Seven Society (College of William & Mary)

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The Seven Society, Order of the Crown & Dagger (colloquially known as the Seven '7' Society or Sevens '7s') is the longest continually active secret society of the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.[1][2] The clandestine, yet altruistic group is said to consist of seven senior individuals, selected in their junior year.[3][4] While, historically, graduating members formally announced their identities each spring, today's membership is steeped in mystery and is only revealed upon a member's death.[5][6]

Now rumored to meet late at night in Colonial Williamsburg's Shields Tavern, present-day Sevens are perhaps most noted for their efforts to honor and encourage those who help strengthen the university. Through its endowment association, the society pursues major philanthropic projects such as scholarships and anonymous donations to the College.[7][8] Sevens have also been known to mysteriously leave small gifts and tokens of appreciation for unsuspecting groups and individuals (e.g., in 2003, an admissions counselor discovered two dozen golf umbrellas – each adorned with the '7' symbol – after casually mentioning how helpful they'd be during rainy campus tours).[2][9][10]


The Seven Society is most commonly believed to have been founded in 1826.[4][7] Little else is known about the society's early history; for the College of William & Mary, the second half of the 19th century brought the American Civil War, two devastating campus fires, and the College's subsequent closing from 1881 to 1888.[11] But by the beginning of the 20th century, the Sevens had resurfaced;[8] and in 1939 the group publicly declared themselves to be “the only secret society of the College of William and Mary"[12] (other recorded groups – namely The 13s, Alphas, and Flat Hats – were highly selective student clubs that would later be revived as secret societies).

Motifs and symbols[edit]

In chartering the College of William & Mary, founding benefactors King William III and Queen Mary II of England sought to establish "a certain place of universal study" to be led by "one President, six Masters or Professors."[13] Together these seven individuals would be known simply as the Society.[14][15][16] In 1729, after the full installation of the College’s "departments" (a president and six professors), corporate authority of William & Mary was transferred from the College’s surviving trustees to the seven-member Society.[17][18] The group served as the governing body for the university – ensuring William & Mary’s continuous wellbeing and future prosperity.[14][15][16] A seven motif appears elsewhere on the campus. The Royal Charter instructs chancellors to serve seven year terms.[19] The Sunken Gardens area is crossed with seven brick pathways.[20] Seven buildings surround the gardens- Washington Hall, Ewell Hall, McGlothin Street Hall, the Christopher Wren building, John Tyler Hall, Tucker Hall, and James Blair Hall. Of the lodge buildings, housing in the middle of campus traditionally held by seniors (until they were knocked down in 2016 for the construction of the Integrated Wellness Center), seven were used for housing.

Tyler and The Seven Wise Men[edit]

Flowers, said to be left by the Sevens, occasionally adorn this sculpture of President Lyon Gardiner Tyler located in W&M's Tyler Family Garden.

The most legendary Society was established and led by the College’s 17th president, Lyon Gardiner Tyler.[11] Still suffering from the effects of the Civil War, William & Mary was ultimately forced to close its doors in 1881. After being closed for seven years, the school was reopened in 1888 by the then newly appointed president, Lyon G. Tyler. By 1891, President Tyler had managed to assemble a "small but able" teaching staff that included professors Hugh S. Bird, Charles E. Bishop, Van F. Garrett, J. Lesslie Hall, Thomas J. Stubbs, and Lyman B. Wharton.[11] Affectionately dubbed the "Seven Wise Men" by students, Tyler and the six professors are credited not only with reviving William & Mary but also for transforming the College into a thriving, modern-day university.[11]

Notable 20th-century members[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Fiske Guide To Colleges, Twenty-Sixth Edition, Sourcebooks, Inc., 2010.
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Chase (8 April 2008). "Peeking into closed societies". The Flat Hat.
  3. ^ "7" (PDF). The Flat Hat. 1940-03-19. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b "Secret Seven Announces Members for Past Year" (PDF). The Flat Hat. 1942-03-18. p. 1.
  5. ^ "Secret Seven Reveals Current Graduates" (PDF). The Flat Hat. January 12, 1943. p. 1.
  6. ^ Bonney, Mary (2009-08-24). "The college's most beloved ghosts, ghouls and secrets". The Flat Hat.
  7. ^ a b Bracken, Alexandra (1 Oct 2008). "Secret society donates Sadler plaque". University Relations.
  8. ^ a b "Fund Grows" (PDF). The Flat Hat. 8 Oct 1926. p. 1.
  9. ^ Millfield, Becca (2 Nov 2004). "Shhh! The Secret Side of the College's Lesser Known Societies". The DoG Street Journal. Archived from the original on 2011-09-28.
  10. ^ Knappenberger, Jonna (7 June 2008). "What We Carry With Us". The DoG Street Journal.
  11. ^ a b c d Historical Chronology of William and Mary: 1850-1899, 2015
  12. ^ "The 7 Society" (PDF). The Flat Hat. 1939-09-19. p. 1.
  13. ^ "College of William and Mary Royal Charter", Earl Gregg Swem Library Special Collections, 8 Feb 1693
  14. ^ a b "Statutes of the Visitors". Laws and Regulations of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia. July 1830. pp. 3–11.
  15. ^ a b "Regulations of the Society". Laws and Regulations of the College of William and Mary, in Virginia. July 1830. pp. 17–22.
  16. ^ a b "The Honor System". William and Mary College Quarterly Magazine. 14: 216. July 1905.
  17. ^ "The Transfer to the Faculty in Virginia", Earl Gregg Swem Library Special Collections, 1729-02-27
  18. ^ Historical Chronology of William and Mary: 1700-1749
  19. ^[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-12-02. Retrieved 2012-12-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)