Knights of Pythias

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Uniform Rank, Knights of Pythias


James R. Carnahan, Commander of the Uniformed Rank(UR)

James Richards Carnahan, Past Department Commander of Indiana, Grand Army of the Republic and Major General of the Uniform Rank, Knights of Pythias of the World was born in Dayton, Tippecanoe, Indiana November 18 1841.

In 1878, the Uniform Rank of Knights of Pythias came into legal being by action of the Supreme Lodge. The membership mushroomed. The URKP was organized completely along U. S. Army lines into Companies, Bridgades, Regiments, etc. Named as Major General or Commanding officer was James R. Carnahan. The emblem chosen for the organization was that of the Lilly and the URKP became known as the “Army of the Lilly”

The Uniform Rank, Knights of Pythias, grew out of various drill corps units that had been organized in the various lodges after the order was originated in 1864. Bear in mind that many of the members of the Knights of Pythias were men who had been active in the Civil War and who enjoyed the disciplined way of life.

In 1876, under the leadership of James R. Carnahan of Lafayette, Ind., there grew a movement to consolidate these various drill corps into a separate but attached organization. In 1878, the Uniform Rank of Knights of Pythias came into legal being by action of the Supreme Lodge. The membership mushroomed. The URKP was organized completely along U. S. Army lines into Companies, Bridgades, Regiments, etc. Named as Major General or Commanding officer was James R. Carnahan. The emblem chosen for the organization was that of the Lilly and the URKP became known as the “Army of the Lilly”

Although actual numbers are not available to me at this time, I believe that there were more than 100,000 members at its height. As the veterans of the Civil War began to pass on, there was a declining interest in the Uniform Rank, and the membership began to quickly drop after WWI.

This writer helped to form one of the last Companies ever organized in about 1950 and attended one of the last national encampments ever held. Shortly after that time, the Supreme Lodge of Knights of Pythias removed the Uniform Rank as an official auxiliary of Pythianism.

About 1995, after retiring from business life, I undertook to find if there were any companies left in existence. I found one Company in Maryland that supposedly was still in existence. I exchanged one letter with a member and thereafter there was no response.

On January 1, 1999, as one of the only persons still alive who had actually belonged to the “Rank”, I proclaimed it revived as a memorial group so that the memory of this fine fraternal group might not be lost to the memory of present day members of the Knights of Pythias. I have taken no further steps to carry it further but have in my possession a number of papers, what is probably the last Book of Laws that was ever published, and two copies of the ritual.

Brig. Gen. Robert E. Price, Commanding
The National Brigade, U.R.K.P.
P. O. Box 102 Connersville, IN 47331

Pythianism in California - Part V / Section C (Written in 1941)
Uniform Rank - The Military Department of the Knights of Pythias

In the history of our Order, there is no actual date given as to when the Uniform Rank was organized or
established, but the introduction of the Uniform Rank as a distinctive and higher rank, founded on a
strictly Knightly or military basis, was certainly noted in 1871.

The Parent Order itself was only seven year old so that the Uniform Rank must have been established soon after. Although it appears that each company was independent of the other until the Supreme Lodge met in 1871.
When a Resolution was presented by Supreme Representative Berry of Illinois in regard to a uniform for the order,
it was adopted. Again in 1872 there was another Resolution in regard to the style of the uniform, not including
the helmet, oriflamme gorget or cloak, and was not to be changed for at least ten years.

The colors of the cloth, plumes, cap and the style of the insignia were given but not distinctive enough.
It was left to the imagination as to what shade of blue, yellow etc. It might include any shade from soft blue to dark and the kind of material was not stated; should it be velvet, plush, silk or leather baldric or coat, as all of these were worn by various Companies. In 1880 the Supreme Chancellor had stated that the kind of Units
formed should be left to the judgment of the Sir Knight themselves; and at every Supreme Lodge Convention hundreds of Sir Knights should be seen in every conceivable style of clothing and color of materials and not infrequently boarding on the burlesque, as a linen duster or a coat of mail.

All of these various styles instead of helping were liable to discredit the Order. In 1877 at Ohio, when thousands appeared in various uniforms, looking very neat as separate bodies, yet very conglomerate as a united rank it
was that a Resolution was offered calling for a special uniform to be adopted over the Supreme Domain.

There appears to have been a great many obstacles in the way of a permanent and abiding uniform, but evidently these were eventually overcome by the strong and untiring efforts of the men at the helm of the Order who were determined to bring about a Uniform Rank. It would be first in Military requirements, and worthy of the Order, Knights of Pythias.

Things went on steadily shaping up to the heights looked for by these leaders, and by the year 1882
four Regiments or Grand Divisions had been organized:
Illinois - Sept 20, 1882 / Indiana - Oct 2, 1882 / Missouri - Oct 17, 1882 / Ohio - Oct 26, 1882

In 1883:
Michigan - Jan 16, 1883 / New York - March 21, 1883 / Iowa - Aug 25, 1883 (a Battalion only)
New Jersey - (Date not given) /

California - Jan 8, 1884
The California Regiment was organized by, Sir Knight. F.B. May, Grand Commander. From this date forward the Committee on Uniform Rank kept strict watch over all that was being done, and of the growth as well. They
shaped their actions on the tactics and general laws so as to meet the demands of the rank. The tactics were prepared with an eye to the greater and more perfect organization.

The general laws took the same comprehensive scope and provided in addition to Regiments for the formation of Brigades to be properly officered in the same manner as like organizations in the United States Army. The Uniform Rank was at this time conducted as a Military Department

Military discipline, as far as applicable, is enforced at all proper times, military law and the customs of the service are authorities when relevant. Court-martial, general and regimental are constituted, proceed and exercise jurisdiction like similar courts in the army. The punishments are limited to dismissal, suspension and reduction in rank. Minor cases, requiring discipline are disposed of by the Sir Knight Captain.

The Major General commanding makes a report to the Supreme Chancellor, and this report gives the States
of the Rank and makes such recommendations as he may deem necessary. In addition the report usually
contains an official register of the Uniform Rank organizations and officers. The paper partakes of the nature of the report of the Lieutenant-General commanding the army, to the Secretary of War; and the latter part to the
"Army Annual Register" published by the Secretary of War. A code of "General Laws and Constitution of the
Uniform Rank of the Knights of Pythias" was adopted by the Supreme Lodge in 1884 and amended in 1886

From the time of its organization until 1917 the Uniform Rank was the great Military feature of the Order,
and in 1898 very many of our members in that department were in the United States Army, and the same
may be said of 1917, as very many of our Lodges at that time suffered the loss of more than half their
members by going to war. And now history "Repeats itself", Are we to experience another exodus of our
members to join the United States Army. If so surely the Uniform Rank, a military Order, inculcating purity
of life, and honesty of conduct, attractive to young men, useful to the Order, and loyal to the nation,
gives promise of a brilliant future.

If it continues "to grow with the growth, and strengthen with the strength" of the Order of the Knights of
Pythias the next few years will witness the formation of an army of true soldiers, upon whose banners my be faithfully inscriber: "God and Our Country".

Uniform Rank in California
In View of the fact that the Uniform Rank, Military Department, Knights of Pythias, has had a great revival
this year (1941) Perhaps is is appropriate that a short account of the Rank in California, especially, would be interesting.

Although the Regiment in California was not organized until 1884 there had of necessity been several Divisions
quite active since late in 1881. And they were, to all accounts, very enthusiastic.

Pacific Division No. 2 was instituted on March 12, 1881 at San Francisco by Past Supreme Representative,
F.P. Dann. He was very proud of the prestige they had won. This particular Division had had occasion to
make a splendid display of its competency, good drill, neat and tasty uniform at the funeral of the lamented President of the United States, James A. Garfield.

There was also another Division known as Yosemite Division No. 1 of Merced. There was also instituted on
March 24, 1883 Pacific Division No. 3   And this was brought about by the appearance of Division No. 2 at
the public funeral of Past Grand Chancellor, Jeremiah Whalen.

These public appearances were apparently a great opportunity to display the Order and every advantage
was taken by the members to show themselves, not only to the the public, but to their Brethren as an
inducement to have them join the ranks.

After the Brigade was organized activities still continued and each year showed more and more members
joining up. And in 1907 at Oriville, after a long and interesting report by Brigadier-General C.F. McGlashan,
a Resolution was presented and adopted to appropriate the sum of $500.00 for each Division of the California Brigade. Which went into camp with not less than sixty three men and officers

In 1908 the California Brigade consisted of 38 Companies and 1160 members. This Department of the Order
appears to have had many "Ups and Downs" during the twenty years until 1928. The Annual reports by the
several Brigadier Generals would also show a growing indifference to the Uniform Rank. And more especially
was this to be noted after 1917-1918. Although there was a slight flutter of activity in 1920, yet the slump continued. In 1927 funds of the Alameda Company were transferred to the General Fund

And in 1932, $1,000 of the Uniform Rank was transferred to the Endowment Fund of the Pythian Home.
The Uniform Rank was dormant for another three years, when in 1935 Grand Chancellor Sydney Silverstein
made some mention of it in his report, but decided that it would be difficult to replace the $1,000 with the
interest, which had been transferred to the Endowment Fund. In 1936 Brother H.A. Thayer, G.K.R.S published
in the "Pythian News" the reorganization of a Company in Stockton. After that date several Companies were
appointed by Grand Chancellors. No reports were submitted until in 1939 Grand Chancellor Hamilton made
some comments in his Annual report to the Grand Lodge, after which some activities were aroused.

The present revival is evidently the result of the combined efforts of these Grand Lodge Officers.

U.R.K.P. Uniform

Rank of Knight, circa 1870's.
Original style Uniform Rank uniform 1870's.
Circa 1890's. Originally introduced in the
1880's,   Was later "open" lily of the 1890's.
Uniforms - Page 1
U.R.K.P. Ranks
Uniform Rank - Military Ranks (Army)

U.R.K.P. Swords

About U.R.K.P. Swords
Captain E.T. Eubanks - Commisary 2nd Regt. U. R. K. P. Pittsburg, Kansas. (Photos)


Photos - Page 1


Published in Newspapers, bulletins, Pythian newsletters & books

The Offical Pythian Lodge Directory 1901 (3 pages)

Pythianism in California - Part V / Section C (Written in 1941)
Uniform Rank - The Military Department of the Knights of Pythias


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The Order of Knights of Pythias - (National & International)