College literary societies

College literary societies

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

Since these organizations are virtually the oldest kind of student organization in America, where they have survived, they are seen as ancient institutions. One author from Georgia acknowledged that fact (by parody) in discussing his own society: "The origin of the Washington Society dates back to the glory days of the Jurassic Period of the Mesozoic Era. It was during this time that great plant-eating dinosaurs roamed the Earth, feeding on lush growths of ferns and palm-like cycads and ennettitaleans. Meanwhile, smaller but vicious carnivores stalked the great herbivores. The oceans were full of fish, squid, and coiled ammonites, plus great ichthyosaurs and the long-necked plesiosaurs. Vertebrates first took to the air, like the mighty pterosaurs and the first true birds. The supercontinent Pangaea began to break up and disperse itself across the Earth's surface, sending a big chunk of land to the very spot where Thomas Jefferson's decomposed old ass lies buried today. And it is on this same chunk of land, a few miles away, that Mr. Jefferson's University sits, home to the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union.[2]


Literary and other activities

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

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

Topics could include Classical history, religion, ethics, politics, and current events. Controversial topics not covered in the official curriculum were often the most popular. Studies have been done, for example, finding an increasing discussion of slavery at literary society meetings through the 1850s.

Demosthenian Hall at the University of Georgia, built in 1824


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

In relation to the campus

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

Membership in these societies was not only open to all the students in the college, but in many cases membership was all but required. At the opening of University of South Carolina virtually all students were members of the Philomathic Society which was soon divided by lot into the Clariosophic and Euphradian societies. In some cases, intense recruitment battles would ensue over new students, and to avoid problems some colleges chose to assign incoming students to one or the other literary society. This pattern was followed, for example, at Dartmouth, where the faculty imposed rule was "The students of College shall be assigned according to the odd or even places which their names shall hold on an alphabetical list of the members of each successive class..."[3] Having two societies on a campus encouraged competition, and a thriving society would have interesting enough meetings to attract full attendance from its membership and perhaps even people from the community. These societies met publicly, sometimes in large lecture rooms, and in most instances the literary exercises would consist of a debate, but could also include speeches, poetry readings, and other literary work.

Private literary societies

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

Literary Societies & Fraternities

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

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

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

List of literary societies in the USA

Founded Ended Society College or University Source and notes
1750 1787 F. H. C. William & Mary [4]
1750 1772 Crotonia Society Yale [4]
1753 (unkn.) Linonian Society Yale [4]
1765 1928 American Whig Society Princeton [4]
1765 1928 Cliosophic Society Princeton [4]
1768 (unkn.) Brothers in Unity Yale [4]
1770 (unkn.) Institute of 1770 Harvard [4]
1771 (unkn.) Pronouncing Society Brown [4]
1773 1781 P. D. A. William & Mary [5]
1776 1786 Athenian Society Rutgers [4][6]
1776 1787 Phi Beta Kappa Society William & Mary [4]
1776 1782 Polemical Society Rutgers [6][6]
1780 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Yale [7]
1781 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Harvard [4]
1783 Defunct Social Friends Society Dartmouth [4]
1786 Present Belles Lettres Society Dickinson [8][9]
1786 Defunct United Fraternity Dartmouth [4]
1787 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Dartmouth [4]
1789 Present Union-Philanthropic Society Hampden-Sydney [10][11]
1789 Present Union Philosophical Society Dickinson [8]
1789 1795 Society for Progress in Letters Columbia [12]
1791 (unkn.) Porcellian Society Harvard [13]
1793 1890 Calliopean Society Union [14]
1794 1866 Philermenian Society Brown [4][15]
1795 Present Dialectic Society North Carolina [16]
1795 Present Philanthropic Society North Carolina [16]
1795 (unkn.) Philologian Society Williams [16]
1795 (unkn.) Philotechnian Society Williams [16]
1796 (unkn.) Adelphic Society Union [16]
1797 Present Franklin Literary Society Jefferson [17]
1797 (unkn.) Philo Literary Society Jefferson [17]
1802 Present Philolexian Society Columbia [4][12]
1802 1887 Athenian Society Bowdoin [16]
1803 Present Demosthenian Literary Society Georgia [10][16]
1803 (unkn.) Phi Sigma Nu Society Vermont [16]
1805 Present Peucinian Society Bowdoin [16]
1806 (unkn.) Peithologian Society Columbia [4]
1806 1970 Clariosophic Society South Carolina [18][19]
1806 1970 Euphradian Society South Carolina [1][19]
1806 1866 United Brothers Society Brown [4][15]
1807 (unkn.) Philological Society Pennsylvania [4]
1809 (unkn.) Union Literary Society Washington [17]
1811 (unkn.) Hermean Society Pennsylvania [10]
1813 Present Philomathean Society Pennsylvania [4]
1814 (unkn.) Washington Literary Society Washington [17]
1814 (unkn.) Phoenix Society Hamilton [16]
1814 (unkn.) Union Society Hamilton [16]
1817 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Union [7]
1819 Present Calliopean Society Yale [10][20]
1819 1830 Patrick Henry Society Virginia [10]
1820 Present Phi Kappa Literary Society Georgia [10][21]
1820 (unkn.) Henodelphisterian Society Indiana [22]
1821 (unkn.) Alexandrian Society Amherst [1]
1821 (unkn.) Athenian Society Amherst [1]
1822 (unkn.) Franklin Debating Society Randolph-Macon [10]
1824 1834 Franklin Society Brown [23]
1824 (unkn.) Athenaeum Society Trinity [1]
1824 (unkn.) Society for Inquiry Colgate [1]
1825 Present Jefferson Society Virginia [10][24]
1825 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Bowdoin [7]
1825 1892 Philoclean Society Rutgers [1]
1825 (unkn.) Agatheridan Society Nashville [18]
1825 1891 Peithissophian Society Rutgers [1][6]
1825 (unkn.) Erodelphian Literary Society Miami University [25]
1826 (unkn.) Franklin Society William & Mary [1]
1826 (unkn.) Philozetian Society Western Reserve [26]
1827 (unkn.) Literary Fraternity Colby [1]
1827 (unkn.) Parthenon Society Trinity [1]
1827 (unkn.) Philomathesian Society Kenyon [27]
1828 (unkn.) Nu Pi Kappa Society Kenyon [27]
1828 (unkn.) Philomathean Society College of Charleston [28]
1829 (unkn.) Beth-Hacma Maryville [29]
1829 (unkn.) Sophirodelphian Society Maryville [29]
1829 (unkn.) Transylvania Whig Society Transylvania [30]
1829 (unkn.) Union Philosophical Society Transylvania [31]
1829 (unkn.) Zelosophic Society Pennsylvania [1]
1830 Present Phi Beta Kappa Society Brown [7]
1830 Present Philodemic Society Georgetown [10][32]
1830 (unkn.) Athenian Society Indiana [22]
1830 (unkn.) Calliopean Society Maine Wesleyan [1]
1830 (unkn.) Philosophronian Society Hanover [33]
1830 (unkn.) Union Literary Society Hanover [33]
1831 Present Washington Literary Society and Debating Union Virginia [2][10]
1831 (unkn.) Adelphic Society Western Reserve [26]
1831 (unkn.) Erosophic Society Alabama [1]
1831 (unkn.) Euphradian Society College of Charleston [28]
1831 (unkn.) Franklin Society Western Reserve [26]
1831 (unkn.) Peithologian Society Wesleyan [1]
1831 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Indiana [22]
1831 (unkn.) Philorhetorian Society Wesleyan [1]
1831 (unkn.) Miami Union Literary Society Miami University [25]
1832 (unkn.) Philomathic Society Alabama [1]
1833 1834 Franklin Polemic Society Mercer [10]
1833 Present Washington Society Randolph-Macon [10]
1834 1943 Eucleian Society New York [1]
1834 1888 Philomathean Society New York [10]
1834 (unkn.) Beth-Hacma ve Berith Maryville [29]
1834 Defunct Ciceronian Society Mercer [10]
1834 (unkn.) Ladies' Literary Society Oberlin [34]
1834 Defunct Phi Delta Society Mercer [10]
1834 (unkn.) Philo-Franklin Society Allegheny [1]
1834 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Wabash [35]
1835 (unkn.) Allegheny Society Allegheny [1]
1835 (unkn.) Calliopean Society Denison [26]
1835 (unkn.) Diagnothian Society Franklin & Marshall [1]
1835 (unkn.) Erosophian Adelphoi Society Colby [1]
1835 (unkn.) Euphronean Society Wabash [35]
1835 (unkn.) Euzelian Society Wake Forest [36]
1835 (unkn.) Philomathesian Society Wake Forest [36]
1835 (unkn.) Society for Religious Inquiry Vermont [1]
1836 (unkn.) Chi Delta Society East Tennessee [37]
1836 (unkn.) Philomathesian Society East Tennessee [37]
1836 (unkn.) Union Literary Society Muskingum [18]
1837 Present Philanthropic Society Davidson [18][38]
1837 Present Eumenean Society Davidson [18][38]
1837 Defunct Phi Gamma Society Emory [18]
1837 (unkn.) Philosophian Society McKendree [18]
1838 (unkn.) Cliosophic Society College of Charleston [28]
1838 (unkn.) Platonian Society Indiana Asbury [18]
1839 (unkn.) Alpha Kappa Society Marietta [18]
1839 (unkn.) Dialectic Society Oberlin [34]
1839 Present Euphemian Society Erskine [10][39]
1839 Defunct Few Society Emory [10]
1839 (unkn.) Licivyronian Society William & Mary [1]
1839 (Defunct 1863) Phi Delta Society Oglethorpe [40]
1839 (unkn.) Philological Society Indiana Asbury [18]
1839 (unkn.) Philomathesian Society Oberlin [34]
1839 (unkn.) Psi Gamma Society Marietta [18]
1839 Present Thalian Society Oglethorpe [40]
1840 (unkn.) Adelphian Society Colgate [1]
1840 (unkn.) Aeonian Society Colgate [1]
1840 (unkn.) Calliopean Society Emory & Henry [41]
1840 Defunct Hermesian Society Emory & Henry [41]
1840 (unkn.) Phi Delta Society Western Reserve [26]
1840 (unkn.) Philalethian Society Hanover [42]
1840 (unkn.) Tau Chi Society William & Mary [1]
1841 (unkn.) Philopaedian Society St. Xavier [18]
1842 (unkn.) Adelphi Society Howard [43]
1842 (unkn.) Franklin Society Howard [43]
1842 (unkn.) Phi Phi Alpha Society Michigan [1]
1843 (unkn.) Alpha Nu Society Michigan [18]
1843 (unkn.) Franklin Society Denison [1]
1843 Present Sigma Pi Society Illinois [18][44]
1844 (unkn.) Clever Fellows Society Albion [45]
1844 (unkn.) Clever Girls Society Albion [45]
1845 (unkn.) Adelphi Society Knox [46]
1845 (unkn.) Atheniaedes Society Albion [47]
1845 Defunct Calliopean Society Citadel [10][48]
1845 (unkn.) Eclectic Society Albion [47]
1851 Present Excelsior Men's Society Heidelberg [18]
1845 (unkn.) Hermean Society Geneva [1]
1845 Present Phi Alpha Society Illinois [18][44]
1845 (unkn.) Zetagathea Society Ohio Wesleyan [18]
1846 (unkn.) Alfreidian Lyceum Society Alfred [18]
1846 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Muskingum [18]
1846 (unkn.) Philosophian Society Wittenberg [18]
1847 (unkn.) Calliopean Society Wabash [18]
1847 (unkn.) Chrestomathean Society Ohio Wesleyan [18]
1847 (unkn.) Lyceum Society Wabash [18]
1847 Present Polytechnic Literary Society Citadel [10][48]
1848 1948 Chrestomathic Society College of Charleston [10][49]
1848 (unkn.) Philomatic Society Spring Hill [50]
1848 (unkn.) Tripartite Union Lycoming [1]
1849 (unkn.) Alethearian Society Geneva [51]
1849 (unkn.) Gnothautii Society Knox [18]
1849 1946 Hermaean Society Mississippi [10]
1849 1934 Phi Sigma Society Mississippi [10]
1849 (unkn.) Philo-Christomathean Society Geneva [51]
1849 Defunct Platonian Society McKendree [18]
1850 (unkn.) Athenian Society Wisconsin [52]
1850 (unkn.) Belles Letters Society Lycoming [1]
1850 (unkn.) Ciceronian Society Roanoke [18]
1850 Defunct Columbian Society Carson-Newman [10]
1850 1865 Delphic Society Rochester [1][53]
1850 (unkn.) Demosthenean Society Roanoke [18]
1850 (unkn.) Eupia Society Bucknell [18]
1850 (unkn.) Orophilian Lyceum Society Alfred [18]
1850 Defunct Philomathean Society Carson-Newman [10]
1850 (unkn.) Philophrenian Society Columbian [18]
1850 (unkn.) Pithonian Society Rochester [1]
1850 (unkn.) Soverville Society Ohio Female [18]
1850 (unkn.) Theta Alphea Society Bucknell [18]
1851 (unkn.) Addisonian Society Kentucky Military [18]
1851 (unkn.) Adelphean Society Wesleyan [18]
1851 (unkn.) Alleghenian Lyceum Society Alfred [18]
1851 (unkn.) Amphictyon Society Lawrence [1]
1851 (unkn.) Athenian Society Ohio Wesleyan [18]
1851 (unkn.) Belles Letters Society MacMurray [54]
1851 (unkn.) Clionian Society Free Academy [1]
1851 (unkn.) Philolexian Society Kalamazoo [18]
1851 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Waynesburg [1]
1851 (unkn.) Philophronean Society Otterbein [18]
1851 (unkn.) Sherwood Rhetorical Society Kalamazoo [18]
1851 (unkn.) St. Aloysius Philodemic Society Notre Dame [18]
1851 (unkn.) Students Philomathean Society Hartsville [18]
1851 (unkn.) Union Society Waynesburg [1]
1852 Present Philomathean Society Wesleyan [18]
1852 (unkn.) Gamma Epsilon Society Lycoming [1]
1852 (unkn.) Ladies Literary Society Milton [18]
1852 (unkn.) Philaletha Society Otterbein [18]
1852 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Hiram [55]
1852 (unkn.) Philomathian Society Mississippi [18]
1852 (unkn.) Philomethean Society Wesleyan [18]
1852 (unkn.) Phrenocosmian Society Free Academy [1]
1853 (unkn.) Amphictyon Society Cornell College [18]
1853 (unkn.) Chrestomathian Society Grinnell [18]
1853 (unkn.) Clio Society Capital [18]
1853 (unkn.) Emma Willards Society Waynesburg [1]
1853 (unkn.) Hentz Society La Grange [56]
1853 (unkn.) Judson Society La Grange [56]
1853 (unkn.) Parthenian Society Baltimore [18]
1853 (unkn.) Periclesian Society Franklin [57]
1853 (unkn.) Phi Nu Society MacMurray [54]
1853 (unkn.) Phileans Society Waynesburg [1]
1853 (unkn.) Union Literary Society Geneva [51]
1853 (unkn.) Webster Society Franklin [57]
1854 (unkn.) Alethezethian Society Antioch [58]
1854 2001 Archanian Society Univ. of the Pacific [18]
1854 (unkn.) Aristotelian Society Central[disambiguation needed ] [1]
1854 (unkn.) Calhoun Society Wofford [59]
1854 1875 Delphic Society Hiram [60][61]
1854 (unkn.) Erodelphian Society Burlington [18]
1854 (unkn.) Hamline Society Iowa Wesleyan [62]
1854 (unkn.) Hesperian Society Hiram [60]
1854 (unkn.) Hesperian Society Wisconsin [52]
1854 (unkn.) Linnaen Society Mount Union [18]
1854 (unkn.) Phi Alpha Society Central[disambiguation needed ] [1]
1854 (unkn.) Philomathian Society Bethel [18]
1854 (unkn.) Washington Society Bethel [18]
1855 (unkn.) Alethean Society Baldwin [18]
1855 (unkn.) Calliope Academy Spring Hill [50]
1855 (unkn.) Crescent Society Antioch [58]
1855 (unkn.) Curious Society Milwaukee [18]
1855 (unkn.) Erosophian Society Marshall [1]
1855 (unkn.) Hyperion Society Marshall [1]
1855 (unkn.) Philalethean Society Lawrence [57]
1855 (unkn.) Philologian Society Richmond [18]
1855 (unkn.) Philopenthean Society Geneva [1]
1855 (unkn.) Phoenix Society Lawrence [57]
1855 (unkn.) Star Society Antioch [58]
1856 Defunct Beltionian Society Wheaton [63]
1856 (unkn.) Hinman Society Northwestern [60]
1856 (unkn.) Mathesian Society Northwestern Christian [64]
1856 (unkn.) Philadelphian Society Monmouth [18]
1856 (unkn.) Philalethic Society Santa Clara [18]
1856 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Willamette [65]
1856 (unkn.) Philoneikean Society Moores Hill [66]
1856 (unkn.) Phoenix Band Society Earlham [18]
1857 (unkn.) Alpha Kappa Phi Society Hillsdale [18]
1857 (unkn.) Amphictyon Society Hillsdale [18]
1857 (unkn.) Eurodelphian Society Spring Hill [50]
1857 (unkn.) Hesperian Society Ohio Female [18]
1857 (unkn.) Ionian Society Earlham [18]
1857 (unkn.) Ladies Literary Union Hillsdale [18]
1857 (unkn.) Literary Adelphi Society Michigan [18]
1857 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Otterbein [18]
1857 (unkn.) Phreno-Cosmian Society Baldwin [18]
1857 (unkn.) Pythonian Society Northwestern Christian [64]
1857 (unkn.) Sigournean Society Moores Hill [66]
1858 (unkn.) Adelphian Society Cornell College [18]
1858 (unkn.) Athena Society Lawrence [1]
1858 (unkn.) Excelsior Society Albright [1]
1858 (unkn.) Preston Society Wofford [59]
1858 (unkn.) Rhizomian Society Univ. of the Pacific [18]
1859 (unkn.) Alethean Society Beloit [18]
1859 (unkn.) Archaean Society Beloit [18]
1859 (unkn.) Belles Letters Society Illinois Wesleyan [67]
1859 (unkn.) Belles Letters Society Southern [68]
1859 (unkn.) Clariosophic Society Southern [68]
1859 (unkn.) Delean Society Beloit [18]
1859 Present German Verein (now the Alpha Omega Chapter of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity) German Wallace [18]
1859 (unkn.) Germanae Sodales Society Hillsdale [18]
1859 (unkn.) Literary Society Maryland [69]
1859 (unkn.) Neocosmian Society Albright [1]
1859 (unkn.) Philestorian Society Santa Clara [18]
1859 (unkn.) Ruthean Society Iowa Wesleyan [70]
1859 (unkn.) Sophronikopean Society Missionary [18]
1859 (unkn.) Star Society Adrian [18]
1859 (unkn.) Webster Society Michigan [18]
1860 (unkn.) Adelphian Society Furman [71]
1860 (unkn.) Adelphic Society Northwestern [60]
1860 (unkn.) Athenaeum Society Chicago [18]
1860 (unkn.) Erosophian Society Lombard [18]
1860 (unkn.) Eulexian Society St. Stephens [18]
1860 (unkn.) Franklin Reading Society Furman [71]
1860 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Milton [18]
1860 (unkn.) Philosophian Society Furman [71]
1860 (unkn.) Reynolds Society Stockwell [18]
1861 (unkn.) Addisonian Society Wayland [18]
1861 (unkn.) Berean Society Chicago [72]
1861 (unkn.) Phi Alpha Pi Society Olivet [18]
1861 (unkn.) Tri Kappa Society Chicago [72]
1861 (unkn.) Zetagathian Society Iowa State [73]
1865 (unkn.) De La Salle Club Manhattan [18]
1865 (unkn.) Erosophian Society Baylor [1]
1865 (unkn.) Irving Society Andalusia, (Pa.) [18]
1865 (unkn.) Philalethian Society Vassar [18]
1866 (unkn.) Alka Society Willamette [65]
1866 (unkn.) Brown Debating Society Stockwell [18]
1866 (unkn.) Clionian Society Almira [18]
1866 (unkn.) Garnet Society Lincoln [1]
1866 (unkn.) Lincoln Association Illinois Soldiers' [18]
1866 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Union Christian [18]
1866 (unkn.) Robert E. V. Rice Society Niagara [1]
1866 (unkn.) Scientific Society Wilberforce [18]
1866 (unkn.) Semicentenary Society Wilberforce [18]
1866 (unkn.) St Joseph Society St. Joseph [18]
1866 (unkn.) Stonewall Society Baylor [1]
1866 (unkn.) Themian Society Quincy [18]
1867 (unkn.) Aristotelian Society Harlem Springs [18]
1867 (unkn.) Athenian Society Tennessee Wesleyan [1]
1867 (unkn.) Byronic Society Harlem Springs [18]
1867 (unkn.) Erosophian Society Albion [18]
1867 (unkn.) Eulexian Society St. Augustine [18]
1867 (unkn.) Euterpean Society Muhlenberg [74]
1867 (unkn.) Neotrophian Society Bethel [1]
1867 (unkn.) Philokosmian Society Lebanon Valley [18]
1867 (unkn.) Philosophian Society Lincoln [1]
1867 (unkn.) Sophronian Society Muhlenberg [74]
1867 (unkn.) Zetalethean Society Simpson [18]
1868 (unkn.) Adelphene Society Union Christian [18]
1868 (unkn.) Alpha Delta Society Hiram [55]
1868 (unkn.) German Society St. Xaviers [18]
1868 1888[75] Irving Society Cornell University [18]
1868 (unkn.) Lehigh Junto Lehigh [18]
1868 (unkn.) Phi Delta Society Berea [1]
1868 (unkn.) Philocurian Society Northwestern Christian [18]
1868 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Iowa State [1]
1868 (unkn.) Philomathian Society Illinois [18]
1869 (unkn.) Athenian Society Kings[disambiguation needed ] [1]
1869 (unkn.) Basilian Society Niagara [1]
1869 Still active Clionian Society McKendree [76]
1869 (unkn.) Orthopatetic Society Blackburn [1]
1869 (unkn.) Philomathean Society Tennessee Wesleyan [1]
1869 (unkn.) Photozotean Society Moore's hill [66]
1869 (unkn.) Zenobian Society Minnesota [18]
1870 Defunct Aristonian Society Wheaton [63]
1870 (unkn.) Atheneum Society Willamette [65]
1870 (unkn.) Bachelor Society Iowa State [1]
1870 1906 Baconian Society Potsdam [77][78]
1870 (unkn.) Castelian Society Rockford [1]
1870 (unkn.) Crescent Society Iowa State [1]
1870 (unkn.) Erodelphian Society Highland [18]
1870 (unkn.) Grinnell Institute Grinnell [18]
1870 (unkn.) Irving Society Wooster [18]
1870 (unkn.) Philologian Society St Stephens [18]
1870 (unkn.) Philotechnic Society Louisiana State [1]
1870 Present Signet Society Harvard
1870 (unkn.) Vesperian Society Rockford [1]
1870 (unkn.) Wayland Society Brown [18]
1871 (unkn.) Bettina Society German Wallace [18]
1871 (unkn.) Bonhommian Society Highland [18]
1871 (unkn.) Cliolian Society Iowa State [1]
1871 1889 Delphic Society Geneseo [79][80]
1871 (unkn.) Sodalian Society Wilberforce [18]
1872 (unkn.) Adelphic Society Geneva [51]
1872 Defunct Excelsior Society Wheaton [63]
1873 Defunct Alamo Society Southwestern [10][81]
1874 (unkn.) Ossoli Society Northwestern [60]
1875 Defunct San Jacinto Society Southwestern [10][81]
1876 (unkn.) Eutaxian Society Oregon [82]
1876 (unkn.) Laurean Society Oregon [82]
1881 Defunct Alethean Society Southwestern [10][81]
1885 Defunct Clio Society Southwestern [10][81]
1889 Present Winthrop Literary Society Winthrop [10]
1897 Present Gamma Nu Society Illinois [10][44]
1911 Present Elizabethan Club Yale [10]
1911 Present Gamma Delta Society Illinois [44]
1912 1913 Hesperian Society Heidelberg [10][83]
1912 present Philomathean Society Univ. of the Pacific [84]
1913 Present Euglossian Society Heidelberg [10][83]
1913 Present Philalethean Society Heidelberg [10]
1913 Present Philalethean Society Rutgers [10]
1915 Defunct Hypatian Society South Carolina [10]
1916 Present Sigma Phi Epsilon Society Illinois [10][85]
1920 Present Chi Beta Society Illinois [10][44]
1921 Present Aptonalton Literary Society Heidelberg University
1924 Present Euphrosynean Society South Carolina [10]
1928 Present American Whig-Cliosophic Society Princeton [10][86]
1929 Present Pi Pi Rho Society Illinois [10][44]
1991 Present Philomathean Society Union [16][87]

College literary societies today

The Philomathean Society (1813) of the University of Pennsylvania is the oldest continuously-existing literary society in the United States. The University of Georgia hosts two literary societies (both of which were temporarily disbanded during the Civil War and the subsequent Union occupation): the Demosthenian Literary Society, founded in 1803, and the Phi Kappa Literary Society, founded in 1820 and dormant from the 1970s until its official reestablishment in 1991. Similarly, the Philolexian Society of Columbia University, established in 1802, operated more or less continuously until the early 1950s when it sputtered out and, except for a brief revival in the early 1960s, was not revived until 1985.

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

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


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