The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine is more commonly known as the Shriners and is a fraternity "based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth." The Shriners are known for their red fezzes, participation in parades, and support of the Shriners Hospitals for Children®. The Shrine has been described as "Pleasure without intemperance, hospitality without rudeness and jollity without coarseness." As of 2000, in order to join the Shrine, one must be a Master Mason in good standing. Previously one needed to be in either the York Rite or Scottish Rite to join the Shrine.
The history of the Shriners goes back to New York City and four men: Dr. Walter M. Fleming, William J. Florence, Charles T. McClenachan and William S. Paterson. Dr. Fleming conceived the idea to start a fun fraternal order for Scottish Rite or York Rite Masons (though in 2000 those requirements were dropped). Fleming first made the proposal to Florence, who would be key in the founding rituals of the Shrine, before approaching the other two. The idea for an Arabic themed group came from Florence who had attended a party of an Arabian diplomat while in France. They gathered up support with 13 Masons interested in forming this new group and on September 26, 1872, they officially formed the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America. The first Temple was named Mecca and Dr. Fleming was named as its first Potentate. The spread of this new order was slow and after 4-years there was only 43-Nobles. It was with the formation of the Imperial Grand Council, a national governing body, that caused the Shriners to prosper. The Imperial Grand Council was formed on # #, #, in New York City, with Dr. Fleming named as the first Imperial Grand Potentate. Please note that in 1886, the Imperial Grand Council met in Cleveland, OH, where it was decided to drop the word "Grand." The first meeting was brief, but established its headquarters, or Grand Orient, in New York City; appointed officers and honorary members of the Imperial Grand Council; established committees; established fees for chartering new Temples, per capita assessment, and for initiation; established the membership requirements of the Shrine; and chartered four new Temples throughout New England. Over the next couple of years, the Shriners started to expand, but would experience momentous growth starting in the late 1880s, spreading to the Midwest United States and into Canada. Up to this point the Shrine had no single, unified philanthropy; Shriner Temples each generously supported local and national charities. In 1919, Noble W. Freeland Kendrick proposed the idea of a philanthropy that focused on children and at the 1920 Imperial Council meeting he made a motion to “establish a Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children.” Noble Kendrick became known as the "Father of the Hospital System." Like all of Freemasonry, the Shrine enjoyed years of large growth following World War II as soldiers looked to continue the camaraderie they experienced in the military. Today there are around 200 Temples all over the world with thousands of clubs, hundreds of thousands of members, and 22 Children's Hospitals across North America, South America, Europe and Southeast Asia.
The basic unit of the Shrine is the Temple. Every Temple has a clearly defined geographical territory which are often very large (my Temple covers the bottom half of the State of Idaho). Smaller units and clubs may be formed to assist the Temple in keeping fellowship with Nobles that may live great distances from the Temple. Clubs and units can take the form of bands, motorcycle units, clown units, drama clubs, parade units, standard guards, cooking clubs, tech clubs, and so on. Members of the Shriners are referred to as "Nobles." Temples are ran by an elected group of offices known as the Divan which is composed of the following officers:
High Priest and Prophet
1st Ceremonial Master
2nd Ceremonial Master
Captain of the Guard
The Imperial Divan (formerly known as the Imperial Council) is the international governing body of Shriners International. The Imperial Divan is composed of similarly named officers, but with the addition of the honorary title "Imperial" attached to the position. The Imperial Potentate serves as the presiding officer and as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Children's Hospitals.
The most noticeable icon of the Shrine is the distinctive red fez that all Shriners wear. The red fez is decorated with the black tassel, the name of the Temple, and the crescent & scimitar, sphinx head, and star. Its name derives from the place where it was first manufactured, Fez, Morocco. The fez was selected as a part of the Arabic theme of the Shrine. The scimitar is emblematic of the members, the backbone of the fraternity. The crescent is emblematic of the fraternity and philanthropy of the Shrine. The sphinx stands for the Imperial Divan, the governing body of the Shriners. The star is emblematic of the children helped by the Children's Hospitals. Sometimes attached to the emblem of the Shrine is the motto "Robur et Furor" meaning "Strength and Fury."
As stated above, it was by the effort of Noble Kendrick that the Shriner's Hospital were established. He was inspired after a visited a Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Atlanta, GA. He campaigned heavily for the establishment of an official Shriner philanthropy during his tenure as Imperial Potentate. Once the resolution to establish the Shriner's Hospital for Children® had passed, a committee was selected to determine the site of the hospital, but it was soon concluded that one hospital would not work and that a network of hospitals was needed throughout North America. By June of 1922, the cornerstone was laid for the first Shriner's Hospital for Children® in Shreveport, LA. As more hospitals were built across North America, the philanthropy expanded the mission to include medical research and education of medical personnel. Today the Shriner's Hospitals conduct research in every area of care, including orthopedic disorders, burns, spinal cord injury treatment, and cleft lip and palate; the Shriner's Hospitals are particularly known for treatment of burns and orthopedic care. The Shriner's Hospitals have become well known for their burn research and many of the standard practices used in burn centers across the US originated in the Shriner's Hospitals. The Shriner's Hospitals are institutions in such high regard that nearly every pediatric orthopedic specialist in the US does a rotation at a Shriner's Hospital. Through this charity around one million children have been treated at one of the 22-hospitals in the United States, Canada, or Mexico.
1. History of the A.A.O.N.M.S. (n.d.). Retrieved from Phoenix Masonry: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/masonicmuseum/History_of_the_Shrine.htm
2. History of the Imperial Council Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America. (1921). Retrieved from Phoenix Masonry: http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/history_of_the_aaonms.htm
3. How The Organization Works. (n.d.). Retrieved from Cairo Shriners: https://www.cairoshriners.org/uc/
4. Join Us. (n.d.). Retrieved from Medinah Shriners: http://medinah.org/joinus.htm
5. Shriners. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shriners
6. Shriners Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved from Ararat Shrine: http://www.araratshrine.com/membership/faqs/dictionary/
7. Shriners International – Shrine – A. A. O. N. M. S. (2010). Retrieved from Freemason Information: http://freemasoninformation.com/what-is-freemasonry/family-of-freemasonry/shrine-a-a-o-n-m-s/
8. What is a Shrine Mason? (n.d.). Retrieved from Aleppo Shriners: http://alepposhriners.com/aboutus.html
9. Who are the Shriners? (n.d.). Retrieved from Shriners International: http://www.shrinersinternational.org/Shriners