America's Most Unusual Group Photos - Atlas Obscura
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America’s Most Unusual Group Photos

‘Ramona, Rebekah Lodge, No. 83, I. O.O.F.’, late 19th–early 20th century. (Photo: Unidentified Photographer/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

In 1851 the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies, also known as Daughters of Rebekah, was founded. It was originally intended as a female-only branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal benevolent aid organization, and it still exists today.

There is a vintage photo of some early Rebekah members in the new exhibition at the International Center of Photography, called “Hunt’s Three Ring Circus: American Groups Before 1950.” They pose seated in robes and hold the emblems of their club. If you look closely, you can see a moon and seven stars, a dove, lilies and in the center, a woman holds a three-link chain symbolizing friendship, love and truth.

Throughout history there have been clubs, groups, associations and societies, from those focused on service to ones devoted to more obscure goals. The photographs in the exhibition are a quirky selection, featuring everyone from circus performers to 2,500 soldiers assembled in the shape of the Liberty Bell. The exhibition opens September 28th at the ICP’s New York gallery. Below, a preview of these often hidden worlds.

‘Hunt’s Three Ring Circus, Northport, Long Island, New York’ June 26, 1931. (Photo: E. J. Kelty, Century Photographers/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

‘The Press Department: Bell Telephone Department’ New York World’s Fair, 1939. (Photo: Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

‘The Human Liberty Bell, 25,000 Officers & Men, at Camp Dix, New Jersey, General Hugh L. Scott’ CMDR, 1918. (Photo: Mole & Thomas/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

‘Miss America Pageant—Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey’ September 7–12, 1953. (Photo: Fred Hess & Son/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

‘Buy V Bonds’ 1940s. (Photo:  Unidentified Photographer/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

Baseball Teams’ 1912. (Photo: Poeszler Studio/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

‘Men in Costumes with Bow Ties’ 1890s. (Photo: Horner Studio/Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )

‘323rd Infantry (seated)’ undated. ((Photo:  Unidentified Photographer/ Courtesy W. M. Hunt / Collection Blind Pirate, New York and International Center of Photography )