Today, secret societies seem like the stuff of fiction, but in the early twentieth century 40 percent of American men belonged to fraternal lodges. Complete with secret handshakes, signs and passwords, these lodges were central to the economic and social well-being of their communities. Their success depended on membership, however, and part of keeping up demand was maintaining exclusivity...and making it fun. Not just anyone was invited to join and, once invited, initiates had to survive hazing, which also provided entertainment for current lodge members.
Pranks may be something most of us leave behind in childhood, but in these early twentieth century lodges, new members were hazed with elaborate devices most of us could hardly dream up. In fact, most of the lodge members couldn’t come up with them either. Instead they relied on the DeMoulin Brothers & Co. catalogs of peculiar inventions. From water-squirting telephones and cigar-smoking camels to fake guillotines and carpets that gave off electric shocks, the DeMoulin Brothers had thought of everything.