Waterloo County Shrine Club

Mocha Shriners

How it all Began

In 1870, many Masons had lunch at a restaurant called the Knickerbocker Cottage, 426 Sixth Avenue, New York City. 




One particularly jovial group used to meet regularly at a special table on the second floor.  They became known for their good humor and wit and often discussed the idea of a new fraternity for Masons, in which fun and fellowship would be stressed more than ritual.

Brothers Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Florence, an actor, grew serious about the idea.. Billy Florence, the actor toured London, Europe and Middle Eastern countries.  While on tour in Marseilles, France, Florence attended a party given by an Arabian diplomat where he saw an elaborately staged musical comedy.  Afterward, the guests became members of a secret society.  On two other occasions, once in Algiers and again in Cairo, he attended the ceremony again.  He made copious notes and drawings at that time.


When he returned to New York in 1870 and showed his material to Dr. Fleming.  They realized that this might well be the idea for a new fraternity.  Dr. Fleming converted the ideas supplied by Florence 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 Masons who met at the Knickerbocker Cottage, Fleming drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and ritual 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, a lawyer and expert on Masonic Ritual; William Sleigh Paterson, a printer, linguist and ritualist; and Albert L. Rawson, a prominent scholar who provided much of the Arabic background.


On September 26, 1872 in the New York City Masonic Hall, the Shrine held its first meeting. Dr. Fleming proposed that the first Temple be named Mecca.  The original 13 Masons of the Knickerbocker Cottage lunch group were named Charter Members. The Shrine of North America was born.

At a meeting of Mecca Temple on June 6, 1876 a governing body was formed and was called "The Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of the United States of America." 

Two years later, in 1878, there 425 Shriners in 13 Temples. While the organization was still primarily social, instances of philanthropic work became more frequent. During an 1888 Yellow Fever epidemic in Jacksonville, FL, members of the new Morocco Temple and Masonic Knights Templar worked long hours to relieve the suffering populace.  In 1889, Shriners came to the Johnstown Flood victims. In 1889, there were 50,000 Shriners, and 71 of the 79 Temples were engaged in some sort of philanthropic work.

In the early 1900's, membership grew rapidly.  During the time between 1900 and 1918 there was growing support for establishing an official Shrine charity.  In 1906 Shriners sent $25,000 to San Francisco after the great earthquake to help the stricken city. In 1915 Shriners contributed $10,000 for relief of European war victims.

In 1919, Freeland Kendrick (Lu Lu Temple, Philadelphia) who was the Imperial Potentate-elect for the 363,744 Shriners had long been in search for a cause for the thriving group to support. At the June 1919 Imperial Session, Kendrick proposed "The Mystic Shriners Peace Memorial for Friendless, Orphaned and Crippled Children." The resolution never came to a vote.  In Portland , Oregon at the 1920 Imperial Session, Kendrick changed his resolution to one establishing the "Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children" to be supported by a $2 yearly assessment from each Shriner. Prospects for approval were dimming when Noble Forrest Adair of the Yaarab Temple, Atlanta, Georgia rose to speak.  During his speech he noted "While we spend money for songs and spend money for bands, it's time for the Shrine to spend money for humanity." After a thunderous applause there were other speakers, but the decision had all ready been reached. The resolution was passed unanimously.

A committee was chosen and after months of work, research and debate , the committee concluded that there should not be just one hospital but a network of hospitals throughout North America.  The committee brought the proposal to the 1921 Imperial Session in Des Moines, Iowa, it too was passed.

Before the June 1922 Session, the cornerstone was in place for the first Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Shreveport, La. Over a few years the network of hospitals grew to 22 Hospitals.  Since 1922 the Shriners Childrens Hospitals have treated over 700,000 patients.  These Hospitals treat children having orthopedic problems, burns and spinal cord injuries.

The budget for 2003 to operate these hospitals is $605 million dollars for the entire year at a rate of $1.65 million every 24 hours for children.  This expert orthopedic, burn and spinal cord injury care is given at absolutely no charge.  Of this $605 million dollars, $541 million of which makes up the research and operating budget that funds patient care, teaching, administrative expenses, depreciation, and the daily expenses of the entire Shriners Hospitals network.

An important part of the Shriners Hospitals operating budget is dedicated to research. In 2003, about $25 million has been set aside to fund the Medical Research Program, which includes 123 investigative research projects.  Since the mid-1960's, over $424 million has been invested in research projects that have changed the way burn, orthopedic and spinal cord injury care is given throughout the world.