When you think of the Shriners, do you envision guys in funny hats who ride in parades? Until recently, my only experience with the Shriners was attending the annual Shriners Circus with my children. But the Shriners are so much more than that.
Who are the Shriners of North America?
The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, or more commonly known as Shriners, come from various walks of life. Shriners are dentists, lawyers, truck drivers, clergymen, movie stars, and generals. But one thing all Shriners have in common is they are all Master Masons in the Freemasonry Fraternity. According to the official Shriners of North America website, there are approximately 400,000 Shriners and 191 chapters in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Panama.
The History of the Shriners of North America
The idea of the Shriners fraternity began at a social gathering on the second floor of a Manhattan restaurant called Knickerbocker Cottage in 1870. Several Masons would meet there regularly and it was decided a special fraternity of the Masons should be formed that focused more on fun and fellowship than rituals. Basically, these Masons wanted to loosen things up a bit.
The first Shrine Temple in the United States was founded in 1872 at the New York City Masonic Hall. The original group from Knickerbocker Cottage were the 13 charter members of the Mecca Temple. In 1875, a second Shrine Temple was founded in Rochester.
What’s with the funny hats Shriners wear?
The red, tasseled hat is called a fez, named for the city they were first manufactured – Fez, Morocco. The fez is the official headgear of the Shriners organization. The fez is worn at public functions to gain more recognition for the fraternity.
There are strict rules in regard to the fez. According to the Shriners website, only certain ranking officials within the Shriners fraternity can wear their title on their fez. The black tassel can be attached with just two pins on the left side of the fez, and no other pins or decorations are allowed on the fez.
What do the Shriners do?
Besides riding in parades and hosting circuses around the country, the Shriners operate 22 hospitals in the United States and Canada. These hospitals are special in that they provide free healthcare, no matter the financial situation of the patients, to children up to age 18 who have problems in orthopaedics, burns, spinal cord disease and injury, and cleft lip and palate. The first Shriners Hospital opened in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1922. Its first patient was a young girl who had a club foot and had learned to walk on the top of her foot. The first patient in the Twin Cities Shriners Hospital was a boy who had polio.
There are quite a few well-known men who are also Shriners, including astronaut Buzz Aldrin, golfer Arnold Palmer, race car driver Sam Hornish, Jr., country singer Brad Paisley, actor Richard Tyson, and musician and actor Kris Kristofferson.
“Shriners Hospitals for Children”, ShrinersHQ.org
“Shriners of North America”, ShrinersHQ.org