, officially referred to as The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry
, is a fraternal organization in the United States that encourages families to band together to promote the economic and political well-being of the community and agriculture. The Grange, founded after the Civil War
in 1867, is the oldest American agricultural advocacy group
with a national scope. Major accomplishments credited to Grange advocacy include passage of the Granger Laws
and the establishment of rural free mail delivery
In 2005, the Grange had a membership of 160,000, with organizations in 2,100 communities in 36 states. It is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
, in a building built by the organization in 1960. Many rural communities in the United States still have a Grange Hall and local Granges still serve as a center of rural life for many farming communities.
Promotional poster, ca. 1873, that offers a “gift for the grangers”
President Andrew Johnson
commissioned Oliver Kelley
to go to the Southern states and to collect data to improve Southern agricultural conditions. In the South, poor farmers bore the brunt of the Civil War and were suspicious of Northerners like Kelley. Kelley found he was able to overcome these sectional differences as a Mason
. With Southern Masons as guides, he toured the war-torn countryside in the South and was appalled by the outdated farming practices. He saw the need for an organization that would bring people from the North and South together in a spirit of mutual cooperation and, after many letters and consultations with the other founders, the Grange was born.
The first Grange was Grange #1 in Fredonia, New York
Seven men and one woman co-founded the Grange: Oliver Hudson Kelley
, William Saunders
, Francis M. McDowell
, John Trimble
, Aaron B. Grosh
,John R. Thompson
, William M. Ireland
, and Caroline Hall
Paid agents organized local Granges and membership in the Grange increased dramatically from 1873 (200,000) to 1875 (858,050). Many of the state and local granges adopted non-partisan political resolutions, especially regarding the regulation of railroad transportation costs. The organization was unusual at this time because women and any teen old enough to draw a plow were encouraged to participate. The importance of women was reinforced by requiring that four of the elected positions could be held only by women.
1967 U.S. postage stamp honoring the National Grange
Rapid growth infused the national organization with money from dues, and many local granges established consumer cooperatives
, initially supplied by the wholesaler Aaron Montgomery Ward
. Poor fiscal management, combined with organizational difficulties resulting from rapid growth, led to a massive decline in membership. By the turn of the 20th century, the Grange rebounded and membership stabilized.
Grange membership has declined considerably as the percentage of American farmers has fallen from a third of the population in the early 20th century to less than two percent today. Between 1992 and 2007, the number of Grange members fell by 40%.Washington
has the largest membership of any state, at approximately 13,000.[citation needed
As of 2013 the Grange continues to press for the causes of farmers, including issues of free trade and farm policy. In its 2006 Journal of Proceedings, the organization’s report on its annual convention, the organization lays out its mission and how it works towards achieving it through fellowship, service, and legislation:
“The Grange provides opportunities for individuals and families to develop to their highest potential in order to build stronger communities and states, as well as a stronger nation.”
As a non-partisan organization, the Grange supports only policies, never political parties or candidates. Although the Grange was originally founded to serve the interests of farmers, because of the shrinking farm population the Grange has begun to broaden its range to include a wide variety of issues, and anyone is welcome to join the Grange.
The Junior Grange is open to children 5-14. Regular Grange membership is open to anyone age 14 or older. The Grange Youth, a group within the Grange, consists of members 14-35.
In 2013, the Grange signed on to a letter to Congress calling for the doubling of legal immigration and legalization for illegal immigrants currently in the United States.However, this position has been revised, and the Grange now strongly opposes illegal immigration, giving amnesty to illegal aliens, or increasing the number of persons allowed to immigrate. Instead, the Grange supports temporary agricultural worker programs, combined with strict enforcement of immigration laws 
Rituals and ceremoniesEdit
Grange in session, 1873
When the Grange first began in 1867, it borrowed some of its rituals and symbols from Freemasonry, including secret meetings
, oaths and special passwords.
It also copied ideas from Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible. Small, ceremonial farm tools are often displayed at Grange meetings. Elected officers are in charge of opening and closing each meeting. There are seven degrees of Grange membership; the ceremony of each degree relates to the seasons and various symbols and principles.
During the last few decades, the Grange has moved toward public meetings and no longer meets in secret. Though the secret meetings do not occur, the Grange still acknowledges its rich history and practices some traditions.[citation needed
The Grange is a hierarchical organization ranging from local communities to the National Grange organization. At the local level are community Granges, otherwise known as subordinate Granges
. All members are affiliated with at least one subordinate. In most states, multiple subordinate Granges are grouped together to form PomonaGranges
. Typically, Pomona Granges are made up of all the subordinates in a county. Next in the order come State Granges, which is where the Grange begins to be especially active in the political process. State Masters (Presidents) are responsible for supervising the administration of Subordinate and Pomona Granges. Together, thirty-five State Granges, as well as Potomac Grange #1 in Washington, D.C., form the National Grange. The National Grange represents the interests of most Grangers in lobbying activities similar to the state, but on a much larger scale. In addition, the National Grange oversees the Grange ritual. The Grange is a grassroots
organization; virtually all policy originates at the subordinate level.