History of the A.A.O.N.M.S.
The great Shrine
organization of today traces its origins to New York City and to
four dedicated men. The men were Dr. Walter M. Fleming, William
J. Florence, Charles T. McClenachan and William S. Paterson. 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.
Fleming 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.
On 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.
The 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.
The 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
The spark that was
needed to make the Shrine prosper apparently was formation of
the Imperial Council.
Noble 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
was approved, and creation of the Imperial Grand Council of the
Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine was
tremendous energy had helped carry the Order through its
difficult early years, was elected to a three-year term as the
first Grand Potentate.
The first meeting of the
Imperial Council was brief, but in addition to election of
officers, it accomplished the following:
1. Established New York
City as the Grand Orient or headquarters for the Imperial
2. Approved a plan to
install five Past Potentates from each subordinate temple as
honorary members of the Imperial Council,
3. Created a committee
to write statutes and regulations for governance of the Imperial
Council and its subordinate temples,
4. 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,
5. 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 to join.)
6. Established the
following temples; Mahammed in New Haven, Conn., Ziyara in
Utica, NY, Pyramid in Bridgeport, Conn., and Syria in
Ehlers and J.H. Hobart were named to the committee on statutes
The 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.
Mt. 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.
In 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
It 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:
1886 - Imperial Grand
Council met in Cleveland and voted to drop the word "Grand" from
the Council title.
1886 - The irrepressible
Dr. Fleming stepped down as Imperial Potentate after 12 years,
and was replaced by Noble Sam Briggs of Cleveland.
1888 - Twelve new
temples were chartered and the Imperial Council met outside of
the U.S. for the first time, at Toronto, Canada.
1890 - 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 year.
1891 - 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.
1891 - King Kalakaua of
Hawaii was initiated in the Shrine January 14 in a ceremony at
the Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
1897 - The Council
rejected applications for Temples in Mexico and the Sandwich
1899 - All but seven of
the 78 temples were engaged in some form of charitable work.
1900 - The Imperial
Council ruled that a Noble could belong to more than one temple.
1906 - Membership passed
the 100,000 mark. The Shrine sent monetary aid to victims of the
great San Francisco earthquake.
The 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 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.
In 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
From 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.
The Shrine Hospital System has grown to
its current size of 19 Hospitals in the United States, Canada,
and Mexico, and three Burns Institutes. The name has changed to
The Shrine Hospitals for Children. Every Shriner today
contributes $5.00 of his annual membership dues to the Hospital
Freeland 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
In 1920, the Shrine took
a public stand in favor of free and compulsory education
supported by public taxes in America.
continued. Membership passed 511,000 in 1922. Initial steps were
taken to copyright all Shrine emblems and insignia.
With 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."