was first named the Knights of Malta Band. The band received
it's first charter in early 1912 from the Knights of Malta,
Order of St. John, 99th Meridian Sun Commandery, lodge in
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and functioned as the official KoM
lodge band into the late 1960's. Early in the Malta Band's
history it was seen by the KoM that their band was quite able to
play a much larger role in the Lancaster community and so they
obtained a second charter for their band. The MALTA BAND OF
LANCASTER received it's second charter in 1922 from the state
government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as a stand-alone,
fully self supporting Non-Profit Music Educational Organization.
The second charter allowed adult non-members of the KoM lodge to
participate in the band and allowed the band to function
completely independent, yet remain supportive of the founding
KoM lodge. The Malta Band of Lancaster is no longer affiliated,
except historically, with the Knights of Malta or the Knights
Order of Saint John.
"FIRST" Malta Band concert was held March 1, 1912 at 7:00 PM at
the Knights of Malta Temple, East King Street, Lancaster, PA.
Brief History of the Knights of Malta
of Malta began about 1050 AD as a group of men dedicating their
lives to poverty, chastity, obedience, and care of their fellow
men. They called themselves The Order of the Hospitalliers of St
John the Baptist, in short the Hospitalliers, and worked caring
for religious pilgrims who had fallen ill in traveling. By 1118,
the order had migrated to the island of Malta, and became a
noted organization for nobles to join under the guise of
community service. In reality, many of the nobles became part of
the "cleansing" of Europe, killing anyone who did not profess
the Catholic faith. Their uniform was a black mantle over a red
coat, with a large white Maltese cross on the front.
Order was weakened by
capture of Malta in 1798 and became dispersed throughout Europe.
It regained strength during the early 19th century as it
repurposed itself toward humanitarian and religious causes. The
heads of all five modern Orders of St. John assert that the
Sovereign Military Order of Malta
with its headquarters in Rome is the original order and that
four Protestant orders stem from the same root.
The Lancaster organization was founded March 23, 1895, and was
officially named the White Cross Commandery #159 of the Ancient
and Illustrious Order of the Knights of Malta. Their goal was to
act as a beneficial fund for companions, widows and orphans of
the membership. In other words, if you were a member and died,
or lost your job, the fund would pay you a small stipend until
you were able to support yourself again. Meetings were Tuesday
evenings at 8:00.
To be a
member, you had to be a white male, over age 18, of sound mind,
good health, of a useful and lawful occupation, Protestant, not
married to a Roman Catholic, able to read, write and speak
English, and law abiding. For a small initiation fee of $3.00
and the recommendation of 2 members, you could request
membership. After an investigation, your membership would be
approved and you would be a Knight of Malta (and a $25.00 fee to
join). After one week, you would be advanced to the degree of
Black Knight, the first of many steps on your way to Sir Knight
Commander. In order to collect the benefits, you must have been
a member for a minimum of one year, and wear your apron at all
council chamber meetings. After the first year, your fee was
based on age and ranged from $5 to $25.
of the Knights of Malta are:
Black (black apron)
Green (green apron)
Knights of the Green
Order of the Red Cross and Sepulchre (also called Red Cross
officers and titles from lowest to highest are:
1st and 2nd Guard
Recorder and Assistant Recorder
Prelate (in charge of all rituals and laws of the order)
Sir Knight Commander
Commander and Red Cross Knights were expected to wear their
jewels at all times in the building. William N. Erisman was the
first Commander of the Lancaster Chapter.
losing your job - $4.00 per week. Death of a spouse -
$30.00. Death of member - $100.00 plus $40.00 per week
until a new source of income was found.
the group became more of a social club than a beneficial
society. The Lancaster chapter had a bowling alley in the
basement, marched in parades, and put on plays and pageants for
the membership to enjoy. They had softball, golf, and bowling
teams that competed with other chapters and local leagues. There
was even a password you had to know to enter the Lancaster
temple building, but that practice ended in 1977.
there are still Knights of Malta chapters worldwide. They are
known by several names, some are social groups and others
monastic communities. Knight of Malta runs the largest blood
bank of the island of Malta.
tune Melita (Eternal Father, Strong to Save) is related to the
Knights of Malta.
available at the Lancaster Historical Society include Bylaws and
Constitution handbook for members 1895 and photos (bowling
alley, parades, theatrical pageants, building front).