THE IMPERIAL DIVAN IS THE INTER- NATIONAL GOVERNING BODY OF SHRINERS INTERNATIONAL. THIS GOVERNING BODY WORKS AS A CORPORATE BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND CONSISTS OF 13 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).
A BRIEF HISTORY
In 1870 a group of Masons gathered frequently for lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage on Sixth Avenue in New York City. At a special 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, de- signed 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 September 26, 1872.
During the early part of the 20th century membership in Shriners International grew at a steady pace. By 1946, membership had jumped to 150,000 Nobles and another 250,000 had joined by 1958. In fact, Shriners International experienced one of its largest periods of growth in the years following World War II as returning soldiers looked for new ways to continue the camaraderie they had experienced with their fellow soldiers.
As the number of temples and nobles grew, so too did the hospitals. By 1958 the hospitals’ endowment was valued at $125 million and growing.
The nobles were proving themselves to be excellent fundraisers. The Shrine Circus, founded in 1906 for fun and entertainment, began to play a role as a significant fundraiser in support of the hospitals.
Today, there are nearly 200 temples across North America, South America, Europe and Southeast Asia. In addition to the Shrine Circus, temples hold events throughout the year ranging from fish fries to concerts, car shows to fishing tournaments. It is fun with a purpose – supporting the important mission of Shriners Hospitals for Children®.
Temples are located throughout the United States of America, Canada, México, Panamá, the Philippines and Germany, with clubs around the world. There is, therefore, a special Shriners Pledge of Allegiance: “I pledge allegiance to my flag, and to the country for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Wherever Shriners gather, the national flags of The United States of America, Canada, Los Estados Unidos Méxicanos, and La República de Panamá, Republika ng Pilipinas, European Union and Brazil.
Today, there are approximately 400,000 Shriners who belong to 193 “temples”, (ie, chapters), from Alaska Shriners in Anchorage, Alaska, to Abou Saad Shriners in Panamá, and from Mabuhay Shriners in Manilla, the Philip- pines, to Philae Shriners in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Emirat Shriners in Heidelberg, Germany. The temples, their units and affiliated clubs embody the true spirit of fraternalism, and wherever a Shriner goes, he can be certain there are nobles who will extend their hand in greeting.