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Shrine Convention License Plates
A Series of Special Event, Limited-Use Plates

Close-up of '65 Shrine cycle graphic

Although a number of Shrine Conventions and Conferences have been held in Washington, D.C. over the years, special event plates are known to have been issued only for five of them: 1935, 1958, 1961, 1965, and 1967. These plates were valid only for the few days of the actual convention or conference. In most cases the number of plates made and used is unknown, although numbers on plates held by collectors today suggest that no more than a few hundred of each were produced.

Extant documentation about the 1958 issue indicates that about 150 pairs of Shrine Convention plates were produced at Lorton Reformatory, where other D.C. plates were being made at the time, and that their price to the Shriners was seventy-five cents per pair. They were made just before the event, in mid-to-late August. Printed in the lower right corner of each plate is a Sept. 8, 1958, expiration date, so we assume the event ended on that day or the day before. In an August 14 letter to Mr. Lawrence Duvall, a special assistant to Commissioner Robert McLaughlin, accompanied by a sample of what could be made by Sept. 1 for the Shriners, Dept. of Corrections director Donald Clemmer wrote that “I believe the Commissioner will find it satisfactory, even though it as not a competent job as we can do if there was more time.” The same letter specifies the unit price and that the total job would cost $112.50, indicating that 150 sets were expected to be ordered, but a letter about the plates written after the event indicates that “Approximately 165 sets were to be fabricated and issued.”

 

1935 Shrine Convention plate no. 32
1935 Shrine Convention
embossed steel
   
1958 Shrine convention plate no. 62
1958 A.A.O.N.M.S. Mid-Atlantic Session
embossed steel with silk-screen printed graphics
   
1961 Shrine convention plate no. 47
1961 8th International Conference of
Supreme Councils
flat steel
   
1965 Shrine Imperial Council plate no. 2
1965 Shrine Imperial Council
flat Plexiglas
   
1965 Shrine convention motorcycle plate

1965 Imperial Session Motorcycle Plate
embossed steel

   
1967 Shrine Imperial Council plate no. 184: click to enlarge

1967 Shrine Imperial Council
flat Plexiglas

Shrine parade car ID plate
Parade Car Plate
This flat aluminum plate is an example of the kind used on miniature cars operated by Shriners in parades. These plates are not issued by the D.C. government and are not used for registration purposes, even temporarily.


Shirne Convention badge, undated

Each of these Shrine convention badges have wonderful D.C. motifs.
Above An undated badge with a central image of the U.S. Capitol.
Above Right A 1923 A.A.O.N.M.S. National Convention badge naming the Almas Temple, the local chapter of the organization.
Right An A.A.O.N.M.S. National Convention Badge from 1935, the first year that special plates were issued to commemorate the event. The dates of the convention, June 11-13, are included near the top.

1923 Shrine National Convention badge

1935 Shrine Convention badge

A Brief History of the Shriners, or Shrine Masons

In 1870, several members of the Fraternal Order of Freemasons that met on a regular basis in New York discussed the concept of forming a new fraternity for Masons where fun and fellowship would be the hallmark of the organization. One of the founding members, William Florence, was an actor who performed in many European and Middle Eastern countries. At various cities, including Cairo and Algiers, Mr. Florence attended private parties that featured elaborately staged musical comedy shows that concluded with guests of the show becoming members of a “secret society.” Mr. Florence was so impressed with what he had seen that he decided to use it as a format for the new Mason fraternity.

With the help of his friend Dr. Walter Fleming, another member of the Fraternal Order of Freemasons, the ideas supplied by Mr. Florence were converted into what is now known as the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (A.A.O.N.M.S.). In order to become a Shriner, a man must first be a member of the Fraternal Order of Freemasons, the oldest, largest, and most widely known fraternity in the world.

Shrine emblem license plate attachment (c.1950)Today there are approximately 500,000 Shriners, primarily in the United States. When asked “what is a Shriner?” many people think of the clowns and funny little cars that appear in countless parades around the country. Others may recall that Shriners have very large conventions and wear a fez, an odd-looking red hat with a black tassel. While all of these points are correct, the most important activity of the Shriners is their 22 Shriner Hospitals for Children that they operate around the United States. Since the first Shriners hospital opened in 1972, more than 700,000 children have been cured or substantially helped at no cost to the child or parents. The hospitals focus on treating orthopedic, burn, and spinal cord injuries.

 

 

 


This page was prepared by Charlie Gauthier, a native of the District of Columbia who lives in Northern Virginia. Plates and other items pictured on this page are from Mr. Gauthier's collection, and DCplates.com is sincerely grateful for his contributions to the site. For additional information about Washington, D.C. Shrine special event plates or to provide more information about or images of them, send an e-mail to Charlie@DCplates.net.



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This page last updated on January 1, 2017

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