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Logo of Shriners International

Shriners International, formerly known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (AAONMS), is an American Masonic society established in 1870 and is headquartered in Tampa, Florida.[1]

Shriners International describes itself as a fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth. There are approximately 350,000 members from 196 temples (chapters) in the US, Canada, Brazil, Bolivia, Mexico, Panama, the Philippines, Europe, and Australia. The organization is best known for the Shriners Hospitals for Children that it administers, and the red fezzes that members wear.

The organization was previously known as "Shriners North America". The name was changed in 2010 across North America, Central America, South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia.[2]


In 1870, there were several thousand Freemasons in Manhattan, many of whom lunched at the Knickerbocker Cottage at a special table on the second floor. There, the idea of a new fraternity for Masons, stressing fun and fellowship, was discussed. Together, Walter M. Fleming and William J. Florence established a separate fellowship to fulfill those ideals.

William J. Florence

Florence, an actor, while on tour in Marseille, was invited to a party given by an Arab diplomat. The entertainment was something in the nature of an elaborately staged musical comedy. At its conclusion, the guests became members of a secret society. Florence took copious notes and drawings at his initial viewing and on two other occasions, once in Algiers and once in Cairo. When he returned to New York in 1870, he showed his material to Fleming.[3]

Walter Millard Fleming

Fleming created the ritual, emblem and costumes. Florence and Fleming were initiated August 13, 1870, and they initiated 11 other men on June 16, 1871.[4]

The group adopted a Middle Eastern theme and soon established Temples (though the term Temple has now generally been replaced by Shrine Auditorium or Shrine Center). The first Temple established was Mecca Temple (now known as Mecca Shriners), established at the New York City Masonic Hall on September 26, 1872. Fleming was the first Potentate.[5]

In 1875, there were only 43 Shriners in the organization. In an effort to encourage membership, at the June 6, 1876 meeting of Mecca Temple, the Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America was created. Fleming was elected the first Imperial Potentate. After some other reworking, by 1878 there were 425 members in 13 temples in eight states, and by 1888, there were 7,210 members in 48 temples in the United States and Canada. By the Imperial Session held in Washington, D.C. in 1900, there were 55,000 members and 82 Temples.[6]

By 1938 there were about 340,000 members in the United States. That year Life published photographs of its rites for the first time. It described the Shriners as "among secret lodges the No. 1 in prestige, wealth and show", and stated that "in the typical city, especially in the Middle West, the Shriners will include most of the prominent citizens."[7]

In 2010, Shriners removed much of the Middle Eastern theming.[8]

Shriners often participate in local parades, sometimes as rather elaborate units: miniature vehicles in themes (all sports cars; all miniature 18-wheeler trucks; all fire engines, and so on), an "Oriental Band" dressed in cartoonish versions of Middle Eastern dress; pipe bands, drummers, motorcycle units, Drum and Bugle Corps, and traditional brass bands.


Until 2000, before being eligible for membership in the Shrine, a Mason had to complete either the Scottish Rite or York Rite systems,[9] but now any Master Mason can join.

In the past, Shriners have practiced hazing rituals as a part of initiating new members: in 1991, a would-be Shriner sued the Oleika Shrine Temple of Lexington, Kentucky over injuries suffered during the hazing, which included being blindfolded and having a jolt of electricity applied to his bare buttocks.[10] The jury rejected the lawsuit.[11]

Women's auxiliaries[edit]

Daughters of the Nile at Shriners Hospital for Children – Canada in Montreal in 1948.

There are two organizations tied to the Shrine that are for women only: The Ladies' Oriental Shrine and the Daughters of the Nile. They both support the Shriners Hospitals and promote sociability, and membership in either organization is open to any woman 18 years of age and older who is related to a Shriner or Master Mason by birth or marriage.

The Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America was founded in 1903 in Wheeling, West Virginia,[12] and the Daughters of the Nile was founded in 1913 in Seattle, Washington.[13] The latter organization has local branches called "Temples", and there were ten of these in 1922. Among the famous members of the Daughters of the Nile was First Lady Florence Harding, wife of Warren G. Harding.[14]

Black shrines[edit]

In 1893, a black counterpart to the Shriners movement was initiated by John G. Jones and other Prince Hall masons, initially called The Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine of North and South America and Its Jurisdictions.[15] Early in the group's history, there was legal conflict between the white and black orders, with a white order from Texas filing suit against a local black order for infringement of white Shriners regalia and traditions. The white order was initially successful in quashing the black temple until the ruling was overturned in appeals in 1929, protecting the right of black Shriners to continue practicing and fundraising nationwide.[16] The Worldwide Fraternal Shrine Family counts 35,000 members in 227 shrines, with its own women's auxiliary organizations. Their primary recipients of charitable donations are the NAACP, The Urban League, the UNCF, and various hospitals and universities.[15]


Some of the earliest Shrine Centers often chose a Moorish Revival style for their Temples. Architecturally notable Shriners Temples include: the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles; the former Mecca Temple, now called New York City Center and used primarily as a concert hall; Newark Symphony Hall; the Landmark Theater (formerly The Mosque) in Richmond, Virginia; the Tripoli Shrine Temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the Polly Rosenbaum Building (formerly the El Zaribah Shrine Auditorium) in Phoenix; the Helena Civic Center (Montana) (formerly the Algeria Shrine Temple); Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque in Springfield, Missouri; Murat Shrine Temple (now Old National Center) in Indianapolis; the Fox Theatre (Atlanta, Georgia) which was jointly built between the Atlanta Shriners and movie mogul William Fox; and the Syria Mosque, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Finances and philanthropy[edit]

The Shriners controlled an $8 billion endowment as of 2008. A 2008 report included accusation of various financial improprieties in the organization, including not reporting certain benefits they received as income and knowingly filing incorrect tax forms for the hospitals. Other Shriners came forward with other complaints, including the mixing of charitable and noncharitable assets and the disappearance of money raised for the hospitals.[17]

Shriners Hospitals for Children[edit]

The Shrine's charitable arm is the Shriners Hospitals for Children, a network of 22 healthcare facilities in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.

In June 1920, the Imperial Council Session voted to establish a “Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children”. The purpose of this hospital was to treat orthopedic injuries and conditions, diseases, burns, spinal cord injuries, and birth defects, such as cleft lip and palate, in children.[18][19] After much research and debate, the committee chosen to determine the site of the hospital decided there should be a network of hospitals across North America. The first hospital opened in 1922 in Shreveport, Louisiana. By the end of the decade 13 more hospitals were operational.[19] Shriners Hospitals now provide orthopedic care, burn treatment, cleft lip and palate care and spinal cord injury rehabilitation.

Any child under the age of 18 can be admitted to the hospital if, in the opinion of the doctors, the child can be treated.[19][20] There is no requirement for religion, race or relationship to a Shriner.

Until June 2012, all care at Shriners Hospitals was provided without charge to patients and their families. At that time, because the size of their endowment had decreased due to losses in the stock market, Shriners Hospitals started billing patients' insurance companies, but still offered free care to children without insurance and waives all out of pocket costs insurance does not cover. Shriners Hospitals for Children is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, meaning that they rely on the generosity of donors to cover the cost of treatment for their patients.[18]

In 2008, Shriners Hospitals had a total budget of $826 million. In 2007 they approved 39,454 new patient applications, and attended to the needs of 125,125 patients.[20] Shriners Hospitals for Children can be found in these cities:[21]

  • Boston, MA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Dayton, OH
  • Erie, PA*
  • Galveston, TX
  • Greenville, SC
  • Honolulu, HI
  • Houston, TX
  • Lexington, KY*
  • Mexico City, MEX
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Pasadena, CA*
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Portland, OR
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Shreveport, LA
  • Spokane, WA
  • Springfield, MA
  • St. Louis, MO

*This location is an outpatient, ambulatory care center.[21]

Parade unit[edit]

A Cincinnati Shriner in a miniature car participating in a Memorial Day parade

Most Shrine Temples support several parade units. These units are responsible for promoting a positive Shriner image to the public by participating in local parades. The parade units often include miniature cars powered by lawn mower engines.

A St. Louis Shriner in a miniature racing car, stopping to greet children along parade route

An example of a Shrine parade unit is the Heart Shrine Clubs' Original Fire Patrol of Effingham, Illinois. This unit operates miniature fire engines, memorializing a hospital fire that took place in the 1940s in Effingham. They participate in most parades in a 100-mile radius of Effingham. Shriners in Dallas, Texas participate annually in the Twilight Parade at the Texas State Fair.

Shriners in St. Louis have several parade motor units, including miniature cars styled after 1932 Ford coupes and 1970s-era Jeep CJ models, and a unit of miniature Indianapolis-styled race cars. Some of these are outfitted with alcohol-fueled engines.

Other events[edit]

A Shriner clown

Shriners host the annual East-West Shrine Game, a college football all-star game.

The Shriners originally hosted a golf tournament in association with singer/actor Justin Timberlake, titled the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a PGA Tour golf tournament held in Las Vegas, Nevada.[22] The relationship between Timberlake and the Shriners ended in 2012, due to the lack of previously agreed participation on Timberlake's part.[23] In July 2012, the PGA Tour and Shriners Hospitals for Children announced a five-year title sponsorship extension, carrying the commitment to the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open through 2017.[24] now titled The Shriners Hospitals for Children Open,[25] It is still held in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Once a year, the fraternity meets for the Imperial Council Session in a major North American city. It is not uncommon for these conventions to have 20,000 participants or more.

Many Shrine Centers also hold a yearly Shrine Circus as a fundraiser.

In 1980, Ray Stevens recorded the country-and-western novelty song "Shriner's Convention" about a said convention.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Home page. Shriners International. Retrieved on March 12, 2010.
  2. ^ "Fun With Purpose" Archived 2017-11-15 at the Wayback Machine Shriners International. Retrieved on August 7, 2011.
  3. ^ Shriners of North America. A Short History: Shriners of North America and Shriners Hospitals. September 2004 edition, pp. 3–4.
  4. ^ Shriners of North America. A Short History: Shriners of North America and Shriners Hospitals. September 2004 edition, p. 5.
  5. ^ Shriners of North America. A Short History: Shriners of North America and Shriners Hospitals. September 2004 edition, p. 6.
  6. ^ Shriners of North America. A Short History: Shriners of North America and Shriners Hospitals. September 2004 edition, p. 8.
  7. ^ "The Shriners / "Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles" Reveals its Pageantry". Life. 1938-05-16. p. 50. Retrieved September 8, 2012.
  8. ^ Sostek, Anya (10 April 2011). "Shriners shed many Middle Eastern references while continuing traditions such as the circus". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Archived from the original on 24 August 2022. Retrieved 24 August 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  9. ^ "Abd El Kader's Masonic Friends" (PDF). The New York Times. 1883-06-07. p. 8. Retrieved 2008-02-25.
  10. ^ "Man sues Shriners over initiation injuries Trial exposes secret ritual in which electric shock is used on initiates". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 14 December 2021.
  11. ^ "Jury Rejects Shriners' Rite Suit". Tulsa World. Retrieved 14 December 2021.
  12. ^ Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America. Accessed November 6, 2011.
  13. ^ "About Us" Archived 2011-12-01 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed November 6, 2011.
  14. ^ Preuss, Arthur A Dictionary of Secret and other Societies St. Louis: B. Herder Book Co. 1924; republished Detroit: Gale Reference Company 1966; p. 106.
  15. ^ a b "AEAONMS - History". Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  16. ^ "ANCIENT EGYPTIAN ARABIC ORDER OF NOBLES OF THE MYSTIC SHRINE et al. v. MICHAUX et al". LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved 2021-09-27.
  17. ^ Strom, Stephanie (25 July 2008). "Report on Shriners Raises Question of Wrongdoing". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2022.
  18. ^ a b "Shriners Hospitals for Children and Joffrey's Coffee & Tea Company launch new Rise and Shrine blend that benefits the health care system". Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  19. ^ a b c International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 69. St. James Press, 2005.
  20. ^ a b "Shriners Hospitals for Children About Us". Shriners Hospitals. Retrieved 2010-08-18.
  21. ^ a b "Shriners Hospitals for Children Locations". Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  22. ^ "Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open", Sunday, September 25, 2011 - Sunday, October 2, 2011, Las Vegas, NV 89134. Shriners International. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  23. ^ "Justin Timberlake and Shriners break charity golf ties",, October 2, 2012.
  24. ^ "Shriners Hospitals for Children Extends Tournament Sponsorship" Archived 2014-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, Monday, July 2, 2012.
  25. ^ "2013 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.",, Retrieved January 2, 2013.

External links[edit]