The Independent Order of Odd Fellows owes some of its roots to its English predecessor, The Ancient Order of the Society of Odd Fellows, begun in London in the 17th century.
Its birth in the United States, however, resulted after a few men responded to an ad in the Baltimore American newspaper by an outgoing blacksmith Thomas Wildey and two friends who similarly missed the fraternal companionship. The ad announced the meeting which would be at 7 pm on April 2, 1819 at the Seven Stars Tavern located on the south side of Second Street (now Water Street), between Frederick St. and what was then called Market Place, basically where Baltimore City Community College now stands.
On April 26, 1819, they instituted the American Odd Fellows at Washington Lodge No. 1
in a house at South Frederick St and elected Wildley as their Noble Grand. In February 1820, admittance was granted by decree into the Independent Order of Odd Fellowship in England.
The American Odd Fellows Founder died at the age of 80 in 1861 - there were 42 jurisdictions and 200,000 members at that time. His gravesite resides in Greenmount Cemetery and a monument was dedicated four years later in his name. At one time, General Ulysses S. Grant and Schuyler Colfax were members. U.S. peak membership was reached in the 1950s but the I.O.O.F. continues as a worldwide fraternity for men and women dedicated to making the world a better place through fraternal friendship, charitable love and the pursuit of truth in all their dealings.