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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