Doctor Oliver says that the shrine is the place where the secrets of the Royal Arch are deposited. The word is not so used in the United States of America, nor does it seem properly applicable according to the legend of the Degree. The word is frequently applied to the Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
The Shrine, as is for brevity the familiar name applied to the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, has an origin about which the various writers upon the subject have not agreed.The point on which there is general agreement is that the real work of preparing a Ritual and organizing a Temple in the City of New York and four years later organizing what was first known as the "Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for the United States of America," was done by Dr. Walter M. Fleming, ably assisted by Nobles (Charles T. McClenachan and a few others (see history of the Imperial Council, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, W. B. Melish, Preston Belvin, Jarnes McGee, George S. Meredith, Fred D. Schram, Committee on History, Cincinnati,1919, page 14, also see Doctor Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry, pages 1973 to 1983). Noble Fleming and his associates purposely gave the Ritual an alluring mysticism presented in Oriental style. So much is this in evidence that even those active in the Shrine from the earlier years found difficulty in saying with precision how much or how little confidence should be placed in any claims made for an exclusively foreign origin of the institution.
We submit some of the statements. From these the reader may determine whether the Shrine was from the far East, or of near New York, or Oriental in dress and American by birth. The history is discussed in Mecca, the Parent Temple, 1894, a book "compiled and collated" by Noble Dr. Walter M. Fleming and Noble William S. Paterson. Brother Fleming was the first Grand Imperial Potentate. Grand in the titles was discarded by the Imperial Council in 1887. The name of the Temple at New York was Gotham and was changed when it was decided that all Temples should have an Arabic or Egyptian title, when Mecca was chosen.
Noble Paterson was the first Recorder of Mecca Temple, serving for twenty-five years, and was also Recorder of the Imperial Council, 1876-89. Pages 12 to 14 of the above work state, "'the Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine was instituted by the Mohammedan Kalif Alee (whose name be praised!), the cousin-german and son-in-law of the Prophet Mohammed (God favor and preserve him!), in the year of the Hegira 25 (A.D. 644) at Mecca, in Arabia, as an Inquisition or Vigilance Committee, to dispense justice and execute punishment upon criminals who escaped their just deserts through the tardiness of the courts, and also to promote religious toleration among cultured men of all nations."
Brothers Fleming and Paterson say also: "The Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine in America does not advocate Mohammedanism as a sect, but inculcates the same respect to Deity here as in Arabia and elsewhere, and hence the secret of its profound grasp on the intellect and heart of all cultured people.
The Ritual now in rise is a translation from the original Arabic, found preserved in the Archives of the Order at Aleppo, Syria, whence it was brought, in 1860, to London, England, by Rizk Allah Hassoon Effendee, who was the author of several important works in Arabic, one of which was a metrical version of the Book of Job. His History of Islam offended the Turkish Government because of its humanitarian principles, and he was forced to leave his native country. He was a ripe scholar in Arabic poetry and the general literature of the age, and his improvements in the direction of certain parts of the Ritual of the Shrine are of great beauty and value." They add that in 1698 a "learned Orientalist, Luigi Marracci," was initiated into "our Order of Nobles," and translated the Ritual into Italian, and "in making the present version the translator has had the benefit of the work of Alnasafi, of Marracci, and of Hassoon.
The rendering is literal where the idiom permitted, except where a local reference required the substitution of America for Oriental names of cities. The work was perfected in August, 1870, under the supervision of Dr. Walter M. Fleming, Thirty-third Degree, Sovereign Grand Inspector General, Ancient Accepted Scottish Mite, and Past Commander of Columbian Commandery, No. 1, Knights Templar, New York, who received his instructions and authority from Rizk Allah Hassoon Effendee, who had competent jurisdiction for America."
The History of 1894 by Brothers Fleming and Paterson deals with William J. Florence, the famous actor. A long letter from Brother Florence written in 1882 tells of a visit by him in August, 1870, at Marseilles, France, to a Hall near the Grand Hotel de l'Univers where there was a meeting of Bokhara Shrine Temple presided over by Yusef Churi Bey, of the Persian Consulate. Brother Florence says:
"I need not describe the work of the Temple any further than to say that the intention is to enact a drama very much like our own, which had for its object the same lesson, and there can be no better or more zealous workers in a good cause than those French brothers who celebrated the Mysteries at Marseilles on that evening. My duties prevented a sufficiently long stay in Marseilles to witness a second performance and I therefore begged Yusef Bey to allow me to have a copy of the Ritual and Laws which I received on the day I sailed for Algiers.
In Algiers the Shrine of the Mogribins was in full operation, meeting each week on Friday evening. zebu Mohammed Baki was the Shayk, and among the members were nearly every one of the many consuls, vice-consuls, and other diplomats of the port, many of the most noted merchants and bankers, and not a few of the learned and gifted Mohammedans, who are passionately fond of perpetuating ancient customs which increase their social pleasures.
The costumes and furniture of the Shrine in Algiers were gorgeous in silk, wool and fine linen, decorated with embroidery in gold, silver and colors, and the sword, spears, and other articles used by the guards and officers in the work were genuine steel, many of which had been in actual service in the field of battle." A few months before Brother Florence died, (Grand Secretary Parvin of Iowa submitted to him a newspaper clipping that said among other things that he was initiated at Cairo. In reply the famous actor wrote: "The points in the paper are mainly correct. I was the first to introduce the Order in America. Doctor Fleming amplified and perfected the work."
A letter written by Doctor Fleming is in the History by Noble Paterson and himself. He says: "Mr. Florence was entertained as a Mason at Marseilles, in Bokhara Temple of the Arabic Bektash. He at this time simply witnessed the opening session of the exoteric ceremonials which characterize the politic or religious Order of Bektash of Oriental Europe. A monitorial, history and explanatory manuscript he also received there. It did not embrace the esoteric inner temple exemplification or obligation, nor the Unwritten Law which is never imparted to any one except from mouth to ear. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Florence was similarly favored in Algiers and Aleppo.
Through letters and commendations he finally secured the manuscript monitor, history and descriptive matters, from which sprang the Order in this country. It was in Algiers and Aleppo that he was received into the Inner Temple under the domain of the Crescent, and first became possessor of the esoteric ivory the unwritten law, and the Shayk's obligation. Subsequently he visited Cairo, Egypt, and was admitted, and collected more of Oriental history and the manuscript of Memorial Ceremonials. But Mr. Florence was never fully recognized or possessed of authority until long after his return to America. All he possessed was a disconnected series of sheets in Arabic and French, with some marginal memoranda made by himself from verbal elucidation in Aleppo Through Professor Albert L. Rawson, these, with others received afterwards through correspondence abroad, comprised the translations from which the Order started here. Mr. Florence and myself received authority to introduce the Order in America."
Brother James McGee in his Early History of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrive e in North America tells a different story. Published in 1918 this pamphlet says that with the object of bringing the Order to the notice of the Masonic Fraternity the founder felt the same necessity, as did those who have founded other secret fraternal orders, of giving it the flavor of mysticism and antiquity to secure a standing and success. Brother Fleming wanted the Order to be Arabic by birth but American by adoption, having a broad toleration, "He who holds a belief in a Supreme or Most High is never questioned as to any definition of that belief." In this connection examine the dialogue between the Angel and the Student on page 208 of Francis S. Salturs' book Honey and Gall, published by J. E. Lippincott & Company, at Philadelphia, 1875, a copy of which was owned by Doctor Fleming and preserved by his family. This work has some significant marginal notes written by Doctor Fleming showing that his manuscript of the ceremonies was influenced by this poem. The lines in question are:
ANGEL Believest thou? . . STUDENT In what? ANGEL In powers supreme that fix and shape thy lot That either wound or kill, sustain, create, That rule thy doings, and command thy fate? STUDENT Spirit! A sacrilege thou mayst suspect. But hark thee! All religions I respect As good and worthy,--but believe in none. The bronze-skinned savage who adores the sun And bows before the flament eye in fear Should not be scoffed at, if his voice sincere In simple wordings swelleth out in prayer To one that warms and feeds him by its glare. The Parsees kneeling to their God of Fire Ascend with cheerful steps a blazing pyre To perish faithful--girt with strong belief. Do they not merit for their martyred grief An envied life of joys in other spheres As consolation for their worldly fearst Cannot a noble heart in Greek or Turk In breast of Jew as well as Christian lurk? The struts and splendors of the Orient's rites, The pageants, jewelled costumes, countless lights, The wailing dervishes with sandalled feet, The censors swinging with their perfumes sweet. The sumptuous mosques, marvels of Eastern art, The tekke's domed, chiselled in every part With crafty hand, till stone resembles lace A glorious tribute. age cannot efface-- lithe sensuous music, velvet to the ear Monotonous of rhythm, deep, sad, austere, Yet soul vibrating, mystic, gravely sung By throat melodious. and by fervent tongue: The stately Imans robed in white and blue, The zains, defenders, eunuchs, retinue, Steel, gold and glory pomp immense. Does not this speak to eye, to soul, to sense, Persuading all as loud the muessin drones, Allah is great, Mahonlet's love atones."
Doctor Fleming has a note substituting the word Arab for Jew in the above text, and two additional lines were added by him in his copy of Saltus' books These are: Stir thy lethargy-- Go forth, expiate thy sins.
Brother Fleming had traveled throughout Europe, the Orient, and America. Democratic congenial, a sportsman, ever at home with kindred spirits, a constant student, he had a book in hand up to his last moments Possessing a keen retentive memory, he was the best of entertainers, having a fund of recitations and he attracted a host of friends. Through miscellaneous literary work he developed into form his conception of the Order of the Mystic Shrine as a relaxation from the serious labor necessary in the portrayal by himself and his fellow members of the many characters in the Degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
The foundation of the Shrine was laid in that Rite. On Sunday, April 21, 1867, Aurora Grata Lodge of Perfection of Brooklyn held a special meeting at the Metropolitan Hotel, New York Cites for the purpose of communicating the Ineffable Grades of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite upon Brother William J. Florence who was "about to depart for Europe," as the Minutes say. There were present Illustrious Brother McClenachan and one other member of the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, two from the Southern, and a number of Brethren of Aurora Grata. The Degrees of the Council, Chapter, and Consistory were also conferred upon Brother Florence before his departure. This was the trip made by him to the Old World preceding the establishment of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine in the United States.
Brother Charles A. Brockaway, Past Potentate of Kismet Temple, and Historian of the Aurora Grata Bodies says: "Brother Florence brought back monitorial, historical and explanatory manuscripts and communicated the secrets of the Order to Dr. Walter M. Fleming of Aurora Grata Consistory, who was empowered to introduce and establish the Order in America. It was determined to confer the Order only on Freemasons and on the 16th of June, 1871 (brother McGee puts the date in September of the following year), four Knights Templar and seven members of Aurora Grata Consistory, Thirty-second Degree, were made acquainted with the secrets of the Order by Doctor Fleming and Brother Florence. It was decided to engage in the establishment of the Order, and on the 26th of September, 1872, the organization was effected and officers elected. Nine of the thirteen founders of the Mystic Shrine in the United States were members of the Aurora Crata Bodies~2 (see One Hundred Years of Aurora Grata, Charles A. Brockaway, Brooklyn, 1908, page 48).
William J. Florence, Walter M. Fleming, Charles T. MeClenachan, Daniel Sickels, John W. Simons, (George W. Millar, William S. Paterson, John A. Moore and James S. Chappelle were the nine members mentioned above. The first thirty Nobles of the Mystic Shrine were officially listed and numbered as follows:
1, Walter Millard Fleming 2, William Jermyn Florence 3, Sherwood C. Campbell 4, James ,S. Chappelle 5, Oswald M. d'Aubigne 6, Edward Eddy 7, Charles T. McClenachan 8, George W. Millar 9, John A. Moore 10, Albert P. Moriarty 11, William S. Paterson 12, Daniel Sickels 13, John W. Simons 14, Benson Sherwood 15, Charles Aikman 16, William V. Alexander 17, John E. Bendix 18, William Blanchard 19, Benjamin F. Brady 20, John F. Collins 21, Edward du Laurans 22, Edward Martin Luther Ehlers 23, Peter Forrester 24, William Fowler 25, William T. Hardenbrook 26, Philip Lenhart 27, Joseph M. Levey 28, James McGee 29, Charles T. Murrat 30, William D. May
Brother Fleming was working early in the seventies upon the Ritual. He joined the Consistory in May, 1871, and in March, 1872, became a member of Columbian Commandery. He conferred with an able ritualist and Masonic student, Charles T. McClenachan, and Brother McGee says they agreed to decorate the Shrine Ritual with the glamour of Eastern mysticism and color. The new organization became an adjunct to the York as well as the Scottish Rite. A candidate must be a Thirty-second Degree Freemason or a Knights Templar.
Doctor Fleming was the physician and friend of Brother Florence. Fleming and McClenachan, according to Noble James McGee, considered how the Order could gain the quickest success. Florence consented to the use of his name. Fleming drew upon his imagination and wrote up Florence in his visits to the imaginary Shrine Temples of foreign lands in "regal splendor," as he termed it, and his "comminglings" with the Nobility of the Order abroad, bestowing upon his congenial patient and chum many honors (see Early History of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine in North America, James McGee, New York, 1918, page 9).
While less romantic, this the more recent account of the Order has gained ground though the story lacks the picturesque qualities of the days when on paper at least relations with Shrine Temples of the East were presumably maintained and the advertising of a welcome to visiting Nobles was printed regularly in Arabic in the columns of a New York publication.
Mecca Temple was organized in 1872. The following officers were elected, there being thirteen members of the Temple, of whom eleven were present. Florence and Campbell were absent: Walter M. Fleming, Potentate; Charles T. McClenaehan, Chief Rabban; John A. Moore, Assistant Rabban; William S. Paterson, Recorder; Edward Eddy, High Priest; James S. Chappelle, Treasurer; George W. Millar, Oriental Guide; and Oswald M. d'Aubigne, Captain of the Guard. In the Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for the United States of America was organized on June 6, 1876. The following were officers of the Imperial Grand-- Grand as a title was dropped later--Council for three years: Walter M. Fleming, New York, Grand Potentate; George F. Loder, Rochester, New York, Deputy Grand Potentate; Philip F. Lenhart, Brooklyn, Grand Chief Rabban; Edward M. L. Ehlers, New York City, Grand Assistant Chief Rabban; William H. Whiting, Roehester, New York, High Priest and Prophet; Samuel R. Carter, Rochester, New York, Oriental Guide; Aaron L. Northrup, New York City, Grand Treasurer; William S. Paterson, New York City, Grand Recorder; Albert P. Moriarty, New York City, Grand Financial Secretary; John L. Stettinius, Cincinnati, Ohio, Grand First Ceremonial Master; Benson Sherwood, New York City, Grand Second Ceremonial Master; Samuel Harper, Pittsburgh, Grand Marshal; Franl; Bascom, Montpelier, Vermont, Grand Captain of the Guards; and George Scott, Paterson, New Jersey, Grand Outer Guard. Brother Fleming was born at Portland, Maine, June 13, 1838, and died at Mount Vernon, New York, on September 9, 1913; McClenachan was born at Washington, District of Columbia, on April 13, 1829, and died on December 19, 1896; Florence was born at Albany, New York, on July 26, 1831, and died at Philadelphia on November 19, 1891; Paterson was a Scotehman, born at Haddington on March 6, 1844, coming to the United States at three years of age, and died in New York City on May 21, 1913. Brief Masonic biographies are given in the Early History by Noble McGee of Nobles Fleming, Florence, McClenachan, Paterson, and Sam Briggs, the latter succeeding Noble Fleming as Imperial Potentate at the Cleveland session of 1886. Noble Briggs as the first Potentate of Al Koran Temple of Cleveland, Ohio, is credited highly by Brother McGee for the fine staging of the ceremonies in the early days. DamasCU3 Temple of Rochester is credited by him on page 17 of his History with the first complete rendition of the ceremonial work, but the History of the Imperial Council (page 167), assigns this honor to Al Koran Temple.
Important articles of Shrine interest were published in the Builder, 1916 (pages 157, 242, 286, and 350), the last giving a list of the Masonic connections of Noble Florence whose affiliation with Freemasonry had been mistakenly questioned.
William Winter, the historian of the American stage, has a chapter of eulogy upon Florence in his Wallet of Time. He is bountiful of praise in verse and prose, stating of Florence that he was "in art admirable; in life gentle; he was widely known, and he was known only to be loved." Again, he claims of Florence that "Heaven were lonely but for souls like this." We must not too readily exclude from the credit of truly active work for the Shrine this gracious personality, "Billy" Florence. At the suggestion of Brother W. Freeland Kendrick, a resolution was offered at the meeting of the Imperial Council at Indianapolis in 1919 by Brother Philip D. Gordon, proposing the establishment of a home for friendless, orphaned, and crippled children, to be supported by the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of North America.
The matter was laid over until the meeting of 1920 at Portland, Oregon, when Brother Kendrick personally presented the matter in his annual address as Imperial Potentate. At this time a resolution was adopted authorizing the establishment of a hospital to be supported on an annual per capita basis and to be known as the Shrine Hospital for Crippled Children. An assessment of $2.00 per capita was levied upon the entire membership and a Committee of Seven was to be appointed to select a site and secure plans and specifications. Provision was also made for additional assessments to be levied annually for the support of the institution
After the Portland session Imperial Potentate Ellis L. Garretson appointed the following Committee and called its first meeting at St. Louis on October 30, 1920: Sam P. Cochran, Hella Temple; Philip D Gordon, Karnak Temple, Frederic W. Reator, Afifi Temple; W. Freeland Kendrick, Lu Lu Temple; Oscar M. Lanstrum, Algeria Temple; John D. McGilvray, Islam Temple; John A. Morrison, Kismet Temple. At the St. Louis meeting Noble Cochran was appointed chairman and Noble Morrison elected secretary. A resolution was adopted providing for the incorporation of the hospital work under the title "The Shriners' Charity Foundation." The word "charity" was afterward eliminated and the official title became "Shriners' Hospitals for Crippled Children."
Up to this time but one large hospital centrally located was contemplated, but at the next session in Des Moines, 1921, the report of the Committee was convincing that no one hospital would meet the needs. the Imperial Council adopted a resolution providing for the election of a Board of Trustees to be incorporated and vested with authority to select and purchase sites in various parts of the Jurisdiction of the Imperial Council.
A unanimous vote was cast for the following Trustees: Nobles Sam P. Cochran, W. Freeland Kendrick, Philip D. Gordon, Frederic W. Keator, Oscar M. Lanstrum, John D. McGilvray and Forrest Adair. Organization was perfected at once by the election of Noble Cochran, chairman; W. Freeland Kendrick, vice chairman; and Forrest Adair, secretary. Two changes in the Board resulted from deaths. Noble Gordon was succeeded by Noble Arthur W. Chapman of Khartum Temple, appointed by Imperial Potentate McCandless in 1923, and Noble Keator was succeeded by Noble James R. Watt, of Cyprus Temple, appointed by Imperial Potentate Dykeman, in 1924. At the 1924 session in Kansas City the Imperial Council added its first four officers as ex-officio members.
They were James E. Chandler, Imperial Potentate; James C. Burger, Deputy Imperial Potentate; David W. Crosland, Imperial Chief Rabban, and Clarence M. Dunbar, Imperial Assistant Rabban. Trustees whose terms had expired were re-elected. The next meeting of the Board of Trustees was held in Atlanta, in September, 1921, all members attending. It was here that the board received the advice and co-operation of three distinguished orthopedic surgeons: Robert B. Osgood, of Boston; A. McKenzie Forbes, of Montreal, and Michael Hoke, of Atlanta. From their willingness to assist in the work and give the board the benefit of their skill and experience there grew the Advisory Board of Orthopedic Surgeons, who devote a great deal of time, without remuneration, to the Shrine institutions.
In the spring of 1925, with the opening late in February of the hospitals at Montreal, Canada, and Springfield, Massachusetts, there were seven regular hospitals in the series, besides four mobile units, the total capacity being five hundred beds, which meant that two thousand bed- patients a year can be given surgical treatment and hospital care. The Philadelphia Hospital was then well under way, the contracts having been let the previous Fall, and the bids for the Chicago Hospital were opened by the Board of Trustees in March.
The first child admitted for surgical treatment by a Shriners' surgeon was a patient at Shreveport, Louisiana, in September, 1922. The hospital building was not then completed but an old structure on the property was used temporarily The new fifty-bed institution was dedicated in April, 1923. Twin Cities Hospital, in the corporate limits of Minneapolis lout on the St. Paul side of the river, opened in March, 1923, with a capacity of sixty beds. San Francisco Hospital opened in June, 1923, with a capacity of fifty beds. Portland, Oregon, Hospital opened in January, 1924, with a capacity of fifty beds. St. Louis Hospital opened in April, 1924, and dedicated on June 1 with a capacity of one hundred beds.
Springfield and Montreal Hospitals, of fifty beds each, opened in February, 1925. Sites were Selected in 1924 for the hospitals in Philadelphia and Chicago and were donated by Lu Lu and Medinah Temples. The Shriners' hospitals and mobile units are open to every crippled child, without restriction as to race or religion, subject to the following requirements: The parents or guardians must be financially unable to pay for its treatment. The child must not be over fourteen years of age, of normal mentality, and there must be reasonable hope of materially improving the child's condition through orthopedic surgery.
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