The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was first known as the Jolly Corks. In 1867, Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian and friends in the New York City theatre began meeting for their own entertainment. The Jolly Corks derived its name from a trick Vivian introduced in which the uninitiated purchased a round of refreshments. When one of it's members died, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided they needed a more enduring organization to those in need. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was established February 16, 1868, and elected Vivian to head it.
Why the elk?
The 15 founders desired a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America. The Elk - a peaceful creature that will rise to its own degense when threatened - is fleet of foot and keen of perception. The founders chose the elk over the buffalo.
Today the legacy of Charles Vivian continues. Elks lodges raise money for children with disabilities, college scholarships, youth prohects and recreational programs for patients in veterans hospitals. The Order held the first Flag Day on June 14, 1907. President Harry Truman, an Elk himself, later declared it a national holiday.
In its 138 year history, the Order funded and equipped two field hospitals in World War I, provided loans to 40,000 returning World War II veterans - a precursor to the G.I. Bill, donated more than 500,000 million pints of blood for wounded soldiers during the Korean War, funded a recreation pavilion at the Navy Hospital in Fuam during Vietnam; and undertook a letter-writing campaign for soldiers in Operation Desert Storm.
-Excerpted from BPO Elks of the USA (http://www/elks.org)