January 21, 1892: Hoo-Hoo International, Not Your Father’s Skull and Bones

By Amanda Ross on January 21, 2009

There are few things I desire more in this world than to unmask secret societies and to find derivations of  "concatenate" in unexpected places. Imagine my delight when I learned that FHS holds a small collection of records for the International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo.

On this day in 1892, the International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo, a fraternal society for men in the lumber industry, was founded in Gurdon, Arkansas.  The Order owes its birth in large part to a train delay. As the story goes, Bolling Arthur Johnson, a journalist for Chicago's Timberman trade newspaper; George K. Smith, secretary for the Southern Lumber Manufacturers Association in St. Louis; and three others arrived in Gurdon as a connection point. Journeying from the meeting of the Arkansas Yellow Pine Manufacturer's Association held in Camden, the five men anticipated a short stop in Gurdon and then transit to other destinations. They learned the train would be delayed for seven hours and the men looked for ways to fill time.

Johnson and Smith sat on a lumber pile, eventually sharing thoughts on a unified lumber fraternity.  Later, the two sought out the three other men, George Washington Schwartz, William Starr Mitchell and William Eddy Barns.  In the lobby of Hotel Hall, the five discussed the feasibility of the fraternity, joined later by Ludolph O.E.A. Strauss of the Malvern Lumber Company in Gurdon.

As the Daily Siftings Herald reports, "In a nutshell, the men wanted to create a fraternity that would obtain the business interests of all lumber organizations in existence so that, in the 'complex web of industry concerns,' the fraternity’s fellowship and goodwill would trickle down to every timber organization — so they could all 'bear the fruit of service to the industry.'"

Flagrantly eschewing superstition, the new fraternity adopted the black cat as its mascot, intentionally harkening back to the Egyptians, who worshipped the cat as a deity.  Referencing the supposed nine lives of cats, Johnson suggested the number nine would receive importance and reverence in the Hoo-Hoo society.  For the logo, the cat's tail curls into a 9; nine men sit on the Board of Directors; and their annual meeting would be held on the ninth day of the ninth month beginning nine minutes after nine.  The original initiation fee was $9.99 and annual dues began at 99 cents.  Clearly, these boys liked a theme.

My commitment to this post was solidified when I read the officer titles of the Supreme Nine in the 1901 constitution and membership directory:

  • Snark of the Universe (Can there be any greater job title?)
  • Senior Hoo-Hoo
  • Junior Hoo-Hoo
  • Bojum
  • Scrivenoter
  • Jabberwock (previously Bandersnatch)
  • Custocatian
  • Arcanoper
  • Gurdon

Taking Jabberwock as a clue, the names seem to have been inspired by Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark." The Supreme Nine are followed by the House of Ancients, Vicegerent Snarks, and Inmates of Osirian Cloister.

With zany titles and rituals and an emphasis on more light-hearted fellowship, some wondered whether the order should be taken seriously.  An 1896 editorial in Austin Daily Statesman refuted such a suggestion:

The Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo is not a joke; it never was a joke; it will never be a joke. All those who have properly wandered through the devious windings of the labyrinth of trial and tribulation are entitled to all the benefits that accrue from that sacrifice.

While the fraternity may not be a joke, let no one say its members are opposed to fun, as evidenced by the Society for the Preservation of Wooden Toilet Seats:

Society for the Preservation of Wooden Toilet Seats

Originally, the Hoo-Hoos proposed to devise a secret means of communication that would enable members to correspond with one another without revealing their identities to outsiders.  Yet, the Hoo-Hoos resemble less an exclusive secret society and more a business fraternity.  Even still, the members have not lost their interest in intrigue:

In sum, the Hoo-Hoos had me at hello.

  • To learn more about our archival records, please visit the finding aid for the International Concatenated Order of the Hoo-Hoo, Inc.

14 responses to “January 21, 1892: Hoo-Hoo International, Not Your Father’s Skull and Bones”

  1. […] Forest Historical Society blog has a bunch of records on the International Concatenated Order of the…. […]

  2. Donna Hanson says:

    What fun! Sometimes I wish I could have the fun of digging through the archives and finding such gems. But I don’t think I’m ready to give up retirement yet.

  3. Steven Anderson says:

    I wanted to confirm from personal experience that Hoo Hoo International is focused on its “service” component. As an undergraduate in the forestry program at Rutgers University I received a scholarship from Hoo Hoo International to help offset the expenses of my college education. It was and is very much appreciated!

  4. Marty Peltier says:

    I just acquired a scrapbook of information much of which is about the first years of the International Concatenated Order of Hoo-Hoo. This was my first exposure to this group and I am having fun going through all of the stuff. Most is from the 1890’s to about the 1930’s. Very interesting. Very cool..

    • Marty, I am a member of Hoo-Hoo and editor of its quarterly magazine. Do you still have the scrapbook you mentioned in this comment? Do you remember how it came into your care? I would love to do a little story on it for our magazine and if you ever decide to get rid of if, I know our museum would be proud to showcase it. Please let me know about the story idea. Many thanks

  5. Sarah Garmire says:

    Doing some family history research I discovered a biography of my 2nd great-grandfather who managed a mill in Snohomish County, Washington in the 1890s. He was a Mason and a Hoo Hoo. Thanks to your article here, now I know about the Hoo Hoos.

  6. Steve Eubanks says:

    Steve Eubanks,I grew up in Gurdon and have a great deal of respect for The Hoo Hoos. They did many good things for the next few generations which we will never know. One name that comes to mind are the Cabes, who still give to those who will never know of thier HELP to so many who went on ahead.

  7. Scottye says:

    A few years ago I was gifted a gold ring with a black cat on the top. And cat ail “9’s” on the sides. One day I looked at iy, held it and realized it was gold, real 18k gold. Someone had to have it made specially to his designs. Wish I knew more about it!

    • Pieer Verlinden says:

      Scottye this ring you discribed would be a Ramses ring which was given to the Snark of the universe one’s he passed on to becomea Rameses
      Regards and HH&LL
      Pieter Verlinden 92501

  8. Denise Spurlock says:

    Came across this post today. My great-grandfather Ambrose Martindale was a sawmill manager and owner in East Texas in the 1890-1910 era. Not sure that he was a Hoo-Hoo but I know that his son was. So much fun to read about this organization.

  9. gill cook. says:

    my father ,Thomas gilbert cook of imperial lumber co ltd of Edmonton alberta Canada, was a member of this woody group. there were occasional old friends of his from his early days of working for a lumber co in south western u.s.
    who used to drop in to dads office in Edmonton alberta. i met a few of them who were very pleasant and acted like a bunch of long lost brothers..many years ago..about 1948 to 1968. gill cook.. cookg @telus . net imperial lumber co ltd..Edmonton.

  10. gill cook. says:

    great to see this on the old order today.. my father was involved in it many,many years ago.good to see they are still going strong.. gill cook ,Edmonton alberta,canada. cookg @TELUS.NET..