The Shrine

The Shrine is one of the most recognized appendant bodies in Masonry. Having very a very prominent public image, The Shrine hospitals have helped many children and families over the years. Let’s look a little further into what The Shrine is, and it’s moving parts within Masonry.

Shriners International is, at its most basic level, a fraternity.

It all started in Manhattan in 1870 when some members of what’s considered the world’s oldest fraternity – Masonry – were hanging out at their favorite tavern. They felt that Masonry, which traces its roots to stonemasons and craftsmen of the Middle Ages, was a tad too focused on ritual. These guys wanted a fraternity that stressed fun and fellowship.

Two of those gentlemen – Walter M Fleming, M.D., and Billy Florence, an actor – took that idea and ran with it. Florence came up with the idea for a Near Eastern-themed party after attending a party thrown by an Arabian diplomat. Fleming added the structure, drafting the fraternity’s name, initiation rites, rituals and rules. Together, Fleming and Florence designed the fraternity’s emblem, devised a salutation and determined that the red fez with the black tassel would be the group’s official headgear.

The first chapter, Mecca Shriners, met in New York City in 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.

The Shrine Circus

The first Shrine Circus was held in Detroit, Michigan, for the Moslem Shrine Center. There is a state historical marker at the former site which proclaims its contribution to circus history.

The circus was originally a one-ring affair, but by 1925 it had grown to three rings. Despite now traveling to many cities, the Detroit affair is still the largest. In 1996, it ran for 17 days with 40 performances making it not only the oldest Shrine Circus, but also the most attended. The most famous venue to host the circus is the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, where the Southern California Shrine Circus takes place.

By the 1920s Shrine Circuses were being conducted throughout the country, and each year additional Shrine Centers introduced circuses to their communities. The first Shrine Circus each year is usually in Flint, Michigan, each January. The circus then travels to at least one city per week through November. The last performances are usually being held Thanksgiving week in Evansville, Indiana, and New Orleans, Louisiana. The 2005 season ended in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, rather than New Orleans, due to Hurricane Katrina.

The term “Shrine Circus” is usually prefaced by the name of the host Shrine in each geographic area. Over the years many circus stars have appeared in Shrine Circuses, including: Clyde Beatty, the Flying Wallendas, Emmett Kelly, the Flying Concellos, the Hannefords and the Zacchinis.

The Shrine Hospital

Taken from Wikipedia-

In 1920, the Imperial Session of the Shriners was held in Portland, Oregon. During that session the membership unanimously passed a resolution to establish what at the time was called the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children system. The first hospital in the system opened in 1922 in Shreveport,Louisiana. It provided pediatric orthopaedic care.

In 1962, the Shriners of North America allocated $10 million to establish three hospitals that specialized in the treatment and rehabilitation of burned children. After visiting 21 university-based medical institutions, the decision was made to build their first pediatric burn hospital on the campus of theUniversity of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.

In 1994, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, an industry publication, released the results of the largest study of charitable and non-profit organization popularity and credibility. The study showed that the Shriners Hospitals were ranked as the 9th “most popular charity/non-profit in America” of over 100 charities researched with 40% of Americans over the age of 12 choosing “Love” and “Like A Lot” for the Shriners Hospitals.

In September 2008, the Shriner’s Hospital in Galveston sustained significant damage from Hurricane Ike. The hospital was closed for renovation at that time, and care for children with acute burns was provided at other Shriners Hospitals for Children. The Shriners had considered closing facilities in Shreveport, Louisiana; Greenville, South Carolina; Erie, Pennsylvania; Spokane, Washington; Springfield, Massachusetts and Galveston, Texas, eliminating a total of 225 beds. However, in July 2009, the Shriners National Convention voted overwhelming against closing any hospitals and to repair and reopen the Galveston facility.

In 2009, despite an endowment that declined from $8 billion to $5 billion in less than a year because of the poor economy, Douglas Maxwell, the hospitals’ CEO said he and other Shriners are confident the hospital system will be able to remain solvent in the long term. Maxwell stated in July 2009 that some of the facilities may become outpatient surgical centers, and will begin accepting insurance payments (for most care) for the first time in the hospitals’ 87-year history. Maxwell said children suffering from burns, orthopaedic conditions, spinal cord injuries and cleft palates will continue to be treated without charge to their families.

In May 2015, Shriners Hospitals for Children became a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, a national network of organizations committed to better serving patients and their families through physician collaboration.