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Seal and Serpent

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Seal and Serpent
The Letters of Seal and Serpent
Founded1905; 119 years ago (1905)
Cornell University
TypeSocial Society
Member badge
Colors  Black and   Gold
SymbolShield, Serpent and Skull
Headquarters305 Thurston Avenue
Ithaca, New York 14850
United States

The Seal & Serpent Society is a house club located at Cornell University. Founded in 1905, the Society is one of the oldest at the university. The Tudor mansion at 305 Thurston Avenue has housed the active chapter since 1927.

Seal and Serpent operates as a social club rather than a secret society or final club. At the time of its founding, many house clubs and societies in the Ivy League had similar names, such as the extant Skull and Bones, Casque and Gauntlet, and Quill and Dagger. The Great Depression took a considerable toll on the membership and financial solvency of extracurricular collegiate organizations, and many were forced to disband. As the Greek system expanded and incorporated many other societies, Seal and Serpent maintained its independence as a member of Cornell's Interfraternity Council (IFC)[1] which oversees the university's entire fraternity system.[2][3] In the fall of 2016, the active chapter voted to terminate its membership in the Cornell Interfraternity Council, becoming an independent student organization.

As of Fall, 2020, the active chapter and alumni board voted to become gender neutral.


Early history[edit]

Seal and Serpent Society has its origins in the coalescence of two Cornell undergraduate groups: the Crooks' Club and the Senators. The ten original members began to meet in the fall of 1905 with the intent of preserving the traditions of Cornell student life. They called themselves the Society of the Seal and Serpent, and made plans to take a house together in the fall and elect their first officers." Alvin Ward "Gub" King 1907 was elected president as a sort of coalition man not involved too much with either of the two original groups.[4]

The original "snakes" or founders of Seal and Serpent were:

Photo of the original 10 Seal and Serpent Brothers.
The founders of Seal and Serpent (From left to right: S. Blunt, Ruhlen, McConnell, Shepherd, Springg, A. Blunt, Kuehns, Zimmerman, and King)
  • Albert "Bert" Church Blunt Jr., 1907[5][6]
  • Stanhope Eccleston Blunt, 1909
  • Charles “Dickie” Chester Byron Dickson, 1908
  • Alvin "Gub" Ward King, 1907
  • Romeo "Romey" Benvenuto Kuehns, 1907
  • William Henry McCaully, 1908
  • Benjamin "Stuzzie" Stuart McConnell, 1908
  • George "Gus" Ruhlen Jr., 1907
  • Alfred "Shep" William Shepherd, 1907
  • Frederic "Fritz" Sanford Sly, 1907[7]
  • Carrollton "Twig" Crawford Sprigg, 1907
  • Earl "Zim" William Zimmerman, 1907

World War I era[edit]

In 1917, World War I dramatically impacted student life in Ithaca, and the landscape of the entire Cornell community changed. The Lodge did not yet exist, and the Society's Board of Directors offered the University the use of the West Avenue house as a ROTC barracks. Seal and Serpent lost three men during the war: Joseph Mason, 1913; Frank McCullough, 1920; and Edward Ilsley Tinkham, 1916. In March 1917, Tinkham organized the first unit of Cornell men.[8]

The Great Depression era[edit]

During the Great Depression, the majority of independent social clubs on campus were purchased by national chapters, and universities purchased the property where many fraternities now reside. Seal and Serpent was one of two fraternities at Cornell that had the resources to remain independent.

Modern era[edit]

Today, Seal and Serpent is the only independent social society at Cornell University. It participated as a local men's society within the Cornell Interfraternity Council until the fall of 2016 when the active chapter voted to terminate its membership in the IFC, becoming a fully independent student organization.

In the fall of 2020, Seal and Serpent's active chapter and alumni board voted to become coed.

The Seal and Serpent Lodge[9]


The society's colors are black and gold. Its symbols are the shield, serpent, and skull.


The Seal and Serpent Lodge is located at 305 Thurston Avenue. The earliest members of the society purchased the land in 1913, but the building of the lodge was delayed by the demands of World War I. Construction began in 1926, and the lodge was formally dedicated and presented to the active chapter on October 22, 1927.[10] Over 1,250 members have lived there.[11]

Photo US Senator Mark Kirk.
Mark Kirk, president of Seal and Serpent in 1981.

Notable members[edit]

Popular culture[edit]

In 2010, Seal & Serpent was featured in the A&E Network TV show Strange Days with Bob Saget in an episode exploring Ivy League fraternity life.[16]


  1. ^ "Welcome to the Cornell Interfraternity Council". Cornellifc.com. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  2. ^ "DOS: Chapter Details". Dos.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  3. ^ Dear Uncle Ezra, Cornell University. "Dear Uncle Ezra - Questions for Thursday, February 22, 2007 - Cornell University". Ezra.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  4. ^ "Seal and Serpent Society". Sealandserpent.org. 1905-04-02. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  5. ^ "A. C. Blunt, 80, Newton Centre Services Held". The Boston Globe. 8 January 1967.
  6. ^ "Obituaries: Blunt, Albert Church, Jr., 80". St. Petersburg Times. 6 January 1967. p. 25. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  7. ^ "Frederick Sly, Formerly of Fredonia, Dies". The Grape Belt and Chautauqua Farmer. 1 July 1952. p. 6. Retrieved 8 May 2011.
  8. ^ Seymour, James William Davenport (1921). "Friends of France". Memorial Volume of the American Field Service in France: 238–240.
  9. ^ "305 Thurston Housing". Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  10. ^ "Seal and Serpent Society". Sealandserpent.org. 1927-10-22. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  11. ^ "Guide to the Seal and Serpent Society of Cornell University Records,1906-2009". Rmc.library.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  12. ^ "Team". Bain Capital. Archived from the original on 2012-07-20. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  13. ^ "Senator Kirk's Official Website".
  14. ^ "Gligor Tashkovich". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2012-01-31.
  15. ^ "2003 Term Member Program" (PDF). Council on Foreign Relations.
  16. ^ Linhorst, Michael (2010-04-23). "Bob Saget Documents Cornell University Fraternity Life | The Cornell Daily Sun". Cornellsun.com. Retrieved 2012-01-31.

External links[edit]