- Where we began
- Our Fez
- The Scmitar
- Egypt Shrine History
Walter Fleming and William Florence in 1872
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 Fleming’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 September 26, 1872.
Knickerbocker Cottage on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan
The 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 wearer, such as membership in Shrine clubs, special 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.
The emblem on the front of the fez, the crescent and scimitar, is an important 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.”
During the days of the Great War (World War I), Shriners in this area, and the entire state for that matter, belonged toMorocco Temple in Jacksonville, Florida. They attended ceremonials in Jacksonville and maintained a Tampa Morocco Shrine Club. Florida was growing rapidly in those days and more and more Shriners were moving to the Tampa Area.
There were a number of prospective candidates who wanted to become Shriners, but they wanted a Shrine in Tampa. They had been having ceremonies put on by Jacksonville in the old Tampa Bay Casino. H. B. Plant who owned the first railroad brought into Tampa, purchased the property to erect the Tampa Bay Hotel (currently the University of Tampa). He also built the old Tampa Bay Casino, a tiled swimming pool and a theater for entertaining his guests. These buildings were laid out in an old orange and lemon grove previously owned by Doctor Hayden. That property was originally purchased from a citizen named Carter for a canopy wagon and a white horse.
James McCants led the parade to get Egypt Shrine situated in Tampa and to enlist candidates. In June of 1917, disposition was given and a territorial agreement was made with Morocco Temple. The Orlando, Sarasota, Fort Myers and Key West areas were assigned to the new jurisdiction.
In June of 1918, Egypt Temple was formed and Harry Roberts, owner of several Cigar Factories and a Past Potentate from Morocco who lived in Tampa became the Charter Potentate of the fledgling Shrine. The initial Shrine meetings were conducted in a second hand circus tent. The charter ceremonial brought 175 new Shriners into our fold and cost $17,000.00 for entertainment, travel expenses and miscellaneous expenses.
In the early years of Egypt Shrine, they had an annual excursion to Havana, Cuba, which was a world famous party town. What a great time the Nobility must have had on that little pilgrimage.
In 1924 the leaders of Egypt Shrine decided that they needed a more permanent location from where they would operate. After an extensive campaign, enough funds were available to get moving. A building at 402 South Boulevard was purchased from Doctor McRoe and renovated and put to service as Tampa's own Shrine. Later when the need arose, a second building was erected behind the Shrine and was known as the "Barn."
Egypt Shrine sponsored the first Cigar Bowl Football Game in 1947, for the benefit of the Shriners Hospitals. It was a success and continued on for several years before the days of the $1,000,000.00 inducements necessary to get colleges to play in your bowl. The first issue of the SANDS Magazine was produced in 1948 and mailed to all of the Nobles of Egypt Shrine Temple. Anyone knowing of the whereabouts of one of the first issues, please contact the Temple Office, we would like to frame it and mount it on our Wall of Fame. In September of the next year, 1949, Polock Brothers produced our first Shrine Circus which has continued, uninterrupted with different producers since that time.
In 1964, a campaign was initiated to raise funds for a new Shrine to be constructed. The site selected was located in the Town and Country area of Tampa at 4050 Dana Shores Drive. The present Unit Activities Building served as the Shrine from 1967. to 1972 when the Shrine was relocated to the present location.
Membership in a well known fraternal organization recognized for its social and philanthropic activities. The opportunity to develop lasting friendships with men from all walks of life, bound together by their desire to be fraternal brothers.
A variety of social activities available for the entire family, many special interest groups, and units to satisfy individual tastes.
The privilege of being a part of the "World's Greatest Philanthropy," offering Shriners many opportunities to find personal fulfillment and satisfaction through supporting Shriners Hospitals.
These might be some of the reasons that you joined the Shrine. Membership is very important for the daily function of our organization. Without you, we do not have our units, clubs and, most of all, we will not be able to support our Shriners Hospitals.
We encourage all Nobles to talk to and seek out men who you think would enjoy the many benefits of the Shrine. Print an application for membership for Egypt Shrine. If you know of anyone who is interested please have them complete that form and mail it back to Egypt Temple. You may photo copy the blank application for future applicants