Anonymous (Lyman H Bagg)

1871 Henry Holt & Company New York

An excellent account of the senior society system at Yale

Out of copyright

Can be reproduced freely




Peculiarities of these Societies - Skull and Bones - Its Badge Pin and Numeral - Hall and Corporate Title - Origin - Catalogue - Mode of Giving out Elections - Initiations - Mode of Summoning Members to the Annual Convention - Attendance upon the Regular and Special Meetings -Peculiar Customs and Traditions - Scroll and Key -Its Badge Pin and Vignette -Hall and Corporate Title - Origin and Growth -Customs and Traditions -Spade and Grave -Its Origin, Precarious Existence, Change of Name, and Final Catastrophe - the Societies and the Neutrals - Bull and Stones - The Coffin of '69 - The Tea-Kettle of '53 -Crown and Scepter - Star and Dart - Notable Members of the Existing Societies - Mode of Packing and Making up a Crowd -Comparison of the Societies -Their "Policies," Actual and Possible - Failure of their Imitators in Other Colleges - General Facts about all the Class Societies - Comparison of their Importance in Each Year - General Result of the System.

The societies of the first three years, though possessed of special characteristics, have yet such a general resemblance to one another and to those of other colleges, that their position in the system can be readily comprehended by any reader of these pages, - at least, if he be college-bred. But the senior societies are such peculiarly Yale institutions, that it will be difficult for an outsider fully to appreciate their significance. Nothing like them exists in other colleges; and Harvard is the only college where, under similar conditions, they possibly could exist. In the first place, they are the only Yale societies whose transactions are really secret.


Their members never even mention their names, nor refer to them in any way, in the presence of anyone not of their own number; and, as they are all Seniors, there are no "old members in the :lass above them" to tell tales out of school. There is no electioneering nor pledging for these societies, and no Junior is approached upon the subject in any way until an election is actually offered him. The number of elections given out to each class is small and never varies, and no -lass nor honorary elections are ever allowed.


Both societies combined comprise but little more than one fourth the members of an average :lass, and the part played by them in politics is simply a negative one. A man's chances for office are never bettered because he belongs to a senior society, but are frequently, for that simple reason, injured or destroyed altogether. The societies do not take their names from the initials of a Greek motto, but from the peculiar emblems adopted as a badge.


This badge is constantly worn by active members; by day upon the shirt bosom or neck-tie, by night upon the night dress. A gymnast or coating man will be sure to have his senior badge attached to what little clothing he may be encumbered with while in practice; and a swimmer, divested of all garments whatever, will often hold it in his mouth or -and, or attach it to his body in some way, while in the water.


Only graduate members wear the badge upon the vest, where for the first few years they display it quite regularly. Old graduates seldom "swing out" except on special occasions, or while visiting New Haven; and members of the faculty, except may be young freshman tutors, never display a society badge when engaged in their official duties. Members who have ceased to show the badge openly, nevertheless may wear it about them pretty constantly, perhaps by night as well as day, for quite a number of years.


The senior societies, in theory, are composed exclusively of "big men"; of those who, for whatever reason, have become preeminent above their fellows in college repute. In this they differ from those of the two preceding years, which of necessity are half made up of comparatively second-rate men. There are a certain number - say twenty - in each class, who, at the end of the third year, may be picked out as the confessed superiors of the others in popular esteem.


Were it possible to do this a year or more earlier, and were one junior society preeminently "the best", it is doubtful if the twenty could all be persuaded to join it, or the society to elect them all; for it is plain that their individual political influence would be greater in separate societies, partly made up of less important men. The senior-society type, on the other hand, is an association with no weak members whatever; and the history of the matter shows that unless this ideal is adhered to with reasonable closeness such a society cannot live long at Yale.

There are two of these societies, but as one takes its tone from the other it may be well to describe them separately, and treat first of the oldest and most famous member of the modern system. Its name is "Skull and Bones," - formerly printed "Scull and Bone," - and its badge, of solid gold, consists of the face of a skull, supported by the crossed thigh bones, with a band, bearing the number "322," in place of the lower jaw.


Its original badge was a rectangular gold plate, about the size and shape of the present Beta Xi pin, whereon the skull-and-bones design and the numeral were simply engraved. Its wood-cut vignette merely represents the emblems, and is identical with that employed for general purposes in college papers elsewhere. The number "322" is always printed below it, though the size of the type is not invariable. In the cut formally used, the design was smaller than that now than in vogue, but there never has been added to the simple emblems anything in the way of ornament or embellishment.


Popularly the society !s known as "Bones," and its members as "bones men". The pin 'sometimes called a "crab" from its supposed resemblance to that animal. The hall, erected in 1856, is situated on High street, near the corner of Chapel, about opposite the Yale Art Building. It is a grim looking, windowless, tomb-like structure, of brown sandstone, rectangular in shape, showing a front of about 35 and a length of 44 feet is, at a guess 35 feet in height.


The entrance in front is guarded by a pair of massive iron doors, a dozen feet high, finished off in panels, and of a dark green color; while heavy clasps of brass close over the keyholes and are secured by padlocks, beneath one of which the bell-pull is concealed. Previous to 1864, when these doors were put in position, their places were occupied by commoner ones of iron, upon which the society emblems were displayed.


The roof is nearly flat, and is covered with half-inch plates of iron, which in 1867 took the place of the tin before employed. There is a skylight, similarly protected, and the chimneys and ventilators are ranged along the edges of the roof. Behind, are a pair of small windows barred with iron, and close to the ground are two or three scuttle holes, communicating with the cellar. The building is rapidly becoming covered with the "Virginia creeper," first planted there in 1864, and stands back a rod or more from the street, being separated from it by a post-and-chain fence.


The dimensions of the lot upon which it stands are about 40 feet (front) by 70 (deep); and total value of the premises must be upwards of $30,000. Before taking possession of its present quarters, the society for many years, - perhaps from its original organization, - occupied a low-studded back room in the third story of what is now the Courant building, opposite. the college yard. At the May, 1856, session of the State Legislature the society was incorporated as the "Russell Trust Association," with the same legal formulas as those quoted in the case of Psi U.


The names mentioned in the act were William H. Russell of '33, John S. Beach of '39, Henry B. Harrison of '46, Henry T. Blake of '48, Henry D. White of '51, and Daniel C. Gilman of '52; - the first of whom has since acted as president, the one next to the last as treasurer, of the association. All are residents of new Haven.

The society was originated in 1832 by fifteen members of the class which graduated the following year. General Russell, the valedictorian of that class, is its reputed founder, and the best known of his associates is Judge Alphonso Taft of Cincinnati. Some injustice in the conferring of Phi Beta Kappa elections seems to have led to its establishment, and apparently it was for some time regarded throughout college as a sort of burlesque convivial club.


It is said that the faculty once broke in upon one of its meetings, and from what they saw determined upon its abolishment, but by the intercessions and explanations of its founder, then serving as tutor among them, were finally induced to spare it.


The popular college tradition, that it was transplanted from a German university, is scouted by old neutral graduates as absurd. But, whatever be the facts as to its origin, the mystery now attending its existence is genuine, and forms the one great enigma which college gossip never tires of discussing. Its catalogue is a unique affair, having a page six inches by four, printed upon one side only. Each right-hand page contains the members of a year - fifteen names indicated in full and

alphabetically arranged - with the residences, printed in old-English text, and surrounded by a heavy border of black. A title page, bearing the society cut and the words "Period 2. Decade 3," precedes the list of the founders, and a similar one, "Period 2. Decade 4," stands before the class of '43, and so on for every successive ten years, the "Period" being always "2", but the "Decade" increasing each time by one.


At the top of the first list of names - the class of '33 - and separated from them by a broad line of black, are the characters, "P.231.-D.31," which regularly increase by one with each succeeding class, and are therefore, for the class of 7 1, "P.269-D.69." The first page of the book displays, in full-faced old-English capitals, the letters. "Otirunbeditf," arranged in a semi-oval, between two black lines. The catalogue is black-edged, and is bound in black- leather, with the owner's name and "D.", stamped in gilt upon the cover, - though of late the "D." is less often indicated. It will be observed that the "D." is always two less than the class; thus, a catalogue labeled "John Smith. D.62", would belong to a member of the class of '64, and so on.


What these "Periods" and "Decades" and "P.'s" and "D.'s" may signify is known only to the initiated; but, as the catalogue is never shown to outsiders, they were probably not put there for mystification solely. That the founders are put down as belonging to the "third decade of the second period" may seem to make in favor of the German university theory, in the minds of many; and the blank space in place of the eleventh man's name in the list of the founders, may perhaps be thought a straw in the same direction.


The last edition of the catalogue was prepared in December, 1870, and was as usual sent out in unbound sheets to each surviving member of the society. The total membership of the 39 classes represented was of course 585.

The elections to this society are always given out on the Thursday evening which precedes Presentation Day. Since no Junior is eve, pledged or spoken to in advance, the excitement which prevails among the "likely men" is intense, though suppressed, as the hour of fate draws nigh. All college, too, is on the alert, to find what the result may be.


It is said that formerly the fifteen Bones men, at midnight, silently moved from their hall to the rooms of the chosen ones, when the leader, in each case displaying a human skull and bone, said simply. "Do you accept?" and, whatever was the reply, the procession as silently departed. As the neutrals got into the way of tagging about, insulting and annoying the society on its march, this plan was abandoned in favor of the less formal one now in vogue.


According to this, at an early hour of the appointed evening, a Bones Senior quietly calls at the room of a Junior, and having been assured that "we are alone," says: "I offer you an election to the so-called Skull and Bones. Do you accept? If the answer is affirmative the Senior - and perhaps the graduate member who sometimes accompanies him - shakes hands with the neophyte, and bidding him to keep to his room for the present, hurries back to the hall to report the result.


If the election is refused, the result is likewise reported to headquarters, and influential members are sometimes sent back to argue the case; but, as a rule, the few men who refuse elections are not offered a chance to repent. Bones will not be dictated to, and when a man says, "I accept, in case So-and-So is elected with me," or "in case Such-a-One is kept out," he is never allowed to carry his point; Yes or No is the only answer recognized.


Suppose the elections begin to be given out about seven, in case there are no refusals the whole number will be made up before nine o'clock; if there are refusals it may take an hour longer. In anticipation of this possibility, a half-dozen extra men are chosen in Bones, in addition to the regular fifteen, and in case any of the latter fail to say "Yes", elections are offered to a corresponding number of these "second choices," in the order in which they were elected.


By going quickly and quietly about their business the Bones men manage to elude in great part the attentions of the rabble, which ranges about the college yard on the night in question, - barring up the entry doors, raising false alarms, and otherwise disporting itself. The names of the chosen men, however, are known about as quickly as the elections are conferred, and many in the crowd make out complete lists of them, for circulation at the breakfast table or in the division-room upon the following morning, when they form the sole topic of discussion throughout the college.


Usually, the names are first printed in the Courant of the Wednesday following; though for a year or two past some of the city dailies have had the tact to secure them for their next morning's issue. The initiation begins, after the close of the Wooden Spoon Exhibition, at midnight of the following Tuesday, and lasts till about daybreak.


The candidates for the ceremony are assembled in a room of the college Laboratory, which is guarded by Bones men, and are singly escorted thence, by two of the latter, to the hall. As the grim doors open for each new member, there are sounds of a fish horn, as of many feet hurrying up an uncarpeted stairway, as of a muffled drum and tolling bell, - all mingling in a sort of confused uproar, like that from a freshman initiation a good many miles away.


Perhaps, while being led to the hall, a candidate may pass between rows of neutral Juniors or other college men, some of whom may "bid him good bye," with expressions of congratulation and good will, if they think his election deserved, or insult and revile him, if their belief goes in the contrary direction. There is usually someone to flash a dark lantern upon each approaching candidate, and, if he makes no other personal comments, to at least shout forth his name, for the edification of the rest.


To all this the Bones men of course pay no attention. It perhaps takes an hour or more thus to initiate the fifteen candidates; and when the self-constituted leader of the outside hangers on announces that "the last man's in", his followers agree that the fun is over, and sullenly disperse. If they stayed longer perhaps they might hear songs sung to strange old tunes, and the tones of the orator's voice, and the applause which follows it, and the prolonged cheers for "the Skull and the Bones".


And of course there is a supper. Every resident graduate attends the initiation, as well as many from New York and elsewhere, some of whom come to town as early as election night; and the initiation itself, at least the outside part of it, is conducted by graduates alone. Long ago, it is said, the initiation took place on the evening of Presentation Day.

"The annual convention of the Order" is held on the evening of Commencement. Three weeks previous to this, - which, of late years, is therefore at the time of the first regular meeting, two nights after initiation, - a printed invitation is sent to every living member of "the Club “, whose whereabouts are known.


This invitation is upon the first page of a sheet of note paper. Below the society cut is the date - for example. "Thursday evening, July 22, 1869" - of Commencement night: followed by VI. S.B.T.;" a Latin quotation, playing upon the word "Bones"; the signature of the secretary, and the date. Upon the third page is the list of new members, printed alphabetically in old-English text, and surrounded by the black borders, exactly as in the catalogue. of which it in fact constitutes a new "P." and "D." Each one who receives it, by fitting the new leaf to his catalogue, thus keeps the same perfect from year to year.


These pages are doubtless stereotyped, and preserved by the society, whose entire catalogue is thus always kept in readiness for the printer. With this invitation and catalogue-page, is also sent a printed slip specifying the exercises of Commencement week.


A card-size photograph of the new members, grouped - in front of an antique clock whose hands point to the hour of eight - about a table on which lies a skull, is also sent to graduates, at this time or afterwards. In the picture, the thigh bones are held by certain members, - sometime_ the tablecloth has the emblems embroidered upon it, and the whole arrangement of the group is apparently significant.


Official notes to old members are written upon black bordered paper of the catalogue size. with or without the society cut at the head; and society communications sent through the mails are often enclosed in black-edged envelopes. - bearing at the end a printed request to the postmaster to return them to the society's post-office box if not delivered within a certain time. - sealed with a skull and bones and the letters "S.C.B.," impressed upon black wax.


Bones men never display in their college rooms any posters or other reminders of their society, - though it is rumored that actual skulls were formerly used for this purpose, - but graduates often keep on the walls before them a richly-framed photographic group of the classmates who made up their own special "D.", - the picture being simply an enlargement of the card photograph before noted.


As specimen jokes from the convention invitations the following may be quoted:

  • "Nisi in bonis amicitia esse non potest" (Cic. de Am. 5.1)

  • "Grandiaque effossis mirabitur ossa sepulchris" (Virg. Georgs. 1497)

  • "Quid dicam de ossibus? Nil nisi bonum"

  • in 1856, at the time of erecting the hall, "Quid dicam de ossibus? (Cir. de Nat. Decorum. II. 55.)

  • O fortunati, quorum jam moenia surgunt!" (Virg. A.En. I. 430)

At the head of the editorial column of the city dailies, on Commencement morning, was usually displayed the "322 VI. S.B.T." notice, between parallel black rules, but for the past few years the practice has been abandoned. Up to about the same time printed announcements of the place and time of the Commencement meeting, headed by the cut, were posted about college, and upon the notice-boards of the different churches, a few days in advance.


Formerly, too, similar warnings were printed, in connection with the society cut, among the advertisement of the city papers. As their hall is called "the Temple" by Bones men, a current guess - and a wrong one - interprets "S.B.T." as "Skull and Bones Temple". A more likely reading makes "T." stand for "time", and so interprets the notice, "Six minutes before eight", - the hour eight being "Bones time".

The meetings are held on Thursday evening, commencing exactly at eight o'clock, and every acting member is obliged to be in attendance from that time until the adjournment, at two or three in the morning. The society formerly had a way of marching from its hall in dead silence, - tramp, tramp, tramp, - to the north entry of North College, where it might leave a man or two, and so on, silently, in front of the row, growing smaller as it passed the different buildings, until at the south entry of South the few who were left disbanded.


Formerly, too, it was customary, before breaking up, to sing a college song whose refrain was, "And I shall be his dad"; but this practice, for lack of voices perhaps, was abandoned some years ago. A Bones Senior is never seen about New Haven after eight o'clock of a Thursday evening. Nothing but actual sickness ever keeps him from his society, except it be absence from town, - and those who have been absent are apt to appear for the first time at Friday morning chapel.


A good share of the fresh graduates who are residents, and many of the older ones, are also ordinarily in attendance at the regular weekly meetings. Aside from the annual convention on Commencement night, there are two other "bums" held during the year, - one each at about the middle of the first and second terms - which bring many graduates from out of town. These usually reach the city just before the meeting, and leave it on the midnight trains, so that their coming and going is not known to outsiders, except from the hotel registers or a chance contact upon the street.

Each Bones man has a nick-name by which he is known to his initiated classmates. One or two of these names, probably official titles. are retained from year to year, but most of them change with the classes, and are apparently conferred according to individual peculiarity or caprice. All members of the society are also spoken of among themselves by a certain general title; another is conferred upon members of the other senior society, and a third is bestowed upon the neutrals.


As these titles, especially the latter, might convey a wrong impression if generally known, they are not mentioned here. The society-itself, among its members, is known as "Eulogia," or the "Eulogian. Club". It is believed to have little or no regard to any formal, written constitution, but to be governed chiefly by tradition in its customs and usages.


The hall is reputed to be a sort of repository for old college mementos; like the "first college bell", the original "bully-club", the constitutions of defunct societies, etc., which are all said to be preserved there; and when anything of the kind disappears, this is surmised to be its final destination. Though Thursday night is the regular time of meeting, when attendance is compulsory, the hall is generally frequented on Saturday and other nights also, and is often visited in the day time besides.


An old member often goes there as soon as he reaches town, especially, if in quest of information in regard to classmates who were formerly associated there with him. At convention time, the members who cannot in person attend, send to the society such facts as to their whereabouts and occupations for the year, as may interest old classmates and friends; and their letters are filed away for future reference. Every book or pamphlet written by a member is also preserved in the society archives; and its collection of printed and manuscript "Yalensia" is said to be very complete.

To discover the exact meaning of the inevitable numeral "322," has long been a problem for college mathematicians.


According to some, it signifies "1832," or the year the society was founded; others make :c "3 + 2 + 2" or "7," which is said to be the number of "founders" in the class of '33, who persuaded the other eight to join them in making up the original fifteen; still another surmise sets it at "3X2X2", or "12." which might refer to the midnight hour of breaking up, or something equally mysterious; while a fourth guess interprets it to mean "the year 322 B.C.", and connects it with the names of Alexander or Demosthenes.


What these heroes may have in common with the Skull and Bones society, aside from departing this life on or just before the year in question, is not very plain; but it is pretty well established that Bones "322" refers to that year B.C., whatever may be its additional significance. While the class of '69 were in college the hall, according to report, was twice broken into by neutrals, and strange stories were circulated of the wonderful mysteries there discovered by the interlopers.

It is probably a fact that these men did really enter the hall, through the skylight in the roof; but there is no reason for trusting their own account of their exploits any further than this, since, if, as is not unlikely, the arrangement of things inside prevented their making any important discoveries, they would of course invent a sufficient number of suppositious mysteries, to clear themselves of the reproach of having ventured upon a fool's errand.


None of their statements, therefore, have been thought worth repeating here. A surreptitious visit, real or pretended, was hardly necessary as a preliminary to assuring the college -.hat "Bones keeps its most valuable documents locked up in an iron safe," since the same fact holds good for every society after sophomore ,.'ear.

"Scroll and Key" is the name of the other senior society, which was founded nine years later than its more famous rival, that is to say, in 1841, by a dozen members of the class of '42.


Popularly it is known as "Keys," though this abbreviation has only come into general use within .he last half-dozen years. Its pin, of plain gold, represents a key lying across a scroll, and its wood-cut simply copies it.


The design is such that t is difficult to tell the right side from the wrong, and the cut, when printed bottom upwards, as it often is, is rarely noticed as possessing other than its ordinary look.


The original badge was a rectangular gold plate, of the same size and shape as the old Bones pin, whereon were engraved an eagle, poised above, suspending a scroll, and a right hand below, grasping a key.


This is still worn, by a single member at a time, in :)lace of the usual scroll and key, presumably as a mark of office, like society president or something of the sort. The letters "C.S.P.," 'C.C.J.," are always printed with the society cut, - the former above, the latter below it, - and with it usually serve as the only introduction to the lists of members printed in the Banner and elsewhere, though the name "Scroll and Key" is sometimes prefixed.


The Bones lists, on the other hand, are always headed with the full name of the society. The posters which, until within a few years, were put up about the college yard and elsewhere at Commencement season, for the benefit of graduates, displayed an eagle poised above the ordinary emblems, with -o print - in addition to the inevitable letters - except the day and our of the meeting, - "9 P.M.," perhaps, - or the numeral "142."


A small, seal-like wood-cut of the society, displays the clasped hands upon an open scroll, with "Adelphoi" in Green capitals at the top, 1852" below, and at the bottom two hieroglyphic characters, the one like a Gothic "T," the other like an old style Greek "T," while the only --ace of the key is its head, which projects from the top of the scroll.


Another, steel-engraved, seal, represents the eagle, looking down from above upon the central scroll and key, upon which the letters are indicated, while an open right hand reaches up from below.


The framework of the device is made up of fifteen oblong links, and its shape cannot be better described than by saying that if there were sixteen links it would be an eight-pointed star; as it is, the ten lower links make up five points, but the upper five - in place of the six, which would make the remaining three - are simply rounded together.


This, too, was the shape of the inner frame-work of the old gold plate badge.


The present pin has been said to be plain, because the eagle and hand, faintly outlined upon it, do not change this general appearance. Neither of the senior badges have their owners' names or anything of the sort engraved upon their backs. The invitations to the "Z.S." - or; "bum" held at the middle of the first and second terms - are printed within a scroll like design from which the key is absent; or else with the ordinary cut at the head of the note.


The company of the "brother" is simply requested upon the appointed evening, and he is directed to answer the secretary. which officer is designated by the letter "G," and is his "in truth." Aside from these initial letters, there is no mystery about the affair, which is either printed in gilt, or, if in black, has mourning bands about the edges of the page.


All society communications are also forwarded in black edged "return" envelopes, as in the case of Bones, sealed in black wax with the society emblems and letters. There have been several editions of the society catalogue; and it is probable that a printed list of the elections is forwarded each year to every old member, in connection with the invitation to the celebration of Commencement night.


A card-size photograph of each new group of fifteen is doubtless similarly distributed, either then or afterwards. In this picture, the central figure holds a large gilt model of the society badge, - the six letters being indicated on the scroll, - and each of the end men grasps a large key pointed towards the center of the group. Eight are seated, including the three mentioned, and the remainder are standing, but the position of each individual is probably not significant.


Enlarged photographs of the same sort are handsomely framed and hung in the rooms of graduates. The anniversary of Commencement night used to be announced among the ordinary advertisements of the city papers, in connection with the society cut. More recently, at the head of their editor,-&' columns of Commencement morning, "C.S.P. - P.V.S.P.M. - C.C.J.," or something of the sort, appeared, between double rules of black. But this practice has now been abandoned.

The hall hitherto (since 1847, when the house where it stayed was destroyed by fire) occupied by the society is in the fourth story of the Leffingwell Building, corner of Church and Court streets, across from the Tontine Hotel. The headquarters of the Yale "law department" are upon a lower floor of the same building, and a Masonic lodge-room divides the upper story with Keys.


Judged from the outside, this hall must at the most be limited to two not very large rooms, and the Keys men, when assembled in force, be cribbed, cabined and confined together in uncomfortably close proximity. This old order of things, however, has recently come to an end, and Keys is now in possession of a hall, far superior in costliness and architectural beauty, not only to Bones hall, but to any college-society hall in America. It stands on the north-west corner of College and Wall streets, and its erection had been planned and talked about for a dozen years or more.


At midnight of Thursday, Nov. 25, 1869, - the date of the fall "Z.S.," - the society, graduates and all, marched to the vacant lot, round which they formed a ring, while prayer was offered, and a society-song sung, after which, a graduate with a silver spade formally broke ground for the new edifice.


Then came the singing of the "Troubadour" song, and the procession, dangling its keys, silently moved back to the old quarters on Church street. Only the foundation of the building was laid before the setting in of winter; but the work was resumed the following May, and rapidly pushed to completion; and it is presumed that the formal ceremonies of entering and taking possession will be celebrated at the next Commencement.


The structure has a front of 36 feet on College street, with 6 feet of ground each side, and is 55 feet long, with an open space of about 20 feet before and behind, in other words, it stands in the center of a lot 48 by 92. Its height is perhaps 35 feet. The light yellow Cleveland stone is the chief material of which it is composed. This is set off by thin layers of dark blue marble, while four pillars of Aberdeen granite, with marble cappings, sustain the three projecting arches in front.


Each arch surrounds a narrow opening, provided with three bull's eyes for the admission of air. Below the central arch are a pair of paneled, massive iron doors, to which entrance a flight of half-a-dozen stone steps leads up from either side.

Five similar arches, though without projections or supports, serve to adorn and ventilate each side, and a corresponding number of closely protected scuttle-windows communicate with the cellar below. Rows of short pillars - four at each end, six at each side - surround the top, - the central two at the rear end serving to hide the chimneys, - and a couple of stars are cut out in the stone between every pair of them.


The architect was Richard M. Hunt of New York, and the builders were Perkins & Chatfield of New Haven. The value of the entire property cannot be much less than $50,000, and it is to be presumed that a good share of that amount has already been raised by the society. The "Kingsley Trust Association," which is the legal style thereof, was incorporated at the May, 1860, session of the State Legislature, in the names of

  • John A. Porter, of '42

  • William L. Kingsley of '43

  • Samuel C. Perkins of '48

  • Enos N. Taft of '51

  • Lebeus C. Chapin, George E. Jackson, and Homer B. Sprague of '52

  • Charlton T. Lewis of '53

  • Calvin G. Child and Josiah W. Harmar of '55

  • Edward G. Mason and Mason Young of '60

These comprise its best known names, and were perhaps chosen on that account, since only the president, Mr. Kingsley, is a resident of the city.

In the Yale Banger of 1845, published by the Sigma Theta Sophomores, is a burlesque of the Keys cut, representing the Scroll as a "Declaration of Independence from the Scull and Bone," signed by the "great seal", which consists of a view of the historical fox reaching after the equally celebrated sour grapes.


This probably represents, with substantial accuracy, the motive which originated Keys. Its founder, not being lucky enough to secure elections to Bones, determined to start in business upon their own account, and hence the society. Its ceremonies, customs, hours of meeting, etc., have all been patterned after those of Bones, and the nearer it approaches to its model the more of a success it is judged to be, both by its own members and by the college at large. Its existence for the first dozen years was apparently a precarious one.


In only three classes before 1852 did it obtain the regular number of members (15), which Bones has never varied in electing, but ranged from nine - the lowest, in '51 - to fourteen. Since that time exactly fifteen names for each class have always been printed in its public lists, and since 1860 exactly fifteen men and no more have joined the society from each class.


Previous to the latter date, it was a common thing to give out one or two or more class or secret elections, so that in some classes there have been seventeen or eighteen members, and almost all the classes which at first fell below the regular number, now appear in the catalogue with their full complement of fifteen names apiece.


The men who accepted these after-elections to the society usually displayed their badge like the others, though sometimes the fact of their membership was kept a secret and they were not allowed to wear them about the college, not until after graduation Hence in every class to the present day there are almost always one or two men, who are believed by many to be "secret members" of Keys, because, being friends of the "crowd," they naturally associate with :as they would were there no such society in existence.


It is also rumored, with less probability, that notable men are sometimes chosen as honorary members. George Vanderhoff, the reader, is one of them, according to the authority of the Banger, which, however, may have meant the statement for a joke. Similar rumors are also sometime; started in regard to Bones, but are far less generally credited, and are probably altogether groundless. Certain it is that the fact of there being a secret or honorary member, of there being more or less than fifteen members from each and every class since 1833, has never been in a single case authenticated.


Up to as recent a date as 1860, Keys had great difficulty in making up its crowd, rarely being able to secure the full fifteen upon the night of giving out elections, but, by dint of electioneering and "packing" in the interval between that time and initiation night. managed - after 1851 - to swing out the orthodox number of new badges upon Presentation morning.


Probably it would have given pledges in advance, like the lower-class societies, save that in those days any one standing the slightest chance for Bones preferred it to a .'sure thing on" the other society. The true Caesar-or-no-one sentiment seems to have had full sway, and the best men of the class who did not secure Bones elections apparently preferred to go through senior year as neutrals rather than as members of a confessedly inferior society.


The proportion of "big men" among the neutral Seniors was consequently much greater then than in these latter days. Keys, in fact, up to the time when it attained its twenty-first birthday, occupied a position in college regard very much analogous to that more recently held by the Diggers' society, to be described hereafter. It is only within the last lustrum that it has come to be a rival of Bones, and that the half-loaf sentiment has grown common, which prompts a man when his chances for the latter are spoiled, to "lay" diligently for the former.

The Keys mode of giving out elections - as well as the rest of its customs - corresponds as nearly as possible to the practice of Bones. Formerly the fifteen members, each carrying a key some two feet in Length, in a body silently marched to the rooms of the men who had . been chosen; and then the leader - possibly displaying the large gilt scroll-and-key model before mentioned - may have said simply, "Do you accept?"


Of late, however, the practice is for two members, - one Senior, the other a graduate, - each carrying one of the exaggerated keys, to proceed together to the room of each chosen man. The Senior raps sharply with his key upon the door, and, both stepping in, says, "I offer you an election to the so-called Scroll and Key. Do you accept?"


If the answer is Yes, both Keys men shake the Junior by the hand, and --amp back to their hall, where the result of the first election is received before the party start out to confer the second, and so on for the others. On this account the elections progress much more slowly than in the case of Bones, and more opportunities are given to the rabble in the yard to yell "Keys! Keys! Keys!" and surge about the bearers of those implements, whose approach is usually announced, by self-stationed outposts, in the neighborhood of the State House steps. In 1868, all the Bones elections had been given out for more than an hour, and the packed Keys crowd" of '69; had begun to feel a trifle nervous, when the first key-bearers appeared in the yard.


There seems to be no very great significance in the order in which the elections are conferred, except that the one first received is perhaps to be interpreted as especially honorable; but on the other hand this is sometimes offered to a man, who is by no means the society's first choice, in order if possible to anticipate Bones in securing him.

The initiation takes place at the same time as the other one, and like it lasts till morning. The rendezvous for the candidates is probably some room in the neighborhood of the hall, at all events is outside the college yard, and as the hall is not so convenient to the colleges as that of Bones the neutrals pay less attention to what takes place there on initiation night. Visitors who may be stopping at the Tontine Hotel on the night of Wooden Spoon, however, seldom sleep very soundly, if their rooms chance to be situated upon the north side of the building.


Resident and other graduates attend the initiations, and the regular meetings also. - though to a less extent than in Bones, - and the rule requiring the presence of active members on Thursday nights from eight o'clock till two, is also strictly enforced.


An absent member of '68, suspected of make-believe sickness, was one time forcibly hurried off to the meeting by two classmates, who rushed up from the hall for that purpose, with a great display of crossed keys; and the procedure may be gone through with in other instances which excite less attention than did that, - though the cases where it is necessary to enforce discipline are of course uncommon.


At the close of its meetings, the society was in the habit of marching up through the green, past the State House, to the college yard, singing on the way, or just before disbanding, the well-known song, "Gaily the Troubadour touched his Guitar." Though this was always finely done, and very acceptable to all who heard it, the faculty - induced, it is said, by the discordant howlings of the "Stones men" - included Keys in the general edict promulgated last year against society : singing, and ordered its discontinuance.


The current traditions in regard to Keys are not very numerous, nor is the belief in its mysterious origin wide-spread, as in the case of Bones. Its letters are supposed to signify: "Collegium Sanctum Pontificum; Collegium Conservat Jupiter."


Bone; having set up Demosthenes as its patron saint, Keys seemed determined to "go one better" and claim the recognition of great Zeus himself. "Zenome" is one the society words supposed to possess mysterious significance.


According to rumor, a magnificent stuff eagle forms one of the chief decorations of its hall; though as this report originated with a '66 neutral who professed to have "been there," not much reliance should be placed upon it. Keys, like Bones, also keeps the photographs of its members, a library, paintings, pictures, obsolete society badges, old college mementos, and general memorabilia.

A third senior society also existed during the time that the class of '6g was in college. Its name, taken from its badge, was "Spade and Grave.” The spade, partly thrust into the grave, rested upon the footstone of the same, and upon the headstone was represented a crown, - gold of course being the material of the entire pin. The grave was perhaps a Little more than an inch in length, and the badge had one or two variations in size and shape.


The "Bed and Broom," it was at first called by outsiders; and, by the more respectful ones, the society was known as "Graves," and its members as "Graves men." None of these names were ever popular, however, and "Diggers" soon came to be the on.",,:, title by which the society or its members were referred to. Bones men. among themselves, also adopted this name for them. "To give community and sweetness to the eating of sour grapes" was, even more notoriously than in the case of the original Keys men, the object for which the Diggers started their society.


The immediate cause which banded them together in the scheme was a quarrel in the class of '64. Of the five Yale, Lit. editors in that class, three had been chosen to Bones and two were neutrals. One of these two published, as a leading article in the magazine for February of that year, a piece called "Collegial Ingenuity," reflecting on the mode by which men may worm their way into Bones, and, it was claimed, making personal insinuations against a particular member of that society; and on this latter ground the Bones editors, who formed a majority of the five, voted to suppress the article, and requested its writer to produce another to take the place of it, - themselves meanwhile seizing upon all the printed copies.


The neutral editor refused to obey, and called a class meeting which voted to sustain him, and commanded the Bones editors to surrender the magazines with a certain time, or be expelled from office. As they paid no attention to the order, the class elected three neutrals in their places, and these, with the two original neutral editors, duly brought out a new edition of the February number, "Collegial Ingenuity" and all, and edited the two following numbers, - with the latter of which their term of office expired by limitation.


The Bones editors meanwhile issued the February number, - with an explanation of their action printed in place of the obnoxious "leader," but otherwise unchanged, - and duly published the two remaining numbers of their term, still keeping the five original names at the head of the title-page, as if nothing had happened. Thus, for three months, there were two issues of the Lit. each of which claimed to be the "regular" one.


The Bones editors were really in the right, as the class had no legal power to interfere in the matter, and the three magazines issued by the other editors have been known as the "second issue." The five members of that second editorial board of '64 have the credit of founding Diggers,' and they with ten other classmates first swung out the Spade and Grave badge at the beginning of the summer term of that year.


On the Thursday before Presentation Day, elections were given out to fifteen members of '65, who were the first Diggers to have their names in print (in the Banner of the following autumn). The grave scene in "Hamlet," wherein the digger tosses up the skull and bones with his spade, is said to have suggested the badge as a fit emblem to typify the hostility of the new society to the old one and its power ultimately to work the overthrow of the haughty Skull and Bones itself.


Its hall was in the Lyon Building, on Chapel street, on the same floor with that of Gamma Nu; was supplied with common iron doors without and a billiard table within; and was reputed to be elegantly furnished, and among other things to have one of its rooms entirely covered with black velvet. In February, 1870, as already stated, its premises were taken possession of and have since been occupied by the munity and sweetness to the eating of sour grapes" was, even more notoriously than in the case of the original Keys men, the object for which the Diggers started their society.


The immediate cause which banded them together in the scheme was a quarrel in the class of '64. Of the five Yale, Lit. editors in that class, three had been chosen to Bones and two were neutrals. One of these two published, as a leading article in the magazine for February of that year, a piece called "Collegial Ingenuity," reflecting on the mode by which men may worm their way into Bones, and, it was claimed, making personal insinuations against a particular member of that society; and on this latter ground the Bones editors, who formed a majority of the five, voted to suppress the article, and requested its writer to produce another to take the place of it, - themselves meanwhile seizing upon all the printed copies.


The neutral editor refused to obey, and called a class meeting which voted to sustain him, and commanded the Bones editors to surrender the magazines with a certain time, or be expelled from office. As they paid no attention to the order, the class elected three neutrals in their places, and these, with the two original neutral editors, duly brought out a new edition of the February number, "Collegial Ingenuity" and all, and edited the two following numbers, - with the latter of which their term of office expired by limitation.


The Bones editors meanwhile issued the February number, - with an explanation of their action printed in place of the obnoxious "leader," but otherwise unchanged, - and duly published the two remaining numbers of their term, still keeping the five original names at the head of the title-page, as if nothing had happened. Thus, for three months, there were two issues of the Lit. each of which claimed to be the "regular" one.


The Bones editors were really in the right, as the class had no legal power to interfere in the matter, and the three magazines issued by the other editors have been known as the '`second issue." The five members of that second editorial board of '64 have the credit of founding Diggers,' and they with ten other classmates first swung out the Spade and Grave badge at the beginning of the summer term of that year.


On the Thursday before Presentation Day, elections were given out to fifteen members of '65, who were the first Diggers to have their names in print (in the Banner of the following autumn). The grave scene in "Hamlet," wherein the digger tosses up the skull and bones with his spade, is said to have suggested the badge as a fit emblem to typify the hostility of the new society to the old one and its power ultimately to work the overthrow of the haughty Skull and Bones itself.


Its hall was in the Lyon Building, on Chapel street, on the same floor with that of Gamma Nu; was supplied with common iron doors without and a billiard table within; and was reputed to be elegantly furnished, and among other things to have one of its rooms entirely covered with black velvet.


In February, 1870, as already stated, its premises were taken possession of and have since been occupied by the sophomore society of Theta Psi. Its wood cut was simply a copy of its badge; and the same design, enlarged, carved in black-walnut and mounted in a frame of the same wood, was displayed in the rooms of members, as a sort of poster; though the practice was not much in vogue after the first year or two.

The society started under a cloud, and never emerged from it, but rather seemed to fall deeper and deeper into its shade the older it grew. It was always despised and looked down upon. Even those who joined it, in many cases cursed and ridiculed it by turns, up to the very moment of accepting their elections.


In spite of careful packing and electioneering in advance, it always had difficulty in making up its crowd on the same night with the other societies and it always had elections refused. No one standing the least chance for Bones or Keys could be got to go to it, and the best of those left out by these societies preferred to remain neutrals altogether.


Psi U men used to boast that no member of their society ever became a Digger; and the four classes between the first and last were certainly composed exclusively of Delta Phi and DKE men. There was, however, one member of Psi U among the founders, and four in '69 accepted elections, - much to the chagrin of their comrades.


Everyone sneered at the society, including many of course who would gladly have joined it had they been able; but the scrubbiest neutral of them all would affect to take offense were such an idea hinted at, and stoutly assert, that, "had the Diggers ventured to offer him an election, he would have indignantly hurled back the insult in their faces!" This show of independence after election time is past is quite a common thing; but the men of '69, even as Juniors, used to shout a sort of chorus, "Todtengraber ist gut," to the tune of "Truncadillo;" they equipped a burlesque `spade and grave" in the college yard one day; and in other ways so defied the powers above them that it became a problem whether the Diggers of '68 could secure any successors.


There was the usual amount of electioneering and packing, but on election night only three men could by the most entreaties be secured, from the indefinite number to whom elections were offered; so these three were released and no new Digger pins were swung forth upon the morning of Presentation Day. The next public appearance of the society was on the first Friday morning of the following October, when fifteen senioric shirt bosoms were adorned by as many new badges, the design being a crown from within which projected the ends of a crossed sword and scepter.


This was superseded the following term by a larger sized pin of the same pattern. By a pretty thorough canvassing of the class, in the three months' interval, these new members had been raked together, and induced to "run" the society for a year, in the hope that under a changed name the same old story could not be told concerning them. At least half of them were secretly pledged and initiated before Commencement, and wore the old Grave badge during vacation, in localities where they would be unlikely to meet with Yale undergraduates.


From the headstone of this old badge, it will be observed, the crown itself was taken. Above the old cut, in the Banner, :he name "Spade and Grave" was printed in full; while above the new crown design were simply the letters, "S.L.M." (popularly translated "Slim" or "Slimy"), which had not before been made public, though reckoned among the original mysteries of Diggers'. Freshmen spoke of -_he society as "Crown and Scepter," or "Sword and Crown," but upper-class men clung relentlessly to the old title, and the doom of Diggers' was sealed.


Its usual arts were wasted upon the class of '70 not one of them would pledge, either before, on, or after, election night; and so, after a precarious existence of five years, it was forced to give up the hopeless fight and the ghost.

Like Keys', its customs were all modeled as closely as possible after :hose of Bones, which it was to spade out of existence so quickly. Three men always came up from the hall to give out each election, two of the trio walking abreast in front, and the third following close upon their rear. A dark lantern or a club was often carried by one of them. The yell and outcries with which the rabble greeted the approach of Digger election carriers were far more prolonged and uproarious than in the case of the other societies.


The Juniors upon whom they called would be invoked with such cries as "Kick 'em out, Jim!" "Oh Tom! Don’ be a Digger!" "Shut your door on 'em Jack! Don't let 'em fool you!" and so on; while the Diggers themselves would be treated to all manner of compliments and personal attentions, such as were never bestowed upon the other election carriers. "How can I leave Thee," was the song sometimes sung outside at the close of the meetings, either while marching, or on arriving at the college yard; otherwise the procession silently tramped up Chapel street to South College, and so on in front of the row, dropping its men at each entry until none were left.


It was believed to have had a good many secret members, - even including some from the Scientific School, - and several '63 men are known to have belonged to it. After the change of base in 1868, the graduate members ceased to wear the old Grave badge. The society was unincorporated, and had never printed any catalogue. Its letters were supposed to represent the motto, Sceptrum Ligonibus Mors.

Not only do senior-society men never mention their own society in the presence of others, but then never even refer to the existence of a rival society, and when an outsider mentions this in their presence, even to a third party, they appear to take offense, and perhaps withdraw. So, too, they are offended if a man sings, or even hums the air, of the songs which they sometimes sing in public; though these are familiar melodies, and have long been procurable in the form of sheet music.

This same fact holds true, to a lesser extent, in the case of the junior and sophomore societies. A certain air gets in a measure identified with a particular society song; and as members of the society never use it except in singing together, they dislike to hear it whistled by an outsider. A Sophomore, for instance, a few years ago, by persistently whistling, "AI on a summer's day," would probably have injured his chances of a DKE election; and, in the case of Psi U, perhaps the same would still be true of one who should be constantly humming, "In a few days."


Senior society men may also refuse to speak when passing in front of their hall, and in some cases to notice a neutral classmate whom they may chance to meet after eight o'clock of a Thursday evening. An instance is related in the class of '67 of two Bones men who brought from their meeting a sick classmate and put him to bed in his room, without paying any attention to his neutral chum who was there present, though he was also a classmate with whom they were on friendly terms.


This exaggerated display of secrecy is quite a modern outgrowth, however, being altogether unknown to the old members of fifteen or twenty years ago. and it attained its highest pitch in the class just mentioned, - since when, senior-society men have conducted themselves much more sensibly. For many evident reasons, the costs of membership in a senior society are much greater than in any other, though most of their money is raised by voluntary contributions, and a man eligible in other respects is not kept out on account of his poverty.


On the other hand, a man's wealth of course adds to his chances of election in senior years more than in any other. The annual running expenses of a society, in which graduates take so prominent a part, cannot and ought not to be borne by fifteen men alone, and there are doubtless permanent funds whose income is available for such purposes, - at least in Bones, whose property is fully paid for. To increase this fund, almost every old member sends in an annual contribution, according to his means, for five or ten years after graduation day.

It is in senior year alone that the neutrals largely outnumber the society men, that they have nothing to hope for in the way of class elections. and that they are not overawed by the presence of upper-class men. These three circumstances combine to foster in some of them a sort of reckless hostility towards these societies, such as is not felt towards those of the earlier years. This displays itself in a variety of ways.


The conduct of the neutrals when the senior elections are given out has been already described, and the fact notice, at least by implication, that they never in the least interfere with the similar ceremonies of the other societies. Nor yet do they ever attempt to break into the halls of the latter. It was in the class of '66 that this hostility-first definitely displayed itself, in the institution of a sort of a mock "society" called "Bowl and Stones," - the name being a take-off on that of Bones, and the duties of its members being simply to range about the colleges at a late hour on Thursday night, or early on Friday morning when the senior societies disbanded, singing songs in ridicule of the latter, blocking up the entries, and making a general uproar.


The refrain of one song, to the tune of "Bonnie Blue Flag" was "Hurrah! Hurrah! for jolly Bowl and Stones;" of another, to the tune of "Babylon," "Haughty Bones is fallen, and we gwine down to occupy the Skull." Another function of the `Stones men" was to offer bogus elections to simple minded classmates, or even to under-class men, - whom they were sometimes able to "sell."


In the class of '67 they were at their worst, and wantonly smashed bottles of ink upon the front of Bones hall, and tore the chains from its fence. On the Thursday morning which preceded the Presentation Day of 1868, the Stones men of that class posted up a comic handbill, purporting to show the "order of exercises" which would be observed by the senior societies in giving out their elections that evening. There was some little wit employed in the composition of this notice, and it was the only thing emanating from the "society" that was not at once weak and discreditable.


The modified name, "Bull and Stones," then first appeared; which form has since been retained. Some members of the class of '70 even went so far as to procure a small gilt representation of "a bull" standing upon "stones," which was worn as a burlesque badge pin, even in public, and in some cases quite regularly, during the first term of their senior year. Of course there is nothing to this "society" except what has been told; its "members" are few or many according to the state of the weather; and any neutral senior who is ready to join a crowd for making an uproar on Thursday night is, from that fact only, a good and regular "Stones man."


Indeed, the name has of late come to be accepted as a synonym for any senior-society neutral whatever; and every one not elected to either of the two societies is said to "belong to Stones." At the time of the last initiation, the Stones men seized upon and confiscated for their own use the ice-cream and other good things which the confectioner was engaged in taking into Bones hall.


Since then, one or two projected "raids" of the same sort have been frustrated by the presence of a policeman. Now-a-days, Thursday night is the favorite time for the more depraved Stones men to "go off on a bum" together, and afterwards wake the echoes of the college yard with their discordant howling.

That this "society" showed no signs of existence in the class of '69 was perhaps due in great measure to the existence of another more creditable organization, some of whose members would probably, save for it, have been leading "Stones men." On the morning of Presentation Day, 1868, fourteen men, who had been neutrals since freshman year, were noticed to wear upon their shirt bosoms, gilt coffin lids, about an inch in length.

Their names were printed in the annuals of the next term, under the "senior-society" heading, beneath a wood-cut of the badge, above which appeared the letters "E.T.L.," but no name. They were spoken of as `Coffin men," or "ETL's," when mentioned at all. and, so far as known, met quite regularly on Thursday nights, perhaps in some room rented for the purpose. They said nothing in regard to themselves or the regular senior societies, and they attempted to give no elections in the class of'70.


The society passed in the class for a jokes but, for the negative benefit it effected in restraining some who would otherwise have been uproarious, as well as for the positive advantages it may have conferred upon all its members, it deserves to be held in grateful recollection. Perhaps somewhat similar to this was the "TeaKettle" society, established in the class of '53, which has left nothing behind it save the announcement of its birth in the Lit.


Another short lived association was the "Sword and Crown" which was existing :n 1843 with fifteen members. Its badge was a rectangular gold plate, upon which, within an ornamental border, the appropriate emblems were engraved. These did not much resemble the last badge of the Diggers, as the crown was a much more elaborate and highly ornamented affair, and the sword and scepter were crossed behind rather than within it.


An existing poster showing a wood-cut of the simple emblems bears the direct, "S.T.G. 8.30 a.m." Another poster, which perhaps had no connection with this or any other society, shows the three letter= "Iota Kappa Sigma," printed in heavy black type, with "24 D" appended. Still another, represents a naked figure just trundling over - precipice a wheelbarrow in which are loaded a skull and some bone` and a scroll and a key and a star and a dart.


The "Star and Dart" society was established in 1843, and apparently occupied a position somewhat analogous to the present one of Bull and Stones, though it really had a7 organization of some sort. The frame-work of its rectangular gold-plate badge was an exact copy of that of the Bones pin, and the emblems of the two societies now existing formed the chief part of the engraved central design.


The eagle of Keys, that is to say, was represented as fiercely picking to pieces the Skull and Bones at its feet, while a Dart. appearing in the right upper corner, was about to destroy the eagle, an: a Star in the left upper corner was supposed to denote "the prosper.-; and final success of the society over its rivals." A woodcut copy of this design surmounted the following notice printed among the advertisements of a New Haven newspaper: "Nos in vita fratres sumus." C 2954a F. 8 dd Z DL.


There will be a general meeting in New Haven on Thursday evening, Aug. 15, 1944. Yale College, Aug. 10." Possibly there were other Commencement times at which a similar notice was printed, and doubtless posters to the same effect used also to be displayed about the college buildings at such seasons. After a period Cc suspended animation, the society was revived in the class of '49, and the members belonging to it in the classes of '50 and '51 (fifteen in one case, eleven in the other) had their names published in the Banner, in connection with the society cut and the numeral "2954."


From this publicity, as well as the character of many of the members, it is to be inferred that there was really a little something to the society, and that its existence was not altogether contemptible. Whether it had a hall of its own, and regular weekly meetings and exercises; whether it made any pretensions to equality with the two reputable societies; whether it was so hostile to them as its badge would imply; whether its crowd was made up before, at the same time, of after the other elections were given out; and whether it died by choice or by necessity, - all these things, on the other hand, must remain uncertainties, until some traitorous ex-member thereof shall reveal to an anxiously expectant world the real history and mystery of the late Star and Dart.

Among the many Bones men worthy of mention are:

  • Henry C. Kingsley of '34, treasurer of the college

  • Prof. Thomas A. Thacker of '35

  • Col. Henry C. Deming of '36

  • Attorney General William M. Evarts, Profs. Chester S. Lyman and Benjamin Silliman, of '37

  • Rev. Dr. Joseph P. Thompson of '38

  • Provost Charles J. Stille of '39

  • Prof. James M. Hopping of '40

  • Gen. William T.S. Barry and Donald G. Mitchell, of '41

  • Henry Stevens, F.R.S., of '43

  • Senator Orris S. Ferry of '44

  • Ge. Dick Taylor of '45; Henry B. Harrison of '46

  • Henry T. Blake and Dwight Foster, of '48

  • Charles G. Came, Profs. William B. Clark and Timothy Dwight, of '49

  • President Andrew D. White of '53

  • Dr. John W. Hooker of '54; Rev. Elisha Mulford of '55

  • William H.W. Campbell, editor of the Norwich Bulletin, Chauncy M. Depew, N.Y. secretary of State, and Prof. Lewis R. Packard, of '56

  • Gen. John T. Croxton and Prof. Cyrus Northrop, of '57

  • Addison Van Name of '58, librarian of the college

  • Eugene Schuyler of '59, U.S. consul at Moscow

  • Edward R. Sill of '61

  • Prof. Edward B. Coe of '62

The most prominent Keys men have already been mentioned in naming its twelve incorporators, but additional names to be noticed are:

  • Gen. Theodore Runyon of '42

  • Rev. Dr. Gordon Hall of '43

  • Robert P. Farris of '47, editor of the Missouri Republican

  • Rev. John E. Todd of '55

  • son of Rev. Dr. Todd, the opponent of college secret societies

  • Sidney E. Morse of '56, publisher of the N.Y. Observer

  • Gen. John W. Swayne of '56

  • Dr. Daniel G. Brinton of '58

  • Prof. Daniel C. Eaton of '60

  • Joseph L. Shipley of '61 editor of the Scranton Republican

Five Keys men and one Digger make up the famous "Wilbur Bacon crew" of 1865.

Formerly, when Seniors took a more active part than now in the junior societies, men who did not belong to these were often chosen to the senior societies, but of late a membership in the former is a necessary stepping stone for admission to the latter; not confessedly, of course, but by the rule which is sure to force a junior society into electing every man eligible for election a year later, and to compel every such man to accept such election.


It has been noticed of late years that Psi U generally has a majority in Bones, and DKE in Keys, though in '71 Psi U had six men in Bones and nine in Keys, to DKE's nine and six. It should not be inferred from this that senior-society men allow their junior year or earlier society connections to prejudice them in electing their successors.


They apparently have regard for the interest of their senior society simply, and choose those whom they think will most benefit it, without much regard to outside considerations. Much of the excitement over the election of Cochs and Lit. Editors turns upon the question of senior societies. Each one of these officers is supposed to "stand a chance," and shortly after their election the two "crowds" begin definitely to be made up.


There are always some "sure men" to form a nucleus, - the Spoon Man for instance, is always certain of receiving a Bone selection, - and about these the "Likely" ones who are not quite so "sure" try to "pack" themselves. Thus a "crowd" is made up in the interest of each society. Its members "run" together constantly, call one another by their first names, and make a great display of familiarity, - especially in the presence of "their" Seniors, - as much as to say, "We can't be separated.


Take all of us or none." This sort of thing is practiced chiefly by prospective Keys men, who can make up their crowd with a tolerable certainty that their evident wishes will be respected by the society. It is seldom that Keys ventures to keep out more than a single man from a well defined pack, and substitute one of their own choosing in his place.


Such a pack really has the power in its own hands, and should the members of it agree to "stand by one another" they could of course carry their point; but the refusal of a senior-society election, even conditionally, seems so terrible a thing, that they have rarely the courage to make a direct demand. Keys, however, has in some instances been obliged to submit to such dictation.


The society undoubtedly winks at "packing," and indirectly gives it on occasions its official aid, - though not as frequently nor as extensively as is sometimes reported. There are so many conflicting elements in the Bones crowd that it is never organized into a regular pack, and there is always more doubt as to the way its elections will turn. The nearest approach to a pack is when two or three "sure men" take it upon themselves to persistently "run" another, and make such a display of their fondness for him as to secure his election also.


However Bones may allow its action to be affected indirectly, it will not be dictated to when once its elections have been made up, and it is useless for a man to attempt to alter the result by conditionally refusing his election, in favor of or against some particular classmate. Though the Bones crowd may be pretty accurately guessed at for some days before the elections are issued, it is the chance of its individuals which are estimated, not of the crowd as such, as in the case of Keys.


There is no such general collusion of all the members of the Bones crowd; it is rather made up of separate cliques of two and threes, and single individuals, who hope for Bones elections, but have not much else in common. The fact that elections to this latter society have been refused in favor of Keys is hence not very difficult of explanation. A man whose chances for Bones are rather doubtful may be willing to throw them away altogether for the sake of the comparatively "sure thing" which he gains by joining a pack for Keys.


So, receiving an election to Bones, he is in honor bound to decline it, and cling to the men with whom he had joined his fortunes. It will be found that all the Bones refusals in '67 and '70, over which so much ado was made, came in every case from men previously packed for Keys.


Thus, Bones' greater independence and ceremoniousness sometimes work to its own disadvantage. A man may go to Keys for the sake of taking a friend or two with him whose companionship he could not be sure of were he to become a Bones man; and in general one has less uncertainty as to whom he will have to fraternize with when he packs for the former society.

In a direct comparison of the societies, it is seen that Bones in reputation, influence and prestige is altogether superior to its rival; and it seems almost as certain that it must always retain this preeminence. It is, in its main features, essentially unique.


No other college society can show so large a proportion of distinguished and successful members. It is probably not too much to add that of the Yale graduates of the past generation who have attained a fair degree of worldly eminence, nearly half will be found to have been included within the mystic fifteens of this organization. Its apparent aim is to secure at once the best of the good scholars, good literary men, and good fellows; the former to bring it dignity and "tone," the latter to preserve its social and convivial character; and its success in equalizing these three elements - one of which is apt to predominate in a society - has been remarkable. It develops in its members, too, a genuine pride and affection, such as they feel in or towards no other society.


Men who are careless and frivolous and selfish as to everything else, manifest an earnestness and a generosity where Bones is concerned, that is really surprising. And this, too, in a way not calculated to attract attention, nor suggest an appearance of exaggeration or make-believe.


Keys men, on the other hand, are rather given to displaying their society zeal as much as possible. Old members who come from abroad to attend the "bums" are apt to make their presence generally known, and take pains to exhibit the extent of their "interest." Their affection for the society is no doubt genuine enough, but their carefulness in displaying it suggests the idea that its inspiration comes quite as much from an oppressive self-consciousness of the need of "going one better" than Bones, as from the simple force of pleasant associations.


Since the time, say about 1860, when Keys came to be recognized as a reputable society, settled upon an invariable membership of fifteen, and ceased to give out any class, secret, or honorary elections, its policy has seemed to be the making prominent of the social elements, the choosing of good, jolly fellows, - men of ability if possible, but at all events congenial and in the college sense of the word gentlemanly.


Ability in the absolute, that is to say, has been accounted of secondary importance as a qualification for membership. Upon a strict and more rigorous adherence to this policy in the future - if it be worth while to express a prevalent college opinion - the success of the society will in great measure depend. In the latter's own chosen field, it can never hope to seriously rival Bones.


To the "solid," thoughtful men of the class - the big scholars and writers - Bones will always be the more attractive, and if Keys enters into competition for them it will as inevitably have to take up with second-rate representatives of the "heavy," "respectable" element, at the same time that, by this very action, it renders itself less alluring to the "popular men," who are and should be its "best hold."


If, on the other hand, it has the tact to depart for once from its Bones model, and set up an independent standard of qualifications of its own, it may in time gain in its own particular field a recognized pre-eminence. Keys' real "mission," as it seems to an outsider, is to draw together a genial. gentlemanly crowd, rather than an "able" one. If a pleasant, agreeable fellow chances to be possessed of something more substantial than popularity, - if besides being a gentleman, he be also a scholar, a writer, and energetic worker, - he should of course be all the more desirable; yet the first mentioned, more trivial, qualities should be regarded as the essential ones, after all, which recommend him for election.


Ability, real or reputed, should never of itself elect a man to Keys. The prestige the society may gain by taking a man simply for his reputation cannot make up for what it thereby loses in attractiveness for "popular men." Keys' great opportunity is, by excluding all others, to make itself the most desirable society for the agreeable, jolly fellow in every senior class. If it resolutely adopts this "lay," it may, with the help of its hall, ere many years, leave bones in the lurch, so far as "popular" men are concerned; and, by occupying an independent field, prevent the possibility of direct comparisons which must always be to its own disadvantage.


This seems so manifest that nothing but a foolish overconfidence in its own strength can induce it to engage in a "straight fight" on Bones' own chosen field, where, with all the odds against it, it must ever suffer defeat. Bones, on the other hand, would do well to consider whether it will be worth its while much longer to take in men for their popularity and agreeableness simply. It is just here that it has met with its most humiliating rebuffs hitherto, and that it is likely to meet with worse ones hereafter, unless it changes its policy.


Four of the five '70 men who rejected; Bones in favor of Keys, were simply "good fellows," who would have been somewhat out of .their element in the crowd of the former society; and the case in the class of %7 was very similar. If Bones should insist more strongly than now upon ability as a prime essential in all its members, and upon this basis, modified by a reasonable regard for social qualities and harmoniousness, elect them, it would secure itself almost absolutely from having an election rejected, as well as add to its own lasting reputation, - even at the sacrifice of one of its cherished traditions, which it has managed to perpetuate thus far on the whole with a fair share of success.


Whether Bones makes this concession with good grace at the outset, or waits to be forced into it by the success of Keys, when the latter shall turn all its energies upon this one point, remains to be seen. But appearances certainly point to the coming, at no distant day, of what may be termed a senior society millennium, when Bones and Keys shall each occupy an undisputed field of its own, and each be recognized as in its own sphere preeminent; and when the only question in a man's mind shall be, "In which field, on the whole, is supremacy the more desirable?"


Then shall the Death's head be, even more certainly than now, the badge of intellectual superiority in college repute, and the unfolded Scroll be, even more invariably, the emblem of gentlemanly good fellowship and social popularity.

It was remarked at the beginning of the chapter that societies like Bones and Keys would be possible only at one other college than Yale, and that as a matter of fact they are peculiar to the latter institution. They are not, however, without imitators. At Columbia College is an "Axe and Coffin;" at Michigan University an "Owl and Padlock;" and at Wesleyan University are a "Skull and Serpent" and an "Owl and Wand."


None of them are of any importance, and with the possible exception of the second, are in every way inferior to the Greek-letter societies connected with their respective institutions. There is no special difficulty in imitating the peculiar names and mummeries of the Yale senior societies; but the gaining of a similar prestige and influence is quite another matter. It is the high character of their members, not their names and forms and ceremonies, which give the Yale societies their fame. It was a belief in the power of these latter non-essentials that induced the Diggers to persist so long in a worse than hopeless fight.


At Yale, the strictly class societies of the first three years supply the machinery by which every class is carefully sifted and its best men are "brought out" in readiness for the senior societies. Yet even here, with from one hundred to one hundred and twenty men to pick from, and the three years' sifting process reduced almost to an exact science, it has been absolutely demonstrated that no more than two societies, of fifteen men each, can exist.


Indeed, it was for a long time a problem whether more than one could live, and even now the two, to be at their best, must occupy somewhat different fields. But at other colleges, where no such class system prevails, where the numbers to select from are much smaller, where the competing societies are more numerous, the attempt to ape Bones and Keys can succeed in nothing save in making the would-be societies ridiculous.


In view of their real worth, people may be willing to overlook the silly practices of the Yale senior societies; but when mock mystery and cheap ceremonials are the only things which a society has to boast of, it cannot well help falling into contempt. The statement is therefore again repeated that Bones and Keys are peculiarly Yale institutions, genuine out-growths of a system that flourishes nowhere else, the only organizations of the kind existing in the country.

In concluding this account of the class societies, it may be well to add a few additional facts that are true alike of many or all of them, and to compare directly their general character in the different years.


Each society, save Gamma Nu, has a "grip" of its own, but society men, in either of the four years, do not generally employ it in greeting one another. It is not a popular device with them, and comparatively few would be able, a year or two after graduation, to give the four different grips correctly, were they to try.


Many of the active members, even, of these societies cannot remember their grips without an effort, and in junior year, when visitors from other chapters are expected, there is need of some preliminary practice before the guests can be welcomed in true mysterious fashion.


At other colleges the society grips are constantly made use of, and when a Yale man who has forgotten his grip meets an outside brother he extends his hand with all the fingers separated, and returns the grip that he receives, in full faith that he has given "the right one" and concealed his ignorance. It is easy enough for an outsider to find out from someone or other the reputed grips of the dozen or less societies, and it is more than likely that these are really the true ones in many cases.


But the whole matter is made so little of by Yale men that none of these peculiar hand shakings are worth describing. In the published report of a recent DKE convention, that society announced that it had adopted a new grip and motto, - presumably on account of the discovery of its old ones, and probably at the instance or - the outside chapters. Whether the changes were really made, or the announcement offered simply as a "blind," the result was of course the same.


The only two Yale society mottoes that seem to be unknown to outsiders are, oddly enough, those of Delta Kap and Theta Psi. That or the former used to be, aavpo; Kevqw;, and was as well known as Sigma Eps' is at present, but the one which superseded it and is now invogue has been by some miracle prevented from leaking out. Every junior society man can find out without much difficulty the mottoes and "secrets" of the other societies in his class, but he feels in duty bound not to make public his knowledge, and the neutrals are generally in ignorance of these matters.


At Yale, one society never thinks of breaking into the hall of another, and making public all its mysteries, as is the practice at some of the smaller colleges. It is through these that some of the Yale junior-society secrets are divulged. Chapters which think it a fine thing to steal the constitution and documents of as many rival societies as possible, when they chance to gain those of societies which are also rivals at Yale, may forward to their brothers at the latter place their ill-gotten knowledge: knowledge which the latter are usually honorable enough to keep to themselves.


It is only in the songs of the first two years that the societies mention the names of their rivals - to ridicule them, of course, but in a good natured way. A secret ballot, upon each candidate separately, in which a single blackball rejects, is the mode of election in all these societies.


Every society has a janitor whom it allows to wear its badge. While '69 was in college the same individual was at once janitor of Delta Kap, Theta Psi and Psi U, and wore either one of the badges indifferently, though never displaying two at a time. A senior-society janitor is not allowed to serve for under-class organizations. The present Bones janitor is a negro named Robert, who assists the professors in the experiments at the philosophical lectures, and is a sort of college supernumerary. His predecessor, also a black man, died in the service, and was followed to his grave by the whole Bones society, resident graduate, solemn professors, and all.


The societies of the two upper years have boxes at the post office wherein is placed all mail matter directed either to their popular or official, trust association, titles. A letter directed to either of the lower-class societies is exposed to view beside the general-delivery window, until discovered and called for by one of the members. Society men as a rule preserve all their badges, - sometimes, in senior year, mounting their previously gained insignia in a velvet-lined, ornamental frame or case.


Quite a number of freshman pins are disposed of, however, when the time for wearing them is past, and some sophomore and a very few junior badges go the same way, but a senior-society pin is kept by its owner until death doth them part. By other college men their junior-society badge, usually the only one they ever possess, is as a rule always preserved, and is in many cases steadily worn for some years after graduation.


Yale men, who were senior neutrals, sometimes display their junior badge, on special occasions, after graduation, but never the pin of lower society. When a Freshman leaves college he usually takes off his society pin, but a Sophomore, if a society man, is likely to wear his badge for some time after his withdrawal.

In taking a general look at the societies of the four years, the first seems a working ground where Freshmen may display their abilities, and induce the Juniors to pledge them; the second, a place where these pledged men as Sophomores may be kept quiet until they are further inspected, and the poor ones got rid of; the third, another working ground of narrower limits, where the select Juniors who have passed safely through two sifting processes may, by making the most of their talents before the Seniors, prevail upon the latter to spare them in the last grand turn of the sieve, and elect them into the fourth, beyond which there is nothing higher. It is a fault of the system that each society save the last is only a stepping stone to the next, and when the last is reached the time left to enjoy it in is short indeed.


The size of the classes, and the class feeling thereby engendered, makes any other system impossible, while the system in turn tends to strengthen and perpetrate the class feeling. From his freshman society, a man usually gains considerable solid advantage, and a fair amount of pleasure.


The direct benefit of a sophomore-society experience is not very great, and a man loses less by being a neutral this year than any other, - sophomore neutrals being often elected to senior societies, - but still. he does lose something, both in a peculiar sort of "fun," and in general social position. In a third-year society the advantages are many, and are of a general as well as local character.


The occasions thus afforded for members of different colleges to fraternize together, the opportunities given for making pleasant acquaintances at unexpected places, are evidently of considerable value. A man's interest in his junior society is not as intense or as lasting at Yale as at other colleges, yet it is altogether greater than that which he feels toward any lower-class society. One Yale graduate would not be apt to claim introduction to another on the score of belonging to the same junior society, yet, once acquainted for some other reason, this fact would form a sort of bond between them.


The attempt to make an outsider realize the overwhelming fascination. which a senior society exerts upon the mind of the average Yale undergraduate, would probably be useless. An election thereto is valued more highly than any other college prize of honor; and in fact these honors derive a good part of their attractiveness from their supposed efficacy in helping to procure the coveted election.


There is nothing in the wide world that seems to him half as desirable. It is the one thing needful for his perfect happiness. And if he fails in gaining it. the chances are that he becomes a temporary misanthropist, that is to say, an ardent "Stones man." Though the advantages of membership are no doubt exaggerated in anticipation, the real benefit gained in belonging to a senior society is certainly considerable, - far more valuable in fact, than that which accrues from membership in any other.


Quite aside from the enjoyment of the senior year itself, the facts that in after life a man is thus introduced to the best graduates of the college. wherever he may meet them, and that, whenever he visits New Haven, he is sure of being entertained by the best of the oldest undergraduates. and instructed as to the doings and whereabouts of the best of his former classmates, - these facts, other things being equal, of themselves make membership in a senior society especially desirable. College friendships do not at Yale run very closely in society lines.


A pair of friends may be brought together or separated by almost numberless society combinations. They may belong to the same society in each of the four years, or in the first and last, or in the second and third, or in none at all, or one may be a society man and another a neutral for all the course, and so on through all the possible permutations.


Still, it is pleasant for friends to keep in the same societies, and a general tendency of certain crowds to go together, year after year, has been already remarked upon. No neutral as such is looked down upon or avoided by society men. If the latter usually "run" together, it is because of similar tastes and proclivities, which would induce them to do so, were no societies in existence. In senior year there is hardly a society man without one or two special friends who are neutrals, and with whom he has quite as much to do as with his own regular associates.


Such pairs often chum together than do -two from rival societies; though this sometimes happens and previous to senior year is not at all uncommon. Aside from a man's real or reputed ability, good nature, and popularity, a thing which often helps to elect him is his relationship to a former or active member of the society. If a father or an uncle or a brother has preceded him, the fact helps him to follow in their footsteps, especially if they were in any way famous.


An older brother in the class above, or even one or two classes removed, is almost certain to secure the election of a younger one, unless the latter is peculiarly unqualified or obnoxious. This species of favoritism attracts the most attention in the case of the senior societies, into which nearly every year, by his relationship with an older and worthier member, is dragged one man at least who is without other qualifications sufficient to recommend him.


The cases of poor men taken in are, by the bye, a good deal more common and noticeable than those of desirable men left out. Every year almost there is a great show of indignation over the injustice in the senior-society elections which bring several big men to grief, yet it rarely happens that the good policy of the society in leaving them out is not vindicated within a twelve month.


When fifteen men are to be shut up together for six successive hours, every week, and be thrown in with each other constantly, it is essential that they should be reasonably harmonious if not congenial; and an organization whose members should be chosen for their reputation and ability simply, could not be in the right sense of the word a society.

Without now discussing whether college opinion always awards men the positions they deserve, it may be said, in conclusion, that the society system, viewed as a means for separating those who, for whatever reason, are high in college esteem, from those who, for whatever reason, are not, must be admitted to be in the main a fair and successful one.


No one can reasonably deny that it has this effect, and that the society men of every year are as a class superior in college repute to the neutrals. It would of course be foolish to judge an individual solely by his society connections, but it would be far less foolish than to judge him solely by the number of prizes, or scholarships, or honors he could lay claim to, as is not infrequently the practice.


To set up any one arbitrary standards whereby to judge character is manifestly unfair, yet, if it is to be done, there is no single test which embraces so many, in making an estimate of a Yale man's importance, as his share in the society system.


Blockheads and simpletons certainly find their way into the senior societies, yet there are few generalities of the sort deserving of more confidence than these, that in a Bones man you will find ability and force of character, in a Keys man politeness and geniality, and in both the most favorable samples of the Yale graduate of the period.


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