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Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities (1879)/Delta Upsilon

< Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities (1879)

This society, calling itself an “Anti-Secret Literary Fraternity,” was the child of opposition. The old literary societies in the American col1eges, bearing such names as the “Erosophian,” “Philolethean,” “Philomathian," etc., and in whose halls many prominent American statesmen first trained their powers by party support and the candid criticism of friends and foes, showed signs of disintegration at the inauguration of the second quarter of the present century. As is natural in associations so large and unwieldy as these societies, “cliques” were formed for the purposes of influencing elections, for gaining advantages by mutual support and dependence, and for using organization as a means of advancement.

In 1824 a small number of students at Princeton formed themselves into a society having for its aim the promotion of literary culture, but making its meetings secret and exclusive, and using the black ball in its elections. This society was called the Chi Phi, a Greek name, assumed doubtless in imitation of that of the honorary society of Phi Beta Kappa. The organization was promptly killed by the faculty. A little later, at Union College, a similar movement resulted in the foundation of Kappa Alpha, in which the social element was more prominent. The new system of small numbers, secrecy, and exclusiveness, uniting the advantages of having a decided choice in one’s associates and literary enterprise, rapidly gained in college favor, and the fraternities bearing Greek names spread from that time to all colleges and in all directions.

A conservative spirit in a large body of college-men, regret for the” good old times” of the flourishing days of the literary societies, handed down by college tradition, and a crusade directed against the new secret societies, led to the formation of another and opposing class of associations, professing to be the legitimate successors of the old polysyllabic societies, which were fast losing their influence. Naturally these antagonistic elements began to play an important part in college politics.

This second class of societies accepted the name “anti-secret," and sprang up spontaneously as local organizations in most of the colleges into which the fraternities had already found their way. Union was deemed advantageous, however, and in 1847 the “Social Fraternity” at Williams united with the “Equitable” Fraternities of Union, Amherst, and Hamilton to form what was then named the “Anti-Secret Confederation.” In 1858, however, at a convention held by the confederation, the name was changed to that of Delta Upsilon, which it has since retained. The old motto, which will be mentioned in connection with the Williams Chapter, was retained until 1876, when it was formerly discarded, and “'” adopted.

As any observing person would soon discover, in colleges where Delta U. has existed side by side with the secret fraternities for a number of years, the distinction between them has nearly worn off and, aside from the want of unanimity in Delta U.’s elections, its methods, practices, and life are identical with those of the other fraternities. In colleges, however, where D. U. is a new comer, it meets sturdy opposition and excites half-contemptuous pity. Indeed, in such cases its members most generally be drawn from the rejected candidates of the secret societies and from that class of students whose means, or lack of it, precludes their entrance into those societies. Age, however, brings respectability, and the love of fair play finally allows the two systems to live together.

Without entering into an argumcnt for or against the secret society system, a large class of persons continually and habitually think and speak of the “evil tendencies” of the secret societies in a calm, exasperating way, as though the fact were established beyond dispute; and from these people D. U. gains a nominal support, and its members are regarded as a new sort of crusaders against an established principle of evil, when, in the large majority of cases, the “crusaders” would have been both willing and eager to be on the other side had an opportunity been afforded them.

The chapters of D. U. are named after the colleges in which they are situated, consequently they make use of no chapter letters. The roll is as follows:

  1. Williams College, 1834 (died 1863).
  2. Union College, 1838.
  3. Amherst College, 1847.
  4. Hamilton College, 1847.
  5. Vermont University, 1847 (withdrew 1850).
  6. Wesleyan Uniyersity, 1848 (disbanddd 18i34).
  7. Colby Univcrsity, 1850.
  8. Rochester University, 1852.
  9. Middlebury College, 1856.
  10. Bowdoin College, 1858 (died 1862).
  11. Rutgers College, 1858.
  12. Jefferson College, 1858 (died 1865).
  13. New York University, 1865.
  14. Western Reserve College, 1865.
  15. Madison University, 1866.
  16. Washington College (Pa.), 1866 (died 1872).
  17. Miami University, 1868 (died 1873).
  18. Brown University, 1868.
  19. Cornell University, 1869.
  20. Trinity College, 1869 (died 1876).
  21. Marietta College, 1869.
  22. Syracuse University, 1873.
  23. New York City College, 1874 (died 1879).
  24. Michigan University, 1876.

The Williams Chapter was called the “A. 0.” society until 1834, and had for its motto “Ουδεν Αδήλον.” At that time it assumed the name “Social Fraternity," which it held until 1847. The Union Chapter is remarkable for having had 103 members in one class, the largest number, it is believed, that ever belonged to any one chapter. The Vermont Chapter joined the confederation soon after its foundation, but retained the name and badge of Delta Psi; it withdrew in 1850, and again assumed its secret character. It is now a flourishing local society. The Wesleyan Chapter and the one at Colby, known by the name of Waterville, from the former name of the university, both ceased to exist soon after their foundation. The latter was revived in 1877. The Rochester Chapter had borne the name of “Equitable Fraternity” until its union with the remaining chapters. It is large and prosperous. The Bowdoin Chapter lasted but four years, and initiated but 20 members. The Rutgers Chapter grew out of an open literary society, which was founded in 1854. The New York Chapter has been many times near extinction, and is now small and weak. The Western Reserve Chapter joined the confederation, under the name of Delta Psi, in 1847, but withdrew in 1854. The old society having died, a new chapter Was instituted in 1865. The Madison Chapter has built a fine hall. It is probably the best chapter in the fraternity. The Miami Chapter ceased to exist with the university. The Brown Chapter was founded in 1860, as the Gamma Nu Society, and after making an unsuccessful attempt to unite with the Yale Society bearing the same name, joined D. U. at the time indicated. The Trinity Chapter died from lack of room and energy. The Syracuse Chapter was formerly a local literary society termed the “Atticæum.” The chapter at the New York City College was termed the “Manhattan” Chapter, and was never prosperous.

The government of Delta U. is vested in a board of officers elected annually at the conventions. The meetings of the chapters are not open to the public, in spite of the fraternity’s avowed war against secrecy. The catalogue is issued triennially; the constitution is issued with the catalogue, and the names of its officials are public property. The later editions of the catalogue are very incomplete. In the one of 1877 no mention is made of the early chapters at Vermont University, Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College, or the first chapter at Western Reserve College. There are doubtless other weak and defunct chapters suppressed.

The fraternity now numbers about 3200, and among its members are Judge Field, of the Supreme Court; Hon. William Bross, of the “Chicago Tribune”; Professors Phillips and Pratt, of Williams; Hon. David A. Wells, U. S. Revenue Commissioner; the late Prof. Orton, of Vassar; Gen. Jas. A. Garfield, M.C.; Rev. Alex. McLeall, of the American Bible Society; Hon. Ed. C. Hamlin, of Minnesota; Gen. John C. Caldwell, U. S. Minister to Uruguay; Prof. Rossiter Johnson, and others. An unusually large percentage of clergymen are among Delta U.’s alumni. The badge is a monogram, made by placing the “Δ” over the “Υ.” The lower half of the “Δ” generally bears the college name. The colors are blue and gold.