A Brief History of The Elks
A Short History of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elk (BPOE)
On November 15, 1867 a small group of actors and entertainers, lead by an English comedy singer named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian, organized a drinking club in New York City. They called their newly formed organization the "Jolly Corks". Vivian adopted the name "Jolly Corks" from a bar-game he played while in England. The sole purpose of the "Jolly Corks" organization was to circumvent a New York law that closed saloons on Sundays.
Vivian's group, with their initial intentions of promoting fellowship among entertainers, quickly saw the benefits they could bring not only to themselves but to others less fortunate.
Charles Vivian, noted for his wit and personality, served as the moving force when the Jolly Corks organized. As the Jolly Corks membership shifted to more serious minded individuals, George McDonald, joined the organization. Mr. McDonald and others felt there was a need for a benevolent society for the theatrical world. This catapulted the mission of the Jolly Corks into a fraternal, charitable, and service oriented organization.
In 1868, through the efforts these benevolent individuals "The Jolly Corks" was renamed The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of The United States Of America (BPOE), or simply "Elks".
Such men as Charles Vivian and George McDonald gave the Elks its real organization and serious purpose, and also preventing it from fragmenting or going out of business.
The name 'Elk' was selected because the Elk has a number of attributes that are deemed typical of those to be cultivated by members of the fraternity. The Elk is distinctively an American animal. It habitually lives in herds. The Elk is the largest of our native quadrupeds, it is yet fleet of foot and graceful in movement. It is quick and keen of perception; and while it is usually gentle and even timorous, it is strong and valiant in defense of its own.
The lessons taught by the Elks are communicated by short lectures. Included in Elk Lodge ceremonies are the Bible and the American Flag. Emblems associated with the Elks are: the flower called the 'Forget-Me-Not'; Antlers of Protection; and the Star of Fidelity.
The cardinal principals of the Elks are: Brotherly Love, Justice, Charity, and Fidelity. The Elks also take deserved pride in their patriotic and charitable endeavors.
The first Elk Lodge is located in New York and opened on March 12, 1871.
If we fast forward to 2003 we find that there are over 1 million members of the fraternity and over 2,100 Elk lodges throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, and other US Possessions.
Contributed by John Bennevich, Lodge Photographer
Back to top