How It Began
On February 6, 1898, six of Seattle’s most prominent theater owners gathered to discuss how to handle an ongoing musicians’ strike. John Cort, brothers John W. and Thomas J. Considine, H.L. Leavitt, Mose Goldsmith and Arthur G. Williams headed down to the Moran Brothers’ shipyard on South Charles Street to make a plan. According to most popular accounts, after deciding to work together to settle the strike by using piano players to replace the musicians, the men began to discuss life. At that moment, the Order of Good Things was born.
As their numbers grew, the Order chose the Bald Eagles as their official emblem and changed the name of the organization to “The Fraternal Order of Eagles, with a goal to “make human life more desirable by lessening its ills and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope.”
Touring theater troupes are credited with much of the Eagles’ early growth. Most members were actors, stagehands and playwrights who carried the Eagles story from town to town as they traversed the United States and Canada. The group’s early motto, “Skin’em,” became the secret password to identify members while the official motto was changed to “Liberty, Truth, Justice and Equality.”
Within 10 years of its inception, the organization boasted more than 1,800 Aeries scattered throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico with a membership exceeding 350,000. Members received free medical attention for themselves and their families, weekly payments in case of sickness and a funeral benefit – all valuable services before the widespread availability of medical, disability and life insurance.
The organization quickly became a leader in influencing national politics, pushing to create Mother’s Day and eventually Social Security, Medicare and more. The Eagles’ growing membership, comprised of many prominent local figures, held a position of great influence in communities everywhere.