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Collegiate secret societies in North America

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Title: Collegiate secret societies in North America  
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Subject: Scroll and Key, Aurelian Honor Society, Order of Gimghoul, Paladin Society, Sphinx Head
Collection: Collegiate Secret Societies, Lists of Organizations, Student Societies in the United States
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Collegiate secret societies in North America

There are many collegiate secret societies in North America. They vary greatly in their levels of secrecy and independence from their universities. As the term is used in this article, a secret society is a collegiate society where significant effort is made to keep affairs, membership rolls, signs of recognition, initiation, or other aspects secret from the public.

Some collegiate secret societies are referred to as 'class societies', which restrict membership to one class year. Most class societies are restricted to the senior class, and are therefore also called senior societies on many campuses.

Contents

  • Categorization 1
    • Common traits 1.1
    • Tapping 1.2
    • ‘Honoraries’ 1.3
  • History 2
  • Significant individual institutions 3
    • Colgate University 3.1
    • The College of William & Mary 3.2
    • Cornell University 3.3
    • Dartmouth College 3.4
    • Dickinson College 3.5
    • Georgetown University 3.6
    • Georgia Institute of Technology 3.7
    • Harvard University 3.8
    • Norwich University 3.9
    • Pennsylvania State University 3.10
    • Princeton University 3.11
    • Rutgers University 3.12
    • University of Georgia 3.13
    • University of Miami 3.14
    • University of Michigan 3.15
    • University of Missouri 3.16
    • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 3.17
    • University of Pennsylvania 3.18
    • University of Southern California 3.19
    • University of Virginia 3.20
    • Washington and Lee University 3.21
    • Yale University 3.22
  • List of notable North American collegiate secret societies 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • External links 8

Categorization

There is no strict rule on the categorization of secret societies. Secret societies can have ceremonial initiations, secret signs of recognition (gestures, handshakes, passwords), formal secrets, (the 'true' name of the society, a motto, or a society history); but, college fraternities or "social fraternities" have the same, and some of these elements can also be a part of literary societies, singing groups, editorial boards, and honorary and pre-professional groups. Some secret societies have kept their membership secret, for example Seven Society and Gridiron, and some have not, like Skull and Bones (the Yale societies had published their membership lists in the yearbooks and the Yale Daily News).

One key concept in distinguishing secret societies from fraternities is that, on campuses that have both kinds of organizations, one can be a member of both, (that is, membership is not mutually exclusive). Usually, being a member of more than one fraternity is not considered appropriate, because that member would have divided loyalties; however, typically, there is not an issue being a member of a secret society and a fraternity, because they are not considered similar organizations or competing organizations.[1]

An especially difficult problem is the degree to which any one society is an actual society or is simply an honorary designation. Phi Beta Kappa, for example, was a true secret society, until after its secrets were divulged, the society continued on. It claims today to still be an actual society that has meetings, conducts its affairs, and is a living social entity, however membership for most members consists of one evening's initiation, and no more, which would make the society completely an honorary one in most people's eyes.

Many such societies exist which operate as honoraries on one campus, and which may have been at one time actual meeting societies, and which are kept alive by one or two dedicated local alumni or an alumni affairs or Dean's office person, who see to it that an annual initiation are held every year. Some of these frankly state that they are honoraries, other seek to perpetuate the image of a continuing active society where there is none.

While there are some guideline criteria for the neutral observer to understand what sort of society any given organization is, much of the analysis reverts to what any one society has been traditionally understood to be. There are additional means, such as societies that were more or less explicitly established in emulation of some previous secret society, or using historical records to show that society X was created out of society Y.

Common traits

There are several common traits among these societies. For example, many societies have two part names, such as Skull and Bones or Scroll and Key. Many societies also limit their membership to a specific numerical limit in a class year. Extensive mortuary imagery is associated with many secret societies, maintaining a pretense of great seriousness, and clubhouses are often called "tombs."

Tapping

The archetypical selection process for entry into a collegiate secret society began at Yale University by a process called tapping.[1] On a publicly announced evening, Yale undergraduates would assemble informally in the College Yard. Current members of Yale's secret societies would walk through the crowd and literally tap a prospective member on the shoulder and then walk with him up to the tapped man's dorm room. There, in private, they would ask him to become a member of their secret society; the inductee had the choice of accepting or rejecting the offer of membership. During this process, it was publicly known who was being tapped for the coming year. Today, the selection process is not quite as formal, but is still public.[2] Formal tapping days used to exist at Berkeley, and still exist in a much more formal setting at Missouri.

‘Honoraries’

Several campuses distinguish societies called ‘honoraries’ from secret societies. An honorary is considered to operate in name only: membership is an honor given in recognition of some achievement, and such a society is distinct from a secret society. However, functionally, such organizations can operate identically to secret societies, and historically, most honoraries operated on a secret society basis. Phi Beta Kappa is the most well-known such example, where it originally operated on a secret chapter basis, and it became the progenitor of all college fraternities, and at the same time, some time after its secrets were made public in the 1830s, Phi Beta Kappa continued on as an honorary. Virtually all the oldest honoraries were once clearly secret societies, and to the extent that they are distinct now is at least ambiguous.

History

Often considered the first secret collegiate society in North America, the Phi Beta Kappa Society, founded in 1776 by students at the College of William and Mary, was in fact antedated by other societies at the College established as long as a generation earlier.[3] The society had a rudimentary initiation and maintained an uncertain level of secrecy. Those secrets were exposed in the mid-1830s by students at Harvard University acting under the patronage of John Quincy Adams. Since the 1840s, Phi Beta Kappa has operated openly as an academic honor society. The spread of Phi Beta Kappa to different institutions likely sparked the creation of such competing societies as Chi Phi (1824), Kappa Alpha (1825) and Sigma Phi Society (1827) many of which continue as American collegiate social fraternities (and, later, sororities) to the present day. Sigma Phi remains the oldest continuously running collegiate secret society, and has been rumored to have declined the founding members of Skull & Bones a charter prior to their becoming their own society. Yet there was also a second strain of development, when at Yale College Chi Delta Theta (1821) and Skull and Bones (1832) were founded — ultimately serving as antecedents for what would become known as class societies.

Skull & Bones aroused competition on campus, bringing forth Scroll & Key (1841), and later Wolf's Head (1883), among students in the senior class. But the prestige of the senior societies was able to keep the very influential fraternities Alpha Delta Phi and Psi Upsilon from ever becoming full four-year institutions at Yale. They remained junior class societies there. There were sophomore and freshman societies at Yale as well. A stable system of eight class societies (two competing chains of four class societies each) was in place by the late 1840s.

Delta Kappa Epsilon is actually a highly successful junior class society, founded at Yale in 1844. None of the 51 chapters the parent chapter spawned operates as a junior society, but DKE did come from the class society system. Likewise, Alpha Sigma Phi started out as a Yale sophomore society and now has 68 chapters (although, again, none of Alpha Sigma Phi's chapters have remained sophomore societies).

The development of class societies spread from Yale to other campuses in the northeastern States. Seniors at neighboring Wesleyan established a senior society, Skull & Serpent (1865), and a second society, originally a chapter of Skull and Bones, but then independent as a sophomore society, Theta Nu Epsilon (1870), which began to drastically increase the number of campuses with class societies. William Raimond Baird noted in the 1905 edition of his Manual that, "In addition to the regular fraternities, there are in the Eastern colleges many societies which draw members from only one of the undergraduate classes, and which have only a few features of the general fraternity system."[4] From Wesleyan, the practice spread more widely across the Northeast, with full systems soon in place at Brown, Rutgers, and other institutions.

Kappa Sigma Theta, Phi Theta Psi, Delta Beta Xi, Delta Sigma Phi,[5] were all sophomore societies at Yale, and the two large freshman societies of Delta Kappa and Kappa Sigma Epsilon lived until 1880.[6] Delta Kappa established chapters at Amherst, the University of North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, Dartmouth College, and Centre College. Kappa Sigma Epsilon had chapters at Amherst, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Dartmouth.[6] Other class societies existed at Brown, Harvard, Syracuse, Colgate, Cornell, and other Northeastern institutions. At universities such as Colgate University, these secret societies have evolved and morphed over the years.

Theta Nu Epsilon spread to about 120 colleges and universities, but many of its chapters operated as three-year societies where operating as a class year society was inappropriate.

It is from this class society historical base and the desire to emulate the most well-known of all the class societies, Skull & Bones, that senior societies in particular began to spread nationally between 1900 and 1930. Junior, sophomore, and freshman class societies also are to be found at campusses across the country today.

Significant individual institutions

Colgate University

Since being founded in 1819, Colgate University has had a rich tradition of student societies. Over the years, Colgate has had numerous secret societies with various degrees of secrecy.

Although there have been many underground organizations on the Colgate campus, the first secret honor society on record is the Skull and Scroll society founded in 1908. Members of the Skull and Scroll wore white hats with a black skull and scroll added to them. The Skull and Scroll had a rich history of membership with important names in Colgate history such as Ellery Huntington, Melbourne Read, and Harold Whitnall.[7] A rival organization, The Gorgon's Head, was founded in 1912 and had members that wore black hats with a golden emblem. The Gorgon's Head chose people for traits such as character, distinguished service, and achievement.[7] These two organizations competed with each other until 1934 when they merged to create the Konosioni senior honor society.[7]

Konosioni initially was tasked with enforcing rules, such as mandating that all freshman have to wear green beanies, with the punishment of paddling. The 1970s saw a change in course for the society as it became focused on leadership and the community. Konosioni now leads torch light processions for first-year students during Convocation and for seniors during Graduation.[7]

The College of William & Mary

The Ku Klux Klan from setting up a student chapter at Georgia Tech.

Harvard University

Harvard does not have secret societies in the usual sense, though it does have final clubs, fraternities, sororities, and a variety of other secret or semi-secret organizations.

Final clubs are secretive about their election procedures, and they have secret initiations and meetings. However, there is little secrecy about who is a member. They are larger than secret societies generally are (approximately forty students per club). Guests are admitted under restrictions. However the Porcellian, AD, Fox and Fly clubs are somewhat stricter than the others, having rules against admitting non-members to most areas of their buildings. "Punch Season" and the "Final Dinner" is analogous to "Tap" at Yale.

Final clubs at Harvard include The Porcellian Club (1791), originally called The Argonauts; The Delphic Club (1846); The Fly Club, (1836), a successor of Alpha Delta Phi; The Phoenix - S K Club (1897); The Owl Club, originally called Phi Delta Psi, (1896); The Fox Club (1898); The Spee Club; and The Oak Club (2005), a successor of Delta Upsilon (1890) and later The D.U. "Duck" Club (1940).

There are also five female clubs: The Bee Club (1991), The Isis Club (2000), The Sablière Society (2002), The Pleiades Society (2002), and La Vie Club (2008).

Harvard also has five fraternities, Kappa Sigma, Sigma Chi, Alpha Epsilon Pi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Delta Kappa Epsilon, and four sororities: Delta Gamma, Kappa Kappa Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Alpha Phi. These organizations are semi-secret in nature, have secret initiation processes and meetings but a more transparent process for gaining membership. All three sororities and the Sigma Chi fraternity also have rules against admitting non-members to many parts of their buildings.

There are also several final clubs and fraternities which are now defunct, including Pi Eta Speakers, The D.U. "Duck" Club, Delta Upsilon, Pi Kappa Alpha, and The Iroquois.

Approximately 10% of men and 5% of women are in final clubs. Approximately 7% of men and 15% of women are in Greek letter organizations. Additionally, an unknown number of students are in other secretive on-campus groups.

Other secretive social groups include the Hasty Pudding Club, Harvard Lampoon, Harvard Advocate, the Signet Society, and The Seneca.

Finally, Harvard Lodge is a university Masonic lodge, founded in 1922 by Harvard Law School Dean/Professor Roscoe Pound, members of the Harvard Square & Compass Club, and members of the Harvard Masonic Club (which included Theodore Roosevelt). It is the oldest academic lodge in North America, its membership is restricted to males with a Harvard affiliation, and it operates in the building of Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, overlooking Boston Common.

Norwich University

Norwich University banned all secret societies in the late 1990s, citing controversy regarding hazing and abuse of students. Prior to the ban Norwich was home to a handful of long standing secret societies such as the Rough Riders, the Night Riders 192, Skull and Swords 572. Also was home of the Alpha chapter of the Theta Chi Society now known as Theta Chi Fraternity.[37][38][39]

Pennsylvania State University

There are currently three well-known societies at the

  • "How the Secret Societies Got That Way", Yale Alumni Magazine (September 2004)
  • "Halls, Tombs and Houses: Student Society Architecture at Dartmouth"
  • "Four Years at Yale" A late 19th-century contemporary account of fraternal societies at two Connecticut Universities: Yale & Wesleyan (courtesy of Google Books)
  • The Peter Dromgoole legend

External links

  • Robbins, Alexandra (2004). Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities. New York, NY: Hyperion.  
  • Winks, Robin W. (1996). Cloak and Gown: Scholars in the Secret War, 1939-1961. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 2nd edition.  

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References

See also

|Burning Spear Society |1993 |Florida State University |Tallahassee, FL |N/A |}

This list is limited to societies with a) their own WorldHeritage articles, or b) with independent third-party citation links. Editors are invited to add to this list as long as they can provide adequate verifiable citations. The list is not exhaustive; many known societies are not included because they currently lack verifiable citations.
Name Year College or University Location Member Limit
NoZe Brotherhood 1924 Baylor University Waco, TX N/A
The Dragon Society[98] 1950 Binghamton University Vestal, NY Upperclassmen
Societas Domi Pacificae 1824 Brown University Providence, RI Seniors
Seven Society, Order of the Crown & Dagger 1905 College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA Senior men
Flat Hat Club 1916 College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA Senior
Bishop James Madison Society 20th c. College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA N/A
Wren Society 20th c. College of William and Mary Williamsburg, VA N/A
Sphinx Head 1890 Cornell University Ithaca, NY Senior
Quill and Dagger 1893 Cornell University Ithaca, NY Senior
Sphinx[99] 1886 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior men
Casque and Gauntlet[99][100] 1887 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior
Phrygian[99] Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior
Dragon Society[99] 1898 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior men
Fire & Skoal[99] 1975 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior
Abaris[99] Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior
Phoenix[99] Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior women
Gryphon[99] Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior
Cobra[99] 1979 Dartmouth College Hanover, NH Senior women
Raven's Claw Society 1896 Dickinson College Carlisle, PA Senior men
Paladin Society 1998 Emory University Atlanta, GA Juniors and Seniors
Paladin 1948 Furman University Greenville, SC "Senior Men"
Order of the Torch 2003 Florida International University Miami, FL N/A
Burning Spear Society 1993 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL Senior
The Stewards[101][102][103] 1903 Georgetown University Washington, DC Junior and Senior men
Anak Society 1908 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA Junior and Senior
Pithotomy Club[104] 1896 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Men
Chi[105] 1900 Longwood University Farmville, VA N/A
Mufti 1940 Pomona College Claremont, CA N/A
Cap and Skull 1900 Rutgers University New Brunswick, NJ Senior
Khoda 1909 Stevens Institute of Technology Hoboken, NJ Senior
Medusa[106] 1840 Trinity College Hartford, CT N/A
Myskania[107] 1917 University at Albany Albany, NY N/A
The Machine 1914 University of Alabama Tuscaloosa, AL Fraternity & sorority leaders
Thoth[108] 1926 University of British Columbia Vancouver, BC N/A
Order of the Golden Bear[109] 1900 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA Senior
Torch & Shield Society[110][111] 1908 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA Senior women
Society of the Golden Rose[112] 1942 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA Junior and Senior women
Skull and Keys 1892 University of California, Berkeley Berkeley, CA Men's Society
Gun Club[113] 1912 University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall) Berkeley, CA Law School
Sigma Sigma[114] 1898 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH Junior and Senior men
Cincinnatus Honorary Society[115] 1917 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH N/A
Men of Metro[116] 1946 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH Men
Order of the Greek Horsemen 1955 University of Georgia Athens, GA Fraternity men
Gridiron Secret Society University of Georgia Athens, GA N/A
Ma-Wan-Da[117] 1912 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL Senior
Senior Skull Society[118] 1906 University of Maine Orono, ME Senior Men
Arete 2006 University of Maryland College Park, MD Fraternities
Iron Arrow 1926 University of Miami Coral Gables, FL N/A
Order of Angell 1902 University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI Senior
QEBH 1897 University of Missouri Columbia, MO Senior
LSV Society[119] 1907 University of Missouri Columbia, MO Senior women
Mystical Seven 1907 University of Missouri Columbia, MO Senior
Society of Innocents 1903 University of Nebraska Lincoln, NE Senior
OBC University of North Carolina at Asheville Asheville, NC N/A
Order of Gimghoul 1889 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC Senior
Order of the Golden Fleece[120][121] 1904 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC Senior
Order of the Grail-Valkyries[122] 1920 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chapel Hill, NC Senior
Loyal Knights of Old Trusty[123] 1920 University of Oklahoma Norman, OK Engineering students
Bisonhead[124] 1923 University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Buffalo, NY Senior
Sphinx Senior Society[125] 1900 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Senior
Friars[126] 1901 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Senior
Mortar Board[127] 1922 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Senior
Society of Cwens 1922 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA N/A
Order of the Druids[128] 1916 University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh, PA N/A
The Valormen Society[129] 2013 The University of South Florida Tampa, Florida N/A
Scarabbean Senior Society[130] 1915 University of Tennessee Knoxville, TN N/A
The Tejas Club[131][132] 1925 University of Texas at Austin Austin, TX Men
Episkopon 1858 University of Trinity College Toronto, ON N/A
Eli Banana 1878 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
T.I.L.K.A. 1889 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
Z Society 1892 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
IMP Society 1902 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
Seven Society 1905 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
Society of the Purple Shadows 1963 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
P.U.M.P.K.I.N. Society 1967 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
The Thirteen Society 1889 University of Virginia Charlottesville, VA N/A
Iron Cross 1902 University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison, WI Junior and Senior
Cadaver Society 1957 Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA N/A
Sigma Society 1880 Washington and Lee University Lexington, VA N/A
Mystical 7 1867 Wesleyan University Middletown, CT Senior
Theta Nu Epsilon 1870 Wesleyan University Middletown, CT Sophomore
Skulls of Seven[133] 1898 Westminster College Fulton, MO Senior
Mountain 1867 West Virginia University Morgantown, WV Senior
Skull[134][135] 1911 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Worcester, MA Senior
Skull and Bones 1832 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Scroll and Key 1842 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Berzelius 1848 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Linonian Society 1753 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior & Graduate
Book and Snake 1863 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Wolf's Head 1883 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
St. Elmo 1899 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
L&C ? Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Elihu 1903 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Aurelian Honor Society 1910 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Torch Honor Society 1916 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Desmos 1951 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Manuscript Society 1952 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior
Mace and Chain 1956 Yale University New Haven, CT Senior

List of notable North American collegiate secret societies

There may be any number of unknown or underground secret societies at Yale. Any group of students may self-constitute themselves as a society at any time. Certainly there have been many which did not last long enough to leave any significant records. Indeed, the Yale Rumpus has in recent years published names of students it believes are in various secret societies.[97] According to the Rumpus, in addition to the secret societies listed in this WorldHeritage page, numerous other societies (such as Cup and Crown,[90] Phoenix ("Cage and Feather"), Nathan Hale, WIPS, L&C, Looking Glass, Spade and Grave, Boar and Rampant, Ox, ISO, Truth and Courage, Linonia, Llama and Cardigan, Red Mask, Crab and Bell, Ceres Athena, Gryphon, Fork and Knife, Ink and Needle, etc.) are either active or have been active recently. They typically meet in off campus apartments, fraternity common rooms, classrooms, and other available spaces. Some groups have enough resources to rent a permanent meeting space. Given the extracurricular zeal and competition for society spots evident in the Yale student body culture, a definitive list of secret societies that exist on the campus (or on any campus) can change year by year.

Many societies have owned meeting halls, with different accommodations. Following the example of Skull & Bones, the halls are often referred to as 'tombs'. A series of articles on Dartmouth and Yale secret society architecture provides an overview of the buildings.[94] Societies that own tombs or halls are sometimes known as 'landed' societies. The three oldest landed societies are Skull and Bones (1832), Scroll and Key, (1841) and Wolf's Head, (1883). The surviving landed Sheffield societies are Berzelius (1848) and Book and Snake (1863), St. Elmo (1889), and the Aurelian Honor Society (1910). St. Anthony Hall (1867) calls itself a "final society".[95] Three newer societies that own property include Elihu (1903) – whose building is the oldest of the senior society buildings at Yale – Manuscript Society (1952), and Mace and Chain (1956). Yale's Buildings and Grounds Department lists the societies with halls in its online architectural database.[96]

Skull and Bones "tomb" at Yale University

From 1854-1956, "'Sheff'," the Sheffield Scientific School was the sciences and engineering college of Yale University, and it also had a fraternal culture that differed in some respects from the humanities campus.[93]

There are typical attributes of the Yale societies. They are often restricted by class year, especially the senior class. They usually have fifteen members per class year. They "tap" their members, mostly on the same "Tap Night," and a member is off-limits to recruitment by another secret society, (i.e. reciprocal exclusivity) The normal pattern now is that a group of secret societies places an advertisement in the Yale Daily News in early spring that informs students when Tap Night is taking place and when students should expect to receive formal offers (usually 1 week before official Tap Night). Tap Night is typically held on a Thursday in mid April; the most recently held Tap Night was April 10, 2014.

In the past century, the size of Yale has allowed for a wider variety of student societies, including regular college fraternity chapters, and other models, so that it can be difficult to categorize the organizations. And there are societies like Sage and Chalice and St. Anthony Hall which cross ordinary categories.

[92][91] This system has not survived the introduction of regular fraternities and other changes. The senior class societies continue to prosper today without any of the lower class societies. A similar system was introduced at

Class year[88] Society years
Four-Year Brothers in Unity 1768–Present (Rumored)
Senior Phoenix (Cage and Feather) 1806-1810, 1990s-present
Senior Skull & Bones 1833–present
Senior Scroll & Key 1841–present
Senior Berzelius 1848–present
Senior Book and Snake 1863–present
Senior Spade and Grave[89] 1864–present
Senior Wolf's Head 1883–present
Senior St. Elmo (secret society) 1889–present
Senior Elihu 1903–present
Senior Aurelian Honor Society 1910–present
Senior Torch Honor Society 1916–1960s, 1990s-present
Senior Desmos 1951–1968, 2009–present
Senior Manuscript Society 1952–present
Senior Mace and Chain 1956-1960s, 1990s-present
Senior OX (Yale's Finest) 1980–present
Senior ISO (secret society) 1990s–present
Senior Looking Glass 1990s-present
Senior Nathan Hale 1990s-present
Senior Belmonte 2000s-present
Senior Double Cuffs 2000s-present
Senior Leviathan 2000s-present
Senior Cup and Crown[90] 2000s-present
Senior The Apostles 2000s-present
Senior & Graduate Linonian Society 1753–1872, 1945–present
Junior Alpha Delta Phi 1836–1873, 1888–1935, 1990–present
Junior Psi Upsilon 1839–1934, 2004–present
Junior Delta Kappa Epsilon 1844–1935, 1982–present
Sophomore Kappa Sigma Theta 1838–1857
Sophomore Alpha Sigma Phi 1846–1864
Sophomore Phi Theta Psi 1864 - ?
Sophomore Delta Beta Xi 1864–1875
Freshman Kappa Sigma Epsilon 1840–1880
Freshman Delta Kappa 1845–1880
Freshman Sigma Delta 1849–1860
Freshman Gamma Nu 1860 - ?

This process held from the 1840s to the 1910s. This system kept Yale out of the more typical intercollegiate college fraternity system, although some regular college fraternities were created out of the Yale system. Yale-type class societies also extended across northeastern colleges.

Each of the societies had a link to a society in the class year before it and after it; that is, members of one freshman society would all get elected to the same sophomore society year after year, and so on, so that there were two or three parallel sets of linked societies. From time to time, there would be a coup, and one society would break the pattern, forcing the other societies to likewise change election strategies, or cause the creation of a new society. Delta Kappa Epsilon, a junior society, was created in reaction to a botched election process to the junior class societies in 1844.

In the traditional Yale system societies were organized by class year.[87] There were two, (then three), senior societies, three junior societies, two sophomore societies, and two freshman societies. All the societies were independent, all had their own traditions, and each class-year pair or trio shared common traits appropriate to their class year; the freshmen societies were rambunctious and owned little real property, the sophomore and junior ones were progressively more elaborate, (the sophomore ones regularly maintained live theater in their halls), and the senior ones were extremely small and elite, and with quite expensive property and celebrations.

The term "secret society" at Yale University encompasses organizations with many shared but not identical characteristics. The oldest surviving undergraduate secret societies at Yale parallel various 19th-century fraternal organizations.

Yale University

The membership and organizational structure of the Cadaver Society are largely unknown. Cadaver has been in continuous operation since its founding in 1957. The Cadavers have a bridge that bears their name, connecting the main campus to Wilson Field, as well as their symbol in many prominent places throughout the campus. The society has been criticized for their secrecy and many of their activities which include running around dressed in all black and masks late at night as well as drawing their symbol all over campus.[86] They have been known to run through the Sorority houses, talking in high voices and attempting to wake everyone in the houses up.

[85] is one of the group's most prominent members.Lewis Powell, Jr., Associate Justice to the Supreme Court William Rehnquist Similarly, the acronym P.A.M.O.L.A. R.Y.E. - which can seen inscribed on buildings and in classrooms throughout the Lexington area - also bears an unknown significance to the group. The group has largely gone underground since undergoing a public spat with the University in 1994 when University officials paid the Sigmas $15,000 after it tore down the Sigma cabin. As noted by Chief Justice [84][82] Founded in 1880, the

Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia is known for two secret societies, the Sigma Society and the Cadaver Society.

Washington and Lee University

New societies have periodically appeared at the University during the 20th century. The most notable are the P.U.M.P.K.I.N. Society, a secret group that rewards contributions to the University and which was founded prior to 1970;[77][78] and the Society of the Purple Shadows, founded 1963, who are only seen in public in purple robes and hoods and who seek to "safeguard vigilantly the University traditions".[79][80] The A.N.G.E.L.S. Society started sometime in the late 1900s is known to place white roses and letters on doors of those mourning, needing encouragement, or showing "kind behavior" to others. They are known to promote a stronger community of kindness throughout the University, completing many acts of service for students and faculty. Many of the secret societies listed contribute to the University either financially or through awards or some other form of recognition of excellence at the University.

The first truly "secret society" was the Seven Society, founded circa 1905.[74] Two decades before, there had been a chapter of the Mystical 7 society at Virginia, which may have been an inspiration. Nothing is known about the Seven Society except for their philanthropy to the University; members are revealed at their death. A few other societies that flourished around the turn of the 20th century, such as the Z Society (formerly Zeta), who were founded in 1892,[75] the IMP Society, reformulated in 1913 after the Hot Feet were banned in 1908, and Eli Banana, are still active at the University today. The Thirteen Society was founded February 13, 1889. After an unknown period of inactivity they reemerged in 2004. Currently The Thirteen Society operates as a mainly honorary society for those who demonstrate "unselfish service to the University and excellence in their respective fields of activity".[76]

Secret societies have been a part of University of Virginia student life since the founding of the Eli Banana society in 1878.[72] Early secret societies, such as Eli Banana and T.I.L.K.A., had secret initiations but public membership; some, such as the Hot Feet, now the IMP Society, were very public, incurring the wrath of the administration for public revels.[73]

North Steps of the Rotunda, with Z Society logo

University of Virginia

The University of Southern California is home to the Skull and Dagger Society.[65] Founded in 1913, Skull and Dagger is USC’s oldest honor society.[66] The Society inducts Trojans who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership on campus or who have brought fame and notoriety to the University. In the early 20th century, the Society published its members names and accomplishments, however in recent years has kept its members' identities secret. Members often include student body presidents, Daily Trojan editors in chief, All-American athletes, football team captains and inter-fraternity council presidents.[67] Little is known about the rituals and practices of the society aside from once a year when the society pranks the school, drops a banner from the Student Union Building, and runs through campus wearing odd hats and tailcoats.[68] Recently, the society has been criticized for its annual prank practice with opponents stating the pranks "damage the trustworthiness and credibility of respected campus services."[69] Although originally an all-male society, Skull and Dagger now admits women. Skull and Dagger has been known to make gifts to the University. In 1994, the Society donated "The Wall of Scholars" to honor students who have won national and international fellowships, as well as recipients of USC awards.[70] In 2011, the Society embarked to restore the University's class marker tradition and has been donating class markers ever since.[71] Skull and Dagger has additionally endowed two scholarships, which are awarded annually to students "who have demonstrated significant campus and/or community leadership."[66]

University of Southern California

At UPenn, secret societies are smaller than their Greek counterparts, and tend to vary in degree of secrecy.[63][64] There are three senior honorary societies. The Sphinx Senior Society and the Harold Ford Jr. and Ed Rendell; the Sphinx alumni roster boasts Richard A. Clarke and John Legend. In addition, there are several other groups called "secret societies". These groups generally denote a social club that is independent of any official organization. For this reason, the society is not regulated by the university and is not accountable to a national organization.

University of Pennsylvania

Most recently, in 2011, the Daily Tar Heel reported the first of two donations to campus entities by a secret society named Infinity. In 2011, the society gifted $888.88 to the Eve Carson Scholarship fund, which honors the late Student Body President Eve Carson.[61] In 2012, the society gifted $888.88 to the Student Enrichment Fund, a student-created fund allowing students to apply for grants to attend off-campus events such as speeches, conferences or other academic or extracurricular opportunities.[62] The significance of the digit '8' comes from the symbol for infinity that resembles an eight on its side.

The University's library also contains the archives of the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies. The Societies were founded in 1795 by some of the first students to attend the University, and are the oldest public school societies in the nation. While at first maintaining strict secrecy in their proceedings, the Societies' meetings are now generally open to the public; however, the Societies reserve the right at all times to call an "Executive Session", at which point all non-members are escorted from the chambers. All undergraduates may attempt to join one of the two societies by petitioning, but only a select few are admitted, upon mutual agreement between current Society members.

The Order of the Gorgon's Head, another secret society at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was founded in 1896 by Darius Eatman, Edward Kidder Graham, Ralph Henry Graves, Samuel Selden Lamb, Richard Henry Lewis, Jr., and Percy DePonceau Whitaker. Membership has always been limited to male members of the junior, senior, professional, and post-graduate classes along with male faculty members. Inductees may not be members of other societies. Officers include Princeps (chief officer), Quaestor, and Scriptor. The purpose of the Order is to promote friendship, good will, and social fellowship among its members. The Order of the Gorgon's Head was one of two "junior orders" established at the University in the 1890s. The two orders had written agreements that they would not attempt to recruit freshmen or sophomores. Each order had a lodge (the Gimghouls later built a castle), where members gathered for meetings and events. Each had secret rituals based on myths. Those of the Order of the Gorgon's Head centered on the myth of the Gorgons, three monstrous sisters prominent in ancient Greek and Roman lore.

Tradition has it that the order upheld the "Dromgoole legend and the ideals of Arthurian knighthood and chivalry." From all accounts, the order is social in nature, and has no clandestine agenda. Membership is closed and information about the order is strictly confidential, as is access to archives which are less than 50 years old.[59]

The society is open to male students (rising juniors and higher), and faculty members by invitation. The society centers itself around the legend of Peter Dromgoole, a student who mysteriously disappeared from the UNC campus in 1833.[60] The founders originally called themselves the Order of Dromgoole, but later changed it to the Order of Gimghoul to be, "in accord with midnight and graves and weirdness," according to the university's archives.[59]

The library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill contains the archives of the Order of Gimghoul, a secret society headquartered at the Gimghoul Castle.[57][58] The order was founded in 1889 by Robert Worth Bingham, Shepard Bryan, William W. Davies, Edward Wray Martin, and Andrew Henry Patterson, who were students at the time.[59]

Hippol Castle, headquarters of the Order of Gimghoul

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mizzou is currently home to at least six secret honor societies that still participate in annual public Tap Day ceremonies at the end of each spring semester. QEBH, Mystical Seven, LSV, Alpha Xi Chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa, Friars Chapter of Mortar Board, and Rollins Society each use the Tap Day ceremony at the conclusion of the year to reveal the members who were initiated over the past year. Missouri is one of few remaining institutions in which the local Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board chapters carry out much of their work in secrecy. The Jefferson Society, which attempted to take part in Tap Day and was denied, claims to have been around since 1862. In addition to Tap Day activities, several of the societies maintain a public presence during some athletic events. QEBH is the caretaker of the Victory Bell, along with Nebraska's Society of Innocents, awarded to the winner of the Missouri–Nebraska Rivalry football game each year. The Friars Chapter of Mortar Board exchanges a gavel with Nebraska (The Black Masque Chapter of Mortar Board) at each MU-UNL football game, symbolizing the rivalry between the Universities. Mystical Seven and Oklahoma's Pe-et Society were likewise entrusted with the Peace Pipe trophy that was awarded to the winner of the biennial Missouri-Oklahoma football match. Omicron Delta Kappa previously served as caretaker of the Indian War Drum trophy awarded to the winner of the annual Border War football game between Missouri and Kansas.[55][56]

QEBH at Tap Day 2006

In 1895, the Alpha Theta Chapter of the

Alpha Theta of Theta Nu Epsilon in 1917

University of Missouri

Vulcan Senior Engineering Society, known as "the Vulcans", occupied the 5th floor of the Union tower though were not formally a part of the tower society. They draw their heritage from the Roman god Vulcan. The group which used to do its tapping publicly is known for its long black robes and for its financial contributions of the University of Michigan College of Engineering.

Phoenix, (formerly known as Adara) holding to astrological roots, formed in the late 1970s by the women leaders on campus. In the early 80's they joined the tower society and occupied the 6th floor of the tower just below Michigamua. Phoenix, alongside Order, is now co-ed.

Order of Angell, known as "Order", is an evolved version of a previous society Michigauma. It was inspired by the rituals and culture of the Native Americans of the United States. Since its creation in 1902 the group is credited with creating Dance Marathon, one of the largest charitable events at the University of Michigan and construction of the Michigan Union for which it was granted permanent space in the top floors of the tower which they refer to as the "tomb".[53][54] In 2007 the group changed its name to Order of Angell.

The University of Michigan Ann Arbor hosts three secret societies: Order of Angell, Phoenix, and the Vulcan Senior Engineering Society. Order of Angell and Phoenix were once under the umbrella group "The Tower Society", the name referring to their location in the top of the Michigan Union tower. Michigauma (Order of Angell) was all male while Adara (Phoenix) was all female.

University of Michigan

Iron Arrow Honor Society Iron Arrow Honor Society, founded in 1926 in conjunction with the University of Miami's opening, is the Highest Honor Attained at the University of Miami. Based on Seminole Indian tradition, Iron Arrow recognizes those individuals in the University of Miami community who exemplify the five qualities of Iron Arrow: Scholarship, Leadership, Character, Humility and Love of Alma Mater.

University of Miami

The University of Georgia is home to a chapter of the Order of Omega, an honor society which selects the top 3% of Greek Fraternity students for membership.[52] A group unique to UGA is the men's secret society known as the Order of the Greek Horsemen which annually inducts five fraternity men, all leaders of the Greek Fraternity system. Likewise, the highest achievement a male can attain at the University is claimed by the Gridiron Secret Society. Palladia Secret Society was founded in the early 1960s as the highest honor a woman can attain at the University of Georgia. Palladia inducts approximately 12 women each fall and has an extensive network of alumni, including administrators at the University of Georgia and prominent female leaders across the state. One of the debate societies on campus is said to have a secret society associated with it. The Panhellenic sororities also have a secret society known as Trust of the Pearl, which inducts five accomplished sorority women each spring.

University of Georgia

As eighth oldest of the colleges in the United States, Rutgers University has had several secret societies on campus. One of which, a likely hoax, claims to be established in 1834.[48] Students associated with these societies were allegedly involved in the Rutgers-Princeton Cannon War in 1876.[49] At the turn of the 20th century, Rutgers had developed two full sets of class year societies based on the Yale model,[50] down to the freshman societies such as the Chain and Bones and Serpent and Coffin.[51] The senior class societies at Rutgers included the Brotherhood of the Golden Dagger (1898–1940), Casque and Dagger (1901), Order of the Red Lion (2006) and Cap and Skull (1900). Cap and Skull is no longer secret society and was dissolved in the 1960s after complaints of elitism. In 1982 the name was revived for university-sanctioned senior-year honor society.

Cap and Skull (1900) Class of '19; Paul Robeson at far left.

Rutgers University

Additionally, Princeton has fraternities; the most visible is a chapter of Whig and Cliosophic debating societies. Phi's membership is secretive and difficult to discern, because no more than 10 active "Phis" exist at one time: Phis usually receive offers at the end of their 3rd year. As an adaptation to Princeton's stringent anti-society rules, each active class does not meet the preceding class that selected it until the 1st of June (after their first Reunions and before graduation). 1.6... is the Golden Ratio, hence the name Phi.[47] Another society is the exclusively female Foxtail Society, founded in 1974 soon after Princeton began admitting women in 1969. The society was founded in response to the lack of eating clubs open to women. While admittance numbers have changed over the years, the Foxtail selects anywhere from 10 to 15 women to become members at the end of their junior year.

Princeton's eating clubs are not fraternities, nor are they secret societies by any standard measure, but they are often seen as being tenuously analogous.

Colonial Club

Princeton University

[45].State College, PA in Mount Nittany is closely associated with conservation efforts at Lion's Paw The three remaining senior societies no longer operate as publicly but continue to serve the University in a variety of functions. [44] as they went on to the field, and recognizing leaders, scholars, and athletes in the Penn State community.football players Hat societies were involved in University life passing down traditions (called "freshmen customs") for first-year students, forming honor guards for [43] The society has been influential in the history of Georgia Tech. Anak played a major role in establishing several of Georgia Tech's most active student organizations – including Georgia Tech's yearbook, the

Although not originally founded as a secret society, Anak has kept its activities and membership rosters confidential since 1961. Membership is made public upon a student's graduation or a faculty member's retirement. The Anak Society's membership comprises at least 1,100 Georgia Tech graduates, faculty members, and honorary members.

The [35] The society's name refers to Anak, a biblical figure said to be the forefather of a race of giants.

Georgia Institute of Technology

In 1903, a group of Jesuits are said to have convened due to rising concerns that Georgetown was losing its Jesuit values as it gained national prominence. The Jesuits formed an all-male secret society called the Society of Stewards to work anonymously and in the shadows to ensure that the core traditions that established Georgetown as a Jesuit university are kept safe.[24][25] Since then, the Society of Stewards has been known to tap promising student leaders in their sophomore and junior year to join them in order to uphold Georgetown's Catholic identity amidst American secularization. While not much is known about the secret society, a Georgetown student newspaper leaked details of their existence in 1988 which sparked outcry from students who protested that the society promoted elitism and exclusivity.[26] Rifts have since then formed. In the early nineties, the Society of Stewards split in two over ideological reasons, one group claiming to be the "true line" of stewards, while the other taking up the name the "Second Society of Stewards." The original group dwindled and died out during the 1990s, but leaks and exposes throughout the past decade show that the Second Society of Stewards is still very much active and at the forefront of the Georgetown community.[27][28] At their purported meeting place in the dark cellars of Healy Hall, the words "Circuli Crux Non Orbis Prosunt" are grafitied in blood red along the walls.[29] A major scandal erupted in campus politics during the Georgetown University Student Association executive elections in February 2013, when two of the leading candidates (along with some of their top campaign staffers) were outed as Stewards by campus newspapers The Hoya and The Georgetown Voice, which had obtained the societies' internal communications from an anonymous source calling himself "StewardThroat".[30][31][32] Similarly, four of the eight presidential and vice presidential candidates in the 2014 election were also revealed to be Stewards, though the issue was not as contentious as it had been the year before.[33] Ultimately, the sole ticket without a Steward as either president or vice president won election.[34]

Georgetown University

Wheel and Chain is Dickinson College's Senior Women's Honorary Society. Founded in 1924, members are elected in the spring of their junior year on the basis of participation in campus activities, service to the college and community, leadership skills and personal character. Membership is limited to ten senior women. New members are inducted in a "Tapping Ceremony" which is held on the "Old Stone Steps of Old West" in April. In May, each incoming Wheel and Chain class ceremoniously rings the bell in Denny Hall during Commencement ceremonies. Colloquially known as the "blue hats", members are known to the public; however, the society's activities remain secret.[22]

The [22][23]

Dickinson College

Dartmouth College's Office of Residential Life states that the earliest senior societies on campus date to 1783 and "continue to be a vibrant tradition within the campus community." Six of the eight senior societies keep their membership secret, while the other societies maintain secretive elements. According to the college, "approximately 25% of the senior class members are affiliated with a senior society."[19] The college's administration of the society system at Dartmouth focuses on keeping track of membership and tapping lists, and differs from that of Yale's, though there are historical parallels between the two colleges' societies.[20][21]

The tomb of the Sphinx secret society at Dartmouth College

Dartmouth College

Sphinx Head (founded in 1890) and Quill and Dagger (founded in 1893).[17][18]

Cornell University

Although the pressures of the American Civil War forced several societies to disappear, many were revived during the 20th century. Some of the secret societies known to currently exist at the College are: The 7 Society, 13 Club, Alpha Club, Bishop James Madison Society, Flat Hat Club, The Spades, W Society, and Wren Society.[8][15]

William & Mary students Phi Beta Kappa, on December 5, 1776, as a secret literary and philosophical society. Additional chapters were established in 1780 and 1781 at Yale and Harvard.[12] With nearly 300 chapters across the country and no longer secret, Phi Beta Kappa has grown to become the nation's premier academic honor society.[13] Alumni John Marshall and Bushrod Washington were two of the earliest members of the society, elected in 1778 and 1780, respectively.[14]

[11]) and revived again in 1972.Flat Hat Club The society was revived in 1916 (at first, as the [8].American Revolution The best opinion is that the society did not survive the British invasion of Virginia at the end of the [10] Jefferson noted that, "When I was a student of Wm. & Mary college of this state, there existed a society called the F.H.C. society, confined to the number of six students only, of which I was a member, but it had no useful object, nor do I know whether it now exists."[9]

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