CO SOUTH
District No. 1480

Elks History

Where it all began

• February 16, 1868
In New York City, a small group of actors and entertainers, wishing to continue their social gatherings on Sundays, when New York's blue laws prevented the opening of public establishments, began to meet regularly as the "Jolly Corks," a name derived from a bar trick introduced by the group's organizer which caused the victim to buy the drinks.
While the meetings were held with regularity, apparently no form nor substance resulted, except for the adoption of a toast to members of the group not in attendance. Shortly before Christmas in 1867, only a few months after the fellows began to meet, one of their number died, leaving his wife and children destitute. This event gave rise to the notion that, in addition to good fellowship, the Jolly Corks needed a more noble purpose in order to endure, and serving not only their own in need, but others as well, would be appropriate.
At the meeting held on the 2nd of February, 1868, presided over by Charles A. Vivian, George McDonald offered a motion to organize the "Jolly Corks" as a lodge along benevolent and fraternal lines and providing a committee be appointed to formulate rules and regulations for its government, prepare a suitable ritual, and select a new name. Vivian having in mind an English organization, "The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffalos," but the majority of members was desirous of bestowing a distinctively American title upon the new organization.
A committee visited Cooper Institute Library, where the Brothers found the ELK described in a work on Natural History as an animal "fleet of foot, timorous of doing wrong, but ever ready to combat in defense of self or of the female of the species". This description appealed to the committee as containing admirable qualities for emulation by members of a benevolent fraternity and the title "Elk" was incorporated in its report.

Birth of the Order of Elks
On February 16, 1868, the committee report recommended the "Jolly Corks" be merged into the "Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks" and the recommendation was adopted by a vote of eight (8) to seven (7).
Two months later, with a statement of serious purpose, an impressive set of rituals, a symbol of strength and majesty and such other elaborate trappings that might be expected of a group of actors and musicians, the new fraternal order was launched.


Back to top