Devious devices from
the DeMoulin factory

Devious devices from the DeMoulin factory

Big D, little d, what begins with D? Devious devices from the DeMoulin factory.

For more than 85 years DeMoulin Bros. & Co. has produced some of the country’s finest band uniforms.

But there was a time when the DeMoulin name was synonymous  with guillotines, paddle machines, exploding telephones, electric chairs, branding irons, and goats.

Devilish devices for certain, but none of them lethal.

Rather, most of them were made to get a laugh.

During the first half of the twentieth century, lodge regalia and paraphernalia–including initiation devices–were DeMoulin Bros. & Co.’s stock-in-trade. The company crafted forerunners of the magicians’ cabinet; seemingly innocuous appliances or pieces of furniture that secretly housed explosive cartridges, electric charges, powder blasts and spring loaded slaps to the seat of the pants.

Courtesy the invention and industry of DeMoulin Bros. & Co., lodge initiates nationwide were subjected to all manner of momentary indignities before being accepted into the brotherhood of organizations like the Modern Woodmen of America or Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

In a pre-TV era when physical humor was hot and Vaudeville all the rage, products from DeMoulin Bros. & Co. were in high demand.

But interest waned as the nation turned its attention to World War II, and in 1955, DeMoulin Bros. & Co. shuttered its longstanding lodge paraphernalia division.

Today, the devices are largely gone–but not forgotten. You can view an impressive collection at the DeMoulin Museum, in the factory’s hometown of Greenville, Illinois. Museum curator John Goldsmith presents a representative sampling of DeMoulin products, including a trick guillotine, branding iron, electric gauntlet, and bucking goats and band uniforms, as well as period photos and personal effects that chronicle the history of the company and the men and women who built it.

From the scorch marks of spent cartridges to the elegant lettering of labels, over a hundred years of story stand behind these walls. It’s food for the imagination. Visit if you can.

You can find more on the DeMoulin Museum at Addendum: Dead link as of 04/11/2013.

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  1. How interesting, I had no idea about DeMoulin. Might have to file that away for the next time we road trip. :)

  2. Wow. I’m certainly glad there’s still a museum to showcase these treasures of the past. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Wow! That’s wild, Joe…guillotines to band uniforms. What a change.

  4. That’s wonderful! Not to mention all the stories that an active imagination could cook up in such a place. I would love to spend a week, just “being” near them, I’m sure they have stories of their own to tell… all the magical secrets we might learn, all the laughter we might hear!

  5. Wow, cool post! I would love to see all of these artifacts and I’m sure my imagination would just run wild in that element:)

  6. Neat! This A to Z Challenge has helped me to find some excellent blogs! Yours is fabulous – and I want to read Dead Reckoning RIGHT NOW. :)

  7. I have enjoyed all of your posts so far in this challenge (well, all of them, ever, actually) but this is my favorite – what a wonderful company – magic props, and when the bottom fell out – a switch to something specific and needed every year all over the country – smart business that! Topping it all: there’s a museum preserving their history! And is that a John I’ve met?

  8. Your blog is so beautiful, your whole site is beautiful. And this is an excellent post. I’ve been reading A to Z bloggers for the last hour but your blog has kept me busy for almost as long. Thank you for the great writing.

    • Thank you, Sommer. I appreciate that very much. Your site is so different from mine: It’s bright and beautiful and fun and a smashing place to come read for a while.

  9. This post made me think of the 2006 movie The Prestige.

    • As would the museum, Niki. It has a steampunk bent, if you choose to see it.