Bancroft Literary Association and Carrollton-Wight Literary Society

Bancroft Literary Association and Carrollton-Wight Literary Society

Infobox Student Group
name= Bancroft Literary Association and Carrollton-Wight Literary Society
motto=Bancroft: "Veritas Nihil Veretur" (Without virtue there is no truth) Carrollton:"Vis consili expers mole ruit sua" (Brute force bereft of wisdom falls to ruin by its own weight)
established= 1876 (Bancroft), 1878 (Carrollton-Wight)
institution=Baltimore City College
faculty advisor=Patrick Daniels

The Bancroft Literary Association and the Carrollton-Wight Literary Society are two competing forensic societies at the Baltimore City College. Founded in 1876 and 1878 respectively, the Bancroft and Carrollton-Wight Societies are the oldest literary societies at a public high school in the United States. [Leonhart (1939), p. 233.] Historically, the two societies competed mainly between themselves. That rivalry culminated each year with an annual debate. In the 20th century the societies began to compete with other schools. Their most notable rival was Baltimore Polytechnic Institute—City College's chief rival in sports and academics. The societies also competed against other high schools and even against several colleges.

The Bancroft and Carrollton-Wight Societies disappeared for a time in the 1980s and early 1990s, but were revived in the late 1990s. The Bancroft Literary Association and Carrollton-Wight Literary Society now exist as the Baltimore City College speech and debate team. The Bancroft Literary Association competes in speech events which include Dramatic Interpretation of Literature, Declamation, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Original Oratory. The Carrollton-Wight Literary Society competes in debate events which include Student Congress, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Policy Debate, and Public Forum Debate. Although, there are some students that participate in both societies, in general a rivalry persists between members of the two societies. However, except for rare occurrences the societies no longer compete directly, preferring to participate in interscholastic competitions.


The first student literary society to exist at City College was called the Peabody Lyceum.cite book | last = Addison | first =Edward S., editor | title =The 1899 Green Bag | publisher =Commercial Printing House | date =1899 | location =Baltimore | pages =p. 52] The group held its first meeting on October 4, 1859 under the direction of Professor Lovejoy. Meetings were conducted using parliamentary procedure with members being fined for poor decorum. Admission to the society was based on an individuals ranking in his class. The society would request the names of the top performing students and then invite those students to appear before the society. After a student's appearance before the society, the student's admission would be debated and upon a 2/3 vote an individual would be granted membership to the Peabody Lyceum. Each meeting members would be selected to perform declamations or debate one another. The society continued for nearly a decade, however on June 11, 1869, with tensions in the group mounting over the removal of one of its memberts, the president of the society moved to adjourn "sine die". A second literary society formed several years later, calling itself the Sheppard Society, but it dissolved shortly before the creation of the Bancroft Society.


Baltimore City College's current speech and debate program began with the establishment of the Bancroft Literary Association in 1876.cite web | title=BCC History | publisher=Baltimore City College Alumni Association | url= | accessdate=2007-07-06] The society was named for George Bancroft, the American historian and U.S. Secretary of the Navy. [Leonhart (1939), p. 44.] At that time it was the only extracurricular activity at the school. William Elliott, Jr., principal, explained the role of the Bancroft Literary Association in the annual report to the Board of School Commissioners in 1878: Cquote| [The Bancroft Literary Association] has for its object that culture which is afforded by the preparation of essays on various subjects and discussions of questions of general interest. It exercises are conducted according to approved parliamentary usages, and are characterized by exhibitions of ability in the youthful aspirants for forensic honors, that are very gratifying. [cite book | last=Board of Commissioners of Public Schools |url=,M1 | title=Fiftieth Annual Report of the Board of Commissioners of Public Schools to the Mayor and City Council of Baltimore | location=Baltimore | publisher=John Cox | date=1879 |pages=p. 83 | accessdate=2007-08-03]

A second, competing society was established in 1878 as the Carrollton Society, named after Charles Carroll of Carrollton. In 1897, following the passing of Professor Charles C. Wight, professor of English and history, the Carrollton Society was renamed the Carrollton-Wight Literary Society. An annual debate was held between the two societies starting in 1880. Much like their predecessor the Peabody Lyceum, the societies conducted meetings according to prescribed parliamentary procedure. However, unlike their predecessor, membership to the societies was open to all members of the student body.

Though the societies competed principally between themselves, several debates with other high schools were conducted in the early 20th century. In 1906, after several years of defeat, City won its first debate against rival Central High School of Philadelphia in the so called "inter-city debate". The topic of the debate was, "Resolved", that it would be to the best interests of the people of the United States for the Government to own and operate its railroads." [Leonhart (1939), p. 94.] Three debaters from Central affirmed the resolution, while three opposing debaters from City negated the resolution. The panel of judges included John P. Poe, former Maryland Attorney General and dean of the University of Maryland School of Law.

In 1908 City met rival Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in the first of a series of annual debates. The debate against Poly was considered by members to be the highlight of the year.cite book |last=Wheeler | first=John Archibald | url=,M1 | title=Geons, Black Holes, and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics | location=New York | publisher=W.W. Norton & Co. | date=1998 | pages=p. 84 | accessdate=2007-08-03] The members of the literary societies continued seeking opponents at other schools and even debated against several college teams. In 1935, the societies triumphed over the freshmen team from New York University. The same year the societies also competed against Johns Hopkins University, George Washington University, University of Maryland, and Washington College. [Leonhart (1939), p. 145.] Nevertheless, the societies continued to hold an annual debate. The fiftieth annual debate of the Bancroft and Carrollton-Wight Societies conincided with the centennial of City in 1939. [Leonhart (1939), p. 165.] In addition to providing forums for the development of student debaters, the societies focused on declamation and oratory. Starting in 1914, the societies began bestowing medals upon four graduating seniors with the best declamatory, debating, extemporaneous speaking, and essay skills.

Current organization

peech and debate

The existence of the societies continued through the 1970s, but became dormant in the 1980s and early 1990s. Then in 1997, largely due to efforts of former member Gilbert Sandler and the financial support of the Abell Foundation, the speech and debate program was resurrected.cite web | publisher=The Abell Foundation | title=Speech & Debate Program | url= | accessdate=2007-07-06] City College is a charter member of the Chesapeake Region of the National Forensics League, and founding member of the Baltimore Catholic Forensic League, and of the Baltimore Urban Debate League. The team is currently under the direction of Patrick Daniels. The Bancroft Society competes in speech events, such as Declamation, Dramatic Interpretation, Extemporaneous Speaking, and Original Oratory. The Carrollton-Wight Society competes in events which include Student Congress, Lincoln-Douglass Debate, Policy Debate, and Public Forum Debate. On April 1, 2008 the Baltimore Community Foundation announced the creation of the Gilbert Sandler Endowment for the City College Speech and Debate Team in honor of Sandler, who is an alumnus and longtime supporter of the team. The endowment is intend to provide financial support for the team in perpetuity and currently has a principal of $252,000. [cite web| title=Endowment to Support City College Debate Team Honors Gil Sandler | url= | publisher=Baltimore Community Foundation|format=PDF|date=2008-04-01|accessdate=2008-04-01]

Mock trial

Mock trial was not a traditional part of the literary societies. However, it has been incorporated into the speech and debate program. Teams from City College have represented Baltimore City in the Maryland State Championships 2 times since 2001. In 2001, the team made it to the finals, before being defeated. [cite web|title=The Abell Foundation: Annual Report 2001|publisher=The Abell Foundation|url=|accessdate=2007-11-01|format=PDF|date=2001] The team advanced to the state championships again in 2006, after defeating the 2005 State Champion Squad from Richard Montgomery High School. However, City College was defeated in the semifinal round by the Park School of Baltimore.

Notable alumni

ee also

*Literary society



*cite book | title=One Hundred Years Of Baltimore City College | last=Leonhart | first=James Chancellor |publisher=H.G. Roebuck & Son | date=1939 |location=Baltimore

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