Venerating Brother Nobody

Hero Worship in American Fraternalism in the Nineteenth Century and Early Twentieth Century


  • Jeffrey Tyssens Vrije Universiteit Brussel



Fraternalism, heroes, construction, worship


Many American fraternal orders mythologized a founding father, whether or not he actually merited that distinction. These men were generally credited with great personal achievement, though the claims made on their behalf often fail to stand up to close examination. Their heroic stature was very much constructed by the rank-and-file of the respective fraternal orders for whom these iconic founders, even when they were still alive, were useful instruments to foster a particular image of their fraternal projects and the values they wanted to cherish. This practice could have unintended and undesirable consequences. Several of these ‘canonized’ fraternalists did not hesitate to make use of the veneration that was heaped upon them to foster their personal interests or that of their families. This did not necessarily go unnoticed by part of the membership but the need to present ‘desirable roles for group members’ through the manufacturing of a heroic ‘icon’ usually proved stronger than critical appreciations.

Author Biography

Jeffrey Tyssens, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Jeffrey Tyssens is Professor of Contemporary History, History Department, and Chairman of the Interdisciplinary Research Group Freemasonry, both at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium.


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How to Cite

Tyssens, J. (2016). Venerating Brother Nobody: Hero Worship in American Fraternalism in the Nineteenth Century and Early Twentieth Century. Journal for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, 5(2), 172–199.