An Englishman, by the name of Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian Born October 22, 1842, the son of a clergyman was a successful comic singer and dancer in the music halls of London, was the founder of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. Many of the Elks philosophies and traditions can be traced as far back as the year 1010. Before coming to the United States Charles was a member of a fraternal organization in England called the Royal and Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. The Buffaloes started around 1010, and there is considerable evidence that Charles introduced many of their beliefs to the Elks including the 11 o’clock toast.
On Friday, November 15th, 1867, 22 year old Charles Vivian arrived in New York on an English trading vessel coming from Southampton England. Being thirsty one of Charles’s first stops was a bar, or a “free and easy” as they were called back in those days. Being a friendly sort Charles soon befriended the piano player, Richard Steirly, who invited him to sing along and help entertain the guests. At the end of the evening Steirly took Charles around the corner to the boarding house where he was staying. There Charles was introduced to a collection of congenial fellows including William Bowrun that he had known in England. Other actors and entertainers soon gravitated toward Charles 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.
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.
The Founder of our Order, Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian, died in his wife Imogene’s arms while on tour in Leadville, Colorado. His grave was marked only by a wooden plank upon which someone had crudely scratched his name with a nail.
The legacy of Charles Vivian continues to this day. As long as there are those who need help, the Elks will be there to give aid and comfort.