.
The ritual of the American order accented the practical teachings on truth, fraternity, and moral law. These elements were reportedly all drawn from the societyís ancient past.
Membership in the AISB was open to men, women, and children. The latter formed the orderís juvenile department. By the early 1920s the society had about 17,000 members in 250 lodges in the United States and the Canal Zone. The ladiesí auxiliary group was known as Eastern Star Benevolent Fund of America. As far as can be determined, the AISB no longer exists today.
The government of the AISB consisted of subordinate lodges, uniformed conclaves, and grand councils. Headquarters were maintained in Detroit, Michigan.


Rituals of the First Three Subordinate Degrees of the Independent United Order of the Star of Bethlehem