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ANCIENT ARABIC ORDER of NOBLES of the MYSTIC SHRINE
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Who Are the Freemasons?

No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed around 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete. Within 30 years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in Colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form. Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a world-wide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s, it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Freemasons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America. During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net.” The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew. Today’s Freemasons are widely involved in a range of charity and community service activities. In fact, the Masonic Fraternity gives almost $1.5 million each day to both Masonic and non-Masonic charities locally, nationally and internationally. The causes they support range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Freemasons and their families at Masonic Homes.

Famous Freemasons

From the early founding fathers to astronauts, entertainers, writers, entreprenuers and even presidents, the Freemasons have counted some of the most well-known names in America among their ranks. Here are just a few of the most famous Freemasons.

History of the Shriners

Shriners International is, at its most basic level, a fraternity. It all started in Manhattan in 1870 when some members of what’s considered the world’s oldest fraternity – Masonry – were hanging out at their favorite tavern. They felt that Masonry, which traces its roots to stonemasons and craftsmen of the Middle Ages, was a tad too focused on ritual. These guys wanted a fraternity that stressed fun and fellowship. Two of those gentlemen – Walter M Fleming, M.D., and Billy Florence, an actor – took that idea and ran with it. Florence came up with the idea for a Near Eastern-themed party after attending a party thrown by an Arabian diplomat. Fleming added the structure, drafting the fraternity’s name, initiation rites, rituals and rules. Together, Fleming and Florence designed the fraternity’s emblem, devised a salutation and determined that the red fez with the black tassel would be the group’s official headgear. The first chapter, Mecca Shriners, met in New York City in 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 there are approximately 309,000 Shriners belonging to 195 chapters in the U.S., Canada, Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and the Republic of Panama and the UK.

 

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