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THE HISTORY OF THE SHRINERS

 

The History of the Shriners

The Shriners, or Shrine Masons, belong to the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America (A.A.O.N.M.S.). The Shrine is an international fraternity of approximately 600,000 members who belong to Shrine Temples throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Republic of Panama. Founded in New York City in 1872, the organization is composed solely of Master Masons, 32nd degree Scottish Rite Masons or Knights Templar York Rite Masons.

The Shrine is best known for its colorful parades, its distinctive red fez, and its official philanthropy, Shriners Hospitals for Children, which is often called "the heart and soul of the Shrine.

 

Why do Shriners wear a Fez?

The red fez with a black tassel, the Shrine's most distinctive symbol, has been handed down through the ages. It derives its name from the place where it was first manufactured - the holy city of Fez, Morocco. The fez was chosen as part of the Shrine's Arabic (Near-Eastern) theme, around which the color and pageantry of the Shrine are developed.

 

The Shrine's Middle Eastern Theme

The Shrine is as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. It was tied to an Arabic theme by its founders, Billy Florence, an actor, and Walter Fleming, a physician. Fleming and Florence realized the fledging fraternity needed a colorful, exciting backdrop. It is believed that Florence conceived the Shrine's Near Eastern setting while on tour in Europe.

As the legend goes, Florence attended a party in Marseilles, France, hosted by an Arabian diplomat. At the end of the party, the guests became members of a secret society. Florence realized this might be the ideal vehicle for the new fraternity, and he made copious notes and drawings of the ceremony.

When Florence returned to the States, Fleming agreed, and together they created elaborate rituals, designed the emblem and costumes, and formulated the salutation.
Though the Shrine is not itself a secret society, it still retains much of the mysticism and secrecy of its origins.

The Shrine supported various charities almost from its inception. In 1920, however, the organization voted to adopt its own official philanthropy, dedicated to providing free orthopedic medical care to children in need, and the first Shriners Hospital was built in Shreveport, LA., in 1922. The Shrine's philanthropy eventually expanded to 22 "Centers of Excellence."