Fraternal orders and benevolent organizations are notorious for adopting colorful and mystifying names and true to form is the Mystic Order of Hobgoblins. Above, one can see a membership application from this long-forgotten but colorful and worthwhile organization. The Mystic Order of Hobgoblins was an organization established just prior to Christmas of 1911, with the object of promoting civic pride, furnishing a death benefit to its members, and providing charity, in particular, the distribution of dolls and toys to colored children at Christmas.
The organization drew its unique name from the fact that its members would mask on Halloween night and hold street parades, moonlight picnics, or dances as fundraisers for the Colored Doll and Toy Fund. As the Daily Picayune (1 November 1914, p. 11) once observed the Hobgoblins lent “a sort of Mardi Gras touch” to Halloween. The parade that year featured a burlesque band and a float with the Devil himself and attending witches. The marshal of the parade that year was an energetic Hobgoblin in the person of Howard McGinnis, a popular fraternal leader who ran a successful ‘tonsorial parlor’ or barber shop on South Rampart Street.
Howard McGinnis, Popular Barber, Marshal of the Mystic Order of Hobgoblins, 1914
They gave dances and benefits throughout the year to support their charitable work. These events were often held at the Pythian Temple and the Odd Fellows Hall. In addition to their work for the Doll and Toy Fund, in April 1916, they contributed to the reconstruction of Gaudet Normal and Industrial Home on Gentilly Road after a devastating fire. Among the members listed on the committee for donations and toy distribution in 1916 were Arnold L. Moss, Jerry Cavalier Thomas, Duplain W. Rhodes, Henry Sindos, Emile J. LaBranche, Thomas Carr, Llopis, S. J. Brown, and Dudley D. Wethers.
In April 1917, the members sent a communication to Mayor Martin Behrman stating their intention to answer the call to arms during World War I. Later, in September 1918, the Hobgoblins marched in a mass parade given to encourage draft registration, all dressed in white suits. After a hiatus due to the war, the Hobgoblins re-organized in 1922, continuing their good work, including their Halloween Night parade. On the day after Christmas in 1922, the Mystic Order of Hobgoblins proudly reported in the Daily Item that more than 5,000 children that year had been beneficiaries of their charity.
Sources: George Longe Papers, Series 3, Box 5, Folder 13, Amistad Research Center; Chicago Defender, 18 November 1916, page 10; Daily Picayune (New Orleans), 1 November 1914, page 11; Daily Picayune, 25 November 1916, page 10; Daily Item (New Orleans), 11 November 1916, page 10; Daily Item, 26 December 1922, page 8; New Orleans Public Library [Picture of Pythian Temple] www.nutrias.org.