-Caveat Lector-

an excerpt from:
The Cyclopædia of Fraternities
Albert C. Stevens
©1907 E. B Treat, Inc.
444 pps -- 2nd Edition – Out-of-print















College Fraternities.—Secret, literary, and social organizations of students
at American colleges and universities; sometimes called Greek-letter
societies, because the names of nearly all of them are made up of two or
three Greek letters, which are presumed to refer to mystical words or to
mottoes known only to members. It is as if the Odd Fellows called themselves
the " F. L. T. " Fraternity, referring to their well-known watchwords,
"Friendship, Love, and Truth." College fraternities may be classified as
general, local, professional, and women's. There are twenty-six fraternities
in the first group, which have chapters or branches in from four to
sixty-four of the higher institutions of learning in the United States.
Membership is confined in almost all instances to students studying the
classics or those in the literary and scientific departments; membership
originally was, and in a few instances today is, restricted to upper-class
men. This has resulted in the formation of similar societies among students
in professional schools, of which four have achieved prominence and a
considerable membership. With the increase of institutions for the higher
education of women, there have appeared nearly a dozen Greek and Roman letter
secret societies for women undergraduates, half a dozen of which made
themselves known beyond the walls of the colleges where they have an active
existence. There are many college secret societies classed as local, that is,
existing only at colleges where founded, some with Greek-letter and some with
other titles, among the better known of which are the three senior class
societies at Yale. If to the foregoing there be added those which have lived,
shone, and left a record, American college life will be found to have given
birth to almost one hundred. secret societies of this particular and unique

The form of government prior to 1870 was weak, consisting of general
supervision by a Grand, usually the parent Chapter, or by one chapter after
another in turn, which made laws and regulations as it pleased, communicated
the fact to the other chapters and left it to their option to obey them. But
within the last quarter of a century conventions made up of delegates from
chapters, with administrative bodies or councils, composed of alumni members,
have had a general supervision over and management of affairs, and in leading
instances have taken the place of an imperial form of government. Annual
conventions are held with undergraduate chapters, in turn, when undergraduate
delegates act in the capacity of legislators, leaving the duties of an
executive to the council of alumni. These reunions generally end with a
banquet and formal public exercises at which distinguished members deliver
addresses of welcome, poems, and orations in the presence of delegates and
other undergraduate members, their relatives and friends. These exercises are
rendered the more attractive because of the long list of alumni prominent in
the various walks of life, who may be called on to discourse eloquently
touching the fraternity and  what it means to those who enjoy its privileges,
or on literary and economic topics.

Membership in college fraternities includes active, alumni, and honorary; but
the latter, with a few exceptions, is no longer permitted to increase,
initiations being confined to undergraduates. At some of the larger cities,
graduate members have established alumni chapters or clubs. The older
fraternities, for they do not rank necessarily according to membership, have
published accounts of their origin and growth; a number have issued elaborate
and ornate catalogues, with lists of names of members arranged alphabetically
by States and by colleges, with memoranda as to rank in the society or at
college and biographical sketches of members distinguished in public life;
not a few issue magazines and other periodicals, some of which are circulated
privately. Nearly all have published music and song books of their own, in
some instances have adopted distinctive colors, and in others, flowers, as
having a special significance. But most important, perhaps, are college
fraternity badges, almost always made of gold, sometimes enamelled, and
generally set with precious stones. These are worn conspicuously by
undergraduate members and by many long after leaving college. In a number of
instances the badge consists of a monogram formed of the Greek letters
composing the name of the fraternity; in others, of a representation of one
or more emblems and in many instances of shields or rhombs, ornamented with
enamelled, jewelled, or engraved letters and emblems.

The Greek-letter fraternity is unique among secret societies, in that it is
the only organization of the kind founded on an aristocracy of social
advantage and educational opportunity. Students have to be invited to join
them, and the undergraduate who should prove so unfamiliar with college
customs as to ask to join one would probably never be permitted to do so. So
"secret" are the Greek-letter fraternities, or most of them, that, although
wearing jewelled badges, members generally refuse to mention the organization
in the presence of profanes. Instances have been known where a member of one
college fraternity resigned and joined another, or was expelled and elected
by a rival I society, but they are like hens' teeth. When this does happen,
the member is said to be "lifted."  A student whose acquaintance has been
cultivated, has been "rushed;" when be has been asked to join, he has been
"bid;" and when he has agreed to do so, he is "pledged;" when he has been
initiated and appears wearing the society's badge, he is" swung out." In
"rushing" a man it is customary to invite him to the fraternity house, where
he meets the members, who watch his conduct and his conversation. If he makes
a good impression, he is invited again, taken to football games, to the
theatre, and invited to social affairs, and if all are satisfied the new man
is a desirable acquisition he is invited to join. After initiation the watch
over a new member is kept up. He is guarded against falling behind in class
work and is taught during all his first year that neither he nor his opinions
are of importance. By the time he is a sophomore he has learned to make
allowance for every one's point of view.

Among about six hundred and fifty chapters of American college fraternities
nearly seventy possess houses or temples valued at over $1,000,000, costing
from $1,200 to $100,000. Some of them are elaborate and fanciful in design,
others severely classic and still others sombre piles of brick and stone. In
many instances members lodge in fraternity houses, in others out of them. The
tabular exhibit on page 330 respecting some of the better known general
Greek-letter fraternities is condensed from data for 1890 and 1891, furnished
by William Raimond Baird in Johnson's Encyclopeadia.

The system of Greek-letter fraternities, nearly if not all of which are
chartered corporations, is fitly characterized by John Addison Porter,
private secretary to President McKinley, in a "Century Magazine" article,
September, 1888, as "the most prominent characteristic of American
undergraduate social life." A reference to brief sketches of them will reveal
the names of a few of the 125,000 members who during, the greater part of the
present century have done much to add lustre to the professional, political,
and business life of the Republic. The novitiate of the college fraternity
soon learns to think of these men not only as brethren, but as models.
President Seelye of Amherst College, in an address on June 28, 1887, said:

It is not accidental that the foremost men in college, as a rule, belong to
some of these societies. That each society should seek for membership the
best scholars, the best writers and speakers, the best men of a class, shows
well where its strength is thought to lie. A student entering one of these
societies finds a healthy stimulus in the repute which his fraternity shall
share from his successful work. The rivalry of individuals loses much of its
narrowness, and almost all of its envy, when the prize which the individual
seeks is valued chiefly for its benefit to the fellowship to which he
belongs. Doubtless members of these societies often remain narrow-minded and
laggard in the race, after all the influence of their society has been
expended upon them, but the influence is a broadening and a quickening one
notwithstanding. Under its power the self-conceit of a young man is more
likely to give way to self-control than otherwise.

Mr. Porter adds this

These "little societies" have supplied forty governers to most of the largest
States of the Union, and had, in the last administration, the President of
the United States and the majority of his Cabinet. On the Supreme Bench of
the United States the fraternities are now (1888) represented by five of the
associate justices. A summary, published in 1885, showed Alpha Delta Phi, Psi
Upsilon, and Delta Kappa Epsilon, to have furnished of United States
senators, 39, 25, and 36, respectively; while in the last Congress thirteen
representatives and two senators were members of the last-named fraternity
alone; and in the membership of these three fraternities are included
twenty-four bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church.

In view of the foregoing, it is with amusement rather than concern that one
recalls the active opposition to college secret societies between 1845 and
1885 by the faculties of a few distinguished  colleges and officers of a
number of other institutions of learning. This was due in part tothe
antipathy for all secret societies engendered in the minds of some who were
close to but partly ignorant of the facts underlying the anti-Masonic
agitation of from 1827 to 1840; partly to the warfare waged against secret
associations of all kinds by one or two religious denominations, and, to some
extent, to ignorance of all that pertains to these societies, or because
antagonists had been refused by or expelled from membership in such
organizations, or for special reasons applying to particular instances. All
of this opposition, except that at Princeton, has practically disappeared,
the other colleges prohibiting Greek-letter frateritities not having either
the standing as institutions of learning or the personnel among their
students which would suggest the propriety of establishing chapters of these

    The earliest warfare of this character was at Harvard College in 1831,
when John
Quincy Adams and others, notably Joseph Story and Edward Everett, induced the
parent Greek-letter society, Phi Beta Kappa, to make public its so-called
secrets and be-come an open, honorary organization. It is worth recalling
that in 1831, Mr. Adams elected an anti-Masonic and Whig can-didate for
Congress and that he had been defeated for reelection to the Presidency three
years before by Andrew Jackson, a
Freemason, at a time when public feeling ran high against the Masonic
owing to its supposed responsibility for the mysterious disappearance of one
Morgan who, it was said, proposed to reveal its secrets. Mr, Adams was led to
"hate Freemasonry," not from any personal knowledge he had of it, but because
of the attitude of politicians toward the institution who ex-ercised a great
influence over him. One result was a series of letters abusive of
Free-masonry which he published in the news-papers between 1831 and 1833, and
another, evidently, was his rescuing the chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at
Harvard, his alma mater, from. the depths of iniquity to which lie evidently
thought its secrecy was leading it. Associate Justice Story was professor of
law at Harvard at the time, and Edward Ever-ett, then member of Congress, was
the can-didate (such is the irony of fate) for the Vice-Presidency of the
Constitutional Union party in 1860. The latter organization, it will be
recalled, was the residuary legatee of the so-called Know Nothing party, a
proscriptive, political secret society, which antagonized aliens and Roman
Catholics from behind closed doors and at the ballot- box during the early
fifties. (See Know Nothing Party.) There were few chapters of college secret
societies in 1831, not more than a dozen scattered throughout New England,
New York, and New Jersey, and communication between them either by mail or in
person was infrequent. There was no other effect of the effort by Adams,
Story, and Everett until in 1834, when a "non- secret" Greek-letter society,
Delta Upsilon,* was formed at Williams College. It exists to this day, with
chapters in twenty-six col-leges, and has many of the outward peculi-arities
of the secret Greek-letter fraternities. It reveals very little more of what
it does than the latter, and calls itself private in-stead of secret. Eleven
years later, 1845, the faculty of the University of Michigan demanded the
disbandment of chapters of Alpha Delta Phi, Chi Psi, and Beta Theta Pi tinder
penalty of expulsion of members and required new students to sign a pledge
not to join such societies. The fight between the faculty and the few members
of the then far western branches of those fra-ternities lasted five or six
years. The members of Beta Theta Pi tried to evade the rule and killed the
chapter in the attempt. Alpha Delta Phi and Chi Psi fought the faculty tooth
and nail, in the press through-out the State, by means of an informed and
healthy public sentiment, and with the aid of Freemasons and Odd Fellows,
until the rule was rescinded. Two professors were expelled from the faculty
by the Board of Regents and one was allowed to resign. A new president of the
university was appointed shortly after and there was no further trouble. This
anti-fraternity war, almost one of extermination, was another outcome of
anti-secret society sentiment created by the anti-Masonic agitation a few
years before. Opposition to the Greek-letter fraternities continued to show
itself at some colleges through faculty regulations prohibiting their
Organization, notably at the 'Universities of Alabama, North Carolina, and
Illinois; at Oberlin and others by requiring students to sign a pledge at
matriculation not to join such societies, which was the course pursued at
Princeton in 1857, at Purdue, Dennison, and elsewhere. The refusal of the
University of California in 1879 to permit a chapter of one of these
societies to exist roused the press of. that State, and the order was
speedily rescinded. At Purdue University, Indianapolis, the faculty opposed
Greek-letter fraternities, on the ground that they exercised an undue
influence to enlarge the classical course of studies at the expense of the
scientific. A test case was made of the faculty's refusing to admit to
college a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity who was otherwise eligible. The
case was taken to the Supreme Court and the college authorities were
beaten,** "the fraternities" being placed by this decision "in a position
entirely similar to that of other secret societies," putting the burden of
proof upon the faculty passing antifraternity laws, "to show that attendance
upon the meetings of a fraternity interfere with the relation of the members
of the college." The president of Purdue resigned soon after and was
succeeded, strange to relate, by a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Within
the past fifteen years anti-fraternity laws have been repealed or ignored by
Harvard as well as Vanderbilt, and by the Universities of North Carolina, Geor
gia, Iowa, Missouri, and Alabama. The secrecy of these societies is confined
to so little besides privacy of meetings that it hardly calls for comment.
While largely social, their aims are high and ideals lofty. Advantages
secured and friendships gained through them are often among the most valuable
acquisitions of the college student. [*There is an anti-secret society called
Delta Upsilon, which exists at a number of colleges and grew out of a
confederation of societies having their origin in opposition to the secret
societies. It makes more or less point of the alleged immorality of the
secrecy of the fraternities and its chapters work with or against the
fraternities as may seem to them expedient.-Baird's American College
Fraternities, New York.] [**Baird's American College Fraternities.]

Origin and Extension. — American Greek-letter college secret societies began
with the formation of Phi Beta Kappa at the College of William and Mary,
Williamsburg, Va., December 5, 1776. Secret or semi-secret, as well as open,
literary college societies, usually with Latin names, already existed, where
debates and annual elections of officers were often the first training of the
young student in public speaking and in politics. William and Mary was a
successful and prosperous college one hundred and twenty-one years ago, and
there it was that five young men formed a new and, as they believed, more
effective students' organization. There was already a society there with a
Latin name, and as, one of the five students was a good Greek scholar, it has
been thought that may have suggested the propriety of a Greek-letter name. In
any event, they chose a Greek motto of three words, the initials of which are
Phi Beta Kappa; decided to keep the society's proceedings secret; declared
themselves a fraternity; established a few local branches, of which nothing
has been heard since, and chapters at Yale and Harvard, which preserved the
society and founded what has grown into a veritable world of Greek-letter
fraternities. (See Phi Beta Kappa; also accompanying genealogical charts
showing the order and place of establishment of earlier chapters of Phi Beta
Kappa, and some of the other older Greek-letter fraternities, whether
imitators of or merely inspired by a spirit, Of rivalry to those which
preceded them.) The parent chapter of Phi Beta Kappa became dormant at the
approach of Lord Cornwallis in 1781. The Yale Chapter was established in
1780, and that at Harvard a year later. These were originally the Zeta and
Epsilon Chapters, Beta, Gamma and Delta having been assigned to now extinct,
local, non-collegiate Virginia chapters. They subsequently became the Alphas,
respectively, of Connecticut and Massachusetts. From this, doubtless, arose
the custom in many of the Greek-letter fraternities of designating chapters
by Greek letters, the oldest in a State as Alpha, and so on. Six years later,
in 1787, the Yale and Harvard Chapters took Phi Beta Kappa to Dartmouth, at
Hanover, N. H., and in 1817, thirty years after, it was established at Union
College at Schenectady, N. Y. It was during this thirty years' interval that
the older college literary societies flourished, many of which had Latin
names, some of which are still active, but most of which have given way to
the Greek-letter fraternities, except at Princeton, where Whig and Clio
continue features of student life; and at Lafayette, where Washington and
Jefferson claim a large share of attention. Four years after Phi Beta Kappa
was taken to Union College, a second Greek-letter fraternity was founded at
Yale, manifestly suggested by Phi Beta Kappa, which had been there forty-one
years. It was called Chi Delta Theta, and differed from its progenitor in
that it never established branches or chapters at other colleges, but
remained a local, and, more recently, an honorary society, membership in it
being practically an honor conferred upon the editorial staff of the Yale
"Literary Magazine." Two years later, in 1823, according to tradition, a
Kappa Alpha club was formed at Union College, there being at that time no
intention of making it a secret society. Whether the thought of rivalling the
then comparatively widespread Greek-letter fraternity Phi Beta Kappa was the
inspiration is not known, but the probabilities indicate that the second
Greek-letter fraternity at Union was modelled after the first. Their names
are suggestively alike and a comparison of the watch-key badges of both would
seem to settle the question. In 1825 Kappa Alpha club blossomed out as a
regular Greek-letter fraternity, and two years later, stimulated by a spirit
of emulation, Sigma Phi was founded and within a few months Delta Phi was
organized, the third at Union College, which institution has proved a
veritable mother of fraternities. These three societies, the "Union Triad,"
are, more than any others, except Phi Beta Kappa, responsible for the widespre
ad in-terest shown during the past sixty years in this department of secret,
social, and liter-ary life at American colleges. Sigma Phi was the first to
follow the example of Phi Beta Kappa by establishing chapters, its original
branch being at Hamilton College, Clinton, N. Y., where it was established in
1831. Kappa Alpha was quick to follow the example, but the Hamilton students
who were approached by the "Kaps" de-clined to become members of that
society, and in 1832 founded one of their own, call-ing it Alpha Delta Phi.
It was in 1832 also that the Yale society commonly called Skull and Bones
appeared. It has con-tinued a purely local organization, on the lines of
other college fraternities, without a Greek-letter title, but with more
mystery and prestige than usually surrounds a soci-ety which does not venture
beyond the place of origin. It is due to Skull and Bones that what is known
as the Yale secret society system differs from that at almost all other
colleges. At the latter, members of a fra-ternity would as soon think of
committing treason as join a second college society; but at Yale the
sophomore joins one of the junior Greek-letter fraternities, if asked, and
then lives in the unuttered  hope of being invited to join one of the local
senior-year fraterni-ties. Whether successful or not, his inter-est in his
junior society (one of the three most renowned which have chapters at the
older institutions of learning) is not, as a rule, of that deep and lasting
nature which characterizes members of the same society at other colleges. In
1829, three years before Skull and Bones was founded, I. K. A. (not Greek),
appeared at Washington, now Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., and, like the
former, has remained a local senior society ever since. In 1833 Union College
gave birth to another fraternity, Psi Upsilon, which, within a few years,
followed Alpha Delta Phi, which led in placing chapters in the then foremost
colleges and universities. Alpha Delta Phi shocked some of the conservative
spirits of 1835 by placing chapters simultaneously at the University of New
York and in what was then regarded as the far West, at Miami University
Oxford, 0[hio]. In 1836 it appeared at Columbia in New York city and at
Amherst; in 1837 at Yale, Harvard, and Brown, and in 1838 at the Cincinnati
Law School; so that within six years it possessed nine chapters as contrasted
with only four chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, four of Sigma Phi, one of Delta
Phi, all older societies, and as compared with two chapters of Psi Upsilon. A
brief account of the local, senior-class society, The Mystical Seven, founded
at Wesleyan University in 1837 (since absorbed by Beta Theta Pi), may be
found in the sketch of the Heptasophs, or Seven Wise Men. The advent of Alpha
Delta Phi at Miami resulted in the formation of Beta Theta Pi. In 1837 Psi
Upsilon went to the University of New York, in 1839 to Yale, and in 1840 to
Brown, in which year Alpha Delta Phi was established at Hobart. In 1841 Union
arose to the occasion again and gave birth to another, its fifth fraternity,
Chi Psi, and in 1842, stimulated by the success of Skull and Bones at Yale,
Scroll and Key made its appearance there, to choose fifteen juniors annually
and divide the honors, as far as possible, with the older senior society. In
1844 a schism from the Yale Chapter of Psi Upsilon resulted in the formation
of a third junior-year fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, the only living
society originating at Yale which has established chapters at other colleges
and has conformed to the college society system existing out of New Haven.
Alpha Delta Phi, Psi Upsilon, and Delta Kappa Epsilon, for fifty years, have
been closely associated in the minds of the members of the college world, and
are fairly classed as the three great college fraternities. They are great
rivals and number many distinguished names in professional, political,
commercial, and industrial life on the lists of their alumni. A large
proportion of their chapters own their own houses or temples. At most of the
older Eastern and -Middle State colleges and universities chapters of two of
these fraternities are to be found, and at many such institutions the three
meet as rivals. In the latter instance, as pointed out by Baird,* the
colleges are historic, which is due to the fact that forty years ago such
colleges were the centres of the literary activity of the country.[ *
American College Fraternities; New York, James P. Downs, 1890.]

pps. i, 328-334


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