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  EXCEPTIONAL, PAINT-DECORATED ODD FELLOWS HEART-IN-HAND STAFF, WITH GREAT FOLKQUALITIES, circa 1875
Dimensions (inches): 65" tall z 4" wide x 2.5" deep
Description:
Some of the best American folk art objects are represented in the ceremonial regalia of the Odd Fellows fraternal organization. Made circa 1870 – 1880, this particular heart-in-hand staff is the most exceptional of any that I have seen in the antiques marketplace, in 35 years of extremely active buying and selling. The quality of the carving is finer than its known counterparts, but at the same time exhibits whimsical folk qualities, reflected in both the narrow profile and the upward pointing and exaggeratedly long fingers. The curve of the thumb, folded as if to hold the heart in pace, has a shapely curve, mirrored in the lower and opposite palm. The flare of the Prussian blue painted cuff, with its repeating scoops and folds, is especially attractive. Note the wrinkles that extend up the wrist, suggesting that the gilt-painted hand might be gloved. The red paint used in the heart is repeated in the rings at the top and bottom of the turned, black-painted staff, which has a noticeably profound, reverse taper.

Similar to the Masons in some respects, the Odd Fellows are one of the few secret fraternal groups that still exists today. The organization formed in England sometime during the 18th century and was introduced to the U.S. in New York in 1806. Though the exact date of origin is uncertain, the earliest surviving meeting minutes, from a London chapter, date to 1730.

The original purpose of the Odd Fellows relates to a time before there was a welfare state, socialized healthcare programs, or trade unions. The aim was (and still is) to provide assistance to its members along these lines when they need it. The name “Odd Fellows” has long been a source of curiosity and speculation. Though forgotten by the organization itself, one reasonable theory is that it referred to those persons employed in “odd” trades, as there were organizations for most of the major trades.

Condition: Minor expected losses and wear. Surface of the hand was carefully cleaned. Scratches on the black-painted staff were filled and blended. The most significant of these was on the reverse.
   
Primary Color: black, gold, blue, red
Earliest Date: 1870
Latest Date: 1880
For Sale Status: Available
Price $8,500
E-mail: info@jeffbridgman.com
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