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The band 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.

The very "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

The Knights 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. The Order was weakened by Napoleon's 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 Roman Catholic 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.

The degrees of the Knights of Malta are:
Black (black apron)
Blueman/Master Builder
Green (green apron)
Knights of the Green
Priestly Pass
Order of the Red Cross and Sepulchre (also called Red Cross Knight)

The elected officers and titles from lowest to highest are:
1st and 2nd Guard
Sword Bearer
Standard Bearer
Jr. Warden
Sr. Warden
Recorder and Assistant Recorder
Prelate (in charge of all rituals and laws of the order)
Sir Knight Commander

Sir Knight 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.

Benefits for 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.

Eventually 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.

Currently 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.

The hymn tune Melita (Eternal Father, Strong to Save) is related to the Knights of Malta.

Items available at the Lancaster Historical Society include Bylaws and Constitution handbook for members 1895 and photos (bowling alley, parades, theatrical pageants, building front).