FORMAL ORGANIZATION AND NAME
The Order of the Elks was formally organized February 16, 1868, in the City of New York. Its full corporate name is "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America." Its declared purposes are to practice its four cardinal virtues, Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; and to cultivate good fellowship.
The animal from which the Order took its name was chosen because a number of its attributes were deemed typical of those to be cultivated by members of the fraternity. The elk is distinctively an American animal that lives in herds. It is the largest of our 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. A representation of the majestic head of the male, with its spreading antlers, was adopted as the first badge of the Order; and is still the most conspicuous element of its copyrighted; fraternal emblem.
THE ELKS COLORS...
The Elk colors are Royal Purple and White, a combination deriving its origin from the history of the Clergy, Nobility and the People. Throughout Europe, the Orient and in Rome the symbolism of colors was associated with severity of laws and customs. Each color in each pattern was identified religious or political, and to change or alter it was a crime of rebellion, a desertion of principles, party or cause.
White denotes purity and absolute truth. When combined with Royal Purple it signifies the love of truth and the highest degree of virtue. Purple is the badge of Kingship, the color for the robes of Emperors and High Priests, and signifies highest favor. Blending of White and Royal Purple indicates the favor of the people, which bespeaks the status of Elk-dom.
*An Authentic History of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, by Charles Edward Ellis.
Naturally the ritual of initiation is the most important, as it is the most elaborate, of any Lodge ceremonial. It is designed to instruct and inspire the initiate; and in an appropriate setting, to secure his assumption of the solemn and binding obligation of membership. It is conducted throughout with dignity and decorum. It is wholly devoid of any feature which will embarrass or annoy the candidate, or subject him to ridicule or to any discomfort, physical or mental.
CHARITABLE AND PATRIOTIC SERVICE
The primary object of the Order is the practice of Charity in its broadest significance, not merely that of alms giving. Its service in this wide field necessarily involves a great diversity of activities, which naturally are influenced by local conditions. It therefore early adopted the policy of permitting the Subordinate Lodges to select for themselves the benevolent endeavors in which they severally desired to engage, rather than to require them to participate solely in national projects undertaken by the Order as whole.
However, throughout its history, the Order has endeavored to maintain itself in readiness, as a national body, to extend its aid to cases of major catastrophe and misfortune. Through its official agencies in all parts of the country, it has been able to render such assistance with promptness, effectiveness and lack of red tape, which have tremendously enhanced the practical helpfulness of its adopted measures.
For many years the aggregate expenditures of the Subordinate Lodges for charitable purposes have run into the millions of dollars each year, covering humanitarian services of infinite variety. Among the most usual of such activities may be mentioned the following; food to the hungry; shelter for the homeless; clothing and fuel for the needy; milk for the under-nourished babies; medical attention to the sick; baskets to the poor at Christmas and Thanksgiving; outings for underprivileged; entertainment for shut-ins; education for young people; artificial limbs for the maimed; hospital beds; free clinics; night schools. And the list might be indefinitely extended. All of the State Elks Associations have undertaken important and extensive charitable works within their own jurisdictions, determined by the particular members. They include but are not limited to, rehabilitation of crippled children, scholarships to worthy students, maintenance of orphans, boys' camps, training of the blind, eyeglasses for needy boys and girls, cerebral palsy clinics, cancer clinics, and other state wide projects of similar character and of equal worthiness, which are being carried on as continuing activities. No history of social service in the United States would be complete without an inspiring chapter devoted to the achievements of the Order of the Elks in this field. In the field of patriotic service, the Order of the Elks has likewise proved itself an agency of singular force and effectiveness. Organized at a time when the bitterness and rancor of the Civil War and Dixon line, the Order patiently taught its members through the years, drawn as they were from all sections of the country, that bitterness ought to be sweetened; that rancor ought to be assuaged; those wounds ought to be healed.
Through the widening influence of its members, thus bound together by the ties of brotherhood, and thus fraternally schooled, the restoration of national accord was assuredly hastened, and a patriotic service of superlative importance was thus performed. Never an altar is erected in all its jurisdiction, but that the first emblem to benevolently be placed beside it is the American Flag. No man is permitted to stand in front of that flag and altar and assume the obligation of membership unless he is an American citizen. And at the close of every lodge session he attends he is required to renew his pledge of allegiance to that flag and all for which it stands.