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Riding the Goat Secrecy, Masculinity, and Fraternal High Jinks in the United States, 1845–1930

The idea that candidates undergoing initiation into American fraternal groups were forced to ride goats was ubiquitous in the decades surrounding the beginning of the twentieth century. In this period, Americans presented the lodge goat in literary, visual, and three‐dimensional manifestations. This interdisciplinary article charts the development and use of this fraternal symbol between 1845 and 1930. It argues that the goat, originally wielded by the enemies of fraternalism to represent the dangers associated with secret behavior, came to be embraced and celebrated by fraternalists and that the animal’s meaning shifted as concepts of American masculinity were transformed.