The History of the Vasa Order
Reprint from the Vasa Star April 1994
Enlisting the aid of sources such as Historical Review of Vasa Order of America 1896-1971, Carolyn Ericksson, District Cultural Leader, and the April. 1991 edition of Vasa Star, I'd like to share with you some of the interesting facts. implementations and changes of the rituals and by-laws during Vasa's infancy. As changes are made to the District during convention such as this. so it was then.
To begin, during the late 1800's, several Swedish societies began to take form in Connecticut. New York, and Pennsylvania. under the name of Allmanna Skandinaviska Foreningen i Amerika. Held together by name only, each group had its own rules and financial set-ups.
This organization dissolved in 1890 because of lack of experience and the drive to successfully establish a national organization. However, the interest remained. Representatives of Connecticut Swedish sick benefit societies met to discuss advantages of such an organization. The purpose of the order would "by means of income from initiation fees, membership dues. donations, and interest on deposits, establish and maintain funds for support of members who through sickness or accident were unable to support themselves."
It also wanted "to establish and maintain funds for funeral benefits to deceased relatives according to established rules." With the adoption of these rules. pro-posed by-laws and rituals, the name Vasa Order was born and Connecticut District Lodge #1 was originated on September 18, 1896.
To include a greater area than Connecticut, in March of 1897, a number of members met to create a Grand Lodge. In 1899, its charter was written and approved. Vasa now expanded in to Massachusetts for District Lodge #2 and Rhode Island for District Lodge #3.
At the 3rd Grand Lodge Convention. Hartford, 1901, the practice of having all motions submitted at least 3 months prior to the convention was established. The distribution of the password in number code was originated.
New York District #4 began April, 1902. The wording for a district charter was established during the Grand Lodge Convention in 1905. To be able to favor-ably compete with other societies, the age limit for new members "of good moral character and those who could understand and express themselves in Swedish." be set at 16 to 50 years.
By the 6th Convention March. 1907, the first District Lodge in California was established.
While the first issue of Vasatjarnen was finally published in 1908, it seemed to come with its own history of minor troubles both in getting started and then with keeping it going.
By 1909, at the 7th Grand Lodge Convention, there was a total of 150 local lodges with a membership of 12.000 in 15 states.
At the 8th Grand Lodge Convention 1911, the name was changed from Vasa Order of the United States of America to Vasa Order of America. Members could belong to only one lodge. However, members over the age of 50 who were away from home could become passive members of another lodge.
C.W. Malmquist, the first District Master and third Grand Master was entrusted with creating the insignia including the design for the Emblem of the Order and the Charter.
Looking at a Vasa membership pin. One will note how skillfully he managed to include not only the name of the Vasa Order, but also the motto. "Generosity, Truth and Unity." The letters "V" and "0" and the colors read, white and blue stand for the Vasa Order of America. The Maltese cross stands for Generosity, the wreath depicts Truth, and the sheaf symbolizes Unity. The insignia of our lodges indicate a chain of command. The emblem of the Order adorned by the plumed warrior signifies local lodges. The emblem with the princely crown stands for the District Lodges. The emblem with the ermine mantle and regal crown signifies the highest authority of the Order. the Grand Lodge.
If one looks closely at the charter, you will note the book which the prelate holds high. You can see the Ten Commandments on one page and the Lord's Prayer on the other — both written in Swedish.
In 1913, at the 9th Grand Lodge Convention, a Vasa Life Insurance Fund was discussed but found unfeasible. Another interesting recommendation which was rejected was that persons engaged in the manufacture or sale of intoxicating beverages be excluded from membership in Vasa.
By looking at old photographs from this era, you will note that the uniforms wore at initiations seemed very important and quite elaborate.
During the 10th Grand Lodge Convention, a decision was made to permit Vasa members who were not delegates or Grand Lodge officers to be pre-sent and listen to the deliberations. However. use of English at meetings was rejected.
At the 11th Grand Lodge Convention, the decision was made to have the Grand Lodge meet every 4 years. The Recording Secretary, Financial Secretary and Treasurer who had served 3 consecutive years in that capacity would receive the same rights and privileges as the chair-man. The allowance for delegates while at the convention was increased from $2.00 per day to $5.00 per day. The appointment of a Grand Lodge Deputy was established. The funeral benefit was translated into English. A resolution was sent to the President of the United States offering the support of the Grand Lodge in the position the U.S. had taken in the World War I..
A recommendation was accepted to permit the use of English in the initiation oath for new candidates who were born in the U.S.A. of Swedish parents, but not able to fully master the Swedish language.
By 1919, at the 12th Grand Lodge Convention. it was recorded that there were 329 lodges with more than 43.000 members.
By 1921, it had been noted that in the 25 year existence of the Vasa Order, more than $1,700,000 had been paid out in sick and funeral benefits.
It is evident that the prestige and reputation of Vasa had advanced. The officers and delegates from the 13th Grand Lodge Convention held in Washington. D.C. in June, 1921. were invited to the White House. where they had the honor of meeting President Harding who even joined the Vasa delegation in a picture taking session outside the White House.
District Lodges were allowed to include in their own approved by-laws. the right to determine the time for election of officers. The District Master, in conjunction with the Executive Board. was given the right to accept members over 50 years of age if they belonged to a lodge or society which would become a part of Vasa. A suggestion that the Chaplain. Master of Ceremonies, and Guards be appointed by the Grand Master was rejected. However, as we know, this eventually came to pass.
The Executive Board had arranged for printing of 3,000 copies of Vasa's twenty five year history which was to be sold to members for 25 cents a copy.
Past Grand Master William Malmquist had submitted an offer to the Grand Lodge to purchase the dies and tools for the manufacture of emblems now owned by him as well as the original drawings for the Vasa Order Charter. It was decided to make the purchase at cost, not to exceed $450.
Vasa Star. having trouble with distribution, an editorial staff, and finances was now suffering from members not paying for their subscriptions. The Grand Lodge agreed to reimburse $ 1500 owed to the editor.
To look back on the creation of some-thing as large as Vasa, we can see how long ago some of our rituals began and compare them to the policies of today. While much of the rigid formality has disappeared, we can still be proud of the motto which remains — "Generosity, Truth and Unity."