History of the Shriners

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 there are approximately 325,000 Shriners belonging to 195 chapters in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the Republics of Panama and Philippines, Germany, and Puerto Rico.

Shriners International a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief and truth, founded Shriners Hospitals for Children in 1922 as its official philanthropy. The fraternity, which has approximately 325,000 members worldwide, continues to operate and support the 22-hospital health care system today. Shriners International continues to support the hospitals by raising funds, assisting patients’ families with transportation, volunteering on hospital boards and much more.

Children from birth age to 18 receive expert specialty medical care at these hospitals, regardless of our patient’s or family’s ability to pay, thanks to the efforts of Shriners and other generous supporters. In addition, many Shriners Hospitals of Children facilities are engaged in medical research and are affiliated with the top academic medical institutions in North America.

Interested in becoming a Shriner? Go to http://www.beashrinernow.com/

Shriners International

Organizational Overview

The Imperial Divan is the international governing body of Shriners International. The governing body works as a corporate Board of Directors and consists of 12 officers, each of whom is elected to the lowest position on the Divan and moves up one position each year, with the exception of the Imperial Treasurer and Imperial Recorder.

The highest leadership position within Shriners International is Imperial Potentate. The Imperial Potentate is both president and chief executive officer of Shriners International, and is elected for a one-year term. He spends his year in office visiting many of the Shriner temples (chapters), attending regional meetings and visiting Shriners Hospitals for Children® locations. He also serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors for both Shriners Hospitals for Children and Shriners International.

A similar organizational structure is followed at the local level within each temple around the world.

Learn More about Shriners International

Shriners Hospitals for Children

Changing the World through Caring for Kids

Shriners Hospitals for Children® is a health care system of 22 hospitals world renowned for paediatric specialty care, innovative research and outstanding teaching programmes for medical professionals.  Children up to the age of 18 with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of our patient’s or family’s ability to pay.

For hospital information


Freemasons come from all walks of life, but in order to become a Mason you must meet a few simple criteria:

  1. You must be a male, at least 18 years of age (varies by state)
  2. You must profess a belief in a Supreme Being
  3. You must be a man of good morals and reputation