About Us | Shriners International

Organizational Overview

Shriners, LogoThe 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 them 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 the 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.

Organizational History

Organizational History

Walter Fleming and William Florence in 1872

In 1870 a group of Masons frequently gathered for lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage on Sixth Avenue in New York City. At an exclusive table on the second floor, a particularly fun-loving group of men met regularly. Among the regulars were Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. “Billy” Florence, an actor. The group frequently talked about starting a new fraternity for Masons, one centered on fun and fellowship, more than ritual. Fleming and Florence took this idea seriously enough to do something about it.

Billy Florence had been on tour in France and had been invited to a party given by an Arabian diplomat. The exotic style, flavors, and music of the Arabian-themed party inspired him to suggest this as a theme for the new fraternity. Walter Fleming, a devoted fraternity brother, built on Florence’s ideas and used his knowledge of fraternal ritual to transform the Arabian theme into the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.).

With the help of the Knickerbocker Cottage regulars, Fleming drafted the ritual, designed the emblem and costumes, formulated a salutation, and declared that members would wear the red fez.

The first meeting of Mecca Shriners, the first temple (chapter) established in the United States, was held on the 26th of September, 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 almost 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 Emblem

The EmblemThe emblem on the front of the fez, the crescent, and scimitar, is an integral part of the fraternity’s theme and is representative of the characteristics embodied by the Shriners.
The scimitar stands for the backbone of the fraternity, its members.
The two claws are for the Shriners fraternity and its philanthropy.
The sphinx stands for the governing body of the Shriners.
The five-pointed star represents the thousands of children helped by the philanthropy each year.
The emblem also bears the phrase “Robur et Furor,” which means “Strength and Fury.”

The Fez

The FezThe fez is one of the most recognizable symbols of Shriners International and was adopted as the Shriners’ official headgear in 1872. Named after the city of Fez, Morocco, the hat represented the Arabian theme the fraternity was founded on. It also serves as an outward symbol of one’s membership in the fraternity. Much like the white apron worn by Masons as a symbol of their brotherhood, the fez is worn only by Shriners as a symbol of their membership in this unique fraternity.

Today the fez is worn at Shriners’ functions, in parades, and at outings as a way of gaining exposure for the fraternity. Members customize their fez to show their allegiance to their Temple. Look closely at a fez, and you will also learn other important information about its wearers, such as membership in Shrine clubs, specialized roles within the organization, and much more. Each fez is custom made, and a Shriner may own more than one fez depending on his activities and memberships.

My Old Red Fez

My old red fez has faded a bit;
But that hasn’t dimmed my love for it.
For into that bit of old headgear
Are woven the friendships of many a year.
It knows the touch of a friendly hand,
And symbolizes – you’ll understand –
All things I found both good and fine
In my happy days with the Mystic Shrine.
My old red fez has faded a bit;
But I’m still mighty proud of it,
Proud of all for which it stands
The loyal hearts and willing hands,
Ready always to do their best
And meet with courage every test;
Proud of the memories that are mine
Of Noble friends of the Mystic Shrine.
My old red fez has faded a bit;
And someday I’ll take leave of it,
But not without a friendly smile,
For it has been mine a long, long while.
So here’s to the fez and those who have worn it;
May love and loyalty ever adorn it;
May the sun of good fellowship eternally shine
In the hearts of the men of the Mystic Shrine.