A History of the Shrine
In 1870, several thousand of the 900,000 residents of Manhattan were Masons. Many of these Masons made it a point to lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage, a restaurant at 426 Sixth Avenue. At a special table on the second floor, a particularly jovial of men used to meet regularly.
The Masons who gathered at this table were noted for their good humor and wit. They often discussed the idea of a new fraternity for Masons, in which fun and fellowship would be stressed more than ritual. Two of the table regulars, Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. “Billy” Florence, an actor, took the idea seriously enough to do something about it.
Billy Florence was a star. After becoming the toast of the New York stage, he toured London, Europe and Middle Eastern countries, always playing to capacity audiences. While on tour in Marseilles, France, Florence was invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat
Florence, recalling conversations at the Knickerbocker Cottage, realized that this Arabian theme might well be the vehicle for the new fraternity.
Dr. Walter Fleming was a prominent physician and surgeon. Born in 1838, he obtained a degree in medicine in Albany, N.Y., in 1862. During the Civil War, he was a surgeon with the 13th New York Infantry Brigade of the National Guard. He then practiced medicine in Rochester, N.Y., until 1868, when he moved to New York City and quickly became a leading practioner.
Fleming was devoted to fraternalism. He became a Mason in Rochester and took some of his Scottish Rite work there, then completed his degrees in New York City. He was coroneted a 33 degree Scottish Rite Mason on September 19, 1872.
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.).
With the help of other Knickerbocker Cottage regulars, Fleming drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and costumes, formulated a salutation, and declared that members would wear a red fez.
The initiation rites, or ceremonials, were drafted by Fleming with the help of three Brother Masons: Charles T. McClenachan, lawyer and expert on Masonic Ritual; William Sleigh Paterson, printer, linguist andand ritualist; and Albert L. Rawson, prominent scholar and Mason who provided much of the Arabic background.
The Shriners Creed
Shriners believe in God and that He created man to serve His purposes, among which is service to others in His name. We believe that care for the less fortunate, especially children who suffer from burns and crippling disease, is our institutional calling.
We are patriots, each willing to serve his country with fidelity and courage. We cherish independence under law and freedom with responsibility.
As individuals we pledge ourselves to integrity, virtue and nobility of character. Our intentions will be honorable, our relationships will be trustworthy and our spirits forgiving of each other.
As brothers we offer each other fraternal affection and respect. Together we will support each other in adherence to this creed, so that we and our communities will be better because of our fraternity and its principles.
As shriners we look beyond ourselves to serve the needs of others, especially children who cannot help themselves. We believe Shriners Hospitals to be the world’s greatest philanthropy and we covenant with each other to support its “temples of mercy” with spirit, time, talent and means.
The Crescent was adopted as the Jewel of the Order. Though many materials can be used in forming the Crescent, the most valuable are the claws of a Royal Bengal Tiger, united at their base in a gold setting. In the center is the head of a sphinx, and on the back are a pyramid, an urn and a star. The Jewel bears the motto “Robur et Furor,” which means “Strength and Fury.” Today, the emblem includes a scimitar from which the Crescent hangs, and a five pointed star beneath the head of the sphinx.
The red fez with a black tassel, Shriner’s official headgear, has been handed down through the ages. It derives its name from the place where it was first manufactured- the city of Fez, Morocco.
Some historians claim it dates back to about A.D. 980, but the name of the fez, or tarboosh, does not appear in Arabic literature until around the 14th century. One of the earliest references to the headgear is in “Arabian Nights.”