What is Shriners International?

Shriners International (formerly know as The Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, abbreviated A.A.O.N.M.S.), established in 1870, is an appendant body to Freemasonry, based in the United States. The organization is best-known for the Shriners Hospitals for Children they administer and the red fezzes that members wear. The organization is headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Shriners International describes itself as a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth. There are approximately 340,000 members from 193 temples (chapters) in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Republic of Panama, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Europe and Australi

Algeria Shriners

Algeria Shrine is located in Helena, Montana. Algeria, which was chartered June 25, of 1888, is number 41 in seniority, but 129th in size. It is named for the country in North Africa.

Algeria Shrine is well known for its logo. It’s the only different version of the official Shrine emblem that is recognized by Shriner’s International. This fez marks the older of the two Alergia fezzes in our collection and is mainly embroidered in bullion thread. A history of this unique emblem can be found here.

The second Algeria fez owned by the collection was donated to the collection by Tyler Anderson of Albuquerque, NM. It shows how the construction of Shrine fezzes has evolved, with newer fezzes using colored thread in place of bullion.

Almas Shriners

This fez comes from Almas Shrine located in Washington, D.C.. Almas, which was chartered June 14, of 1886, is number 24 in seniority and 133d in size. It’s name is arabic for Diamond. Almas has claimed many famous politicians as members, owing to its location in the District of our Nation’s Capital.

 

Variations in Shrine fezzes provide some of the most interesting pieces for the museum. This fez was purchased as it shows a unique design, with the sphinx being more prominently displayed than usual along with a relatively unseen type font. We are unsure if this design was used specifically for the band, or if other units or members of Almas used this emblem.

Al-Malaikah Shriners

Founded on June 25, 1888, Al-Malaikah Shrine is one of the most historic and storied institutions in Masonry. Many movie stars were members of this group, including Harold Lloyd and John Wayne. It was the 40th Temple to be founded in the United States and remains one of the largest in the country with over 4,700 members.

Here we have another variation on the basic Shriners fez. In this case, the variation was used by a “Band” unit hailing from Al Malaikah Shrine, located in Los Angeles, California. It wasn’t uncommon for bands and units to adopt a Shrine fez with a bit of a twist, making them stand out from others. While similar in nature to other Shriners pieces, it has a distinctive design that really catches the eye.

Al-Menah

Al Menah Shrine located in Nashville, TN. A reqeust for dispensation was granted on May 8, 1912, which officially initiated the impetus for Al Menah Temple. This was followed by its Charter on May 13, 1913, as the 131st Temple in North America. There were 314 charter members. Given exclusive jurisdiction over the middle division of Tennessee, with the exception of the counties of Cumberland, Fentress and Van Buren, most of the founders were members of Al Chymia and Alhambra Temples of Memphis and Chattanooga, and others came from out-of-state Temples. For ninety-five years, Al Menah Shriners has continued as one of the substantial institutions of Middle Tennessee.

The addition of this fez was spurred by the unique symbol in the center. Most Shriner fezzes have the same crescent and scimitar logo in the center. This fez has a scimitar, shield, and sphinx, making it very unique. The museum is unusre if this relates to a specific unit or officer. If you have any further information on what this fez may relate to, please drop us a note over on the Contact Us page.

Ansar Shriners

Ansar Shrine is located in Springfield, Illinois. Ansar, which was chartered July 13, 1915, is number 136 in seniority, but 17th in size. The word “Ansar” is Arabic and means “those who give aid.” Ansar’s Nobles try to do just that through their support of the 19 Shriners Hospitals for Children and 3 Burn Institutes.

This fez was added to the collection as it displays another  trend in Shriner’s fezzes – that of doing the entire design in rhinestones. This is different from other fezzes in the collection which are embroidered, either in bullion or thread, and has less ornamentation than similar designs.

Ballut Abyad Shriners

Ballut Abyad Shrine was given special dispensation to operate on June, 1887, and joined Shrinedom fully on June 17, 1889. As of 2011, this Shrine reported just under 1200 members on its rolls, making it the 109th largest Shrine.

Ballut Abyad has to be one the strangest names for a Shrine in the whole organization. Meaning “white oak” in Arabic, this Shrine is based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This particular piece was purchased at auction for one very specific reason – the title. Shrine Officer fezzes are hard to come by, as they are often passed down due to their cost. The Chief Rabban is essentially the Vice President of his local Shrine. The owner of this fez would have ascended to the office of Potentate, negating his need for this hat. It is a great example of what senior officers within the local bodies would wear. The tassel is not original and is a replacement.

Kaaba Shriners

This fez comes from Kaaba Shrine located in Davenport, Iowa. Kaaba, which was chartered July 1, of 1878, is number 10 in seniority, but 96th in size. It is named for the sacred stone in the great Mosque at Mecca.

This fez was added to the collection because it uses the alternate Shrine emblem. Most shrine emblems show a scimitar with a drop holding the crescent and sphinx. In this case, the scimitar is going through the crescent. This version of the logo became popular with jewelers as it was easier for them to make.

Kismet Shriners

Kismet Shrine was chartered on June 25, 1888, making it 36th in seniority. However, like most Masonic groups, it has seen a decline in membership. Today, Kismet has about 450 members, making it 9th smallest Shrine in the organization. It meets in Hicksville, NY.

Here we have another variation on the basic Shriner’s fez. It’s important to note that the regulations on Shrine fezzes are fairly specific, yet there seems to be no end to the number of variations we see on the basic design. This fez is quite unique, showing an altogether different interpretation of the traditional Shrine logo.

As evidenced by the fez form jutting out from underneath this fez, it is very small. Of special note is the short tassel on this piece. When you couple that with the tiny size of this fez, we date it to around the 1930’s. Why? Well, not only were men smaller (hence the size), but the lengthening of tassels didn’t happen until the 1950’s, making this a very old fez.

Mahi Shriners

This fez hails from Mahi Shrine located in Miami, FL. Mahi was chartered on June 15, 1922, and currently has about 1500 members. This fez is a great example of the double rowed style of lettering done with the rhinestones. We date it to sometime in the 1970’s or early 1980’s.

The Museum always welcomes donations and this fez was one that was kindly given to us by Richard Whidden and his son (known humorously as “Viscious.”) The Whidden family are friends of the curator through one of the many fraternal organizations that he is involved with and he graciously accepted this fez as a symbol of their friendship. The fez belonged a member of the Whidden family and they wanted it to go somewhere it would be appreciated.

Mecca Shriners

Mecca Shrine was founded on  September 26, 1872. As of 2011, this Shrine reported 523 members on its rolls, making it the 16th smallest Shrine.

Mecca Shrine is the mother of them all – quite literally. Often referred to as “Mother Mecca,” Mecca Temple was the first Shrine Temple to exist, being founded by the original 13 members in 1872. It was founded in New York City, where it still regularly meets and contributes to the Masonic community. This fez was purchased from a private seller, as it adds something unique to our collection – an original Mecca fez.

Early on in the history of the Shrine, the logo for the organization was not well established. The logo, as depicted here, is the one of the first versions used by Shrines and remains unique to Mecca. It’s use dates from the earliest days of Mecca Temple, but fell out of fashion in the 1950’s. Based on the logo and the interior makers patch, we believe this fez dates from between 1890 and 1910, making it one of the oldest in the collection. Sadly, it no longer has its tassel, but such is to be expected from such an early piece.

Medinah Shriners

Located in Chicago, Illinois, Medinah Shrine is the originator of this fez.  It is believed that the Crusader unit was, at one time, made up of Knights Templar who were members of the Shrine. Medinah was chartered on June 6, 1883 and retains a membership of over 5000 Nobles. Medinah is the 14 oldest Shrine in the country and ranks around 18th in size. It takes it’s name from the sacred city of Islam.

One of the lost arts of regalia manufacturing is the ability to do quality stitching in gold “bullion.” While this metallic thread is rarely made of real gold anymore, the brilliance of a quality piece cannot be denied. This fez is completely done in bullion and provides a great example of what an untarnished fez would look like.

Moolah Shriners

This fez comes from Moolah Shrine located in St. Louis, Missouri. The Temple began when ten Nobles of Medinah Temple from Chicago, Illinois, who met weekly to dine at the Stockyard Hotel, decided to form another Shrine Temple for St. Louis. They applied for a charter, which was issued on April 23, 1886, and became the 28th Shrine Temple so recognized in Shrinedom. The name “Moolah,” is an Arabic word meaning “Title for one learned in teaching dignity for the law of the Koran or religion.” It is not a title conferred by authority, but rather an expression of public respect.

One of the current trends in Shrine fezzes is having the entire symbol done in embroidery with simple non metallic thread. Sometimes the design will utilize only a few rhinestones for special effect.

Moslah Shriners

Moslah Shrine was given special dispensation to operate on May 14, 1914, and by December 31, 1914, membership had grown to 659 Nobles. It was granted a permanent charter at Imperial Session in Seattle, Washington on July 13, 1915.  Moslah Shrine now boasts a total of 12 units, 11 clubs, and 2 associations, with total membership of over 3600, making it the 3rd largest Shrine Center in the state of Texas.

Coming from Moslah Shrine, located in Ft. Worth, Texas, this fez was added to the collection because of its unique color. Most Shriner fezzes are the deep red / maroon color that has become so synonomous with the fraternity. This one, however, is white with a yellow tassel. The museum is unsure if the color is specific to a unit or an officer. If you have any further information on what this fez may relate to, please drop us a note over on the Contact Us page.

Moslem Shriners

Moslem Shrine is located in Detroit, Michigan. Moslah began operation on June 2, 1880, making it 12th in order of rank. It retains a large membership, ranking 10th in the world in size.

Moslem Shrine Fezzes have one unique characteristic – the name almost aways appears with two scimitars making up the “M’s” at the beginning and ending of the name. This little difference gives the fez a distinct look, warranting its addition to the collection. This particular fez also serves as a great example of a modern fez, with the logo being made up of individually set rhinestones, the letters being outlined in metallic thread, and the owner’s unit being denoted across the front.

Osiris Shriners

Oasis Shrine is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.

This fez was added to the collection for the unique logo used upon it. Not seen in use by any other Shrine, the “fez on a fez” logo seems unique to Oasis. We don’t have any information on why this variant design was used, so if you happen to know more, please contact us!

Judging from the wear on the piece, and from the construction, we believe this fez dates to around the 1930’s or before.

Rajah Shriners

Rajah Temple had its beginning in 1892, but the year 1893 brought the actual setting up of the Mystic Shrine organization in Reading and the beginning of work in the Order. The minutes of the first Recorder, Philip Bissinger, shows that the first meeting of Shriners to plan establishment of a new Temple, Yemem it was to have been called, was on January 4, 1892.

The first organization was that of “Lu Lu Club of Reading”, so named because most of the members, if not all, were members of Lu Lu Temple, Philadelphia. On August 24, 1893, Lu Lu Club of Reading dissolved and all its records and members became part of the proposed new Rajah Temple. On December 5th, Imperial Potentate Melish visited the new Temple and on December 14, 1893, the first regular meeting of Rajah Temple was held.

Rajah Shrine carries jurisdiction in Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Schuylkill, and Lebanon Counties. It shares jurisdiction of Lancaster County with Zembo Shrine, of Harrisburg, and Chester and Montgomery Counties with Lu Lu Shrine, of Philadelphia.

This piece serves as a great example of some the deterioration that is commonly seen among fezzes from the early to mid 20th Century. The tarnish is very evident, but the fez is in good shape otherwise.

Tangier Shriners

Named for a city in Morocco, Tangier Shrine has been serving the Omaha, Nebraska, area for more than 100 years. This Shrine is not only large in membership, but covers a large territory as well. Tangier Shrine was given special dispensation to operate on April 15, 1889, and joined Shrinedom fully on June 23, 1890. As of 2011, this Shrine reported just under 2,602 members on its rolls, making it the 36th largest Shrine.

This fez was added to the collection for one very specific reason. The name of the Shrine, as well as the Shriners emblem, are actually made of cast metal pieces that are sewn on to the fez. This fez has seen better days, with the star in the Shriner emblem having been lost somewhere along the way. The Tangier piece is also pretty rough, having been resewn several times. The letters were all originally attached together along the bottom, but have since broken in several places dues to folding and age. While the fez isn’t in the best shape, it does show a difference in design and construction that is little seen on Shrine fezzes.

Zembo Shriners

Zembo Shrine is located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Zembo was constituted on Wednesday, October 12, 1904, at the old Lyceum Theatre on Locust Street in Harrisburg. It was the 93rd Shrine Temple to be chartered by Imperial Council, AAONMS.

Its original jurisdiction, which still stands to this day, consists of the counties of Dauphin, Cumberland, York, Adams, Franklin, Lebanon, Perry, Juniata and the concurrent jurisdiction with Rajah Shrine of Reading in Lancaster County.

Our first Zembo piece is a great example of a basic Shrine fez, commonly found in attics and basements around the United States. The thread is metallic bullion and is embroidered directly  on to the fez. This thread does tarnish over time, making it tough to find older fezzes that retain their luster.

Early on, most Shrine fezzes were very basic, using simple colors and regular thread. These fezzes tended to be shorter, with smaller tassels. The fez above was donated to the collection by a Shriner who said it belonged to his uncle, who was a Mason in central Pennsylvania.

The unique thing about the Shrines of North America is that they have managed to keep a very tight reign on the basic design of their fezzes. However, just as with anything, people want to make their fezzes unique to them. It’s a man’s way to make his mark and show his personality. Every now and then the Museum runs across a unique piece of Shrine haberdashery that we must have.

Shown here is one such unique fez. Not only is it white (which is a common varience in Shrine fezzes) but it also has a black tassel and some extreme ornamentation. It is assumed that the Director of the Band wore this fez, which is dated to the first quarter of the twentieth century – a rare old fez indeed!

The curator of the museum is very lucky to have many friends who keep an eye out for additions to the collection. This piece was donated by Pete Null, of Lancaster, PA. At first look, it seems to be just another Shrine fez, but after close inspection, there are a few important factors to note. First, the entire design is rendered in bullion, except for the Sphinx, which is metal. Around the bullion, and on it in some places, are rhinestones, backed with plastic. This is an unusually nice fez, especially when you consider that it doesn’t denote that the member who owned it had attained any specific rank or belonged to any units. The construction is magnificent and it serves as a fine example of a better quality members fez.

Royal Order of Jesters

The Royal Order of Jesters, sometimes abbreviated ROJ, is an appendent group of the Shrines of North America. To be a member, a man must be a Shriner (which, in and of itself, requires him to be a Freemason.) Membership is by invitation only and is generally composed of the most active and long standing members of a local Shrine Temple. The organization was founded on February 20, 1911, by Shriners in the Captain’s office of the S.S. Wilhelmina on a pilgrimage to Aloha Temple, Hawaii. Noble A.M. Ellison of San Francisco, California. The officers of a local Court are referred to as a “Cast” being led by a Director, who acts as the Presiding Officer. Other officers include the Leading Man, Property Man, etc. Whereas most Masonic bodies are dedicated to charity, The Royal Order of Jesters is a fun “degree,” with absolutely no serious intent. The motto, “Mirth is King,” is sufficient to give voice to the purpose of the organization.The icon of the Order is the Billiken, an impish, baby like figure.  They eschew publicity at all costs, banning websites and other forms of public relations. They are of one of the last true vestiages of secrecy left within the modern fraternal movement.

This fez, if you can call it that, is an usual piece. We’ve added it to the museum as an example of the way the basic fez can be changed into something entirely different. It is constructed out of the same material that a regular fez is made of and is even the same shape. Yet, the hat has been pushed together int he middle, to form a peak at the top, which has then been sewn shut, forming an oddly shaped head piece. It has no tassel. This fez hails from Salina Court No. 94 (associated with Isis Shrine), and has a jeweled ROJ pattern with Billiken on the front. A sunburst can be found on the obverse. It was purchased privately and added to the collection for its unique character.