The History of The Shriners
is a Shriner? What kind of organization attracts truck drivers,
dentists, contractors, heads of state, movie stars, generals,
clergymen and accountants? What is the Shrine?
Someone might answer: “Oh yeah, Shriners are those guys who always
have those parades with the wild costumes and funny little cars.”
Another might think of Shrine circuses and Shrine clowns. The fellow
next to him might interject, “No, Shriners are the guys who wear
those funny hats — like flowerpots — and have those big
don’t know about that,” a passerby might add. “But I do know my
little girl was born with club feet and now they are straight, and
she can walk like anyone else, thanks to Shriners Hospitals for
can walk?” questions still another. “I thought the Shriners ran
those fantastic burn hospitals. I’ve read stories about them saving
kids with burns on 90 percent of their bodies.”
those people are right. Each has experienced an aspect of Shrinedom.
What they cannot experience, unless they are Shriners, is the
camaraderie, deep friendships, good fellowship and great times
shared by all Shriners. What they may not know is that all Shriners
share a Masonic heritage: Each is a Master Mason in the Freemasonry
Historically, Masons had to become members of the York or Scottish
Rite Bodies before becoming a Noble of the Shrine. However, at the
Imperial Council Session in July 2000, an amendment to Shrine law
changed that requirement, allowing Master Masons to become Shriners
There are nearly 500,000 Shriners now. They gather in Temples, or
chapters, throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the
Republic of Panama. There are 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children —
18 orthopaedic hospitals, three burn hospitals, and one hospital
that provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care. These
hospitals have cured or substantially helped more than 700,000
children — at no cost to parent or child — since the first Shriners
Hospital opened in 1922.
did it all start? How does it work? What is the Shrine?
Evolution Of The “World’s Greatest Fraternity”
1870, several thousand of the 900,000 residents of Manhattan were
Masons. Many of these Masons made it a point to lunch at the
Knickerbocker Cottage, a restaurant at 426 Sixth Avenue. At a
special table on the second floor, a particularly jovial group of
men used to meet regularly.
Masons who gathered at this table were noted for their good humor
and wit. They often discussed the idea of a new fraternity for
Masons, in which fun and fellowship would be stressed more than
ritual. Two of the table regulars, Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and
William J. Florence, an actor, took the idea seriously enough to do
something about it.
Billy Florence was a star. After becoming the toast of the New York
stage, he toured London, Europe and Middle Eastern countries, always
playing to capacity audiences. While on tour in Marseilles, France,
Florence was invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat. The
entertainment was something in the nature of an elaborately staged
musical comedy. At its conclusion, the guests became members of a
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Florence, recalling the conversations at the Knickerbocker Cottage,
realized that this might well be the vehicle for the new fraternity.
He made copious notes and drawings at that initial viewing and on
two other occasions when he attended the ceremony, once in Algiers
and again in Cairo. When he returned to New York in 1870 and showed
his material to Dr. Fleming, Fleming agreed.
Walter Millard Fleming was a prominent physician and surgeon. Born
in 1838, he obtained a degree in medicine in Albany, N.Y., in 1862.
During the Civil War, he was a surgeon with the 13th New York
Infantry Brigade of the National Guard. He then practiced medicine
in Rochester, New York, until 1868, when he moved to New York City
and quickly became a leading practitioner.
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Fleming was devoted to fraternalism. He became a Mason in Rochester
and took some of his Scottish Rite work there, then completed his
degrees in New York City. He was coroneted a 33° Scottish Rite Mason
on September 19, 1872.
Fleming took the ideas supplied by Florence and converted them into
what would become the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the
Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.).
the help of other Knickerbocker Cottage regulars, Fleming drafted
the ritual,designed the emblem and ritual costumes, formulated a
salutation, and declared that members would wear a red fez.
initiation rites, or ceremonials, were drafted by Fleming with the
help of three Brother Masons: Charles T. McClenachan, lawyer and
expert on Masonic Ritual; William Sleigh Paterson, printer, linguist
and ritualist; and Albert L. Rawson, prominent scholar and Mason who
provided much of the Arabic background.
Crescent was adopted as the Jewel of the Order. Though any materials
can be used in forming the Crescent, the most valuable are the claws
of a Royal Bengal Tiger, united at their base in a gold setting. In
the center is the head of a sphinx, and on the back are a pyramid,
an urn and a star. The Jewel bears the motto “Robur et Furor,” which
means “Strength and Fury.” Today, the Shrine emblem includes a
scimitar from which the crescent hangs, and a five-pointed star
beneath the head of the sphinx.
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Fleming and his coworkers also formulated a salutation used today by
Shriners—“Es Selamu Aleikum!”—which means, “Peace be with you!” In
returning the salutation, the gracious wish is “Aleikum Es Selamu,”
which means “With you be peace.”
red fez with a black tassel, the Shrine’s official headgear, has
been handed down through the ages. It derives its name from the
place where it was first manufactured — the holy city of Fez,
historians claim it dates back to about A.D. 980, but the name of
the fez, or tarboosh, does not appear in Arabic literature until
around the 14th century. One of the earliest references to the
headgear is in “Arabian Nights.”
September 26, 1872, in the New York City Masonic Hall, the first
Shrine Temple in the United States was organized. Brother
McClenachan and Dr. Fleming had completed the ritual and proposed
that the first Temple be named Mecca. The original 13 Masons of the
Knickerbocker Cottage lunch group were named Charter Members of
Mecca Temple (Mecca Shriners). Noble Florence read a letter
outlining the “history” of the Order and giving advice on the
conduct of meetings. The officers elected were Walter M. Fleming,
Potentate; Charles T. McClenachan, Chief Rabban; John A. Moore,
Assistant Rabban; Edward Eddy, High Priest and Prophet; George W.
Millar, Oriental Guide; James S. Chappel, Treasurer; William S.
Paterson, Recorder; and Oswald M. d’Aubigne, Captain of the Guard.
the organization was not an instant success, even though a second
Temple was chartered in Rochester in 1875. Four years after the
Shrine’s beginnings, there were only 43 Shriners, all but six of
whom were from New York.
meeting of Mecca Shriners on June 6, 1876, in the New York Masonic
Temple, a new body was created to help spur the growth of the young
fraternity. This governing body was called “The Imperial Grand
Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic
Shrine for the United States of America.” Fleming became the first
Imperial Grand Potentate, and the new body established rules for
membership and the formation of new Temples. The initiation ritual
was embellished, as was the mythology about the fraternity. An
extensive publicity and recruiting campaign was initiated.
worked. Just two years later, in 1878, there were 425 Shriners in 13
Temples. Five of these Temples were in New York, two were in Ohio
and the others were in Vermont, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Iowa,
Michigan and Massachusetts.
Shrine continued to grow during the 1880s. By the time of the 1888
Annual Session (convention) in Toronto, there were 7,210 members in
48 Temples located throughout the United States and one in Canada.
While the organization was still primarily social, instances of
philanthropic work became more frequent. During an 1888 Yellow Fever
epidemic in Jacksonville, Fla., members of the new Morocco Shriners
and Masonic Knights Templar worked long hours to relieve the
suffering populace. In 1889, Shriners came to the aid of the
Johnstown Flood victims. In 1898, there were 50,000 Shriners, and 71
of the 79 Temples were engaged in some sort of philanthropic work.
the turn of the century, the Shrine had come into its own. At its
1900 Imperial Session, representatives from 82 Temples marched in a
Washington, D.C., parade reviewed by President William McKinley.
Shrine membership was well over 55,000.
Evolution Of The “World’s Greatest Philanthropy”
Shrine was unstoppable in the early 1900s. Membership grew rapidly,
and the geographical range of Temples widened. Between 1900 and
1918, eight new Temples were created in Canada, and one each in
Honolulu, Mexico City and the Republic of Panama. The organization
became, in fact, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the
Mystic Shrine for North America. New flourishes were added to a
growing tradition of colorful pageantry. More Shrine bands were
formed. The first Shrine circus is said to have opened in 1906 in
During the same period, there was growing member support for
establishing an official Shrine charity. Most Temples had individual
philanthropies, and sometimes the Shrine as an organization gave
aid. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, the Shrine sent
$25,000 to help the stricken city, and in 1915, the Shrine
contributed $10,000 for the relief of European war victims. But
neither the individual projects nor the special one-time
contributions satisfied the membership, who wanted to do more.
1919, Freeland Kendrick (Lu Lu Shriners, Philadelphia) was the
Imperial Potentate-elect for the 363,744 Shriners. He had long been
searching for a cause for the thriving group to support. In a visit
to the Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Atlanta, he
became aware of the overwhelming needs of crippled children in North
America. At the June 1919 Imperial Session, Kendrick proposed
establishing “The Mystic Shriners Peace Memorial for Friendless,
Orphaned and Crippled Children.” His resolution never came to a
vote. As Imperial Potentate in 1919 and 1920, he traveled more than
150,000 miles, visiting a majority of the 146 Temples and
campaigning for an official Shrine philanthropy.
climax came at the June 1920 Imperial Session in Portland, Oregon.
Kendrick changed his resolution to one establishing the “Shriners
Hospital for Crippled Children,” to be supported by a $2 yearly
assessment from each Shriner (now $5 per year).
Conservative Shriners expressed doubts about the Shrine assuming
this kind of responsibility. Prospects for approval were dimming
when Noble Forrest Adair (Yaarab Shriners, Atlanta) rose to speak:
was lying in bed yesterday morning, about four o’clock . . . and
some poor fellow who had strayed from the rest of the band . . .
stood down there under the window for 25 minutes playing ‘I’m
Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ ”
said that when he awoke later, “I thought of the wandering minstrel,
and I wondered if there were not a deep significance in the tune
that he was playing for Shriners, ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.’ ”
noted, “While we have spent money for songs and spent money for
bands, it’s time for the Shrine to spend money for humanity.“
want to see this thing started. Let’s get rid of all the technical
objections. And if there is a Shriner in North America,” he
continued, “who objects to having paid the two dollars after he has
seen the first crippled child helped, I will give him a check back
for it myself.”
he was through, Noble Adair sat down to thunderous applause. The
whole tone of the session had changed. There were other speakers,
but the decision had already been reached. The resolution was passed
committee was chosen to determine the site and personnel for the
Shriners Hospital. After months of work, research and debate, the
committee concluded that there should be not just one hospital but a
network of hospitals throughout North America. It was an idea that
appealed to Shriners, who liked to do things in a big and colorful
way. When the committee brought the proposal to the 1921 Imperial
Session in Des Moines, Iowa, it too was passed.
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Before the June 1922 Session, the cornerstone was in place for the
first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport, La. The
rules for this hospital, and all the other Shriners Hospitals which
would follow, were simple: To be admitted, a child must be from a
family unable to pay for the orthopaedic treatment he would receive
(this is no longer a requirement), be under 14 years of age (later
increased to 18) and be, in the opinion of the chief of staff,
someone whose condition could be helped.
work of the great Shriners Hospitals network is supervised by the
members of the Board of Trustees, who are elected at the annual
meeting of the hospital corporation. Each hospital operates under
the supervision of a local Board of Governors, a chief of staff and
an administrator. Members of the boards are Shriners, who serve
network of orthopaedic hospitals grew as follows: Shreveport, Sept.
16, 1922; Honolulu, Jan. 2, 1923; Twin Cities, March 12, 1923; San
Francisco, June 16, 1923 (relocated to Sacramento in 1997);
Portland, Jan. 15, 1924; St. Louis, April 8, 1924; Spokane, Nov. 15,
1924; Salt Lake City, Jan. 22, 1925; Montreal, Feb. 18, 1925;
Springfield, Feb. 21, 1925; Chicago, March 20, 1926; Philadelphia,
June 24, 1926; Lexington, Nov. 1, 1926; Greenville, Sept. 1, 1927;
Mexico City, March 10, 1945; Houston, Feb. 1, 1952; Los Angeles,
Feb. 25, 1952; Winnipeg, March 16, 1952 (closed Aug. 12, 1977);
Erie, April 1, 1967; Tampa, Oct. 16, 1985, and Sacramento, Calif.,
April 14, 1997. This newest Shriners Hospital is the only one in the
Shrine system that provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury
care, and conducts research, all in a single facility.
first patient to be admitted in 1922 was a little girl with a club
foot from the red clay country south of Shreveport, La., who had
learned to walk on the top of her foot rather than the sole. The
first child to be admitted in Minneapolis was a Blackfoot Indian boy
suffering from the deformities of polio. Since that time, more than
700,000 children have been treated at the 22 Shriners Hospitals.
Surgical techniques developed in Shriners Hospitals have become
standard in the orthopaedic world. Thousands of children have been
fitted with arm and leg braces and artificial limbs, most of them
made in special labs in the hospitals by expert technicians.
1950 to 1960, the Shrine’s funds for helping children increased
rapidly. At the same time, the waiting lists of new patients for
admission to Shriners Hospitals
began to decline, due to the polio vaccine and new antibiotics.
Thus, Shriners found themselves able to provide additional services,
and Shrine leaders began to look for other ways they could help the
children of North America.
result was the collating of the medical records of patients of
Shriners Hospitals. By placing the records of each patient and
treatment on computer and microfilm, valuable information was made
available to all Shriners surgeons and the medical world as a whole.
This process, begun in 1959, also made it easier to initiate
clinical research in Shriners orthopaedic hospitals.
Shriners Hospitals had always engaged in clinical research, and in
the early ’60s, the Shrine aggressively entered the structured
research field and began earmarking funds for research projects. By
1967, Shriners were spending $20,000 on orthopaedic research. Today,
the annual research budget totals approximately $25 million. Shrine
researchers are working on a wide variety of projects, including
studies of bone and joint diseases, such as juvenile rheumatoid
arthritis; increasing basic knowledge of the structure and function
of connective tissue; and refining functional electrical
stimulation, which is enabling children with spinal cord injuries to
have limited use of their arms and legs.
the Burn Care Field
expansion of orthopaedic work was not enough for the Shriners. They
had enough funds to further expand their philanthropy. The only
question was: What unmet need could they fill?
special committee was established to explore areas of need and found
that burn treatment was a field of service that was being bypassed.
In the early ’60s, the only burn treatment center in the United
States was part of a military complex. The committee was ready with
a resolution for the 1962 Imperial Session in Toronto. The
resolution, dated July 4, 1962, was adopted by unanimous vote.
November 1, 1963, the Shrine opened a seven-bed wing in the John
Sealy Hospital on the University of Texas Medical Branch in
Galveston as an interim center for the care of severely burned
children. On February 1, 1964, the Shrine opened a seven-bed ward in
the Cincinnati General Hospital on the campus of the University of
Cincinnati. A third interim operation, a five-bed ward, was opened
March 13, 1964, in the Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston) under
the direction of Harvard Medical School.
While children were being treated in these wards, separate buildings
were constructed near each interim location. These buildings, three
30-bed pediatric burn hospitals, were designed to meet the special
needs of burned children. At each, the staffs remain affiliated with
their neighboring universities so that they may better carry out
their three-fold program of treatment, research and teaching.
hospital in Galveston opened March 20, 1966; the hospital in
Cincinnati opened February 19, 1968; and the Boston hospital opened
November 2, 1968. New facilities would be constructed for all three
burn hospitals in the 1990s. The new Cincinnati and Galveston
hospitals were completed in 1992, and the new Boston hospital was
completed in 1999.
new burn treatment center opened in 1997, in the new Shriners
Hospital in Sacramento, Calif. This newest Shriners Hospital
provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care, and serves
as the Shrine’s primary burn treatment center in the western United
States. The Sacramento Hospital also conducts research into all
Since the Shriners opened their burn hospitals in the 1960s, a
burned child’s chance of survival has more than doubled. They have
saved children burned over 90 percent of their bodies. The
techniques they have pioneered to prevent the crippling effects of
severe burns have made a normal life possible for thousands of burn
importantly, perhaps, the establishment of the burn Shriners
Hospitals has alerted the medical world to this special need, which
has, in turn, led to the establishment of non-Shrine burn centers
throughout North America.
Shriners Hospitals the work goes on, continually searching for new
ways to heal severe burns and reduce or, as much as possible,
eliminate the crippling and scarring effects of those burns. Because
of the special nature of the burn hospitals, they will surely always
be on the frontier of burn care.
Continuing the Commitment
During the 1980s, Shriners Hospitals initiated a number of new
programs in their efforts to continue providing high-quality
pediatric orthopaedic and burn care. One of the most significant was
the 1980 opening of the spinal cord injury (SCI) rehabilitation unit
at the Shriners Hospital in Philadelphia — the first spinal cord
injury unit in the United States designed specifically for children
and teenagers who suffer from these injuries. By 1984, two
additional spinal cord injury units were operating in the Shriners
Hospitals in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1997, the San Francisco
Hospital, including the SCI unit, was relocated to the newest
Shriners Hospitals in Sacramento, Calif.
the Shrine’s SCI units, children receive long-term rehabilitative
care and physical and occupational therapy to help them relearn the
basic skills of everyday life. Counseling sessions help patients
learn to cope with the emotional aspects of their injury and help
them lead fulfilling lives by emphasizing the abilities they still
have. Patients may enter an SCI unit apprehensive about the future,
but after months of encouragement and support, they often leave with
a sense of hope and optimism.
ongoing study at the Philadelphia Hospital is giving children with
cerebral palsy and spinal cord injuries a sense of hope as well.
Researchers have found that when using functional electrical
stimulation (FES), the posture of a child’s foot and ankle is
improved. In turn, it has a positive affect on their gait, making
walking an achievable goal.
Another important undertaking that was begun during the 1980s was an
aggressive rebuilding and renovation program, involving the
construction of new facilities and extensive renovations throughout
the Shriners Hospital system. In 1981, the Representatives at the
107th Imperial Council Session approved a major expansion and
reconstruction program, which included the construction of a new
orthopaedic hospital in Tampa, Fla. The opening of the Tampa
Hospital in 1985 — the first new hospital added to the Shrine system
since the 1960s — brought the Shriners Hospital system back to 22
hospitals. Since 1981, 21 Shriners Hospitals have either been
rebuilt or totally renovated. In 1998, the Joint Boards decided to
build a new facility for the Mexico City Hospital, which underwent
extensive renovations in 1989.
1989, another significant decision was made when the Shriners voted
to construct a new hospital in the Northern California region, to
replace the existing San Francisco Hospital. In 1990, Sacramento was
chosen as the site for the new hospital. Construction began in 1993,
and in 1997, the new Northern California Hospital in Sacramento
opened its doors.
during the 1980s, because of the high number of patients with
myelodysplasia (spina bifida), many of the Shriners Hospitals
developed special programs to provide comprehensive,
multidisciplinary care to these patients.
Previously, Shriners Hospitals had provided the orthopaedic care
these children needed, but in 1986, the Joint Boards of Directors
and Trustees approved a policy permitting the hospitals to address
the multiple needs of these children by providing their medical,
neurosurgical and urological requirements, as well as their
psychosocial, nutritional and recreational needs.
During the 1980s, the Los Angeles and Springfield Shriners Hospitals
expanded their prosthetic services with regional prosthetic research
programs. Both programs conduct research into ways to improve or
create new prosthetics and help rehabilitate limb-deficient
children. These two programs, in addition to various other research
programs throughout the 22 hospital system, join the prosthetic and
orthotic labs throughout the Shriners Hospital system in ensuring
that Shriners Hospitals remain leaders in the field of children’s
orthotics and prosthetics.
burn hospitals also took steps to ensure that burn patients continue
to receive the most advanced burn treatment available. The Shriners
Hospital in Cincinnati initiated a burns air ambulance, the first
air ambulance in the country devoted exclusively to transporting
burn victims. The burn hospitals also developed a re-entry program,
to assist burn patients in their return home after being discharged
from the hospital. During 1992, new replacement facilities for the
Cincinnati and Galveston burn hospitals were dedicated, and
groundbreaking ceremonies were held for a new facility for the
Boston Hospital. All the burn hospitals are continuing to conduct
research in their ongoing efforts to improve care for burned
1996, Shrine Representatives took another significant step when they
voted to officially change the name of their philanthropy to
“Shriners Hospitals for Children.” In a move that permanently
eliminated the word “crippled” from the organization’s corporate
name, the Representatives made the change in an effort to have the
name better reflect the mission of Shriners Hospitals and the
expansions of services that have been added over the years,
including the opening of the burn hospitals and the addition of
programs of comprehensive care for children with myelodysplasia. The
new name is intended to reflect the philosophy of Shriners
Hospitals, which provide medical care for children totally free of
charge, based only on what’s best for the child. The new name,
likewise, does not label children in any way, but simply recognizes
them for what they are: children. Though they have a new name,
Shriners Hospitals continue to focus on their mission of helping
children lead better lives.
way Shriners Hospitals is helping to improve lives is with the help
of Outcomes research. This type of research looks for opportunities
to improve Shriners Hospital practices, both clinical and
operational, to help bring better care and quality of life to
patients. The Outcomes studies utilize more than one Shriners
Hospital, and the projects, studies and performance improvement
initiatives directly impact changes in operations and patient care
practices at all 22 Shriners Hospitals.
ensure Shriners Hospitals is constantly on the cutting edge of
research, Shriners enlists the help of advisory boards, which are
made up of eminent surgeons, clinicians and scientists who review
grants and offer expertise on project funding. The Medical Advisory
Board, Research Advisory Board and Clinical Outcomes Studies
Advisory Board also provide review, guidance and subjective
assessment to many areas of Shriners Hospitals.
they look to the future, the Joint Boards are committed to
maintaining Shriners Hospitals for Children as leaders in children’s
pediatric orthopaedic and burn care.
the hospital network grew, the fraternity continued in its grand
tradition. In 1923, there was a Shriner in the White House, and
Noble/President William G. Harding reviewed the Shriners parade at
the 1923 Imperial Session in Washington, D.C.
East/West Shrine Game
East/West Shrine College All-Star Football Game was established in
1925, in San Francisco with the motto “Strong Legs Run So Weak Legs
May Walk.” Throughout its history, this traditional post-season game
has raised millions of dollars for Shriners Hospitals and helped
millions of people become more familiar with the story of Shriners
Hospitals. In this, as in other Shrine football games, the young
players visit patients at, so the players themselves know the real
purpose of the game.
1930, the Imperial Session was to be held in Toronto. For his
Session, Imperial Potentate Leo V. Youngworth wanted something
special. With the appropriate approval, the leader of 600,000
Shriners commissioned a peace monument to be built in Toronto. It
was to face south, commemorating 150 years of friendship between the
United States and Canada.
Peace Memorial was relocated and rededicated during the 1962
Imperial Session, and it stands today outside the National
Exposition grounds in Toronto. When the Shriners returned to Toronto
in 1989, for the 115th Imperial Council Session, the memorial was
again rededicated, representing a renewed commitment to the Shrine’s
international brotherhood and fraternalism. The plaque reads:
“Erected and dedicated to the cause of universal peace by the
Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North
America June 12, 1930.”
1930 Session was the Shrine’s own antidote to the pervasive gloom of
the Great Depression. But it was only temporary. Not even Shriners
could escape the Depression. For the first time in its history, the
Shrine began to lose members — the Nobles just could not pay their
struggle to keep the hospitals and the fraternity going during these
years was enormous. It was necessary to dip into the Endowment Fund
capital to cover operating costs of the hospitals. To ensure the
financial distinction between the hospitals and the fraternity, a
corporation for each was established in 1937.
Shrine and its hospitals somehow survived the Depression. In the
1940s, like the rest of North America, the Shrine adjusted to
wartime existence. Imperial Sessions were limited to business and
were attended only by official Temple Representatives. Shrine parade
units stayed home and marched in local patriotic parades. During the
four years of war, more than $1 billion was invested by and through
the Shrine in government war bonds. The hospital corporation also
invested all of its available funds in government securities. After
World War II, the economy improved, and men found renewed interest
in fraternalism. By 1942, membership was once more increasing.
Until 1928, the Shrine’s national offices were in Richmond, Va. With
the growth of the fraternity, there were increasing pressures to
locate Shrine headquarters in some city that would be more
convenient to all Temples. Thus, in 1958, the building at 323 North
Michigan Avenue, Chicago, was purchased. At a special Session held
April 10th, 1978, in Tampa, Fla., representatives voted to relocate
Shrine Headquarters to 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa. The Tampa
headquarters houses the administrative personnel for both the Iowa
(fraternal) and Colorado (Shriners Hospitals) corporations,
fraternal and hospital records, the attorneys who monitor the many
estates involved in Shriners Hospitals for Children, and the various
other departments that support the day-to-day operations of the
Shrine fraternity and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
expansion project was begun in 1987 to meet the ever-increasing
needs of theShrine and Shriners Hospitals. A third wing, or pod, was
added to the rear of the existing building, and the board room and
executive offices for the fraternity and hospital system were
relocated to the new area, allowing several departments to expand
their offices in the original sections. The new, enlarged board room
provides space for meetings of the Joint Boards and their
committees, and for conferences.
1993, the Commemorative Plaza was built, with its larger than
life-size statue of a Shriner carrying a child. The statue
represents what has become known as the “Editorial Without Words,”
probably one of the best-recognized symbols of Shriners Hospitals
polished marble plaza features a semi-circular wall engraved with
the names of every Imperial Potentate (Chief Executive Officer) of
the Shrine and his year served. In addition, below the statue is a
cylindrical base engraved with the names of the 22 Shriners
Hospitals and surrounded by a fountain. Around the fountain are
large inlaid marble squares bearing the engraved names of each of
the Shrines 191 Temples, each Temple’s city and state, year of
incorporation and the Shrine insignia (the scimitar). To the rear of
the Commemorative Plaza and in front of the headquarters building
are four flag poles topped with flags of the United States, Canada,
Mexico and Panama, representing the countries with Shrine
early 1999, a major construction and renovation effort was begun
that would add 35,000 square feet to the existing facility, bringing
the total office area to about 120,000 square feet. This effort was
initiated to accommodate the healthcare initiatives and trends
taking place in the industry in the late 1990s. The exterior work
came to an end in December 2001, with the installation of a
three-dimensional 11-by-9-foot Shrine scimitar on the front of the
building. The new windows on the building have a bluish- green tint,
giving the building a different appearance than the gold tinted
windows, which served as a landmark to identify the headquarters for
two decades. On Feb. 24, 2002, the newly renovated Shriners
International Headquarters was rededicated.
Shrine of North America — How The Organization Works
Shrine Temples are located throughout the United States, Canada,
Mexico and the Republic of Panama, with Shrine Clubs around the
world. There is, therefore, a special Shrine Pledge of Allegiance:
“I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the country for which it
stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice
for all.” Wherever Shriners gather, the national flags of the United
States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama are flown.
Today, there are nearly 500,000 Shriners who belong to 191 Shrine
Temples, or chapters, from Al Aska Shriners in Anchorage, Alaska, to
Abou Saad Shriners in Panama, and from Aloha Shriners in Honolulu to
Philae Shriners in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Temple memberships range
from approximately 11,000 (Murat Shriners in Indianapolis) to about
420 (Media Shriners in Watertown, NY).
Temples, their Units and affiliated Shrine Clubs embody the true
spirit of fraternalism, and wherever a Shriner goes, he can be
certain there are Nobles who will extend their hand in greeting and
call him “Brother.”
better understand how all this works, an observer can start at a
local Temple. All Temples are run by an elected Divan (officers),
headed by the Potentate and the Chief Rabban. A Recorder, or record
keeper/administrator, usually maintains an office at the Temple. One
member is elected or appointed to the “lowest rung” each January and
under traditional practice moves up one “rung” each year. Thus, by
the time he becomes Potentate of his Temple, a Shriner usually has
at least four years of experience in Temple leadership.
Stated meetings of the Temple membership as a whole must be held at
least four times a year. In addition, each Temple holds one or more
ceremonials every year for the induction of new members. There are
also many Temple, Unit, and Shrine Club social events each year.
Units are smaller groups within a Temple which are organized for a
specific purpose. Many of these are the uniformed Units so familiar
to parade watchers: Oriental Bands, Shrine Bands, Horse and Motor
Patrols, Highlander Units, Clowns, Drum Corps, Chanters, and Legions
of Honor. Other Temple Units can include hospital hosts or guides,
and transportation Units which work closely with their local
Shriners Hospital — either with the children at the hospital or in
transporting patients to and from the hospital.
Each Temple has a clearly defined territory from which it can obtain
new members. Since these jurisdictions are often quite large,
smaller geographical units may be organized for fellowship purposes.
These are the Shrine Clubs, under the control of their mother
addition, any number of Temples may form a Shrine Association for
social conventions, if the Imperial Council issues an appropriate
charter. There are currently 20 Regional Associations and 19 Shrine
191 Shrine Temples are governed by the Imperial Council, which is
composed of Representatives. The Representatives of the Imperial
Council include all past and present Imperial Officers, Emeritus
Representatives (who have served 15 years or more), and
Representatives elected from each Temple. A Temple may have two
Representatives if its membership exceeds 300, three if more than
600, and four if more than 1,000. These Representatives meet once a
year — usually in July at the Imperial Council Session — to make
policy decisions and legislation regarding both the fraternity and
the hospitals. With nearly 900 Representatives, the Imperial Council
constitutes one of the largest legislative bodies in the world. The
Representatives also elect the Imperial Officers. The President of
the Colorado Corporation and members of the Board of Trustees for
Shriners Hospitals for Children are elected by the members of the
Imperial Divan, the Shrine’s international governing body, consists
of 13 officers plus an Imperial Chaplain. The Imperial Treasurer and
the Imperial Recorder may be elected for several consecutive years;
they are the only officers receiving any type of compensation. As
with Temple Divans, an officer (with the exception of Treasurer and
Recorder) is elected to the bottom of the Divan and, barring
unforeseen circumstances, moves up one position each year. These
officers, elected from among the Representatives, are usually past
Temple Potentates. The Divan plus the immediate Past Imperial
Potentate constitute the Board of Directors of the fraternal
corporation and they, with the Chairman of the Board of Trustees,
constitute the Board of Directors of the hospital corporation.
chief executive officer for the Shrine of North America is the
Imperial Potentate, who is elected for one year. He visits many of
the Shrine Temples and hospitals and generally supervises both
fraternal and hospital policy.
help him with these tasks, the Imperial Potentate appoints
committees to implement the various Shrine programs. One of the most
important of these committees is the Endowments, Wills and Gifts
Committee, which coordinates and supervises contributions and
bequests given to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
day-to-day operations — keeping the records and accounts of the
fraternity and hospitals, supervising the estates left to Shriners
Hospitals and producing printed materials for the entire Shrine
organization — are carried out at International Headquarters in
Tampa. These offices are supervised by an executive vice president
of the Imperial Council, an executive vice president of Shriners
Hospitals, and a legal department, which is under the supervision of
a managing attorney.
However complex the Shrine may seem, its essence is the fraternal
fellowship for which it was originally founded. It has been said
that there are no strangers in Shrinedom. This is evident in the
great times and laughter wherever Shriners get together, whether in
a local Shrine Club meeting, a Temple ceremonial, a Shrine
Association gathering or an Imperial Session. All Shriners share not
just a Masonic background but a zest for living.
Though this quality remains consistent — from the original 13
members to the hundreds of thousands of Shriners today — the Shrine
has adapted to many changes. Many more Temple and convention
activities include the families of Shriners. Today, many Shriners
are deeply involved in Shriners Hospital work in addition to their
Shrine Temples sponsor fund-raising events to provide funds for
Shriners Hospitals. In one calendar year there can be nearly 500 of
these events, which range from the East/West Shrine Game and other
football games to horse shows, hospital paper sales, and
miscellaneous sports and social events.
During the 1980s, Shriners Hospitals experienced the greatest
expansion in their history, with major building programs, increasing
numbers of patients receiving care, and expansion of services. As
the new millennium approaches, all 22 Shriners Hospitals are
maintaining their position at the forefront of specialized pediatric
orthopaedic and burn care. The Joint Boards plan to continue
updating their facilities, expanding their research programs and
increasing their ability to meet the needs of thousands of children
in need of expert orthopaedic and burn care. In this way, Shriners
Hospitals will continue to meet a special need for children.
Thus, whatever changes occur within the fraternal organization or
within the Shriners Hospital system, the Shrine of North America
will remain the “World’s Greatest Fraternity,” operating and
maintaining the “World’s Greatest Philanthropy.”
George Washington Masonic Memorial