great Shrine organization of today traces its
origins to New York City and to four dedicated
men. The men were Dr. Walter M. Fleming (b 1838),
actor William Jermyn Conlin (born July 26, 1831,
better known by his stage name William J. Florence),
Charles T. McClenachan and William S. Paterson
In 1870. These four men were Masons. Many Manhattan
Masons of the era made it a point to lunch at
the Knickerbocker Cottage, a restaurant at 426
Sixth Avenue. A particularly jovial group of
Masons used to meet regularly at a special table
on the second floor of the restaurant.
It was Fleming's idea to establish a fun fraternal
order for men who had completed their requirements
in the Scottish or York Rite Masonic organizations.
presented his idea to William Florence, like
Fleming a resident of Albany, NY, who became
a world-renowned actor. Florence was later to
provide the founding group with the key elements
for the colorful Shrine rituals. Charles T.
McClenachan, an outstanding lawyer, was in addition
a well-known expert on Masonic ritual. The fourth
founding member of the organization was William
Paterson, a native Scotsman who had a successful
career as a printer in New York City. Fleming,
Florence, McClenachan and Paterson formed the
nucleus of a luncheon club where the prime topic
was formation of a new order.
September 26, 1872, the original 13 met in New
York's Masonic Hall, 114 East Thirteenth Street,
for the purpose of formally organizing the Ancient
Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for
North America. The Shrine was born.
13 original members of the New York luncheon
club were named as charter members of the New
York Temple, named Mecca. The following officers
were elected: William J. Fleming, Potentate;
Charles T. McClenachan, Chief Rabban; John A.
Moore, Assistant Rabban; William S. Paterson,
Recorder; Edward Eddy, High Priest; James S.
Chappell, Treasurer; George W. Millar, Oriental
Guide; Oswald M. d'Aubigne, Captain of the Guard.
new Shrine was not an immediate success in terms
of membership. Fleming was especially active
in recruiting new members, but by September
1876, there were only 43 Nobles, and 37 of these
were from New York City.
spark that was needed to make the Shrine prosper
apparently was formation of the Imperial Council.
Fleming conceived the idea. At the meeting
in New York's Masonic Temple June 6, 1876, about
309 members from Mecca Temple performed the
ritual of an annual Imperial Session, and the
Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic
Shrine for North America was conferred on 25
neophytes. At a later business meeting,
Noble Fleming called for the formation of a
parent governing body for the Order.
recommendation was approved, and creation of
the Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Arabic
Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine was authorized.
whose tremendous energy had helped carry the
Order through its difficult early years, was
elected to a three-year term as the first Grand
first meeting of the Imperial Council was brief,
but in addition to election of officers, it
accomplished the following:
Established New York City as the Grand Orient
or headquarters for the Imperial Council,
Approved a plan to install five Past Potentates
from each subordinate temple as honorary members
of the Imperial Council,
Created a committee to write statutes and regulations
for governance of the Imperial Council and its
Established a $50 fee for charters for new temples,
$10 as an annual temple tax to be paid to the
Imperial Council, and $10 as the minimum initiation
fee for new members,
Adopted a resolution making it mandatory that
all Shriners be members in good standing of
either the Scottish Rite or Knights Templar.
(Recently the Imperial Council amended this
resolution to allow Master Masons in good standing
Established the following temples; Mahammed
in New Haven, Conn., Ziyara in Utica, NY, Pyramid
in Bridgeport, Conn., and Syria in Pittsburgh.
McClenachan, Ehlers and J.H. Hobart were named
to the committee on statutes and regulations.
first official act of the Imperial Council was
to grant a charter to Mecca Temple, bearing
the date September 26, 1872. The council placed
a limit of 33 on its own membership and ruled
that only active life members who ere Potentates
or Past Potentates could belong to the Council.
The Imperial Grand Council would meet each year
during the first week of February at Albany,
NY it was decided.
Sinai Temple at Montpelier VT was granted a
charter in 1876. At the February 6, 1877 meeting
of the Imperial Grand Council in Albany, members
made appointments bringing to 30 the Council
membership. The Council also voted to present
each new Noble with certificate, specified official
jewels and costumes for the respective offices,
and required each new temple to select an ancient
Arabic or Egyptian name.
1877, charters were granted to Oriental Temple
at Troy, NY, to Al Koran Temple in Cleveland,
to Syrian Temple in Cincinnati, and to Cyprus
Temple in Albany.
was between the late 1880's and the early 1900's
that the Shrine enjoyed great membership growth
and vigorous program activity. Here are some
of the highlights of that period:
- Imperial Grand Council met in Cleveland and
voted to drop the word "Grand" from the Council
- The irrepressible Dr. Fleming stepped down
as Imperial Potentate after 12 years, and was
replaced by Noble Sam Briggs of Cleveland.
- Twelve new temples were chartered and the
Imperial Council met outside of the U.S. for
the first time, at Toronto, Canada.
- The Imperial Council enacted the famous three-blackball
veto on Shrine membership and the term for Imperial
officers was reduced from three years to one
- The Council banned use of emblems of any other
secret organization with those of the Shrine,
and forbade wearing of the fez and jewel except
for Shrine functions.
- King Kalakaua of Hawaii was initiated in the
Shrine January 14 in a ceremony at the Palace
Hotel in San Francisco.
- The Council rejected applications for Temples
in Mexico and the Sandwich Islands.
- All but seven of the 78 temples were engaged
in some form of charitable work.
- The Imperial Council ruled that a Noble could
belong to more than one temple.
- Membership passed the 100,000 mark. The Shrine
sent monetary aid to victims of the great San
famous Shriner's fez was the subject of new
legislation in 1915. New regulations prescribed
that the red Turkish fez with black tassel be
adorned only by the name of the temple and the
scimitar and the part of the jewel of the order
including the sphinx head and star. The adornments
were to be embroidered in gold or silver bullion
or silk. Titles, names of units and other extras
were barred from the fez.
First World War seemed to mark a new era of
civic and patriotic fervor by the AAONMS.
The hard work associated with establishment
of the order was behind, and there was time
for serious thought about issues of the day.
1916, the first Shrine pilgrimage to Alaska
took place. In 1918, Shrine membership passed
259,000. The temples purchased nearly $1 million
in Liberty Loan Bonds and subscribed $110,453
to the Red Cross.
the beginnings, in 1871 (MECCA TEMPLE) through
1920 approximately, there was no single approved
philanthropy. The Temples were generous, however,
in supporting various local and national charities.
In 1919, the Honorable W. Freeland Kendrick,
Potentate of LU LU 1906-1918, and later Mayor
of Philadelphia, 1924-1928, launched the idea
that the Shrine should undertake something for
“friendless, orphaned, and crippled children.”
The following year (1920) at the Imperial Council
Session in Portland, OR, Imperial Sir Kendrick
introduced (and it was adopted) a motion to
“establish a Shriners Hospital for Crippled
Children.” An annual assessment of $2.00, from
every Shriner to support the Hospital, was approved,
and a Committee of Seven was appointed by Imperial
Sir Kendrick to implement the program.
Hospital System has grown to its current
size of 22 pediatric hospitals in the United
States, Canada, and Mexico, and three Burns
Institutes providing specialized care for orthopedic
conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and
cleft lip and palate. All services are provided
at no charge. The name has changed to The Shrine
Hospitals for Children. Every Shriner today
contributes $5.00 of his annual membership dues
to the Hospital System.
Kendrick (known as “Free” or “Freel”) became
known as the “Father” of the Hospital System.
He served on the National Board (he chaired
it for many years) and served on the Philadelphia
Hospital Board until his death, March 20, 1953.
After serving as Imperial Potentate 1919/1920,
Freel returned to LU LU, where he again served
as Potentate for three years (1921-23).In 1920,
the Shrine took a public stand in favor of free
and compulsory education supported by public
taxes in America.
growth continued. Membership passed 511,000
in 1922. Initial steps were taken to copyright
all Shrine emblems and insignia.
humor befitting the Shrine philosophy, the founders
of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of
the Mystic Shrine of North America on looking
around, decided that America was a suitable
place to rest the camels of the great caravan,
that the shade of the old apple trees was cool
and delicious, and that her Shareefs, Bashi-Bazooks
and wail-dervishes were thirsty for knowledge."