Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment Lights on San Francisco’s Market Street

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment Lights on San Francisco’s Market Street

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This nighttime, rain-slicked view of Market Street in San Francisco, California was taken during the nightly Grand illumination of the street held in conjunction with the 1904 Sovereign Grand Lodge of the United States and Canadian encampment of Independent Order of Odd Fellows which officially took place in San Francisco from September 19-24. (1.) PhotoSeed would like to acknowledge the assistance of California historian John T. Freeman for correcting our original assessment for this photograph posted to this site in late November, 2011, where we erroneously stated it showed the illumination of Market as part of the Portolá Festival which ran from October 19-23, 1909.

Known as the Three Link Fraternity, which stands for Friendship, Love and Truth, the altruistic fraternity of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was first founded on the North American Continent in 1819. (2.) In describing the Odd Fellows annual encampment in San Francisco, California on its’ inaugural day of Monday, September 19, 1904, the long-ago merged San Francisco Call, a newspaper claiming none other than the distinguished alumna of Mark Twain as one of its reporters, (3.) devoted its entire front page to this event. (4.) An excerpt:

San Francisco extends her hospitality to the hosts of Odd Fellowship that have gathered here to participate in the festivities and deliberate in the sessions of the Sovereign Grand Lodge of the United States and Canada. To-day will be marked by the formal inauguration of encampment week. Though the ceremonies will be dignified and significant they will lack that picturesqueness that will characterize later events in which the Patriarchs Militant will be the participants.
This morning at 9 o’clock a reception will be tendered at the Sovereign Grand Lodge in the Lyceum Theater, Odd Fellows’ building. R.H. Lloyd, president of the day, will make the introductory remarks and will be followed by Mayor Schmitz, who will deliver an address of welcome. 5.

Also appearing on this front page was a box titled Programme of Day’s Events As Officially Announced, with various times listed for major events taking place on the first day of the encampment. The final line item in the box, for 8 p.m., was for the Grand public reception in Mechanics’ Pavillion in addition to the Grand illumination of Market street. (6.) The following days Call front page carried a very large artistic rendition of this nighttime scene, resplendent with fashionably-attired Odd Fellows, Rebekahs (7.) and children all milling around Market underneath a very large lighted bell. This bell, or a similar one located along Market, can be seen in this album photograph. The cutline for the Call artwork stated: “Throng Moving Under The Great Bell, The Crowning Piece of The City’s Illuminations, Which Swings Over Market Street, Near Kearny.” (8.) In this album photograph, the symbol of three interlocking rings, representing the Three Link Fraternity of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, can also be seen in two separate places, illuminated in lights in the very center of the photograph. Decorative and lighted columns, previously used during the 29th Triennial Knights Templar of the Grand Encampment of the United States that took place in the city from August 31-September 6 1904 along Market, can also be seen flanking both sides of the street, intersected by cable car tracks.

Our earlier research for this entry had given specific addresses for this section of Market based on three businesses that can be positively identified along the street in the photograph. Since it is now known this view was taken more than a year before San Francisco’s horrific earthquake and fire of 1906, with the full knowledge this area was later destroyed and rebuilt as a result of this calamity, it would appear all these businesses were rebuilt in close proximity to each other after the quake. One, the Hale Brothers Inc. department store, can be seen on the left hand side of the photograph. Hale’s appears on the roof of the building as an illuminated sign and the structure is outlined in lights. Illuminated lettering on the facade can barely be deciphered: Welcome Odd Fellows.  After the quake and fire, Hale’s rebuilt this store at 979 Market street. (9.) The two other businesses that can be identified in this photograph are drug stores. After the quake, the No Percentage Drug Co. store, seen in the left corner of the photograph, was rebuilt at 953 Market Street and the Owl Drug Co. store, appearing much more faintly across the street in this photograph, was located at 976 Market. (10.)

This rain slicked Market street photograph devoid of people is not so surprising given the reality of newspaper accounts from the final part of the week of the Odd Fellows encampment. For this reason, it may well have been taken on Thursday evening, September 22, 1904. The forecast on the front page of the Call newspaper that day had called for it being Cloudy; probably light showers. The next days’ Friday edition included the extended headline Rain or Shine Great Odd ‘Fellows’ Parade Will Start On March This Morning- All Cherish Hope That Showers Will Cease.  A final and more ominous headline on the front page for Saturday, September 24, the final day of the encampment stated: Storm’s Local Damage Amounts to Thousands.  Excerpts from this last article give an indication of the misery inflicted on the city and the Odd Fellows encampment in the end:

Thunder and lightning and pelting showers of rain have kept San Francisco indoors for two nights. Downtown in the flat section of the city big lakes of water formed in the streets. Thousands of dollars’ worth of damage was done by the flood…. It was the rainiest day in thirteen years and the wettest September day in the history of the local Weather Bureau. There was just enough dry weather in the morning to permit the Odd Fellows to parade. (11.) Then the heavens opened and the record breaking flood resumed its progress.” During the 24 hours that preceded 5 o’clock last night 3.09 inches of rain fell.” 12.


1. California historian John T. Freeman: email correspondence with PhotoSeed site owner David Spencer along with corroboration of front page articles and graphics from the San Francisco Call newspaper editions of September 19-20, 1904 as retrieved via the California Digital Newspaper Collection: January, 2012
2. Independent Order of Odd Fellows: from: Wikipedia: site accessed 2012.
3. Clemens of the ‘Call’ : Mark Twain in San Francisco: edited by Edgar M. Branch: University of California Press: Berkely:1969
4. Front page headline: Friendship – Love -Truth: in: The San Francisco Call: Monday, September 19, 1904.
5. Encampment is Welcomed to the City: unsigned story: in: The San Francisco Call: Monday, September 19, 1904.
6. San Francisco Call: Monday, September 19, 1904.
7. A Call article of September 20, 1904 states 17,000 Daughters of Rebekah, formerly the female auxiliary of the IOOF, attended the encampment.
8. San Francisco Call: Tuesday, September 20, 1904.
9. ‪San Francisco Chamber of Commerce Journal, Volume 1, Issue 5‬ By San Francisco Chamber of Commerce: 1912: p. 20
10. The National Druggist: Henry R. Strong, publisher: St. Louis: 1911: p. 39 (No Percentage) & p. 331 (Owl Drug) (these stores located just south of the Fifth street area of Market)
11. nature apparently did favor, and “San Francisco will be treated to a view of the largest fraternal parade ever held on the coast. Twelve thousand paraders in fourteen divisions have been provided for…” took place: San Francisco Call: Friday, September 23, 1904: p. 3
12. front page: San Francisco Call: Saturday, September 24, 1904.

Original copy for this entry posted to Facebook on February 1, 2012:

In a new development on a photograph included in one of our portfolios: “Hawaiian Landscape | Japanese Garden Album”, California historian John T. Freeman contacted me recently with the exciting news that a night-time photograph of Market street in San Francisco was from the Odd Fellows encampment that took place in that fine city in September, 1904. I had erred earlier and stated it was from the 1909 Portolá Festival. With this new information, it is also quite likely all of the very fine gum-bichromate photographs making up this work were done at this earlier date, although I have hedged my bets and kept them as 1900-1910 to be on the safe side.


Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment Lights on San Francisco’s Market Street

Image Dimensions12.1 x 17.1 cm

Support DimensionsDetail: 24.9 x 33.3 cm | photograph glued to black art-paper album leaf