The History of the Shriners

Learn about the history of El Katif Shriners.

El Katif Shriners

The History of the Shriners

Learn about the history of El Katif Shriners.

The History of the Shriners


The Shriners, or Shrine Masons, were originally called “The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine” (A.A.O.N.M.S.). This was changed a few years ago, when we branched out to other countries beyond North America, and we are now know as “Shriners International”.

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 while they loved Masonry, which traces its roots to stonemasons and craftsmen of the Middle Ages, was a tad too focused on ritual. These men 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 there are approximately 340,000 Shriners belonging to over 190 Shrine Centers and many Shrine Clubs throughout the world.

The Shrine is best known for its colorful parades, its distinctive red fez, and its official philanthropy, Shriners Hospitals for Children, which is often called “the heart and soul of the Shrine.

Why do Shriners wear a Fez

The red fez with a black tassel, the Shrine’s most distinctive symbol, has been handed down through the ages. It derives its name from the place where it was first manufactured – the holy city of Fez, Morocco. The fez was chosen as part of the Shrine’s Arabic (Near-Eastern) theme, around which the color and pageantry of the Shrine are developed.

Freemasonry and its ties to the Shrine

In order to become a Shriner, a man must first be a Freemason, or Mason as it is most commonly referred as. The fraternity of Freemasonry is the oldest, largest and most widely known Fraternity in the world. It dates back hundreds of years to when stonemasons and other craftsmen on building projects gathered in shelter houses, or lodges. Over the years, formal Masonic lodges emerged, with members bound together not by trade, but by their own desire to be Fraternal Brothers.

The basic unit of Masonry is the Blue Lodge, where members earn the first three Masonic Degrees. There is no higher degree than that of Master Mason (the Third Degree), but if a man wishes to further explore the allegory and symbolism learned in the Blue Lodge, he can join the Scottish Rite and/or the York Rite, both of which elaborate on the basic tenets of Freemasonry.

The steps to becoming a Shrine Mason

Every Shriner is first a Mason: however, in many parts of North America, Masonry does not solicit members. In these areas, no one is asked to join. A man must seek admission of his own free will. A man is a fully accepted “Blue Lodge” Mason after he has received and proved proficiency in the first three degrees, known as Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason.

After that, he can belong to many other organizations which have their roots in Masonry and which have Blue Lodge Masonry as a prerequisite. Only when a Master Mason has proven proficiency in the Third Degree can he petition to become a Noble of the Mystic Shrine.

Where to get a Petition for Membership

To become a Shriner you must first be a Master Mason. Click on the path that applies to you.

If you are not a member in the Masonic Order, please click here: http://www.beashrinernow.com/Roadmap/MasonPath.aspx

If you are a member in the Masonic Order, and want to know how to join the Shrine, please click here: http://www.beashrinernow.com/Roadmap/ShrinePath.aspx

If you are a Master Mason in good standing in our jurisdiction, and wish to obtain a Petition for membership, contact the El Katif Shrine Office at: adminassist@elkatif.org

The Shrine’s Middle Eastern Theme

The Shrine is as American as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. It was tied to an Arabic theme by its founders, Billy Florence, an actor, and Walter Fleming, a physician. Fleming and Florence realized the fledging fraternity needed a colorful, exciting backdrop. It is believed that Florence conceived the Shrine’s Near Eastern setting while on tour in Europe.

As the legend goes, Florence attended a party in Marseilles, France, hosted by an Arabian diplomat. At the end of the party, the guests became members of a secret society. Florence realized this might be the ideal vehicle for the new fraternity, and he made copious notes and drawings of the ceremony.

When Florence returned to the States, Fleming agreed, and together they created elaborate rituals, designed the emblem and costumes, and formulated the salutation.
Though the Shrine is not itself a secret society, it still retains much of the mysticism and secrecy of its origins.

The Shrine supported various charities almost from its inception. In 1920, however, the organization voted to adopt its own official philanthropy, dedicated to providing orthopedic medical care to children in need, regardless of a families ability to pay, and the first Shriners Hospital was built in Shreveport, LA., in 1922. The Shrine’s philanthropy eventually expanded to 22 “Centers of Excellence.”

Membership a top priority for the Shrine

The membership of the Shrine of North America continues to decline at an alarming rate. In fact, every 24 hours, the Shrine loses 46 Nobles.  While this statistic is shocking, with a cooperative effort throughout Shrinedom, it is not irreversible.

A Message from James R. “Jim” Smith, Imperial Potentate, Shriner’s International

There’s no getting around it – 2020 is a different and difficult year! As we cope with the realities of living through a pandemic, I am very thankful to be part of a Brotherhood
that looks after one another.

In some ways, I am more proud than ever to be a Shriner.  Over the last several months, there have been countless stories of Shriners helping our health care system, supporting and thanking first responders in their communities, and looking after one another. During this uncertain time, you have selflessly and consistently cared for others, and I commend and thank you for these efforts.

In addition to the pandemic, some areas of our country are also struggling with natural disasters, including raging wildfires, tropical storms and hurricanes and even wind storms.
Some temples and lodges have been damaged, and some of our fellow Shriners and Masonic Brothers have lost their homes and experienced other personal tragedies. And again, our Nobles have reached out, ready to help those in need. You truly do practice and live up to the Masonic values and ideals!

As we deal with all the difficulties wrought by COVID-19, including imposed separation and quarantine, we need to find ways to both stay connected and lighten our spirits. In fact, these are times when Fun and Fellowship can be especially important and beneficial. Using today’s technology, temples can be “open,” and members can gather virtually using Zoom or Skype or other similar programs. You can actually have game nights or socials or coffee clubs. I urge you to be creative and find ways to connect with your fellow Shriners and have some virtual fun! And remember to share your ideas and successes with one another.

Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to have an impact on our signature events, including the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. While the event will take place (Oct. 5-11), there will not be fans in attendance. The tournament will be televised on the Golf Channel and available on PGA Live. We are grateful the event will take place, and look forward to an exciting competition, and to being able to gather in person next year to cheer on the players, and applaud our amazing patient standard-bearers once again.

Shriners are hopeful, confident, compassionate and resilient people. We will get through this, and be stronger for it. And we will have an easier time as we work toward better days, if we seek ways to connect and support one another, and to enjoy some Fun and Fellowship.

I am proud to count you as Brothers. Thank you for all you do for one another, your Fraternity and your Philanthropy.

Yours in the faith,

James R. “Jim” Smith, Imperial Potentate

The Shriner’s 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 diseases, 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.

We honor family. We respect out parents, wives and children. We should instill in our children the tenets of this creed and the heritage from which it emanates.

As individuals we pledge ourselves to integrity, virtue and nobility of character. Our intentions will be honorable. Our relations 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 the better because of our fraternity and its principals.

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.