Darius Wilson, Confidence Schemes, and American Fraternalism 1869-1926
Issue: Vol 3 No. 1 (2012)
Subject Areas: Religious Studies
Many scholars, including Mark Carnes and Mary Ann Clawson, have noted that the last quarter of the nineteenth century was the ‘golden age of fraternity’ in the United States. These years, during which America transformed from a rural society with an economy based in agriculture to an urban nation funded by industrial manufacturing, were also a time of frauds, hucksters, and charlatans who exploited the country’s rapid changes as opportunities to enrich themselves at the expense of others. This paper examines the career of Darius Wilson, who founded the Royal Arcanum, assumed the title of ‘Grand Master of the Venerable Symbolic Grand Lodge Ancient Egyptian Rite of Freemasonry for the United States of America’, and claimed to have developed a cure for deafness. Between 1875 and 1915, Wilson was both hailed for providing insurance to poverty-stricken immigrants and decried as a fraud who foisted worthless fraternal, medical and financial certificates upon a credulous public. A resident of Boston, Massachusetts, Wilson was a member or Rochester, New York’s Yonnondio Lodge No. 163, F. & A.M., before he was expelled. Subsequently he was repeatedly arrested and tried for improperly selling masonic degrees. Wilson provides a case study for the exploration of issues of authority, legitimacy, and confidence within the American industrializing economy, and will provide new perspectives for understanding fraternalism at the birth of the twentieth century.
Author: William D. Moore
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