The Ark of the Covenant has achieved wide popular recognition since the 1981 release of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster film Raiders of the Lost Ark. It was also a well-known fraternal symbol during the nineteenth century because of its role in the biblical chapters relating to the Jewish exodus from Egypt and the building of King Solomon’s Temple. Constructed to hold the tablets of law that God gave to Moses, the design of the Ark is described in great detail. Freemasons and Odd Fellows alike adapted the symbol into their respective rituals, and both groups use prop Arks to symbolize divine presence.
In Freemasonry, the Ark is primarily used in the Royal Arch degrees; the Odd Fellows incorporate it into their Royal Purple Degree, part of the Encampment. Both organizations used Arks painted red and gold with long poles for carrying. Usually they are topped with golden cherubim whose touching wingtips extend protectively overhead. This example was intended for Odd Fellows use, judging by the three-link chain symbols. Arks were available in different styles and finishes. One Henderson-Ames Company catalog offered nine variations, ranging in price from $15 to $55, along with eight others that could be purchased “without cherubims.”
Stacy C. Hollander, "Independent Order of Odd Fellows Ark of the Covenant," exhibition label for Mystery and Benevolence: Masonic and Odd Fellows Folk Art from the Kendra and Allan Daniel Collection. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2016.