OriginThe Elks organization was founded in New York City on February 16, 1868 under the name "Jolly Corks" by 15 actors, entertainers and others associated with the theater. In ensuing years, membership expanded to other professions. Purposes This Fraternal Order was founded "To promote and practice the four cardinal virtues of 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 cultivate good fellowship."
MembershipThe Order is a non-political, non-sectarian and strictly American fraternity. Proposal for membership in the Order is only by invitation of a member in good standing. To be accepted as a member, one must be an American citizen, believe in God, be of good moral character and be at least 21 years old.
What We DoThe Order spends more than $80,000,000 every year for benevolent, educational and patriotic community-minded programs in such fields as benefitting physically handicapped children, sponsoring Elks National Foundation scholarships, scouting, athletic teams, veterans' works, a national "Hoop Shoot" free-throw contest involving more than 3 million children, physical and occupational therapy programs and patriotic programs. The youth of our country have always been important to the Order. It is for this reason the Elks Drug Awareness Education Program was launched to warn primary grade students and their parents of the dangers in drug use. Additionally, every lodge observes June 14th as Flag Day, a tradition which the Elks began in 1907 and was later adopted by the Congress as an official observance.
How It All Started
The organization first began as the "Jolly Corks", a group of artists and thespians, and was led by London born comic, singer and dance, Charles Vivian. The Jolly
Corks originally congregated for their own amusement, but when one of the Jolly Corks died leaving his wife and children alone, they decided to dedicate the group
to helping the needy.
On February 16, 1868, in New York City, the Jolly Corks formed the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, lead by Mr. Vivian. As social activities and benefit performances increased, the popularity of the group swept across the country. Soon, groups from other cities were requesting permission to form their own Lodges.
The Elks then asked the New York State Legislature for a Charter that would allow the Grand Lodge to establish Lodges anywhere in the United States. The Charter was granted and on March 10, 1871, the founding group received the first local charter as New York Lodge No. 1.