Charles Creswill v. Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of Georgia, No. 235

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWhite
Citation56 L.Ed. 1074,225 U.S. 246,32 S.Ct. 822
Docket NumberNo. 235
Decision Date10 June 1912
PartiesCHARLES D. CRESWILL, George N. Stoney, George R. Hutto, et al., Plffs. in Err., v. GRAND LODGE KNIGHTS OF PYTHIAS OF GEORGIA, T. H. Nickerson, D. J. Bailey, et al

225 U.S. 246
32 S.Ct. 822
56 L.Ed. 1074
CHARLES D. CRESWILL, George N. Stoney, George R. Hutto, et al., Plffs. in Err.,

v.

GRAND LODGE KNIGHTS OF PYTHIAS OF GEORGIA, T. H. Nickerson, D. J. Bailey, et al.

No. 235.
Argued May 2 and 3, 1912.
Decided June 10, 1912.

Page 247

Messrs. Alton B. Parker, C. L. Pettigrew, and Samuel A. T. Watkins for plaintiffs in error.

[Argument of Counsel from page 247 intentionally omitted]

Page 248

Messrs. Hamilton Douglas and John P. Ross for defendants in error.

Mr. Chief Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

A secret fraternal and benevolent order known as the Knights of Pythias was organized as a voluntary association in Washington, District of Columbia, in 1864. Pursuant to the authority conferred by an act of Congress approved May 5, 1870 [16 Stat. at L. 98, chap. 80], authorizing the formation of corporations in the District of Columbia,

Page 249

the persons composing the Supreme Lodge, the governing body of the order, became incorporated as the Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias by filing in the proper office the certificate required by the act. Among other things required to be stated in the certificate was the name or title by which the society was to be known in law and the particular business and objects of the society. The statute provided that upon the filing of the certificate the persons signing and acknowledging the same, and their associates and successors, 'shall . . . be a body politic and corporate, by the name and style stated in the certificate; . . .' The life of the corporation thus created, it would seem, expired by limitation in 1890. On June 29, 1894 [28 Stat. at L. 96, chap. 119], however, by a special act of Congress, the Supreme Lodge was again made a corporation of the District of Columbia by the name of the Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias, and still exists as such. Membership in the order is restricted to white males. In addition to a Grand Lodge and subordinate lodges in each state to which it has been extended, the order conducts an insurance branch known as the Endowment Rank and a military branch known as the Uniform Rank. The Grand Lodge of Georgia was instituted by the Supreme Lodge on March 20, 1871.

An order of Knights of Pythias of the same general nature as that above described, consisting of members of the colored race, was established in Mississippi on March 26, 1880. It became a corporation of the District of Columbia on or about October 10, 1889, by virtue of the general incorporation act of Congress of May 5, 1870, already referred to, under the name and style of 'The Supreme Lodge Knights of Pythias, North and South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.' The order was introduced into Georgia in June, 1886, and a Grand Lodge was instituted in that state by the Supreme Lodge on December 15, 1890. The corporation of October 10, 1889

Page 250

was reincorporated December 14, 1903, under the same general law of May 5, 1870, by the name of 'Knights of Pythias of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia.' After such reincorporation, on January 15, 1905, the Supreme Lodge issued a new charter to the Grand Lodge of Georgia.

The Supreme Lodge of Knights of Pythias, which, as heretofore stated, was finally incorporated in 1894 by special act of Congress, the Grand Lodge of Georgia, which was subject to its jurisdiction, and the officers of such Grand Lodge, were parties complainant in an amended petition in this litigation commenced in the superior court of Fulton county, Georgia. The defendants were the officers of the Grand Lodge in Georgia of the other body, who had made application to the court in which this suit was commenced to be incorporated as a domestic corporation of Georgia under the name and style of 'The Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias of North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, Jurisdiction of Georgia.' The petition filed in the cause recited the organization of the order of the plaintiffs substantially as heretofore stated, and the defendants were alleged to be wrongfully attempting to incorporate under a name which infringed that of plaintiffs' order, and to be unlawfully styling themselves Knights of Pythias, and to be fraudulently using the insignia, emblems, etc., of the plaintiffs' order. The averments of the petition and the amended petition as to damage sustained by the alleged unlawful acts of the defendants and their associates were stated in general terms to constitute a wrong and injury to petitioners and to the membership in Georgia, and to be a fraud upon the public. The relief prayed was, in substance, a permanent injunction enjoining the prosecution of the application for incorporation, and the use by the defendants and the members of the subordinate lodges under their jurisdiction of the name 'Knights of

Page 251

Pythias' and of other names, insignia, emblems, etc., which would be like or a colorable imitation of those in use by the plaintiffs' order.

By their answer the defendants put the plaintiffs to proof of the material averments of the petition, set up the origin, growth, and purposes of the order of which they were members, and especially stated that it was confined to the 'negro race and the Asiatic races.' The incorporation of the order under the general incorporation act of Congress of 1870 was also averred, and the claim was made of lawful right to the use of the names, signs, symbols, emblems, insignia, and the other paraphernalia adopted by the corporation, and the good faith of the corporation and all concerned in the matter was averred. It was further stated that the membership of the order in the United States aggregated 80,747, and in the state of Georgia 11,805, and that there never had been an attempt to confuse the order with that of which the plaintiffs were members, and that no such confusion in fact had ever arisen or could arise, the field of operation of the orders being absolutely different. Laches of the plaintiffs was pleaded in bar of any relief, on the ground that the existence of the order and its operations had been publicly known and was matter of common knowledge for many years.

The case came on for hearing on a motion for preliminary injunction, and after hearing the evidence and argument of counsel the court denied an injunction and quashed a preliminary restraining order. The plaintiffs took the case by a bill of exceptions to the supreme court of Georgia. That court, in disposing of it, referred to the fact that the Supreme Lodge of the order represented by plaintiffs was a corporation of the District of Columbia, and that by amendment of the petition it had been joined as a plaintiff. It further stated:

That 'the defendants have been operating and are

Page 252

seeking to be incorporated in this state under a name which is claimed to be an infringement of the name of the plaintiff's association, and the question is involved whether and how far the plaintiff, which is a foreign corporation, might be affected by the state's granting a charter to the defendants as a domestic corporation in the name and for the purpose asked, and also whether there is a fraudulent purpose or design to so infringe.'

It was next observed that 'the presiding judge should have enjoined the defendants from obtaining the charter applied for, so as to preserve the status in respect thereto until, on final jury trial, all of the questions of law and fact can be fully adjudicated.' The court held that error had been committed in refusing to grant an injunction as to the charter applied for, and the 'ruling of the chancellor denying the injunction in other matters' was allowed 'to stand until the final trial or further order of court, leaving open all the other questions for future determination.' 128 Ga. 775, 58 S. E. 163. There followed a hearing of the case before the court and a jury, and evidence, both oral and documentary, was introduced. The evidence showed, without contradiction, that in addition to being incorporated as stated in the answer, the defendant order had also organized on May 24, 1905, as a fraternal beneficial association by its corporate name under the insurance laws of the District of Columbia; that the laws enacted by the order were such as were common to a fraternal body; that the rituals of the order and its emblems, flags, badges, pins, and jewelry adornment were on public sale, free to be purchased by anyone; that the membership of the order throughout the United States aggregated 300,000; that there had been collected and disbursed to the members of the order between July 1, 1906, and July 1, 1907, more than $500,000; that the collections in Georgia during the existence of the order there aggregated $180,232.21; that there had been paid

Page 253

to the widows and orphans of deceased members in Georgia $148,680, and that the collections in Georgia aggregated $51,000 a year, excluding the expense of burying their dead, which was $9,000 more. After instructing the jury as to the law deemed to be applicable, and observing that the case was of a character wherein the law provided that questions might be propounded, to be answered by the jury, such answers to stand as their verdict, the court submitted fourteen questions to be answered by the jury. The questions, with the answers given, are copied in the margin.

Page 254

Subsequently a final decree was entered granting the relief prayed by the complainants. A copy of the decree is excerpted in the margin.

Page 255

Reciting that they were dissatisfied with the verdict of the jury upon the questions submitted, the defendants moved for a new trial upon the ground that the verdict

Page 256

was contrary to the evidence and without evidence to support it, that it was strongly and decidedly against the weight of evidence, and was contrary to law and the principles of equity. Nearly six months afterwards, by leave of court,...

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69 practice notes
  • Great Northern Ry Co v. State of Washington, No. 20
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 1, 1937
    ...419. 15 Kansas City Southern R. Co. v. C. H. Albers Comm. Co., 223 U.S. 573, 591, 32 S.Ct. 316, 56 L.Ed. 556; Creswill v. Grand Lodge, 225 U.S. 246, 261, 32 S.Ct. 822, 56 L.Ed. 1074; Northern Pacific Railway v. North Dakota, 236 U.S. 585, 593, 35 S.Ct. 429, 59 L.Ed. 735, L.R.A.1917F, 1148, ......
  • A.C. Aukerman Co. v. R.L. Chaides Const. Co., No. 90-1137
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • March 31, 1992
    ...tort. Under that view, laches may bar all relief but only in egregious circumstances. Accord Creswill v. Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias, 225 U.S. 246, 261, 32 S.Ct. 822, 827, 56 L.Ed. 1074 (1912); University of Pittsburgh v. Champion Prods., 686 F.2d 1040, 1045 (3d Cir.1982); Restatement (T......
  • Sterling v. Constantin v. 15 8212 16, 1932, Nos. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 12, 1932
    ...Ry. Co. v. C. H. Albers Commission Co., 223 U.S. 573, 591, 32 S.Ct. 316, 56 L.Ed. 556; Creswill v. Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias, 225 U.S. 246, 261, 32 S.Ct. 822, 56 L.Ed. 1074; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. North Dakota, 236 U.S. 585, 593, 35 S.Ct. 429, 59 L.Ed. 735, L.R.A. 1917F, 1148, Ann......
  • Wolfe v. State of North Carolina, No. 7
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 27, 1960
    ...which it was based lacks fair and substantial support in the record. That ground, therefore, is not adequate. Cf. Creswill v. Grand Lodge, 225 U.S. 246, 32 S.Ct. 822, 56 L.Ed. 1074; Union Pacific R. Co. v. Public Service Comm., 248 U.S. 67, 39 S.Ct. 24, 63 L.Ed. 131; Cedar Rapids Gas Light ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
69 cases
  • Great Northern Ry Co v. State of Washington, No. 20
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • February 1, 1937
    ...419. 15 Kansas City Southern R. Co. v. C. H. Albers Comm. Co., 223 U.S. 573, 591, 32 S.Ct. 316, 56 L.Ed. 556; Creswill v. Grand Lodge, 225 U.S. 246, 261, 32 S.Ct. 822, 56 L.Ed. 1074; Northern Pacific Railway v. North Dakota, 236 U.S. 585, 593, 35 S.Ct. 429, 59 L.Ed. 735, L.R.A.1917F, 1148, ......
  • A.C. Aukerman Co. v. R.L. Chaides Const. Co., No. 90-1137
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • March 31, 1992
    ...tort. Under that view, laches may bar all relief but only in egregious circumstances. Accord Creswill v. Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias, 225 U.S. 246, 261, 32 S.Ct. 822, 827, 56 L.Ed. 1074 (1912); University of Pittsburgh v. Champion Prods., 686 F.2d 1040, 1045 (3d Cir.1982); Restatement (T......
  • Sterling v. Constantin v. 15 8212 16, 1932, Nos. 11
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • December 12, 1932
    ...Ry. Co. v. C. H. Albers Commission Co., 223 U.S. 573, 591, 32 S.Ct. 316, 56 L.Ed. 556; Creswill v. Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias, 225 U.S. 246, 261, 32 S.Ct. 822, 56 L.Ed. 1074; Northern Pacific Ry. Co. v. North Dakota, 236 U.S. 585, 593, 35 S.Ct. 429, 59 L.Ed. 735, L.R.A. 1917F, 1148, Ann......
  • Wolfe v. State of North Carolina, No. 7
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 27, 1960
    ...which it was based lacks fair and substantial support in the record. That ground, therefore, is not adequate. Cf. Creswill v. Grand Lodge, 225 U.S. 246, 32 S.Ct. 822, 56 L.Ed. 1074; Union Pacific R. Co. v. Public Service Comm., 248 U.S. 67, 39 S.Ct. 24, 63 L.Ed. 131; Cedar Rapids Gas Light ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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