The Knights of the Grip

Many years ago, a European visiting the United States, commented that our citizens were capable of doing almost anything as long as they could join an organization which had been organized to promote the cause they were interested in pursuing.

The Briny Inn was the 'home away from home' for the Knights of the Grip.

The Briny Inn was the ‘home away from home’ for the Knights of the Grip.

This was especially true in Manistee, which shortly after the turn of the century had over 50 social and fraternal societies. These included ethnic groups, benevolent groups, and fraternal organizations. It is easy to imagine that everyone in Manistee must have belonged to several of these organizations.

Everyone has heard the stories about traveling salesmen. Apparently these stories have been going around for at least a century.

In 1889, the Michigan Knights of the Grip was organized: “For the purpose of furthering the interests of traveling men, by giving them more desirable legislation; to secure better recognition from railroads; to secure hotel accommodations commensurate with the price paid; to elevate the social and moral standing of traveling men; to secure employment for our members and provide suitable medical treatment as well as providing for a Death Benefit Fund, not exceeding $500 payable to the beneficiary of any deceased member in good standing.”

Perhaps in “elevating the social standing” of the traveling salesmen, the organization hoped to eliminate the traveling salesmen’s jokes.

Over the next 20 years the organization went far to achieving its aim in legislative areas. They achieved a repeal of the “Bulk Bill” which had to do with bankruptcy. They also achieved repeal of the “Limited Liability Bill” which released railroads from all liability if they negligently killed an unmarried man, while if a married man was killed the liability was limited to the amount the victim provided for support of his family.

In addition, the organization achieved better railroad connections, reduction of railroad passenger rates to two cents per mile and the providing of individual towels for each guest in hotels.

By 1908, twelve Posts of the Knights of the Grip had been organized throughout Michigan including one in Manistee with 19 active members and 25 associate members (hotel and restaurant owners). In that year, the local group extended an invitation to the state organization to hold their 20th annual convention in Manistee.

The community turned out in full force to welcome the organizations and Governor Warner and Lieutenant Governor Kelley, made a campaign visit to Manistee in connection with the convention.

Activities for the convention included tours of the Buckley & Douglass Salt Block, an afternoon tea at the country club, a parade with each member carrying his grip (suitcase), and a baseball game at Orchard Beach.

The major event of the affair was a banquet at the Elks Club followed by a ball in Ramsdell Hall. The Elks Club was decorated with flowers and in the center of the room a miniature salt well derrick. The future. He felt that the term “drummer” had been cast aside while the salesmen of today had attained an important place in society.

The final speaker was Gov. Warner who took the opportunity to thank the organization for their work in securing the two cent passenger fare on Michigan railroads. He went on to discuss the plight of Michigan railroads, taxation, and higher education in Michigan.

The organization was happy with their visit to Manistee. One of the members attending from Detroit commented “that the order had never been more courteously or cordially received than in Manistee.”


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