Cedar ballot box

Cedar ballot box

Cedar ballot box

Cedar ballot box

So, you are a gentleman in the 1860’s, and you have applied, or been invited, to join a gentleman’s club or a fraternity like the Freemasons or the Druids. But will you be accepted? This cedar ballot box would have stood on a table, perhaps in the foyer, or more likely in the secretary’s office with your name displayed. Beside the box would have been a tray of white balls and a tray of black balls. The box features two circular openings in the top-one silver(or white) and one black. In a secret ballot a member will lodge a white ball in the opening to accept you, or a black one to reject you. The balls drop into the partioned drawer beneath and the ballots are later tallied. Rules varied, but usually one black ball spelled the end of your application! And this is where the term “to blackball” someone comes from.