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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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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.
of Knight, circa 1870's.
style Uniform Rank uniform 1870's.
Circa 1890's. Originally introduced in the
1880's, Was later "open" lily of the 1890's.
Published in Newspapers, bulletins, Pythian newsletters & books
Offical Pythian Lodge Directory 1901 (3 pages)
in California - Part V / Section C (Written in 1941)
Uniform Rank - The Military Department of the Knights of Pythias