About The Elks
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE; also often known as the Elks Lodge or simply The Elks) is an American Fraternal order & social club founded in 1868. It is one of the leading fraternal orders in the U.S., claiming nearly one million members.
History of The Elks
The Elks had modest beginnings in 1968 as a small group of New York actors and entertainers. Wishing to continue their social gatherings on Sundays when New York’s blue laws prevented the opening of public establishments, they began to meet regularly as the “Jolly Corks,” a name derived from a bar trick introduced by the group’s organizer. 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 tragic event gave rise to the notion that, in addition to good fellowship, the Jolly Corks needed a more noble purpose in order to endure. Serving not only their own in need, but others as well, would be appropriate. Two months later, on February 16, 1868, 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.
Since its founding on February 16, 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) has been recognized by the noble creature that is the symbol of the Order. The elk is a peaceful animal, but will rise in defense of its own in the face of a threat. The majestic creature is fleet of foot and keen of perception. A most fitting representation, the stately elk is, for a distinctively American, intensely patriotic, family oriented organization subscribing to the cardinal principles of Elkdom, “Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity.” The 15 Founders of the BPOE desired a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America. Eight members voted to adopt the elk, seven favored the buffalo.
The main Founder of the Elks, Brother Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian, an English-born actor, was a member of the British fraternity known as the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. Brother Vivian especially desired to see the new Order adopt the title of “buffaloes,” but the vote carried with the name of “Elks.”
Structure and Organization
The Elks National Veterans Memorial national headquarters, known as the Grand Lodge, is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago at the southwest corner of Diversey Pkwy, Sheridan Rd, Lakeview Ave, and Cannon Dr. Local Elks Lodges, known as subordinate lodges, are located in about 2,100 cities and towns across the United States and its territories (as of 2006). There is one Elks lodge overseas, in Metro Manila in the Philippines, a former US territory; only American citizens can be members.
The local Elks lodges are known by their lodge number and the name of the city in which they are located. For example, the first Lodge, located in New York City, is Lodge 1, while the Lodge here on Newport Harbor, founded in 1949, is Lodge 1767. When a Lodge is closed, its number is retired, but if re-instituted at a later time, the city name and lodge number can be reinstated by the Grand Lodge.
A Grand Lodge Convention is held each year in a principal city in the United States. It is at this meeting that delegates from the subordinate lodges vote on the next new Grand Exalted Ruler and conduct other items of business.
Elks Magazine is published 10 times a year and goes to all members.
Local Lodge Officers
Esteemed Leading Knight
Esteemed Loyal Knight
Esteemed Lecturing Knight
Other Lodge Officers
Trustee (5 yr.)
Trustee (4 yr.)
Trustee (3 yr.)
Trustee (2 yr.)
Trustee (1 yr.)
Justice of the Subordinate Forum
Past Exalted Rulers are not considered officers, but rather a valuable advisory resource. A Lodge’s Past Exalted Ruler’s Association usually meets monthly, and current officers are encouraged to seek counsel from the men and women who have led Lodges in previous years.
Established in 1928, the Elks National Foundation is the charitable arm of the BPOE. The foundation, with an endowment valued at more than $400 million, has contributed $253.5 million toward Elks’ charitable projects nationwide.
Due to the willingness of most Elk Lodges to respond to community needs and events, it is common to turn the BPOE abbreviation into a backronym for “Best People on Earth.