Saturday, July 9, 2011

Who Are The Shriners?

We've all seen them--wearing their red fezzes and entertaining the crowds at parades.  You may have even gone to a Shriner's Circus at one time or another.  And almost everyone knows about the important work they do helping children through the Shriner's Hospitals.  Most of us know they're a fun-loving group of men, that have a lot of fun while they raise money for much more serious causes.


But what a lot of people still don't know, is that Shriners are Masons.  That's right.  Every Shriner is a Master Mason, but not every Master Mason is a Shriner.  The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, most commonly known as the the Shriners, is an appendant body of Freemasonry. 


The Shriners were formed in 1870, by a group of Masons that met for lunch at Knickerbocker Cottage in Manhattan, at a special table on the second floor. They had an idea for a new fraternity for Masons stressing fun and fellowship. Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Florence took the idea seriously enough to act upon it.

Florence was a world-renowned actor, and while on tour, he was invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat. The exotic style, flavor and music of this Arabian themed party gave Florence an idea. He took many notes and made drawings of the costumes and decorations.  When he returned, 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.).   That's where the Arabic and Egyptian themes came from originally.


Harry S Truman
Over the years, I've written about a lot of famous Shriners in my Famous American Freemasons books.  There's quite an impressive list of famous Shriners.  There are military leaders, politicians, actors, musicians, industrialists, astronauts, athletes, writers, comedians . . . in fact, there have been a few Shriners over the years that have called The White House home. 

One thing I didn't know about the Shriner's Hospitals, was that originally, their focus was on treatment of polio.  Since that disease has been for the most part eradicated with the polio vaccine, they shifted to helping children with birth defects like cleft palate, the treatment of spinal chord injuries, and burns.  Much of their work focuses on research.  In fact, many of the standard treatments for burns in burn units across the country originated in Shriner's Hospitals for Children.


There are currently about 325,000 Shriners in 194 Temples in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, and the Republic of Panama. 


I'm looking forward to making that 325,001.  There's a red fez in my future.  You think they'll let me drive one of those little cars in a parade? Actually, my Ford Focus is about that same size--I'll just drive that.

~TEC

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