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 Florence’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.
Shriners Hospitals for Children was founded in 1922 with the goal of providing expert medical care for children with no financial burden to the patients or their families.
Today that philanthropic effort supports the health care system’s 22 facilities across the U.S., Canada and Mexico, treating children up to 18 years of age who have orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, cleft lip and palate, and more. Our advanced care is provided in a family-centered environment that is focused on maximizing a child’s quality of life, regardless of the families’ ability to pay. The Nemesis Shrine is connected with the Shriners Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.