A Short History
of Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Shriners International
What is a Shriner? What kind of organisation attracts physicians, lawyers, truck drivers, dentists, contractors, heads of state, movie stars, generals, constabulary, clergymen and accountants?
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 circuses and clowns. The fellow next to him might interject, “No, Shriners are the guys who wear those funny hats – like flowerpots – and have those big conventions.”
“I don’t know about that,” a passerby might add. “But I do know my little girl was born with clubfeet and now they are straight, and she can walk like anyone else, thanks to Shriners Hospitals for Children.”
“She 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 ninety per-cent of their bodies.”
All those people are right. Each has experienced an aspect of Shrinedom. What they cannot experience, unless they are Shriners, are 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 fraternity.
Historically, Masons had to become members of the York Rite or Scottish Rite bodies before becoming a Shriner. However, at the Imperial Council session in July 2000, an amendment to Shrine law changed that requirement, allowing Master Masons to become Shriners directly.
There are more than 411,000 Shriners now. They gather in ‘temples’, or chapters, throughout the United States, Canada, México and Panamá. There are twenty-two Shriners Hospitals for Children providing care for orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate. These hospitals have helped more than 800,000 children – at no cost to parent or child – since the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922. How did it all start? How does it work?
In 1870, several thousand of the 900,000 residents of Manhattan were Freemasons. Many of these Masons made it a point to lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage, a restaurant then located at 426 Sixth Avenue [now Avenue of the Americas]. At a special table on the second floor, a particularly jovial group of men used to meet regularly.
The Freemasons who gathered at this table were noted for their good humour and wit. They often discussed the idea of a new fraternity for Freemasons, in which fun and fellowship would be stressed more than ritual. Two of the table regulars, Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Conlin, an actor and playwright better known by his nom de théàtre, William J. “Billy” Florence, 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. Florence, recalling conversations at the Knickerbocker Cottage, realised that this Near East (Arabian) theme might well be the vehicle for the new fraternity, given its great appeal at the time. In the mid-late 19th Century, the Near East was a popular theme, particularly following the explorations by Captain Sir Richard F. Burton, KCMG, FRGS. This was the era of the popularisation of the Book of 1001 Arabian Nights and its stories of Sinbad, Aladdin’s genie-infested lamp, Ali Baba & the Forty Thieves, and flying carpets; a time of Zouave uniforms on regiments in the armies of the United States, Confederate States, France and other countries.
Dr. Walter Fleming was a prominent physician and surgeon. Born in Portland, Maine, on 13 June 1838, he obtained a degree in medicine in Albany, New York, in 1862. During the American Civil War, he was appointed a surgeon in the New York National Guard, first in the 1st Cavalry Regiment, and then with the 19th Regiment. He then practiced medicine in Rochester, New York, until 1868, when he moved to New York City and quickly became a leading practitioner. Fleming was devoted to fraternalism. He was raised a Master 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 Freemason and Inspector General Honorary on 19 September 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.). With the help of other Knickerbocker Cottage regulars, Fleming drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and costumes, formulated a salutation, and declared that members would wear a red fez.
The initiation rites, or ceremonials, were drafted by Fleming with the help of three Brother Masons: Charles T. McClenachan, a lawyer and expert on Masonic ritual; William Sleigh Paterson, a printer, linguist and ritualist; and Albert L. Rawson, a prominent scholar and Freemason who provided much of the Arabic background.
Nobles Florence and Fleming received The Order of the Mystic Shrine on 13 August 1870; the next eleven nobles on 16 June 1871. This was in keeping with the practice of the Knickerbocker Cottage Freemasons who celebrated the lucky number 13 by meeting in groups of thirteen, dining promptly at 12:13 p.m., organising games in which the number 13 was prominent, inter alia.
The crescent was adopted as the jewel of the order. Although 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 centre 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,”
Latin for “Strength and Fury.” Today, the emblem includes a scimitar
from which the crescent hangs, and a five-pointed star beneath the head
of the sphinx.
Noble Dr. Fleming and his comrades also formulated a salutation used today by Shriners: السلام عليكم [transliterated into Roman characters as either “As-Salāmu `Alaykum” or “Es Selamu Aleikum!”] which means, “Peace be upon you!” In returning the salutation, the gracious wish is وا عليكم السلا [transliterated into Roman characters as either "wa `Alaykum As-Salām” or “Aleikum Es Selamu”], meaning “And upon you be peace.”
The red fez with a black tassel, Shriners’ official headgear, has been handed down through the ages since Ancient Greece. It derives its name from the place where Western Europeans first discovered it: the city of Fez, Morocco.
The fez bears the Shrine fraternal emblem under the name of the temple to which the wearer belongs, written in large, elaborate style. Below the emblem, the wearer may display in simple block letters his office or the name of a unit, club or committee to which he belongs within that temple. The only other adornments permitted are one or two tassel holder pins.
On 26 September 1872, in the New York City Masonic Hall, the first Shrine temple was organised. Brothers McClenachan and Fleming had completed the ritual and proposed that the first temple be named Mecca. The original thirteen Freemasons of the Knickerbocker Cottage lunch group were named charter members of Mecca Temple [now 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 organisation was not an instant success, even though a second temple, Damascus Shriners, was chartered in Rochester in 1875 [later removing to Webster]. Four years after Shriners’ beginnings, there were only forty-three nobles, all but six of whom were from New York. Two of those other six were Chicagoans Dr. Vincent Lumbard Hurlbut and his brother-in-law Major Edgar P. Tobey. Illustrious Sir Fleming named Hurlbut his Shrine Deputy for Illinois, and Tobey would become the first potentate of Medinah Temple [now Medinah Shriners] in December 1882.
At a meeting of Mecca Shriners on 6 June 1876, in the New York Masonic Hall, 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.
It 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.
The number of Shriners continued to grow in the 1880s. By the time of the 1888 Annual Session (convention) in Toronto, there were 7,210 members in forty-eight temples throughout the United States and one in Canada.
While the organisation was still primarily social, instances of philanthropic work became more frequent. During an 1888 yellow fever epidemic in Jacksonville, Florida, members of the new Morocco Shriners and Masonic Knights Templar worked long hours to relieve the suffering populace. Shriners likewise came to the aid of the 1889 Johnstown Flood victims. In 1898, there were 50,000 Shriners, and seventy-one of the seventy-nine temples were engaged in some sort of philanthropic work.
At the 1900 Imperial Council session, representatives from eighty-two temples marched in a Washington, D.C., parade, joined by a section of the U.S. Marine Band outfitted in Arabian kit for the occasion, and reviewed by President William McKinley. Membership was well over 55,000.
Shriners were 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, México City and the Republic of Panamá. The organisation became, in fact, the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine International. New flourishes were added to a growing tradition of colourful pageantry. More bands were formed, and the first circus is said to have opened in 1906 in Detroit.
During the same period, there was growing member support for establishing an official charity. Most temples had individual philanthropies, and sometimes Shriners as an organisation gave aid. After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, Shriners sent US$25,000 to help the stricken city; and in 1915, Shriners contributed US$10,000 for the relief of victims of the Great War then underway in Europe. But neither the individual projects nor the special one-time contributions satisfied the membership, who wanted to do more.
In 1919, Noble Freeland Kendrick (Lu Lu Shriners, Philadelphia [now in Plymouth Meeting]) 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 then-new Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children in Atlanta [which has since merged with Egleston Children’s Hospital to become Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite], he became aware of the overwhelming orthopaedic needs of children in North America. As Imperial Potentate in 1919 and 1920, he travelled more than 150,000 miles, visiting a majority of the 146 temples and campaigning for an official philanthropy.
The climax came at the June 1920 Imperial Session in Portland, Oregon. Kendrick proposed establishing the Shriners’ Hospital for Crippled Children [now known as the Shriners Hospitals for Children in recognition of our expansion into paediatric burns care], to be supported by a US$2.00 [now $5] yearly tithing assessed from each Shriner.
Despite the generally supportive attitude among the assembled Shriners, many held reservations about creating a permanent, open-ended financial commitment. The de facto voice of the dissenters was Past Imperial Potentate, William Bromwell Melish (Syrian Shrine, Cincinnati), who had piloted the Imperial Counsel out of insolvency in the early 1890s. Imperial Sir Melish spent fifteen minutes detailing his objections to the proposal, and seemed to turn the tide against the plan.
Prospects for approval were dimming when Noble Forrest Adair (Yaarab Shrine, Atlanta) rose from his seat near the front of the audience and put an end to the nobles’ reluctance with his now-famous “Bubbles” speech. Five years earlier, Noble Adair, as as Commander in Chief of the Scottish Rite’s Atlanta Consistory, had been the virtual founder of the Scottish Rite Hospital.
“I 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 twenty-five minutes playing “I am only blowing bubbles.” [sic] He 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 am only blowing bubbles.” [sic] He noted, “While we have spent money for songs and spent money for bands, it’s time for the Shrine to spend money for humanity. I 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.” When 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. Even Past Imperial Potentate Melish endorsed the plan, and the resolution was passed unanimously. [Please click here to read the entirety of Noble Adair’s brief but vital speech.]
A 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 colourful way. When the committee brought the proposal to the 1921 Imperial Session in Des Moines, Iowa, it too was passed.
Before the June 1922 Imperial Session, the cornerstone was in place for the first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport, Louisiana. The rules were simple: To be admitted, a child must be from a family unable to pay for the orthopaedic treatment he or she 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.
The 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 without pay.
The network of orthopaedic hospitals grew as follows:
The first patient to be admitted in 1922 was a little girl with a clubfoot, 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 boy with polio. Since that time, more than 835,000 children have been treated at the twenty-two Shriners Hospitals for Children. 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 at the hospitals by our in-house expert technicians.
From 1950 to 1960, Shriners’ 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 leaders began to look for other ways they could help children.
One 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 1960s, Shriners aggressively entered the structured research field and began earmarking funds for research projects. By 1967, Shriners were spending US$20,000 on orthopaedic research. Today, the annual research budget totals more than US$37,000,000. Researchers are working on a wide variety of projects, including studies of bone and joint diseases such as osteogenesis imperfecta and juvenile rheumatoid arthritis; increasing basic knowledge of the structure and function of connective tissue; and refining functional electrical stimulation, which is enabling some children with spinal cord injuries to regain some use of their arms and legs.
This expansion of orthopaedic
work was not enough for Shriners. They had enough funds to further expand their philanthropy.
A 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 centre 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.
On 1 November 1963, Shriners opened a seven-bed wing in the John Sealy Hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston as an interim centre for the care of severely burned children. On 1 February 1964, Shriners opened a seven-bed unit in the Cincinnati General Hospital on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. A third interim operation, a five-bed unit, was opened 13 March 1964, in the Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston) under the direction of Harvard Medical School.
While children were being treated in these units, separate buildings were constructed near each interim location. These buildings, three 30-bed paediatric burn hospitals, were designed to meet the special needs of burned children. At each, the staffs remain affiliated with their neighbouring universities so they may better carry out their three-fold programme of treatment, research and teaching.
The hospital in Galveston opened 20 March 1966; the hospital in Cincinnati opened 19 February 1968; and the Boston hospital opened 2 November 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. A new burn treatment centre opened in 1997, in the new Shriners Hospital in Sacramento, California. This Shriners Hospital provides orthopaedic, burn and spinal cord injury care, and serves as the primary burn treatment centre in the western United States. The Sacramento hospital also conducts research in all three disciplines.
Since Shriners opened burn hospitals in the 1960s, a burned child’s chance of survival has more than doubled. They have saved children burned over ninety per-cent of their bodies. The techniques they have pioneered to prevent the disabling effects of severe burns have made a typical life possible for thousands of burn victims.
Most importantly, perhaps, the establishment of the burn Shriners Hospitals alerted the medical world to this special need, which has led to the establishment of non-Shriners burn centres.
At Shriners Hospitals the work goes on, continually searching for new ways to heal severe burns and reduce or, as much as possible, eliminate the disabling 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.
In 1980, Shriners Hospitals for Children opened a spinal cord injury (“SCI”) rehabilitation unit at the Philadelphia hospital. This was 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 spinal cord injury unit, was relocated to Sacramento, California.
At the spinal cord injury units, children receive long-term rehabilitative care and physical and occupational therapy to help them relearn the basic skills of everyday life. Counselling sessions help patients learn to cope with the emotional aspects of their injury and help them lead fulfilling lives by emphasising 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.
An 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 using functional electrical stimulation (“FES”) makes walking an achievable goal for some children.
In 2005, the Shriners Hospitals for Children's Board of Directors and Shriners' Imperial Divan added treatment of cleft lip and palate to the hospital network’s treatment disciplines. About five thousand children are born each year with deformities of the upper lip and mouth, and comprehensive care for these conditions is often difficult to obtain. The nationally recognised programme already in place at the Chicago Shriners Hospital will serve as the expansion model.
Shriners Hospitals will offer the same state-of-the-art, complete, high-quality care in this effort as it does in its established programmes for orthopaedic conditions, severe burns and spinal cord injury rehabilitation.
Another important undertaking that began during the 1980s was an aggressive rebuilding and renovation programme, involving the construction of new facilities and extensive renovations. In 1981, representatives at the 107th Imperial Council session approved a major expansion and reconstruction programme, which included the construction of a new orthopaedic hospital in Tampa, Florida. The opening of the Tampa hospital in 1985 – the first new hospital added to the system since the 1960s – brought the Shriners Hospitals system back to twenty-two hospitals. Since 1981, twenty-one Shriners Hospitals have either been rebuilt or totally renovated. In 1998, the Joint Boards decided to build a new facility for the México City hospital, which underwent extensive renovations in 1989. The new facility opened in May of 2006.
In 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.
Also during the 1980s, because of the high number of patients with myelodysplasia (spina bifida), many of the Shriners Hospitals developed special programmes 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 Shriners Hospitals in Los Angeles, California, and Springfield, Massachusetts expanded their prosthetic services with regional prosthetic research programmes. Both programmes conduct research into ways to improve or create new prosthetics and help rehabilitate limb-deficient children. These two programmes, in addition to various other research programmes throughout the twenty-two hospitals, join the prosthetic and orthotic labs throughout the system in ensuring that Shriners Hospitals for Children remains a leader in the field of children’s orthotics and prosthetics.
The burn hospitals also took steps to ensure that burn patients continue to receive the most advanced burn treatment available. The Cincinnati hospital 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 programme, to assist burn patients in their return home after being discharged from hospital. During 1992, new replacement facilities for the Cincinnati and Galveston 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 patients.
In 1996, representatives took another significant step when they voted to officially change the name of our philanthropy to Shriners Hospitals for Children. In a move that permanently eliminated the word “crippled” from the organisation’s corporate name, representatives made the change in an effort to have the name better reflect the mission of Shriners Hospitals and the expansion of services over the years, including the opening of the burn hospitals and the addition of programmes of comprehensive care for children with myelodysplasia and cleft lip and palate. The new name is intended to reflect the philosophy of Shriners Hospitals, which provide medical care for children at without regard to their families' ability to pay, based only on what’s best for the child. The new name, likewise, does not label children in any way, but simply recognises them for what they are: children.
One way in which Shriners Hospitals for Children improves lives is through outcomes research. This type of research looks for opportunities to improve hospital practices, both clinical and operational, to help bring better care and quality of life to patients. The outcomes studies utilise more than one Shriners Hospital, and the projects, studies and performance improvement initiatives directly impact changes in operations and patient care practices at all twenty-two Shriners Hospitals.
To ensure Shriners Hospitals for Children 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.
Shriners Hospitals for Children was born out of the Shriners’ love for children, but depends today on the generosity of individual donors. To recognise the importance of these benefactors, our charity offers a unique Donor Recognition Programme.
Gold Book Society awards are given to benefactors for nine levels of giving, from US$2,000 to US$249,999.99. Donors may progress through all awards as additional contributions are made. In addition to receiving awards, living donors who contribute from US$50,000 to US$249,999.99 will also be honoured as “Because We Care Givers.” A handsome panel is displayed in a prominent location at each Shriners Hospital and at Shriners International Headquarters in Tampa. Donors’ names are engraved on individual brass plates on the panel.
The Philanthropic Society honours major living donors and deceased benefactors who give contributions and/or bequests in excess of US$250,000, featuring charitable plateaus of bronze, silver, gold and spectrum gold. A Philanthropic Society awards centre is prominently situated at each Shriners Hospital for Children and at Shriners Imperial Headquarters. Each donation or bequest is honoured by a separate wood plaque permanently affixed to the awards centre, with a laser-engraved personalised inscription and a large bronze, silver, gold or black medallion. Mini-medallions are added to indicate additional gifts. Donors or the families of deceased benefactors may also receive a plaque.
For more information about the Shriners Hospitals for Children Donor Recognition Programme, please contact the Office of Development and Donor Relations at 800-241-GIFT or DonorRelations@ShrineNet.org.
The Fraternity Flourishes:
As 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 viewed the Shriners parade at the 1923 Imperial Council session in Washington, D.C.
The 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.” It is the premier college all-star game in America, and has a long history of distinguished players and coaches, including future Chicago Bears Dick Butkus (1964), Gale Sayers (1965) & Walter Payton (1975); future U.S. President & Shriner Gerald R. Ford (1935); and future Saint Louis Cardinal & U.S. Army Ranger Sergeant Pat Tillman (1998). But that’s not what makes it "Football’s Finest Hour." What makes the Shrine Game so special is its true purpose: helping to support Shriners Hospitals for Children. Every year since its inception, the Shrine Game has been played to raise money and to help make the public aware of the expert orthopaedic and burn care available, at no cost, at all 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children. In this, as in other Shriners’ football games, the young players visit patients at a Shriners Hospital, so the players themselves know the real purpose of the game.
As Noble Gerald Ford (Saladin Shriners of Kentwood, Michigan) said at a 1976 speech to Mohammed Shriners of Peoria, Illinois: “It was a tremendous experience for us on the Eastern football team to go to that hospital and see what is done to help unfortunate people, especially young people,” Ford said. “And I learned … what great people like all of you do, on a day-to-day basis, to help those less fortunate than yourself.”
On 12 June 1930, this Peace Memorial was presented to the people of Canada by Imperial Potentate Noble Leo V. Youngworth, on behalf of the 600,000 members of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine to commemorate the peaceful relationships existing for over a century between Canada and the United States. This gift was received by Illustrious Noble the Honourable George S. Henry; then both the Premier of Ontario and the Potentate of Rameses Shriners in Toronto; representing Her Majesty’s subjects in Canada. On 20 August 1958, the surrounding garden and fountain, created by the Toronto Parks Department, were official opened and the Memorial was re-dedicated to the cause of peace by Noble the Right Honourable John G. Diefenbaker, Prime Minister of Canada, and future Potentate of Tunis Shriners in Ottawa.
Located in Exhibition Place, on Toronto’s lakeshore just west of downtown, the Shrine Peace Memorial faces southerly, toward the Niagara River and the United States. The statue was designed by noted sculptor, Noble Charles Keck of Kismet Shriners in Brooklyn (now New Hyde Park), New York; and depicts a winged angel holding aloft a laurel crown and standing upon a globe held aloft by female sphinxes. The inscription around the base reads “Peace be on you,” and its response, “On you be the peace,” the English translation of the Islamic greeting used by Shriners.
The Right Honourable Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, was not present at the 1930 dedication, but stated via radio: “I should like to add the thanks of the Canadian people as a whole for the inspiring monument which your Order has erected on the shores of Lake Erie and which you are now about to dedicate in the cause of peace. It is indeed a worthy addition to the art treasures of the province of which Toronto is the capital city. It will be cherished by Canada as a national possession and by our continent as an abiding symbol of international good will.”
The 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.
Shriners and the hospitals somehow survived the Great Depression. In the 1940s, like the rest of North America, Shriners adjusted to wartime existence. Imperial Council sessions were limited to business and were attended only by official representatives. Parade units stayed home and marched in local patriotic parades. During the four years of war, more than US$1 billion were invested in government war bonds by and through Shriners. The hospital corporation also invested all of its available funds in government securities. During World War II, the economy improved, and men found renewed interest in fraternalism. By 1942, membership was once more increasing.
The newly renovated Shriners International Exhibit is part of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial located in Alexandria, Virginia. The exhibit went from three rooms filled with Shriners’ memorabilia, to a visual Shriners and Shriners Hospitals adventure, complete with a life-size replica of the “Silent Messenger” statue of Noble Albert Hortman carrying little Bobbi Jo Wright and her crutches, a wall-sized collection of fezzes from all Shrine temples, and a room devoted entirely to Shriners Hospitals for Children. The original exhibit was the dream of Past Imperial Potentate Alfred G. Arvold, who initiated the design of the rooms in 1945.
Until 1928, our national offices were in Richmond, Virginia. With the growth of the fraternity, there were increasing pressures to locate headquarters to a city that would be more convenient to all temples. Thus, in 1958, the three-story building at 323 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, was purchased. Twenty years later, at a special session held 10 April 1978, in Tampa, Florida, representatives voted to relocate headquarters from Chicago to 2900 Rocky Point Drive, Tampa, where it has remained ever since. The Tampa headquarters houses the administrative personnel for both the Iowa (Shriners International) and Colorado (Shriners Hospitals for Children) corporations, fraternal and hospital records, the attorneys who monitor the many estates involved in Shriners Hospitals for Children, and various other departments that support day-to-day operations of the fraternity and the philanthropy.
An expansion project began in 1987 to meet ever-increasing needs of the fraternity and Shriners Hospitals. A third wing, or pod, was added to the rear of the existing building, and the boardroom 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 boardroom provides space for meetings of the Joint Boards and their committees, and for conferences.
In 1993, the Commemorative Plaza was built, with its larger than life rendering of the “Silent Messenger” statue of Noble Albert Hortman carrying little Bobbi Jo Wright & her crutches. The statue is based upon the 1970 Randy Dieter photograph, titled “Editorial Without Words.”
The polished marble plaza features a semi-circular wall engraved with the names of every Imperial Potentate (chief executive officer) and his year served. In addition, below the statue is a cylindrical base engraved with names of the twenty-two Shriners Hospitals. All of this is surrounded by a fountain. Around the fountain are large inlaid marble squares bearing the engraved names of each of the 191 temples, each temple’s city and state, year of incorporation and a scimitar. To the rear of the Commemorative Plaza and in front of the headquarters building are four flag poles with flags of flags of the United States, Canada, México, and Panamá, representing the lands in which temples are located. The flag of the Philippines will be added in 2010.
In early 1999, a major construction and renovation effort began that would add 3,250 square metres (35,000 square feet) to the existing facility, bringing the total office area to about 11,150 square metres (120,000 square feet). This effort was initiated to accommodate the health care 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 3.35×2.75 metre (11×9-foot) 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 24 February 2002, the newly renovated Shriners International Headquarters was rededicated.
Hundreds of entertainers, professional athletes, diplomats, astronauts, captains of industry, military leaders, civic leaders, state governors, provincial premiers, and ordinary men have been Shriners. These include the rulers of many lands, including the last King of Hawai‘i, four Presidents of the United States of America, cuatro (four) Presidentes de los Estados Unidos Méxicanos, a Prime Minister of Canada, and the Supreme Commander, Allied Powers (international occupation viceroy & proconsul), of 日本国 (the Empire of Japan), all of whom have been Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
Temples are located throughout the United States of America, Canada, México, Panamá, the Philippines and Germany, with clubs around the world. There is, therefore, a special Shriners Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the country for which it stands, one nation under G-d, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Wherever Shriners gather, the national flags of The United States of America, Canada, Los Estados Unidos Méxicanos, and La República de Panamá, and Republika ng Pilipinas are flown, with that of the European Union to be added in 2012.
Today, there are approximately 400,000 Shriners who belong to 193 "temples", (ie, chapters), from Al Aska Shriners in Anchorage, Alaska, to Abou Saad Shriners in Panamá, and from Mabuhay Shriners in Manilla, the Philippines, to Philae Shriners in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Emirat Shriners in Heidelberg, Germany. The temples, their units and affiliated 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.
To better understand how all this works, an observer can start at a local temple. Each temple is 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 shrine centre. 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 club social events each year.
Units are smaller groups organised within a temple for a specific purpose. Many of these are the uniformed units so familiar to parade spectators: Oriental bands, brass bands, genies, horse troupes, motor patrols, bagpipers, clowns, drum corps, chanters, and military veterans. Additionally, a temple will have any number of Shrine Clubs, organised either geographically like the West Suburban Shrine Club, or around special interests like a classic car club. Other temple units and committees can include hospital ushers/docents, and transportation units which work closely with their local Shriners Hospital – either with the children and parents at the hospital or 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 organised for fellowship purposes. These are the aforementioned geographically-based clubs, under the control of their mother temple.
In addition, any number of temples may form an association for social conventions, if the Imperial Council issues an appropriate charter. There are currently twenty regional associations and nineteen unit associations, including the Great Lakes Shrine Association.
The 193 temples are governed by the Imperial Council, which is composed of representatives. Representatives of the Imperial Council include all past and present Imperial Officers, Emeritus Representatives (who have served fifteen years or longer) 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 members of the Colorado corporation.
The Imperial Divan, Shriners’ international governing body, consists of thirteen officers plus an Imperial Chaplain. The Imperial Treasurer and the Imperial Recorder may be elected for several consecutive years, and are the only officers receiving any type of compensation. As with temple divans, an officer (with the exceptions 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 potentates of their respective temples. The Imperial 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.
The chief executive officer of Shriners International is the Imperial Potentate, who is elected for one year. He visits many of the temples and hospitals and generally supervises both fraternal and hospital policy.
To help him with these tasks, the Imperial Potentate appoints committees to implement various programmes. One of the most important of these committees is the donor relations committee, which coordinates and supervises contributions and bequests given to Shriners Hospitals for Children.
The 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 organisation – are carried out at Shriners 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 organisation 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 club meeting, a temple’s Shrine Ceremonial, an 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 thirteen members to the hundreds of thousands of Shriners today – the fraternity 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 fraternal activities.
Most temples sponsor fundraising 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 our history, with major building programmes, increasing numbers of patients receiving care, and expansion of services. As the new millennium approached, all twenty-two Shriners Hospitals maintained their position at the forefront of specialised paediatric orthopaedic and burn care. The Joint Boards plan to continue updating their facilities, expanding their research programmes and increasing their ability to meet the needs of thousands of children in need of expert medical care. In this way, Shriners Hospitals will continue to meet a special need for children.
Thus, whatever changes occur within the fraternal organisation or within the Shriners Hospitals system, Shriners of North America will remain the “World’s Greatest Fraternity,” operating and maintaining the “World’s Greatest Philanthropy.”
 Contrary to a previously published error which has been copied innumerable times on the Internet when writing of Noble Dr. Fleming, the 13th New York Infantry was a regiment, not a brigade. Also known as the Rochester Regiment, the 13th was organised on 8 May 1861, mustered into service six days later, and discharged on 14 May 1863. See “13th NY Infantry Regiment during the Civil War,” Unit History Project, New York State Military Museum and Veterans Research Center. Nevertheless, Fred van Deventer’s seminal 1959 tome, Parade to Glory: The Story of the Shriners and Their Hospitals for Crippled Children, states that a review of the records showed Fleming to have been in the 1st Cavalry Regiment and 19th Regiment (NYS). See page 11.
This site was last updated 03/08/13