Union Philosophical Society

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The Union Philosophical Society or UPS is the seventh oldest collegiate organization in the United States, and one of the three oldest literary societies. Founded at Dickinson College in 1789, it took the white rose and the Roman goddess Minerva as its primary symbols. The Union Philosophical Society adopted a badge in 1791, designed as a Maltese Cross with a wreath of white roses about the letters 'U.P.S.'. The white rose of this society is responsible for the white color adopted as one of the honorary colors of Dickinson College (the red rose of the Belles Lettres Society is responsible for the red color adopted as the other honorary color of Dickinson College). This was in opposition to Belles Lettres, the sixth oldest collegiate organization in the US, and founded three years before UPS. Throughout the college's history and only discontinued in the mid-20th century, Dickinson students had to join either Belles Lettres or Union Philosophical Society to participate in other extracurricular collegiate activities. Belles Lettres and UPS developed a rivalry that continues to this day.

UPS and Belles Lettres not only were among the first literary societies but actively engaged in the collection of literary texts. In 1791, the school's library held only a few thousand books. UPS and Belles Lettres began collecting books in opposition to each other and each organization had its own library located in Old West. Eventually, the two libraries together reached almost 10,000 books, and both libraries were donated to Dickinson College.

UPS was disbanded in the mid-1970s due to lack of participation. However, on October 12, 2004, the organization was revived and is active once again on the Dickinson campus. UPS is currently a philosophical debating society, inspired by the debate contests that used to be held yearly between UPS and Belles Lettres.

Denny Hall[edit]

The Union Philosophical Society was permitted to meet in Professor of History, Robert Davidson's recitation room in Denny Hall. During the 1904 fire of Denny Hall, many early records of the society were destroyed. In 1791, the Union Philosophical Society began to gather a collection of books. As the collection grew, the Union Philosophical Society, as well as the Belles Lettres Society were granted a small space on the third floor of West College to use as a library. As both societies continued to collect books, the space was soon overcrowded. In 1886, the Bosler Memorial Hall was completed and the collections of both literary societies, along with the collections of the college were kept in the new library, Bosler. These collections were absorbed by the greater Dickinson library, now Waidner-Spahr Library. While the Belles Lettres library room was entirely destroyed in a 1984 renovation of Denny, the UPS library room now stands as Denny 317 (also called the Temple of Minerva). The room is framed with stained glass windows that prominently display the UPS crest as well as commemorate the fire that destroyed Denny Hall.

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