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The Chi Psi fraternity was founded at Union College in 1841, and immediately extending itself soon won a place and name among the Greek‑Letter societies. The founders were John Brush, Jr., Maj.‑Gen. Jas. C. Duane, Jacob H. Farrell, Patrick U. Major, Col. Alex. A. Berthond, Robert H. McFaddin, Philip Spencer, and Jas. L. Witherspoon. Unlike many of the other fraternities, its chapters seem to have been established by an organized plan, with the following result: Each chapter, in fraternity parlance, is termed an "Alpha," and that letter is in each case prefixed to the chapter-letter proper.

  1. Pi, Union College, 1841 (died 1877).
  2. Theta, Williams College, 1842.
  3. Mu, Middlebury College, 1843.
  4. Eta, Bowdoin College, 1844 (died 1869).
  5. Alpha, Wesleyan University, 1844.
  6. Phi, Hamilton College, 1845.
  7. Epsilon, Michigan University, 1845.
  8. Zeta, Columbia College, 1846 (died 1858).
  9. Delta, Princeton College, 1851 (died 1857).
  10. Sigma, North Carolina University, 1855 (died 1861).
  11. Kappa, New York City College, 1857 (died 1872).
  12. Beta, South Carolina College, 1858 (died 1861).
  13. Gamma, Mississippi University, 1858.
  14. Upsilon, Furman University, 1858.
  15. Lambda, Brown University, 1860 (died 1871).
  16. Chi, Amherst College, 1864.
  17. Omicron, Virginia University, 1868 (died 1870).
  18. Tau, Wofford College, 1869.
  19. Psi, Cornell University, 1869 (died 1875).
  20. Nu, Minnesota University, 1874.
  21. Iota, Wisconsin University, 1878.
  22. Rho, Rutgers College, 1879.

The Pi died when it was no longer possible to select members in the face of small numbers and powerful rivals. The Theta was extinet from 1872 to 1874; it is again prosperous, and is remarkable for the high record of its members in scholarship. It possesses a lodge in the college town. The Mu is prosperous, and has secured a full delegation from every class since its establishment. Epsilon is one of the best Alphas, and has charge of the general records and the catalogue. The Zeta voluntarily relinquished its charter. The Delta fell a victim to adverse legislation. Eta was crowded out of the ranks. Alpha became dormant in 1863, but was revived in 1876, and is now in a healthy condition. Sigma, Beta, Gamma, and Upsilon were killed by the war, but the latter two have since been re-established. Omicron was composed almost entirely of graduates, and soon ceased to live. Nu and Iota, the two Western chapters, are prospering, and their establishment seems to have been a wise step. Rho was formerly a local society of rather low grade called "Alpha Theta."

For the first decade of its existence Chi Psi experienced no reverses, but afterwards placing chapters in Southern colleges of lower rank than those of the North, it lost seriously by the war, and was sadly crippled at its close. During the period from 1869 to 1873 it also lost several chapters, seemingly from mere inactivity. Since then the fraternity’s prospects have been much brighter, and, with the exception of Alpha-Rho, its extension has been marked by a wise care and foresight. There are properly no alumni chapters, but annual reunions are held in New York and a few of the larger cities.

The last catalogue, printed in 1871 under the auspices of Alpha-Epsilon, was beautifully gotten up and bound in the fraternity colors. A supplement was issued in 1878. The total membership is now about 1900. Among the prominent alumni are Maj.‑Gen. Jas. C. Duane, one of the founders; Rev. Stephen H. Tyng, Jr., Hon. Robert Earl, David H. Cochran, Gen. Albert L. Lee, William Astor, Hon. John W. Stewart, ex-Governor of Vermont; Hon. Thomas B. Cummings, ex-Governor of Nebraska, Elbridge T. Gerry, Profs. D. G. Eaton and C. A. Seelye.

In the West the Chi Psis are usually termed "Sykes," while in the East they were for a long time denominated "Pirates," from the fact that Spencer, one of their founders, was hung at the yard-arm for alleged mutiny. The badge is a monogram composed of a "Χ" laid upon a Ψ, the latter displaying a circle divided by a cross, and the skull and bones. The whole is generally jewelled, and is very pretty. The fraternity colors are purple and gold.