Sandburg's Hometown

March 31, 2014

Coming Men of America (CMA)

Secret Societies
by Barbara Schock

When Carl Sandburg was young, he became a member of a secret society. He sent away a one-dollar money order to join. By return mail he received a button to wear on his lapel. The letters C.M.A. appeared on the button. There was also a booklet containing the ritual, secret handshake and password. A certificate, suitable for framing, was included.

C.M.A. stood for “Coming Men of America” and the password was “The future is ours.” Carl wore the button on the lapel of his coat a few times, but never met anyone who knew the significance of the initials. Eventually, the certificate and ritual booklet were consigned to the flames in the kitchen stove.

In the late nineteen century joining a fraternal society was very popular among members of the working class. The Oddfellows, Knights of Pythias, Improved Order of Red Men, Masons and Modern Woodmen were among those established in Galesburg. Many of them followed prescribed procedures during their meetings and had degrees of membership which had to be passed to achieve higher office. The wearing of medals, ornate headgear, aprons and sashes were part of the special character of each organization.

Many of the organizations provided a death benefit or insurance. In those days, there was no Social Security or Medicare. Working men had to provide for their families as best they could.

The building now known as the Galesburg Antique Mall, on the northwest corner of Main Street and Seminary was erected by the Oddfellows. The building provided space for the organization’s meetings as well as rental space for offices and retail stores. The size of the three-story building is an indication of just how many members the Oddfellows had attracted.

The Masonic Order was an older society which attracted businessmen and professionals. It was one of the oldest secret societies, having been established during the 16th century in Scotland. It was designed to do charitable work in the community as well as provide fraternal friendships among its members.

The Grand Army of the Republic was an organization for men who had served in the Union Army during the Civil War. They were often seen in patriotic parades and decorating the graves of men who had sacrificed their lives during the Civil War. The G.A.R. became a political organization because of its efforts to persuade the United States Congress to provide pensions for veterans. It also had auxiliary organizations for wives, sons and daughters of veterans. As the members died off, the organization began to wane. It ended with the death of its last man in 1956. The auxiliary orders still exist.

As an adult, Carl Sandburg never joined a secret society. He did not believe in isolating oneself from others for any reason. He was a firm believer in the equality of mankind and doing for others as far as you were able.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity