To instill the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to enhance the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America will serve the people and communities through benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.
Nationally, we enjoy a membership of nearly one million members and a 142-year history. Our network of 2,000 lodges located throughout America supports a generous charitable foundation that each year gives millions in scholarships, acts as an inspiration to youth, provides care & entertainment to veterans and more.
How the Elks Began
The moving spirit for the Elks was an Englishman named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian. Born October 22, 1842, this son of a clergyman was a successful comic singer and dancer in the music halls of London. In November 1867, Vivian arrived in New York City to try his fortune.
Other actors and entertainers soon gravitated toward his magnetic personality. With everything closed on Sunday because of New York City Blue Laws, a group of theatrical people began meeting for their own amusement under Vivian's leadership. A loose organization was formed to make sure the larder was well-stocked for these gatherings. They called themselves the Jolly Corks, a name derived from a trick introduced by Vivian in which the uninitiated purchased a round of refreshments.
When one of their members died shortly before Christmas in 1867, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided that in addition to good fellowship, they needed a more enduring organization to serve those in need.
On February 16, 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and elected Vivian to head it. Its social activities and benefit performances increased the popularity of the new Order. Membership grew rapidly. Elks traveling to other cities spread the word of the Brotherhood of Elks. Soon there were requests for Elks Lodges in cities other than New York. In response to these appeals, the Elks asked the New York State legislature for a charter authorizing the establishment of a Grand Lodge with the power to establish local Lodges anywhere in the United States. When the Grand Lodge Charter was issued, the founders then received the first local charter as New York Lodge No. 1 on March 10, 1871.
Since the inception of the Elks in 1868, the organization has grown to nearly 1.0 million men and women.
Who are the Elks
Elks are people from all walks of life who believe in the golden rule and contributing to the lives and well-being of those around them. We guide ourselves through life with strong morals and a great love of our fellow man, always adhering to the founding principals of our order: Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity.
Over the course of our history, the Elks have contributed nearly $4 billion in donations for America’s youth, veterans, disadvantaged and handicapped, and to individuals and groups in support of patriotic and civic programs. Each year the Elks give more than $200 million in contributions and is one of the largest private providers of college scholarships in the United States.
Rarely does the organization seek recognition for the profound change it has affected on millions of lives, nor have we gone to the general public with fund-raising efforts or received monies from any level of government. Instead, the Elks donated the first veterans' hospital to the government and contribute regularly to schools, police and fire departments. We proudly display our volunteer spirit and gladly share our resources to make the world a better place for all. Each order has elected officials who serve without compensation; it is through their sacrifice of time and energy that we are able to operate each Lodge and contribute so vastly to our country.