History of the Elks, Charles A Vivian - Founder

Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian, Founder of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, son of a clergyman, was born in Exeter, Devonshire, England on October 22, 1842.

In November 1867, Vivian arrived in New York City to try his fortune. After coming to America, he and a small group of entertainers who were living in boarding houses in New York formed a social group called the “Jolly Corks”, which became the foundation of the Order of Elks. When one of their members died shortly before Christmas 1867, leaving his wife and children destitute, the Jolly Corks decided that in addition to good fellowship, they wanted to have a more enduring organization to serve those in need. On February 16, 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Charles A. Vivian, a successful comic singer and actor in London, won acclaim for his role as the “Admiral” in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pinafore”. He organized an entertainment company in late 1875 or early 1876 and played with great success in many cities of the West Coast.

He married Mary Imogene Holbrook, a dramatic reader, in Oakland, California on July 9, 1876. The newlyweds, billing themselves as “The Vivian Entertainment,” left California immediately, performing in towns, mining camps, and military forts throughout the Western states and in larger cities such as Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York.

He later joined another touring company in St. Louis in 1879. The company played throughout Kansas and disbanded after finishing in Denver. Leadville, Colorado was at the height of the gold fever and the Vivians moved to Leadville where Charles opened, renovated an amphitheater, and renamed it “Vivians Opera House” in September 1879.

Charles A. Vivian succumbed to typhoid and pneumonia on March 20, 1880 at the age of 37. His remains were exhumed April 28, 1889 and re-interred in “Elks Rest” in Mount Hope Cemetery at Boston, Massachusetts.