IN 1903, AFTER RENTING space from the Masons, the burgeoning Eagles moved into their own hall at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Pine Street. In the less than five years since their founding, they had added more than 1,000 members and enough cash to purchase the comely hall and crown Aerie No. 1 with an eagle.
The Eagles were organized as an afterthought at a secret meeting of Seattle theater impresarios, John Considine and John Cort included. The group had met to plot ways of breaking the Musician's Union strike against their houses. After deciding to fire their bands and use pianists alone to accompany variety acts, the founders then formed The Independent Order of Good Things and selected for a motto "Skin Em."
At the founders' second meeting they settled on "Eagles" for their name and dropped the bellicose motto for a merely secular maxim: "Not God, heaven, hereafter, but man, earth, now." By one critic's description, about a third of the original management "were the toughest crowd that could be dug up in Seattle." At the Eagles' 50th-anniversary celebration, William A. Fisher recalled, "When they initiated me, I almost resigned. The ceremonies were so rough I was on the shelf for three days."
Part of the reason the Eagles grew at a record rate was because so many of them were entertainers who were always on the move. They also dropped the hazing. John Cort, the first president, explained: "We want to make life more desirable by lessening its evils and promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope." Theirs was a politics of populism and patriotism. At one time or another the order promoted workers compensation, Mothers Day, old-age pensions and, briefly, a guaranteed annual income.
Paul Dorpat specializes in historical photography and has published several books on early Seattle.