College literary societies

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College literary societies in American higher education were a distinctive kind of social organization, distinct from literary societies generally, and they were often the precursors of college fraternities and sororities.[1] In the period from the late eighteenth century to the Civil War, collegiate literary societies were an important part of campus social life. College literary societies are often called Latin literary societies because they typically had compound Latinate names.

Literary and other activities[edit]

Most literary societies' literary activity consisted of formal debates on topical issues of the day, but literary activity could include original essays, poetry, music, etc. As a part of their literary work, many also collected and maintained their own libraries for the use of the society's members. "College societies were the training grounds for men in public affairs in the nineteenth century."[1]

The societies could fulfill this function because they were independent organizations, and entirely student run activities. "The societies were virtually little republics, with their own laws and a democratically elected student administration."[1]

Topics could include Classical history, religion, ethics, politics, and current events. Controversial topics not covered in the official curriculum were often the most popular. Studies have been done, for example, finding an increasing discussion of slavery at literary society meetings through the 1850s.[2] In addition to debates, in the years before the Civil War, college literary societies sponsored addresses by politicians and other dignitaries. Most frequently those addresses were delivered in conjunction with graduation, but there were also literary society addresses at the beginning of the school year and at other important dates, such as July Fourth.[3] The most famous of those addresses is Ralph Waldo Emerson's "The American Scholar." Yet, there were hundreds of others, most of which were less radical than Emerson's address.[4]

Demosthenian Hall at the University of Georgia, built in 1824

Since these organizations are virtually the oldest kind of student organization in America, where they have survived, they are seen as ancient institutions. One author from Georgia acknowledged that fact (by parody) in discussing his own society: "The origin of the Washington Society dates back to the glory days of the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era. It was during this time that great plant-eating dinosaurs roamed the Earth, feeding on lush growths of ferns and palm-like cycads and bennettitaleans. Meanwhile, smaller but vicious carnivores stalked the great herbivores. The oceans were full of fish, squid, and coiled ammonites, plus great ichthyosaurs and the long-necked plesiosaurs. Vertebrates first took to the air, like the mighty pterosaurs and the first true birds. The supercontinent Pangaea began to break up and disperse itself across the Earth's surface, sending a big chunk of land to the very spot where Thomas Jefferson's decomposed old ass lies buried today. And it is on this same chunk of land, a few miles away, that Mr. Jefferson's University sits, home to the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union.[5]

In April, 1978, several literary societies held a Congress hosted by the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. It was at this gathering that the Association of American Collegiate Literary Societies (AACLS) was established. For the next two decades, AACLS would hold a Congress in the spring to conduct business, and a Rhetor in the autumn where debates, literary exercises, and exchanges of literary magazines took place.


Since every college literary society saw itself as complementing the classical curriculum with the knowledge of current events, the societies also had libraries. "At a number of Northern colleges...the society libraries were larger than the college libraries. The society libraries were also high in quality, as shown by their printed catalogs... Rivalry between the two societies at each college extended to their libraries; each tried to have a larger library than the other."[1] A number of societies, especially in the South, would build separate buildings for the societies and their libraries.[1] On the austere college campus of two centuries ago, "the only fairly comfortable and attractive places were the rooms of the literary societies. Their members,... raised money for rugs, draperies, and comfortable, even luxurious, furniture."[1]

In relation to campuses[edit]

Members of the Miami University Erodelphian Literary Society, 1906.
Members of the Miami University Adelphic Association, 1913.
Members of the Arlington Training School's Jolly Junior Literary Society, circa 1913-1916

Typically, a college would have two or more competing societies. The campus societies were generally intense competitors. Some examples include the Philodemic and Philonomosian Societies at Georgetown University, the American Whig and Cliosophic Societies at Princeton University, Social Friends and United Fraternity at Dartmouth College, the Philorhetorian and Peithologian societies at Wesleyan University, the Philologian and Philotechnian societies at Williams College, the Philomathean and Zelosophic societies at the University of Pennsylvania, the Philolexian and Peithologian societies at Columbia University, the Clariosophic, Euphradian, and the Euphrosynean societies at the University of South Carolina, the Phi Kappa and Demosthenian societies at the University of Georgia, the Linonia and Brothers in Unity at Yale University, the Miami Union and Erodelphian (previously Adelphic) societies at Miami University and Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These societies were usually in a limited adversarial role; at Columbia University the Peithologian and Philolexian were competitors, and they maintained a rivalry that was friendly at best and highly charged at worst. In his famous diary, George Templeton Strong recorded that a Philolexian gathering was disrupted by "those rascally Peithologians"; and firecrackers and stink bombs, tossed into the midst of each other's meetings, were usually the weapons of choice.

Membership in these societies was not only open to all the students in the college, but in many cases membership was all but required. At the opening of University of South Carolina virtually all students were members of the Philomathic Society which was soon divided by lot into the Clariosophic and Euphradian societies. The Euphrosynean Literary Society was later formed at the University of South Carolina to include the female population and serve as a sister society to the Euphradians. In some cases, intense recruitment battles would ensue over new students, and to avoid problems some colleges chose to assign incoming students to one or the other literary society. This pattern was followed, for example, at Dartmouth, where the faculty imposed rule was "The students of College shall be assigned according to the odd or even places which their names shall hold on an alphabetical list of the members of each successive class..."[6] Having two societies on a campus encouraged competition, and a thriving society would have interesting enough meetings to attract full attendance from its membership and perhaps even people from the community. These societies met publicly, sometimes in large lecture rooms, and in most instances the literary exercises would consist of a debate, but could also include speeches, poetry readings, and other literary work.

Private literary societies[edit]

There also is a fundamentally distinct type of literary society, that, although formed at a college and following the same forms and kinds of literary exercises, were limited to a small subset of the college. These are private literary societies, such as Phi Beta Kappa or Yale's Elizabethan Club. Membership is usually by invitation. They share all the characteristics with a college literary society, except that they are not open to all students; and they share many of the characteristics of a college fraternity.

Literary societies and fraternities[edit]

In the 1830s and 1840s, students began to organize private literary societies for smaller groups, and these more intimate associations quickly developed into wholly secret associations. Groups such as the Kappa Alpha, Sigma Phi, Delta Phi, Mystical Seven, Alpha Delta Phi, Psi Upsilon, and Delta Kappa Epsilon and virtually all the pre-Civil War college fraternities were either first organized as literary societies or derived from factions split off of literary societies. In some cases, literary societies such as Trinity College's Cleo of Alpha Chi became chartered as chapters of national fraternities. These new organizations held meetings and were organized on identical lines to the large literary societies. Soon, the existence of these smaller private Greek letter organizations undermined the large Latin literary societies. Competition from athletics and other entertainments also took a toll, so that many dissolved or existed in name only by the 1880s. A literary society almost always provided its members with an extensive library, either available to members only, or to the campus at large. When the societies dissolved, their libraries were transferred to the college libraries, and in many colleges the acquisition of the literary societies' libraries was a significant change in their collection, usually broadening the colleges libraries' scope into popular literature, but often also adding important and rare works.

Although literary societies had Latin names, and fraternities had Greek names reduced to initials, this is not always the case, however; Phi Phi Society at Kenyon and the Phi Kappa at Georgia are examples of large literary societies with Greek names. The Clariosophic and Euphradian societies at South Carolina both had Greek letter aliases, Mu Sigma Phi and Phi Alpha Epsilon, respectively, which appeared on their seals, but which were not used in normal conversation or writing.

In the following table, there are two types of literary societies listed together, the college literary societies, (frequently half the college's student body), and smaller private societies, and were admission by invitation. Some of these societies are still active.


The University of Georgia hosts two literary societies (both of which were temporarily disbanded during the Civil War and the subsequent Union occupation): the Demosthenian Literary Society, founded in 1803, and the Phi Kappa Literary Society, founded in 1820 and dormant from the 1970s until its official reestablishment in 1991. Similarly, the Philolexian Society of Columbia University, established in 1802, operated more or less continuously until expiring in the early 1950s and, except for a brief revival in the early 1960s, was not revived until 1985. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill were founded in 1795, closed for approximately four years when the university was shuttered during Reconstruction, and reopened. These societies merged in 1959 and still meet today as a "joint senate." The Euphradian Society at the University of South Carolina, established in 1806, was deactivated sometime during the late 1970s; it was reactivated by alumni in 2011. The Clariosophic Society, also established in 1806 at the University of South Carolina, was reactivated in 2013. The Euphrosynean Literary Society, established in 1924 at the University of South Carolina, was reactivated in 2015. The Linonian Society at Yale University is the oldest society to still be in existence, founded in 1753, the society went defunct sometime in the 1890s and was revamped at the beginning of the 21st century making it with over a century of dormancy the oldest literary society in the United States.

In recent years, the Philodemic Society of Georgetown University has attempted to resuscitate the long tradition of intercollegiate debate between collegiate literary societies with the Annual East Coast Conference of Collegiate Literary Debate Societies, held in conjunction with a masked ball known as the Kai Yai Yai ball. The competition is held at the beginning of October and has in recent years included the Philomathean Society, the American Whig-Cliosophic Society of Princeton University, the Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies of the University of North Carolina, the Demosthenian Literary Society and Phi Kappa Literary Society of The University of Georgia in Athens, the Enosinian Society of The George Washington University and the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society of the University of Virginia.[7]

Some early college social fraternities still meet in a literary society format, including Kappa Alpha, Alpha Delta Phi, and Mystical 7.

There are seven literary societies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois where they have remained despite the nationwide trend of developing into fraternities and sororities; these include: Phi Alpha Literary Society, Chi Beta Literary Society, Sigma Pi Literary Society, Gamma Nu Literary Society, Sigma Phi Epsilon Literary Society, Pi Pi Rho Literary Society, and Gamma Delta Literary Society.

List of literary societies in the United States[edit]

Founded Ended Society College or University Source and notes
1750 1787 F. H. C. William & Mary [8]
1750 1772 Crotonia Society Yale [8]
1753 Present Linonian Society Yale [8]
1765 1928 American Whig Society Princeton [8]
1765 1928 Cliosophic Society Princeton [8]
1768 unknown Brothers in Unity Yale [8]
1770 unknown Institute of 1770 Harvard [8]
1771 unknown Pronouncing Society Brown [8]
1773 1781 P. D. A. William & Mary [9]
1776 1786 Athenian Society Rutgers [8][10]
1776 1787 Phi Beta Kappa Society William & Mary [8]
1776 1782 Polemical Society Rutgers [10]
1780 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Yale [11]
1781 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Harvard [8]
1783 Defunct Social Friends Society Dartmouth [8]
1786 Present Belles Lettres Society Dickinson [12][13]
1786 Defunct United Fraternity Dartmouth [8]
1787 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Dartmouth [8]
1789 Present Union-Philanthropic Society Hampden-Sydney [14][15]
1789 Present Union Philosophical Society Dickinson [12]
1789 1795 Society for Progress in Letters Columbia [16]
1791 unknown Porcellian Society Harvard [17]
1793 1890 Calliopean Society Union [18]
1794 1866 Philermenian Society Brown [8][19]
1795 Present Dialectic Society North Carolina [20]
1795 Present Philanthropic Society North Carolina [20]
1795 unknown Philologian Society Williams [20]
1795 unknown Philotechnian Society Williams [20]
1796 unknown Adelphic Society Union [20]
1797 Present Franklin Literary Society Jefferson [21]
1797 unknown Philo Literary Society Jefferson [21]
1802 Present Philolexian Society Columbia [8][16]
1802 1887 Athenaean Society Bowdoin [20][22]
1803 Present Demosthenian Literary Society Georgia [14][20]
1803 unknown Phi Sigma Nu Society Vermont [20]
1805 Present Peucinian Society Bowdoin [20]
1806 unknown Peithologian Society Columbia [8]
1806 Present Clariosophic Society South Carolina [23][24]
1806 Present Euphradian Society South Carolina [1][24]
1806 1866 United Brothers Society Brown [8][19]
1807 unknown Philological Society Pennsylvania [8]
1809 unknown Union Literary Society Washington [21]
1811 unknown Hermean Society Pennsylvania [14]
1813 Present Philomathean Society Pennsylvania [8]
1814 unknown Washington Literary Society Washington [21]
1814 unknown Phoenix Society Hamilton [20]
1814 unknown Union Society Hamilton [20]
1817 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Union [11]
1819 Present Calliopean Society Yale [14][25]
1819 1830 Patrick Henry Society Virginia [14]
1820 Present Phi Kappa Literary Society Georgia [14][26]
1820 unknown Henodelphisterian Society Indiana [27]
1821 unknown Alexandrian Society Amherst [1]
1821 unknown Athenian Society Amherst [1]
1822 Present Enosinian Society George Washington [28]
1822 unknown Franklin Debating Society Randolph-Macon [14]
1823 unknown Ciceronian Society George Washington [28]
1824 1834 Franklin Society Brown [29]
1824 unknown Athenaeum Society Trinity [1]
1824 unknown Society for Inquiry Colgate [1]
1825 Present Jefferson Society Virginia [14][30]
1825 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Bowdoin [11]
1825 1892 Philoclean Society Rutgers [1]
1825 unknown Agatheridan Society Nashville [23]
1825 1891 Peithissophian Society Rutgers [1][10]
1825 1924 Erodelphian Literary Society Miami University [31][32]
1825 1928 Miami Union Literary Society Miami University [32]
1826 unknown Franklin Society William & Mary [1]
1826 unknown Philozetian Society Western Reserve [33]
1827 unknown Literary Fraternity Colby [1]
1827 unknown Parthenon Society Trinity [1]
1827 unknown Philomathesian Society Kenyon [34]
1828 unknown Nu Pi Kappa Society Kenyon [34]
1828 unknown Philomathean Society College of Charleston [35]
1829 unknown Beth-Hacma Maryville [36]
1829 unknown Sophirodelphian Society Maryville [36]
1829 unknown Transylvania Whig Society Transylvania [37]
1829 unknown Union Philosophical Society Transylvania [38]
1829 unknown Zelosophic Society Pennsylvania [1]
1830 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Brown [11]
1830 Present Philodemic Society Georgetown [14][39]
1830 unknown Athenian Society Indiana [27]
1830 unknown Calliopean Society Maine Wesleyan [1]
1830 unknown Philosophronian Society Hanover [40]
1830 unknown Union Literary Society Hanover [40]
1831 Present Washington Literary Society and Debating Union Virginia [5][14]
1831 1840 Adelphic Society Western Reserve [33]
1831 1933 Erosophic Society Alabama [1][41]
1831 unknown Euphradian Society College of Charleston [35]
1831 1840 Franklin Society Western Reserve [33]
1831 unknown Peithologian Society Wesleyan [1]
1831 unknown Philomathean Society Indiana [27]
1831 unknown Philorhetorian Society Wesleyan [1]
1832 1943 Philomathic Society Alabama [1][41]
1833 1840 Gamma Phi Society Colgate [42][circular reference]
1833 1834 Franklin Polemic Society Mercer [14]
1833 Present Washington Society Randolph-Macon [14]
1834 1943 Eucleian Society New York [1]
1834 1888 Philomathean Society New York [14]
1834 unknown Beth-Hacma ve Berith Maryville [36]
1834 Defunct Ciceronian Society Mercer [14]
1834 unknown Ladies' Literary Society Oberlin [43]
1834 Defunct Phi Delta Society Mercer [14]
1834 unknown Philo-Franklin Society Allegheny [1]
1834 unknown Philomathean Society Wabash [44]
1834 1840 Pi Delta Society Colgate [42][circular reference]
1835 unknown Allegheny Society Allegheny [1]
1835 unknown Calliopean Society Denison [33]
1835 unknown Diagnothian Society Franklin & Marshall [1]
1835 unknown Erosophian Adelphoi Society Colby [1]
1835 unknown Euphronean Society Wabash [44]
1835 Present Euzelian Society Wake Forest [45]
1835 unknown Philomathesian Society Wake Forest [45]
1835 unknown Society for Religious Inquiry Vermont [1]
1836 unknown Chi Delta Society East Tennessee [46]
1836 unknown Philomathesian Society East Tennessee [46]
1836 unknown Union Literary Society Muskingum [23]
1837 Present Philanthropic Society Davidson [23][47]
1837 Present Eumenean Society Davidson [23][47]
1837 Defunct Phi Gamma Society Emory [23]
1837 unknown Philosophian Society McKendree [23]
1838 unknown Cliosophic Society College of Charleston [35]
1838 unknown Platonian Society Indiana Asbury [23]
1839 ~1932 Tau Theta Kappa Society Georgetown College (KY) [23]
1839 ~1932 Ciceronian Society Georgetown College (KY) [23]
1839 unknown Alpha Kappa Society Marietta [23]
1839 unknown Dialectic Society Oberlin [43]
1839 Present Euphemian Society Erskine [14][48]
1839 Defunct Few Society Emory [14]
1839 unknown Licivyronian Society William & Mary [1]
1839 (Defunct 1863) Phi Delta Society Oglethorpe [49]
1839 unknown Philological Society Indiana Asbury [23]
1839 unknown Philomathesian Society Oberlin [43]
1839 unknown Psi Gamma Society Marietta [23]
1839 Present Thalian Society Oglethorpe [49]
1840 1880 Adelphian Society Colgate [1][42][circular reference]
1840 1887 Aeonian Society Colgate [50]
1840 (Present) Calliopean Society Emory & Henry [51]
1840 Present Hermesian Society Emory & Henry [51]
1840 unknown Phi Delta Society Western Reserve [33]
1840 unknown Philalethian Society Hanover [52]
1840 unknown Tau Chi Society William & Mary [1]
1841 unknown Philopaedian Society St. Xavier [23]
1842 unknown Adelphi Society Howard [53]
1842 unknown Franklin Society Howard [53]
1842 Present Philomathean Society Erskine [54]
1842 unknown Phi Phi Alpha Society Michigan [1]
1843 unknown Alpha Nu Society Michigan [23]
1843 unknown Franklin Society Denison [1]
1843 Present Sigma Pi Society Illinois [23][55]
1844 unknown Clever Fellows Society Albion [56]
1844 unknown Clever Girls Society Albion [56]
1845 unknown Adelphi Society Knox [57]
1845 unknown Atheniaedes Society Albion [58]
1845 Defunct Calliopean Society Citadel [14][59]
1845 unknown Eclectic Society Albion [58]
1851 Present Excelsior Men's Society Heidelberg [23]
1845 unknown Hermean Society Geneva [1]
1845 Present Phi Alpha Society Illinois [23][55]
1845 unknown Zetagathea Society Ohio Wesleyan [23]
1846 unknown Alfreidian Lyceum Society Alfred [23]
1846 unknown Philomathean Society Muskingum [23]
1846 unknown Philosophian Society Wittenberg [23]
1847 unknown Calliopean Society Wabash [23]
1847 unknown Chrestomathean Society Ohio Wesleyan [23]
1847 unknown Lyceum Society Wabash [23]
1847 Present Polytechnic Literary Society Citadel [14][59]
1847 Present St. Anthony Hall Columbia
1848 1948 Chrestomathic Society College of Charleston [14][60]
1848 unknown Philomatic Society Spring Hill [61]
1848 unknown Tripartite Union Lycoming [1]
1849 unknown Alethearian Society Geneva [62]
1849 unknown Gnothautii Society Knox [23]
1849 1946 Hermaean Society Mississippi [14]
1849 1934 Phi Sigma Society Mississippi [14]
1849 unknown Philo-Christomathean Society Geneva [62]
1849 Defunct Platonian Society McKendree [23]
1850 unknown Athenian Society Wisconsin [63]
1850 unknown Belles Letters Society Lycoming [1]
1850 unknown Ciceronian Society Roanoke [23]
1850 Defunct Columbian Society Carson-Newman [14]
1850 1866 Delphic Society Rochester [1][64]
1850 unknown Demosthenean Society Roanoke [23]
1850 unknown Eupia Society Bucknell [23]
1850 unknown Orophilian Lyceum Society Alfred [23]
1850 Defunct Philomathean Society Carson-Newman [14]
1850 unknown Philophrenian Society Columbian [23]
1850 unknown Pithonian Society Rochester [1]
1850 unknown Soverville Society Ohio Female [23]
1850 unknown St. Aloysius Literary Society University of Notre Dame [65]
1850 unknown Theta Alphea Society Bucknell [23]
1851 unknown Addisonian Society Kentucky Military [23]
1851 unknown Adelphean Society Wesleyan [23]
1851 unknown Alleghenian Lyceum Society Alfred [23]
1851 unknown Amphictyon Society Lawrence [1]
1851 unknown Athenian Society Ohio Wesleyan [23]
1851 unknown Belles Letters Society MacMurray [66]
1851 unknown Clionian Society Free Academy [1]
1851 unknown Philolexian Society Kalamazoo [23]
1851 unknown Philomathean Society Waynesburg [1]
1851 unknown Philophronean Society Otterbein [23]
1851 unknown Sherwood Rhetorical Society Kalamazoo [23]
1851 unknown St. Aloysius Philodemics Society Notre Dame [23]
1851 unknown Students Philomathean Society Hartsville [23]
1851 unknown Union Society Waynesburg [1]
1852 Present Philomathean Society Wesleyan [23]
1852 unknown Gamma Epsilon Society Lycoming [1]
1852 unknown Ladies Literary Society Milton [23]
1852 unknown Philaletha Society Otterbein [23]
1852 unknown Philomathean Society Hiram [67]
1852 unknown Philomathian Society Mississippi [23]
1852 unknown Philomethean Society Wesleyan [23]
1852 unknown Phrenocosmian Society Free Academy [1]
1853 unknown Amphictyon Society Cornell College [23]
1853 unknown Chrestomathian Society Grinnell [23]
1853 unknown Clio Society Capital [23]
1853 unknown Emma Willards Society Waynesburg [1]
1853 unknown Hentz Society La Grange [68]
1853 unknown Judson Society La Grange [68]
1853 unknown Parthenian Society Baltimore [23]
1853 unknown Periclesian Society Franklin [69]
1853 unknown Phi Nu Society MacMurray [66]
1853 unknown Phileans Society Waynesburg [1]
1853 unknown Union Literary Society Geneva [62]
1853 unknown Webster Society Franklin [69]
1854 unknown Alethezethian Society Antioch [70]
1854 Present Archanian Society Univ. of the Pacific [23]
1854 unknown Aristotelian Society Central [1]
1854 unknown Calhoun Society Wofford [71]
1854 1875 Delphic Society Hiram [72][73]
1854 unknown Erodelphian Society Burlington [23]
1854 unknown Hamline Society Iowa Wesleyan [74]
1854 unknown Hesperian Society Hiram [72]
1854 unknown Hesperian Society Wisconsin [63]
1854 unknown Linnaen Society Mount Union [23]
1854 unknown Phi Alpha Society Central [1]
1854 unknown Philomathian Society Bethel [23]
1854 unknown Washington Society Bethel [23]
1855 unknown Alethean Society Baldwin [23]
1855 unknown Calliope Academy Spring Hill [61]
1855 unknown Crescent Society Antioch [70]
1855 unknown Curious Society Milwaukee [23]
1855 unknown Erosophian Society Marshall [1]
1855 unknown Hyperion Society Marshall [1]
1855 unknown Philalethean Society Lawrence [69]
1855 unknown Philologian Society Richmond [23]
1855 unknown Philopenthean Society Geneva [1]
1855 unknown Philophrenian Society George Washington [28]
1855 unknown Phoenix Society Lawrence [69]
1855 unknown Star Society Antioch [70]
1856 Defunct Beltionian Society Wheaton [75]
1856 unknown Hinman Society Northwestern [72]
1856 unknown Mathesian Society Northwestern Christian [76]
1856 unknown Philadelphian Society Monmouth [23]
1856 unknown Philalethic Society Santa Clara [23]
1856 unknown Philomathean Society Willamette [77]
1856 unknown Philoneikean Society Moores Hill [78]
1856 unknown Phoenix Band Society Earlham [23]
1857 unknown Alpha Kappa Phi Society Hillsdale [23]
1857 unknown Amphictyon Society Hillsdale [23]
1857 unknown Eurodelphian Society Spring Hill [61]
1857 unknown Hesperian Society Ohio Female [23]
1857 unknown Ionian Society Earlham [23]
1857 unknown Ladies Literary Union Hillsdale [23]
1857 unknown Literary Adelphi Society Michigan [23]
1857 unknown Philomathean Society Otterbein [23]
1857 unknown Phreno-Cosmian Society Baldwin [23]
1857 unknown Pythonian Society Northwestern Christian [76]
1857 unknown Sigournean Society Moores Hill [78]
1858 unknown Adelphian Society Cornell College [23]
1858 unknown Athena Society Lawrence [1]
1858 unknown Excelsior Society Albright [1]
1858 unknown Preston Society Wofford [71]
1858 unknown Rhizomian Society Univ. of the Pacific [23]
1859 unknown Alethean Society Beloit [23]
1859 unknown Archaean Society Beloit [23]
1859 unknown Belles Letters Society Illinois Wesleyan [79]
1859 1939 Belles Lettres Society Southern University (Greensboro, Alabama) [80]
1859 1939 Clariosophic Society Southern University (Greensboro, Alabama) [80]
1859 unknown Delean Society Beloit [23]
1859 Present German Verein (now the Alpha Omega chapter of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity) German Wallace [23]
1859 unknown Germanae Sodales Society Hillsdale [23]
1859 unknown Literary Society Maryland [81]
1859 unknown Neocosmian Society Albright [1]
1859 unknown Philestorian Society Santa Clara [23]
1859 unknown Ruthean Society Iowa Wesleyan [82]
1859 unknown Sophronikopean Society Missionary [23]
1859 unknown Star Society Adrian [23]
1859 unknown Webster Society Michigan [23]
1860 unknown Adelphian Society Furman [83]
1860 unknown Adelphic Society Northwestern [72]
1860 unknown Athenaeum Society Chicago [23]
1860 unknown Erosophian Society Lombard [23]
1860 unknown Eulexian Society St. Stephen's [23]
1860 unknown Franklin Reading Society Furman [83]
1860 unknown Philomathean Society Milton [23]
1860 unknown Philosophian Society Furman [83]
1860 unknown Reynolds Society Stockwell [23]
1860 Defunct Philomathean Literary Society Phi Kappa Sigma Male College
1861 unknown Addisonian Society Wayland [23]
1861 unknown Berean Society Chicago [84]
1861 unknown Phi Alpha Pi Society Olivet [23]
1861 unknown Tri Kappa Society Chicago [84]
1861 1933 Zetagathian Society University of Iowa [85]
1862 1933 Erodelphian Society University of Iowa [86]
1863 1933 Hesperian Society University of Iowa [86]
1864 1929 Irving Institute University of Iowa [86]
1865 unknown De La Salle Club Manhattan [23]
1865 unknown Erosophian Society Baylor [1]
1865 unknown Irving Society Andalusia, (Pa.) [23]
1865 Present Philalethean Society (now the Philaletheis Society) Vassar [23][87]
1866 unknown Alka Society Willamette [77]
1866 unknown Brown Debating Society Stockwell [23]
1866 unknown Clionian Society Almira [23]
1866 unknown Garnet Society Lincoln [1]
1866 unknown Lincoln Association Illinois Soldiers' [23]
1866 unknown Philomathean Society Union Christian [23]
1866 unknown Robert E. V. Rice Society Niagara [1]
1866 unknown Scientific Society Wilberforce [23]
1866 unknown Semicentenary Society Wilberforce [23]
1866 unknown St Joseph Society St. Joseph College, New York [23]
1866 unknown Stonewall Society Baylor [1]
1866 unknown Themian Society Quincy [23]
1867 unknown Aristotelian Society Harlem Springs [23]
1867 unknown Athenian Society Tennessee Wesleyan [1]
1867 unknown Byronic Society Harlem Springs [23]
1867 unknown Erosophian Society Albion [23]
1867 unknown Eulexian Society St. Augustine College, California [23]
1867 unknown Euterpean Society Muhlenberg [88]
1867 unknown Neotrophian Society Bethel [1]
1867 unknown Philokosmian Society Lebanon Valley [23]
1867 unknown Philosophian Society Lincoln [1]
1867 unknown Sophronian Society Muhlenberg [88]
1867 unknown Zetalethean Society Simpson [23]
1868 unknown Adelphene Society Union Christian [23]
1868 unknown Alpha Delta Society Hiram [67]
1868 unknown German Society St. Xaviers [23]
1868 1888[89] Irving Society Cornell University [23]
1868 unknown Lehigh Junto Lehigh [23]
1868 unknown Phi Delta Society Berea [1]
1868 unknown Philocurian Society Northwestern Christian [23]
1868 unknown Philomathean Society Iowa State [1]
1868 unknown Philomathian Society Illinois [23]
1869 unknown Athenaean Society Kings College, Tennessee [1]
1869 unknown Basilian Society Niagara [1]
1869 Still active Clionian Literary Society McKendree [90]
1869 unknown Orthopatetic Society Blackburn [1]
1869 unknown Philomathean Society Tennessee Wesleyan [1]
1869 unknown Photozotean Society Moore's hill [78]
1869 unknown Zenobian Society Minnesota [23]
1870 Defunct Aristonian Society Wheaton [75]
1870 unknown Atheneum Society Willamette [77]
1870 unknown Bachelor Society Iowa State [1]
1870 1906 Baconian Society Potsdam [91][92]
1870 unknown Castelian Society Rockford [1]
1870 unknown Crescent Society Iowa State [1]
1870 unknown Erodelphian Society Highland [23]
1870 unknown Grinnell Institute Grinnell [23]
1870 unknown Irving Society Wooster [23]
1870 unknown Philologian Society St Stephens [23]
1870 unknown Philotechnic Society Louisiana State [1]
1870 Present Signet Society Harvard
1870 unknown Vesperian Society Rockford [1]
1870 unknown Wayland Society Brown [23]
1871 unknown Bettina Society German Wallace [23]
1871 unknown Bonhommian Society Highland [23]
1871 unknown Cliolian Society Iowa State [1]
1871 1889 Delphic Society Geneseo [93][94]
1871 unknown Sodalian Society Wilberforce [23]
1872 unknown Adelphic Society Geneva [62]
1872 Defunct Excelsior Society Wheaton [75]
1873 Defunct Clariosophic Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1873 Defunct Alamo Society Southwestern [14][96]
1874 unknown Ossoli Society Northwestern [72]
1875 Defunct San Jacinto Society Southwestern [14][96]
1876 unknown Eutaxian Society Oregon [97]
1876 unknown Laurean Society Oregon [97]
1876 unknown Stephen F. Austin Society Texas A&M
1877 Present Cleo of Alpha Chi Trinity College
1879 unknown Calliopean Society Texas A&M
1879 Defunct Arkansas Literary and Debating Society Lyon College [98]
1881 Defunct Alethean Society Southwestern [14][96]
1883 Defunct Philomathean Society Lyon College [98]
1884 unknown L'Etoile Lyon College [98]
1885 Defunct Clio Society Southwestern [14][96]
1886 Defunct Garland Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1886 Defunct Adelphian Circle Ouachita Baptist University
1888 Defunct Hermesian Literary Society Ouachita Baptist University
1888 Defunct Philomathean Literary Society Ouachita Baptist University
1889 Present Winthrop Literary Society Winthrop [14]
1891 Defunct Gamma Sigma Literary Society Henderson State University
1891 Defunct Erosophic Society Lyon College [98]
1892 Defunct Delta Sigma Society Lyon College [98]
1895 Defunct Grady Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1895 1928 Philomathean Society University of Iowa [86]
1897 Present Gamma Nu Society Illinois [14][55]
1898 1939 Eumenean Society (absorbed by the Clariosophic Society in when Southern University and Birmingham College merged to form Birmingham-Southern College in 1918) Birmingham-Southern College
1898 1939 Robert E. Lee Society (absorbed by the Belles Lettres Society when Southern University and Birmingham College merged to form Birmingham-Southern College in 1918) Birmingham-Southern College
1898 Defunct Franklin Literary Society Hendrix College
1899 Defunct Harlan Literary Society Hendrix College
1900 Defunct Athenian Literary Society Ouachita Baptist University
1900 1933 Octave Thanet University of Iowa [86]
1900 Defunct Periclean Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1905 Defunct Garland Literary Society Henderson State University
1904 unknown Sul Ross Literary Society Texas A&M University
1906 Defunct Lee Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1907 Defunct Demosthenean Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1908 Defunct Franklin Literary Society University of Arkansas [95]
1911 Present Elizabethan Club Yale [14]
1911 Present Gamma Delta Society Illinois [55]
1912 Defunct Hesperian Society Heidelberg [14][99]
1912 Present Philomathean Society Univ. of the Pacific [100]
1913 Present Euglossian Society Heidelberg [14][99]
1913 Present Philalethean Society Heidelberg [14]
1913 Present Philalethean Society Rutgers [14]
1913 1928 Whitby University of Iowa [86]
1914 Defunct Adelphian Society Mountain Home College
1915 Defunct Athenian Society Mountain Home College
1915 Defunct Hypatian Society South Carolina [14]
1916 1933 Athena University of Iowa [86]
1916 Present Sigma Phi Epsilon Society Illinois [14][101]
1920 Present Chi Beta Society Illinois [14][55]
1920 1934 Hamlin Garland University of Iowa [86]
1921 Present Aptonalton Literary Society Heidelberg University
1921 1950 Kappa Iota Literary Society Alma College
1923 Defunct Daedalian Literary Society Indiana State Normal School [102][103][104]
1924 Present Euphrosynean Society South Carolina [14]
1926 1928 Delta Rho Society Lyon College [98]
1928 Present American Whig-Cliosophic Society Princeton [14][105]
1929 Present Pi Pi Rho Society Illinois [14][55]
1947 Present Alpha Omega Delta Literary Society Bob Jones University
1991 Present Philomathean Society Union [20][106]
2015 Present Franklin Society Virginia [107][108]

Image gallery[edit]


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  2. ^ See, e.g., Timothy J. Williams, Intellectual Manhood: University, Individual, Self, and Society in the Antebellum South (2015); Peter S. Carmichael, The Last Generation: Young Virginians in Peace, War, and Reunion (2009); Alfred L. Brophy, "Debating Slavery and Empire in the Washington College Literary Societies," Washington and Lee Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice 22 (2016): 273 (discussing shifting nature of debates at Washington College's Graham and Washington Societies); Mark Swails, Literary Societies as Institutions of Honor at Evangelical Colleges in Antebellum Georgia (MA thesis, Emory University, 2007).
  3. ^ See, e.g., Alfred L. Brophy, "'The Law of the Descent of Thought': Law, History, and Civilization in Antebellum Literary Addresses," Law and Literature 20 (2008): 343-402; Alfred L. Brophy, "The Republics of Liberty and Letters: Progress, Union, and Constitutionalism in Graduation Addresses at the Antebellum University of North Carolina," North Carolina Law Review 89 (2011): 1879.
  4. ^ See, e.g., Alfred L. Brophy, "The Rule of Law in Antebellum College Literary Addresses: The Case of William Greene," Cumberland Law Review 31 (2001): 231-85.
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