Open main menu

The Psi Upsilon fraternity is pre-eminent among the Greek-Letter societies for the high standing of its members, active and graduate, and its conservative spirit. The society grew out of an association formed for electioneering purposes and almost accidentally. The founders were Samuel Goodale, ’36, who graduated at Union, and afterwards became an Episcopal clergyman; Sterling G. Hadley, ’36, who has since become a judge, and who now resides in Central New York; Edward Martindale, ’36, an eminent lawyer; George W. Tuttle, ’36, a successful merchant; Robert Barnard, a lawyer of the class of ’37, since deceased; Chas. W. Harvey, ’37, who afterwards graduated at Lafayette College, and is now practising medicine in Buffalo; and Merwin H. Stewart, ’37, a teacher by profession, who died in 1840. Five of the founders are now living.

The pledge of the founders was signed in November, 1833, and the badge was designed and first exhibited in 1834. The letters “ΨΥ” were first chosen, and a suitable motto was subsequently framed for them. The young organization had many rivals and had to overcome many obstacles, but it grew and prospered, and is now one of the best of all the college fraternities. A “Delta” Chapter was established in 1836, and since then the following roll has been built up:

  1. Theta, Union College, 1833.
  2. Delta, New York University, 1836.
  3. Beta, Yale College, 1839.
  4. Sigma, Brown University, 1840.
  5. Gamma, Amherst College, 1841.
  6. Zeta, Dartmouth College, 1842.
  7. Lambda, Columbia College, 1842.
  8. Kappa, Bowdoin College, 1842.
  9. Psi, Hamilton College, 1843.
  10. Xi, Wesleyan University, 1843.
  11. Alpha, Harvard University, 1850.
  12. Upsilon, Rochester University, 1858.
  13. Iota, Kenyon College, 1860.
  14. Phi, Michigan University, 1865.
  15. Omega, Chicago University, 1869.
  16. Pi, Syracuse University, 1875.
  17. Chi, Cornell University, 1876.

The Theta Chapter shared the fortunes of Union College, and visibly declined until 1864, when it finally became extinct. It was revived, however, in the class of ’66. Now it is as prosperous as its sister chapters and proposes building a chapter house, a large fund having been collected for the purpose. The Delta has also at times experienced serious reverses, but now has a full membership, and its rooms are large and commodious. The Beta was founded at Yale as a “junior” society, and unlike ΑΔΦ, has never admitted members of other classes. As there was then no rivalry between them, some of Psi Upsilon’s first members were also members of Alpha Delta Phi, a state of things which did not last. In 1872 the chapter built a hall at a cost of about $15,000, and it is permanently established in New Haven. The Sigma early gained the favor of the college government, and it readily escaped the persecutions which many of the fraternity chapters at Brown underwent. The Gamma Chapter grew out of the wishes of its original members to form a society for literary culture. It at first met with determined opposition from the faculty, but was finally allowed to continue its work. Its records were unfortunately destroyed in the fire at Amherst, July, 1879. The Lambda was established at Columbia at a time when no other fraternity disputed the ground, and it has since continued as one of the most prosperous of the chapters. The Psi was formed by certain members of the I. T. Society, which had taken an intermediate position between the secret and anti-secret societies at Hamilton. The Xi was formerly a chapter of Sigma Theta, a now defunct Sophomore society. It has built a fine chapter house, which was dedicated in June, 1878. The Alpha, at Harvard, was killed by the faculty in 1857. It was secretly revived in the class of ’71, but soon became inoperative. It will probably soon be rechartered. The Iota, at Kenyon, is the smallest chapter, and has met with serious difficulties in a college crowded with active rivals.

In 1860 a movement was placed on foot, mainly through the instrumentality of the Lambda of Beta Theta Pi, at Michigan University, to form a union between that fraternity and Psi Upsilon. Overtures were made by the latter, but the terms being unsatisfactory they were rejected. The Lambda Chapter, however, above mentioned, split, and a portion became chartered as the Phi Chapter of Psi Upsilon, thus expelling themselves from their former fraternity. Under the new allegiance the chapter has not been so prosperous as under the old, though many eminent names are on its roll. The Omega Chapter was formed from members of the Phi Kappa Psi and Phi Delta Theta fraternities at the university. The Pi is also derived from another source. Its members belonged to Upsilon Kappa, a local society, which had an existence in Genesee College for many years before its transformation into Syracuse University. The Chi only obtained a charter after severe efforts on the part of its adherents, and though nominally chartered in 1876 it existed from 1872, its members having been received into the fraternity at other colleges.

In addition to the above-mentioned chapters, graduate associations have been formed at several cities. These are, however, merely informal annual reunions, and have no active connection with the fraternity at large. Such associations are at Detroit, 1877; Washington, 1878; Philadelphia, 1878; Chicago, 1878; Portland, 1878; Ithaca, New York, 1878; Cincinnati, 1879, and San Francisco, 1879. With one exception, Psi Upsilon is the only large fraternity with only one inactive chapter. The object of the fraternity is avowedly the promotion of social and literary culture, and it seeks to supplement the college curriculum. It has displayed a commendable conservatism in granting charters and confining itself to the Northern and Eastern States; it has refused numerous petitions from the South and the Pacific coast.

The catalogues of the fraternity have been issued at varied intervals, the last one bearing the date 1879. It was mainly the work of Chas. W. Smiley (Xi, ’74), and is the most complete catalogue in all its appointments ever issued by a similar organization. It contains a little less than 5000 names, among which are those of Clarkson N. Potter, of New York; Alex. H. Rice, ex-Governor of Massachnsetts; Rt. Rev. A. N. Littlejohn, Bishop of Long Island; Dr. Henry M. Scudder, of Brooklyn; Rev. Geo. H. Houghton, of New York; Rev. Henry M. Dexter, of the “Congregationalist”; Edmund C. Stedman, the author; Andrew D. White, now Minister to Germany (also Sigma Phi); Prof. Lewis R. Packard, of Yale; Eugene Schuyler, Consul-General at St. Petersburg and Constantinople; Prof. O. C. Marcell, of Yale; Prof. Albert Harkness, of Brown; Jas. De Mille, the novelist; Prest. J. H. Seelye, of Amherst; Rev. Morgan Dix, of New York; Bishop Geo. F. Seymour, of Springfield; ex-Governor Joseph R. Hawley, of Connecticut; Charles Dudley Warner; Profs. Wm. W. Goodwin and James M. Pierce, of Harvard; Bishop Wm. S. Perry, of Iowa; Prof. Alex. E. Agassiz, of Harvard, and many others eminent in science, religion, or politics. In addition to the catalogue the fraternity has issued various songbooks, orations, and other fugitive pamphlets, and has now in course of preparation a complete history of the order.

The government is in the hands of an executive council and of the annual conventions, which are held with the chapters in turn. The badge is a diamond-shaped pin about an inch in length, displaying upon a background of black enamel the emblem of two clasped hands, with “Ψ” above and “Υ” below. Sometimes, though seldom, a monogram pin is worn.

The colors are garnet and gold. An unofficial monthly journal called the “Diamond” was issued from the Chi in 1878, and contained many articles of interest, but it has since been discontinued.