E Clampus Vitus
is a fraternal organization rooted in the California Gold Rush. Although some of its primary functions are beer drinking and implicitly poking fun at stodgier fraternal orders, it has also developed into a locally important
Though modern Clamper chapters are mostly in the West, the order of ECV was founded in West Virginia
, around 1845, by Ephraim Bee. It was born of a reaction to the growing popularity of nativist societies
, who were numerous and powerful enough to come together as the political force known as the Know-Nothing Party
One of the Clampers' current missions, placing informative plaques
at sites of local historical interest, started as a (successful) prank: The Sir Francis Drake hoax
There have been many famous Clampers throughout history
. Legend has it that Mark Twain heard the story of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County
at a Clamper meeting. John Studebaker
(who got his entrepreneurial start manufacturing wheelbarrows
in the mining town of Placerville, CA) was a member. Some even claim that Adam founded the order in the Garden of Eden
Throughout its 150 years, the order of E Clampus Vitus has remained true to itself, while still managing to keep up with the times. One chapter even has its own version of Burning Man.
Membership is by invitation only
: "The prime requisites to becoming a Clamper are a sense of humor, an interest in Western history, an open mind, and a cast iron stomach. If a man has those qualities, and strikes up a friendship with a Clamper or two, he may find himself taken in to (and by) the Ancient and Honorable Order."
[Warning: Most Clampers are not proficient at web design.]