Independent Order of Good Templars

The Good Templars was founded in 1851 in Utica, New York, as a fraternal temperance society for teetotalers of either sex. It has since spread worldwide and publishes the National Good Templar 10 times a year. In 1994, there were 5,000 members in the United States alone.

The Good Templars promotes total abstinence from alcohol. The founder, Daniel Cady, had been a member of the Sons of Temperance (founded 1842), which had assumed a number of fraternal and benevolent characteristics while trying to reform drunks and keep them reformed. His Knights of Jericho (1850) soon metamorphosed into the Good Templars in 1851, survived schism and reunification the following year (the short-lived Independent Order of Good Templars) and went on to prosper. It always admitted women on the same basis as men, and has, according to its own literature, always been racially mixed. In 1868 the organization spread to England.

At the turn of the century, the Good Templars in the United States boasted about 350,000 members. It has shrunk drastically since then, but seems to be on the rebound from the low of 2,000 quoted by Schmidt in his Fraternal Organizations in 1979.

Its greatest strength is to be found outside the United States, especially in Sweden Lodges also exist in Austria, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Liberia, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, Turkey, Wales, and elsewhere. Membership world­wide is probably between half a million and a million.

Originally, the Good Templars worked three Degrees, namely Heart, Charity, and Royal Virtue. The rituals and regalia were much diminished in the 1970s as the organization tried to make itself more modern and relevant. Now, the initiatory degree of Justice is the only one worked. Initiates are requested to promise to do all in their power “to promote total abstinence of intoxicating beverages both through the enforcement of laws and through [their] own way of life.”