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UNITED KINGDOM SHRINE CLUB

ALMAS Temple Washington, DC

The Fun Beginnings

In 1870 a group of Masons gathered frequently for lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage on Sixth Avenue in New York City. At a special table on the second floor a particularly fun-loving group of men met regularly. Among the regulars were Walter M. Fleming, M.D. and William J. “Billy” Florence, an actor. The group frequently talked about starting a new fraternity for Masons – one centered on fun and fellowship, more than ritual. Fleming and Florence took this idea seriously enough to do something about it.

Billy Florence had been on tour in France, and had been invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat. The exotic style, flavors and music of the Arabian-themed party inspired him to suggest this as a theme for the new fraternity. Walter Fleming, a devoted fraternity brother, built on Fleming’s ideas and used his knowledge of fraternal ritual to transform the Arabian theme into the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.).

With the help of the Knickerbocker Cottage regulars, Fleming drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and costumes, formulated a salutation and declared that members would wear the red fez. The first meeting of Mecca Shriners, the first temple (chapter) established in the United States, was held September 26, 1872.

As word got out about the fledgling organization, membership grew rapidly, spreading across the U.S. In the early 1900s, membership spread into Canada, Mexico and Panama. Today, Shriners International is a fraternity with nearly 200 temples in several countries, thousands of clubs around the world and hundreds of thousands of members dedicated to the principles of brotherly love, relief and truth.​ ​

The First Shriners Hospital

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.

The 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 without pay.