When a boy comes here to Yale, or any other American college, and gets the flummery in his system, believes in it—surrenders to it—so that he trembles in the shadow of a tomblike building, doesn’t dare look at a pin that stares him in the face, is afraid to pronounce the holy, sacred names; when he’s got to that point he has ceased to think, and no amount of college life is going to revive him. That’s the worst thing about it all, this mental subjection which the average man undergoes here when he comes up against all this rigmarole of the Tap Day, gloomy society halls, marching home at night, et cetera—et ceteray.

—Brockhurst to Stover, Stover at Yale, 19121


Entering Yale College with the class of 1900, Owen Johnson graduated in 1901. He was the founder of the Wigwam Debating Club, chairman of the Lit., and a member of Alpha Delta Phi. At his New Jersey preparatory school, he founded and edited the Lawrenceville Literary Magazine. In a series of stories about his prep school known collectively as the “Lawrenceville Stories,” serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, Johnson developed a character named John Humperdinck Stover, a fifteen-year-old at Lawrenceville nicknamed “Dink.”

By 1911, he had published seven novels and a major play, appeared in several leading magazines, and been elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.2 In that year, he published Dink’s further adventures, as a college student now, in Stover at Yale, serialized in McClure’s Magazine and described by none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald (Princeton ’17) as the “textbook” for his generation.3 A distinguished Yale graduate, finding a different message, declared it the Uncle Tom’s Cabin of American universities, and the Yale Alumni Weekly’s book review pronounced it, “a philippic directed against certain tendencies and facts of life at present-day American universities in general, and Yale in particular, as the author and many other people see them.” When the book was reissued in 1969, a modern reviewer said that the novel was, “the one where American higher education is split open like a Delicious apple and then allowed to turn brown and rot under the reader’s eye.”4

The author’s real intention in writing Stover is described in a letter to Harvard’s president Abbott Lawrence Lowell from President Theodore Roosevelt (that proud Porcellian alumnus). “This will introduce to you Mr. Owen Johnson . . . a Yale man . . . who is now writing about Yale a story dealing especially with the club and society problems of which you and I have so often talked, and which have so puzzled us. I really wish you would talk freely with Johnson, who can be entirely trusted, and will not quote you in any way if you do not wish, and who sees us as we do both the evils of the club or society system and the difficulties in the way of doing away with these difficulties. . . . Johnson is taking this matter up from the National point of view, the point of view of all universities and not merely Harvard and Yale.”5

The novel employs all the standard conventions of the muckraking exposés of political machines, trusts, and commercial corruption which proliferated in Stover’s era. Johnson hoped that exposing secrecy in high places would eventually lead to social reform—that the society system, which then served in his view as an upper-class sinecure, would be transformed under the press of public scrutiny into a “reward of merit” for Yale’s natural aristocrats. Stover was conceived as a “novel with a purpose,” a kind of secular tract intended to draw a moral for the reader.6

At the beginning of Stover, the hero, who had overcome a poor start at Lawrenceville to distinguish himself as a class leader and gridiron star, trains up to New Haven as a freshman. Here, among his new classmates, he first hears of the senior society system and the tapping ceremonies. A sophomore, stopping by the dormitory to check on the Andover freshmen, advises them in Dink’s hearing what extracurricular activity each should pursue. Stover also meets another sophomore, Le Baron, who takes Stover under his wing and counsels him on the long-range importance of winning election to a senior society. Dink is immediately troubled by the prospect of this social contest (“something snapped, something fragile—the unconscious, simple democracy of boyhood” he had known in prep school), and nothing is resolved when he meets Gimbel, seeking to recruit Stover for his openly proclaimed plan to fight the society system, organizing neutrals for class election victories against the societies’ candidates.

Stover had been confident that his four years would be “the happiest I’ll ever know,” in anticipation of “a free and open fight to be among the leaders,” gaining both the football captaincy and senior society membership. His path is rocky: winning early renown in the freshman class wrestling contest with the sophomores, he commences his football career on the scrub team, contesting for the starting end position with a senior, where the victory was built on the “broken hopes” of a comrade. “For the first time, a little appalled, he felt the weight of the seriousness, the deadly seriousness of the American spirit, which seizes on everything that is competitive and transforms it, with the savage fanaticism of its race, for success.”

The book’s second major character, Tom Regan, a classmate and football teammate much older than Dink, admitted to Yale only after six tries at the entrance examinations, is working his way through college waiting tables in order to go into reform politics in the West. He encourages Dink to think and act with more independence, deploring the exclusiveness and conformity of the sophomore societies, still in existence in the years covered by the novel, Johnson’s undergraduate years of 1896–1900. After making further acquaintance with outsiders who question the social stagnation fostered by the society system, and a visit from Le Baron warning of the consequences of cutting loose from the men “in your own crowd,” Stover throws down his sophomore society pin, stamps it beneath his foot, and resigns, although warned of that act’s possible consequence—“what a defiance would mean to those leaders in the class above, men marked for Skull and Bones, the society to which he aspired.” He continues to stray, in his three-year journey to maturity, plagued by bouts of self-doubt, followed by “open defiance” when “he chose to appear at Mory’s with the wildest element of the class,” spending nights of dissolution and drunkenness “in the company of idlers.”

Stover’s third significant protagonist is Brockhurst, Johnson’s alter ego. The undergraduate Johnson had founded the Wigwam Debating Club, and in the novel, Brockhurst proposes the formation of such a class-wide club as a representative forum to replace the class-dividing sophomore societies. Unlike Johnson, Brockhurst loses the contest for chairman of the Yale Lit. (Johnson’s own last major essay in the Lit. was “For Action,” calling for an end to “the discord and discontent” over the sophomore societies, which were abolished in December 1900, and are thus so abolished in the novel. Johnson’s friends had begged him to delay his essay’s publication until after Tap Day, and preserve his chance, as the Lit. chairman, for senior society election, but the leader ran, and he was passed over.7)

Although Dink uses his stature in the class as an All-American star end (Stover’s football exploits were seemingly modeled on those of Frank Hinkey, class of 1895 and Bones) to make the debating club a success, recruiting participants from all factions, Brockhurst continues his assault on Yale’s cliques fostered by the society system, condemned as a wasted opportunity in colleges with nationally derived student bodies. “We miss the big chance—to go out, to mingle with every one, to educate ourselves by knowing opposite lives, fellows who see things as we have never seen them, who are going back to a life a thousand miles away from what we will lead. . . . We ought to really know one another, meet, discuss, respect each other’s point of view, independence—odd ways if you wish. We don’t do it. We did once—we don’t now. Princeton doesn’t do it, Harvard doesn’t do it. We’re over-organized away from the vital thing—the knowledge of ourselves.”

Stover pushes back: “I say I don’t know where the trouble is; whether the whole social system here and elsewhere is the cause or the effect. It may be that it is the whole development of America that has changed our college life.” Brockhurst concedes that the question is much larger than a society system in New Haven, with blame to go around.

“Do you wonder,” Brockhurst exclaims, “why I repeat that our colleges are splendidly organized institutions for the prevention of learning? No, sir, we are business colleges, and the business of our machines is to stamp out so many business men a year, running at full speed and in competition with the latest devices in Cambridge and Princeton! . . . But of course, the main trouble here is, and there is no blinking the fact, that the colleges have surrendered unconsciously a great deal of their power to the growing influence of the social organization. In a period when we have no society in America, families are sending their sons to colleges to place them socially. Some of them carry it to an extreme, even directly avow their hope that they will make certain clubs at Princeton or Harvard, or a senior society here. It probably is very hard to control, but it’s going to turn our colleges more and more, as I say, into social clearing houses.”

The novel’s suspense builds on whether Stover, or any declared society system opponents or skeptics like Regan, despite some qualifications for senior society elevation, will be tapped (Stover has taken himself out of the running for football captain, so that his anti-society stance does not become an impediment to the leadership of the squad). Now as a junior in the spring semester, he is a communicant without choice in the ritual he had first heard described in his freshman room, and then seen for the first time that academic year, when his upperclass football captain is not elected to Bones—“they’ve done it just to show they’re independent.” Three years on, with his anxious New Haven girlfriend and her parents watching from the windows of Durfee, Stover first sees Regan elected and then himself become the last man tapped for Bones, struck by Le Baron, and sincerely cheered by his passed-over friend Joe Hungerford: “It’s great, great—they rose to it.”

Hungerford, in the book’s very last paragraph, demands that Brockhurst “own up that the old college came up to the scratch . . . and the seniors showed today that they could recognize honest criticism.” Brockhurst responds: “Well, it’s good enough as it is. It takes an awful lot to stir it, but it’s the most sensitive of the American colleges, and it will respond. It wants to do the right thing. Some day it’ll see. . . . I’m not satisfied with Yale as a magnificent factory on democratic business lines; I dream of something else, something visionary, a great institution not of boys, clean, lovable and honest, but men of brains, of courage, of leadership, a great center of thought, to stir the country and bring it back to the understanding of what man creates with his imagination, and dares with his will. It’s visionary—it will come.”8

Though he ends his novel on an optimistic note, Brockhurst is for the most part an extremist—he calls himself “a crank”—who, by virtue of his intelligence and independence, launches a withering attack on Yale, and by extension America. In contrast, Stover is a moderate who, half-persuaded by Brockhurst, must work out for himself the conflicts he finds at Yale between quality and equality.9 Although the story ends with the hero being tapped for Skull and Bones, the novel’s denouement suggests that the goal may be unworthy—or at least not worth the sacrifice of independence and individuality. Without final resolution (will Dink changes his society from the inside?), Johnson had depicted the contest between an older form of Yale civic individualism, identifiable by character and teamwork, and a more contemporary Yale liberal individualism, characterized by soul searching, psychological non-conformity, and modernity.10

Johnson’s fictional analysis of the Yale social system, published in book form in April 1912, “must have penetrated to a wider audience than any other ever made.”11 When that month the McClure’s installment of the novel appeared, containing Brockhurst’s most scathing criticism of Yale education as reflecting only American business values, the New York Times ran lengthy excerpts of the text in a feature titled “College as a Means of Stifling Thought,” noting of Stover that “the burden of the criticism is that the social organization of the colleges has so overwhelmed them that the intellectual life has been choked out.” In the following Sunday’s edition of the Times, the newspaper published an extensive interview with Johnson, titled “Danger in the Snobbery of Colleges,” illustrated with pictures of the Ivy and Cottage Clubs at Princeton, the Harvard Union, and St. Anthony Hall and the Bones tomb at Yale.

“It is my deep conviction,” the novelist told the reporter, “that the successful man is the rebel, the one who analyses and criticizes the social system, and will not let his imagination be dictated by it, the man who rebels openly and stubbornly against the particular form of tyranny it may oppose to his liberty of thought and action.” The Times’ editorial page begged to differ: “Mr. Johnson himself seems to have survived his course at Yale. So did President Taft. A lot of other men were not altogether spoiled by their experience there.”12

The novel’s serialization having ended, Johnson shortly thereafter recounted his criticisms and conclusions plainly, in a five-part magazine series for Collier’s titled “The Social Usurpation of Our Colleges.” The first dealt with snobbery as a general feature of student life, and the following four detailed the agencies of undergraduate exclusiveness: the Harvard final clubs, the Princeton eating clubs, the Yale societies, and the nationwide fraternity system. In his examination of the final clubs, he wrote: “It is not that Harvard is indifferent to the vital fact that democratic association is national education, but that no reform can come until Harvard, as well as Yale, Princeton, and other universities abandon the erroneous theory that the social organization of the university is the property of the undergraduate.”13

In his succeeding Collier’s article on Yale, Johnson argued that extracurricular trivialities in New Haven were obscuring the college’s true function and efficacy as a leading educational institution. The senior societies, he maintained, “the one vital force,” bore the primary responsibility for the growth, maintenance, and flourishing of this encumbrance, which like so much untamed ivy had battened on and overgrown the schoolhouse. “The Society of Skull and Bones is, in fact, Yale Academic. Its tone is the tone of the college, to which it transfers its excellent democracy and its clean, ambitious standards. It is respected and deservedly popular.” Switching in mid-paragraph from high praise to the attack, he continued: “Directly and indirectly, it is responsible for the deification of success, the overemphasis on unimportant details, the stultifying and indefensibly childish fetish of secrecy, and the reduction to a pattern of the undergraduate who arrives with forceful and original point of view. . . . Unfortunately, its ideals are so high, and its record so consistent that it is the most difficult to convince that the problem is not one of looking in on the internal housekeeping, but of looking out on the program of the world.”

As for Scroll and Key, that society “for a long time existed on the opposite theory of a congenial social set. . . . Lately, however, the Keys’ standard has strengthened along the lines of its best traditions until its membership, while never making the same recognition of scholarship, compares favorably with the representative quality of Bones.” Wolf’s Head had “cast a favoring eye on the representatives of dominant social sets . . . [a] change rather forced on it by the growing democracy of Keys.” The new Elihu Club, “with the exception of secrecy the fourth senior society confirming its membership after Tap Day,” had experienced a “growth in popular estimation [which] has been rapid, and in recent years . . . has compared favorably with the two younger senior societies.” The Yale News was complicit in this social and intellectual stultification, a “carefully controlled organ of student sentiment . . . [which] will discuss anything except the vital and present problems in the social system. Here you have in miniature the same process that goes on in the outer world—the alliance of established institutions with the organs of public criticism.”

After this searing indictment, his surprisingly mild remedy was insistence that amelioration should come by evolution of the societies, not revolution. “What is most encouraging,” he wrote for his final Collier’s paragraph on Yale, “is the real desire for democracy among the undergraduates and the increasing open-mindedness of the alumni of these powerful societies, who are increasingly alive to the necessity of eliminating the element of fear as a producer of character; doing way with unimportant absurdities, of safeguarding the development of the individual imagination, and finally, and most important of all, of readjusting conditions in such a way that the final result of four years at Yale shall be an education.”

In the end, Johnson’s discussion of the senior society system as a whole, in both fiction and journalism, was a mixture of sound values and bad logic. Some observations were so sensible and shrewd that they certainly caused at least some individuals in the senior societies, and the juniors they sought to elect, to engage in serious self-examination. His main thesis, that the Yale campus exemplified, “the most bewildering system of overorganization of inconsequential activities that can be imagined to divert the individual from the development of his own individuality and its sacrifice to the exigencies and tyrannies of the average for merely material success,” was a critical but an intelligent observation.

Still, as the colloquy of Brockhurst and Stover suggested, in their references to national social standards and reverence for business success, the real guilt of Bones, if any, did not come from having transformed Yale “from a university into a school of character,” but only in having so readily adapted its standards for election to the strident and striving values of the campus, the collegians’ parents, and the country. As for Keys, it opposed the existing “democracy” of Yale, Johnson thought, for “money and social position,” sanctioning a tyranny of the social set no more inherently worthy than the Bones-enforced tyranny of the average, the phrase Johnson defined as “the democracy of a bourgeois commonplaceness that neither comprehends nor tolerates the men of bold and original individuality.”14 Instead, as has been more correctly adjudged, Keys chose “not any man whom a position on the campus glorified, but any man who himself glorified the position. . . . In short, the Keys principle and the Bones principle are both at their best equally in the Owen-Johnsonian sense of the word. No man because of family, environment, or pocket-book need be excluded by either.”15

Johnson held the notion that “in its centralized organization, the senior society system affords to Yale University the same instrument for the spread of an idea that the concentrated Roman Empire did for the spread of Christianity,” if only the fetish of secrecy (“this extraordinary muffled breathless guarding of an empty can”) were eliminated. He thought the system could be converted into, “an honest attempt to reward the best of college life, a sort of academic legion of honor, formed not on social cleavage, but given as a reward of merit.”16 This suggests a mistaken belief that the self-imposed revisions of the sanctions and habits of a secretly elected group of young men would, if they but chose to do so, transform the entrenched Yale social system of prestige and reward, and thus the nation’s.

TAP DAY 1912

In the real world of Yale’s campus, the novel’s mixed message resonated, although a poll of the senior class found that 86 percent to be of the opinion that the novel “grossly exaggerated.” The juniors, the night before 1912 elections, held a mock Tap Day in their residence the Berkeley Oval, starting at about 11:00 P.M. “With a well advertised novel of college life fresh in their minds,” reported the New York Herald, “the men began singing ‘Everybody’s Throwing It’ to the discordant strains of ‘Everybody’s Doin’ It,’ and the leaders were being carried about on the shoulders of groups of men. . . . Everybody was slapped on the back and ordered to his room; everybody got an election and half of the juniors went through the part of refusing to move, thus showing that they refused elections.”17 Nothing like that had every happened before or was to again.

Worse was to follow, a riot of the kind not seen on campus since the harassment of the senior societies by Bull and Stones in the 1870s. On May 23, after the elections, the juniors locked the Vanderbilt Hall gates against the members of the three societies returning after midnight from their regular Thursday meetings, forcing them to gain entry to their rooms by clambering over the gates, which had been slathered with glue. A huge bonfire blazed in the courtyard, with the neutrals dancing around the flames in pajamas, bathrobes, and silk hats, awaiting the men of Keys, Wolf’s Head, and Bones as they returned from their respective halls. Some tried to open the locked gates with a key from the campus policeman, while the troublemakers swarmed against the fence from the inside, shouting the Keys “Troubadour” song into that society’s members’ angry faces. Some of the seniors picked up bricks from the street, in order to break windows in a corner entry to climb in, but most had to deal with the glue and climb over the gates.18

The New York Times ran two articles about the Tap Day following Stover’s publication, one on May 12, 1912, titled “Yale Juniors Now in Fix of ‘Stover’,” and the second, on May 17, following elections, headed “Yale ‘Taps’ in Rain amid Great Tension,” with its subtitles, “Nervousness of the Marshaled Juniors Reflects Owen Johnson’s Attack on the System. Yale Grit Puts It Through.” The earlier piece noted that “For two reasons the excitement over the elections is higher than normal. There are more prominent men, more representatives of leading American families in the incoming senior class than in years. In the second place, the recent agitation over the senior societies, stirred by Owen Johnson’s novel, ‘Stover at Yale,’ has created widespread interest as well as caustic comment.”

Up for election were a grandson of Commodore Vanderbilt, “Van” Webb, editor in chief of the Yale News, and the first Vanderbilt scion in a dozen years to be a senior society candidate, along with his Groton prep school classmate Averell Harriman, coach of the freshman crew, manager of the varsity hockey team, and son of the recently deceased railroad financier Edward Harriman, who had left an estate of $70 million, equal to $1 billion today, leaving his seventeen-year-old son (then with $400 in the bank and no bequest in the will) as head of the family. Young Harriman, part of the first substantial class contingent to attend Yale from the Groton School, had been the instigator of the movement to enroll in New Haven, considering that and possible election to Skull and Bones to be a democratic rebellion against the elitist tradition of Grotonians going on to Harvard and assured membership in Porcellian. “It gave me purpose,” he said more than seventy years after being tapped. “I scoffed at Harvard’s Porcellian Club. It was too smug. But to get into Bones, you had to do something for Yale.”19

The possible suspicion that Harriman’s opinion as a prep schooler was one formulated in adult retrospect is destroyed by a more contemporary memoir by Donald Ogden Stewart, chosen for the Bones club of 1916. After graduation, he was recommended as a humorist to the magazine Vanity Fair by F. Scott Fitzgerald and became a moderately successful playwright and then a highly successful screenwriter in Hollywood, winning Academy Awards for The Phildelphia Story and Life with Father, among other films.

In an article on Yale undergraduate life for H. L. Mencken’s journal The Smart Set in 1921, Stewart was to insist for his readers on the comprehension of “the peculiar relation of the Eastern preparatory schools to the New Haven institution. The majority of the leaders in each Yale class come from Hotchkiss, Hill, Taft, Andover or Exeter [Stewart’s school], and those schools fit their men for Yale in a much broader sense than mere preparation for the passing of the entrance examinations. For many years, the ‘big men’ in the school have gone down to New Haven and ‘made good’; in the course of time, and largely through the perfectly natural influence of hero worship, there has been developed in the prep school a reflection of the college—a reflection which bears at times a curious resemblance to a skull and cross-bones.” Thus, he confessed, “I went to Yale, primarily, because I wanted to make Bones. There is nothing particularly reprehensible about that; nothing which reflects discredit upon Exeter, Yale, Bones, or me. But [writing five years after his graduation] it does seem unfortunate that the ambition, under the rather hypocritical guise of ‘working for Yale,’ found, in the over-organization of ‘extra-curriculum’ activities there, an outlet which almost completely obscured the real benefits of the college and postponed until Senior year the process of obtaining an education.”20

“The ceremony,” noted the New York Times in its first story on the 1912 elections, “has been attacked by the Hartford Courant editorially as being cruel and pitiless. The pen picture drawn by Owen Johnson does not dwell on this side of the ceremony, but reflects the sunshine that comes into the life of a winner of the grand prize.” This last was not true: Johnson fully described the pain and humiliation of those passed over in both descriptions of the two Tap Days in his novel. The second Times article, describing elections “carried out under a pouring rain and with unusual tension,” explained why. “Johnson’s attack on the social system as offering an unworthy aim for struggle, and his saying right out that the awe and reverence for the senior societies at New Haven was a cramping and binding worship of institutionalism, had evidently not been lost on the college audience. The tension was greater than for any previous year. The societies, whose aloofness had never been questioned, have realized that in a measure they have been on the defensive, and to the justly famed ‘Yale grit’ was added to-day a firmer determination to see the thing through nobly.” Remarkably, the reporter was finding that it was not the candidates but the societies showing courage, conducting their ritual with energy and dignity after their national denunciation.

Three hundred juniors took up their positions around the old tree at the corner of the campus between Battell Chapel and Durfee Hall, with five hundred students of other classes, and visitors in every window of Durfee, including society graduate members, while Yale College Dean Frederick Jones (Bones, 1884) looked on gravely. Newspapers reported that in the downpour, with the mud three inches deep on the soggy ground worn bare by pick-up baseball games, the Bones members “clinging to their ancient custom, came upon this scene without a stitch of waterproof cloth to protect them, dressed in dark suits quite immaculately, and with black derby hats.” The Keys representatives were more sensibly dressed in raincoats, while the Wolf’s Head men “even condescended to wear rough caps and any sort of mackintosh that they happened to have.”

Averell Harriman, said the week before by the newspaper’s correspondent to be Keys material, was tapped for Bones; to much murmured commentary. Harriman’s close friend Walter Camp Jr., son of the Yale athletic advisor and noted Bonesman, accepted Keys’ offer. The last man for Bones was George H. Cortelyou Jr., son of President Theodore Roosevelt’s private secretary, and manager of the university crew. The last man for Keys was Vanderbilt Webb. Wolf’s Head suffered a disaster, receiving four refusals, from the intercollegiate golf champion, a class deacon, a track miler, and a member of the university crew; “The refusal of election is often one of the most trying moments of ‘Tap Day,’” the Times article noted. “The man’s friends, anxious not to see him get left, often set up a cry of ‘Take it!’ and even start the unwilling candidate toward his room by violent methods. This did not occur today.”

The man who had defeated Harriman for the presidency of the Yale Navy, the son of the speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, was passed over by all three societies, as were an oarsman and football star. “I have gotten in a number of letters of congratulations from Bones graduates,” Harriman wrote his mother, evidencing his pleasure and then his ignorance of the interior life of the senior society. “It must be a marvelous institution for these men to take it as seriously and to make as much of it as they do.” Tellingly, William Rockefeller, brother of the petroleum magnate John D. Rockefeller, wrote a note of congratulations to the widow Harriman on her son’s election, as his son Percy had been elected to Bones in 1899.21

The Times closed its Tap Day report with a quotation of a spectator described only as a member of one of the societies from a recent class, who admitted that a time might come when the ceremony would no longer exist. “Whatever Owen Johnson may say,” he said, “these institutions are here to stay. The manner of election may change. I do not believe that any one outside of Yale knows exactly what they stand for. They are entirely different from fraternities. Johnson is undoubtedly giving a false impression of Yale societies to many persons who do not know the college and what the senior societies really stand for.”

In a remarkable coincidence, Tap Day in New Haven in 1912 was the day of the American Booksellers’ Association’s annual convention in New York City, to which Johnson was invited as a speaker. He stoutly maintained his theme that the colleges “are sublimely indifferent to the fact that their role in a great nation is not a pleasant gymnasium or a fairly democratic social clearing house, but to be the inspiration to public service and the vital crucible of the nation . . . The best thing that can happen to [the colleges] is criticism, to wake them up and make them ask themselves what they should stand for.” Johnson told the Times that his criticisms were not limited to New Haven, noting that “Some of my characters criticised the senior societies, as such criticism will always exist, but in making Skull and Bones tap Stover at the end I did full justice to what I consider the spirit of justice and fair play in that system when that spirit is properly aroused.”22

In truth, the changes for which Johnson called a dozen years after his graduation had begun by 1912, in the election of collegians whose prominence was not founded on the athletic field, or service on the boards of student publications, or scholarship (which had improved, with six of the fifteen men tapped for Bones in 1910 being members of Phi Beta Kappa).23 This is evidenced by the presence of two men, to be found under that Old Campus elm on Tap Day that May afternoon, who did not receive individual mention in the newspaper accounts.

The first, electing for Bones that year, was Gerald Murphy ’12. Son of the president and owner of the Mark W. Cross Company, the New York purveyors of fine leather goods, he was admitted to Yale, like Stover’s friend Tom Regan, only after multiple tries at the admissions test, but he had become a big man on campus by devoting himself to what his class history referred to as the “aesthetic side” of undergraduate life. A closeted bisexual and a dandy, voted the class’s “Best Dressed,” Murphy was elected manager of both the Apollo Glee Club and university Glee Club, while also serving as chief aide to his future Bones clubmate who the chairman of the junior prom (Murphy’s date was his future wife Sara Wiborg, whose dance card included Averell Harriman). Murphy was also a member of the Pundits, a quasi-literary club limited to ten undergraduates, and one of the eighteen charter members of the Elizabethan Club, founded to provide, in the words of the Yale News, “a center for the literary life of the university.”

Murphy could not have been less like Dink Stover, complaining long after graduation that “You always felt you were expected to make good in some form of extracurricular activity. . . . The athlete was all-important, and the rest of the student body was trained to watch and cheer from the sidelines. There was a general tacit Philistinism. One’s studies were seldom discussed. An interest in the arts was suspect. The men in your class with the most interesting minds were submerged and you never got to know them.”24 In later life in the Murphys’ home “Villa America” on the French Riviera, they entertained Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Fernand Léger, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Archibald MacLeish, John O’Hara, Dorothy Parker, and Robert Benchley. The couple became the models for Dick and Nicole Diver in Fitzgerald’s 1933 novel Tender Is the Night, for the main characters in Archibald MacLeish’s Pulitzer prize–wining play J.B. of 1959, and were recognizable as the couple in Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, published in 1986.25

Archie MacLeish, Yale 1915, although in Bones three years behind Gerald, did not know him in New Haven. When the MacLeishes went to Paris in the twenties, and everyone told them that they must meet the Murphys, Archie got the distinct impression that the Murphys were avoiding them. Afterward, when they had become close friends, he decided that Murphy had simply been reluctant to meet another Bones man. However, once their forty-year friendship began, the subject of the society was never brought up. Gerald had been extremely pleased with the traditional grandfather clock given as a wedding present by his Bones clubmates, and after his June 1915 class reunion he had gone for a few days of camaraderie to Deer Island, the society’s island in the St. Lawrence, so he had been quite comfortable in the presence of his peers. Yet by the time of the Murphys’ departure for Europe in 1921, he wrote that he had become uncomfortable in any “Association, Society, Company (even Mark Cross), Club (don’t belong to one), or . . . Set.” In time, he avoided all contact with Yale, refusing to supply any information for his class’s reunion books. As for Fitzgerald, when it became clear that he was “studying” Sara and Gerald for his novel, a strain was put on the couples’ relationship, not improved when Scott asked Gerald “how I got into Skull and Bones.”26

The second unusual man among those milling in front of Durfee Hall was Murphy’s great friend from Peru, Indiana, Cole Porter of the class of 1913. Encountered when Murphy was vetting sophomore candidates for Delta Kappa Epsilon, Porter had then just submitted the lyrics of “Bulldog” for the football song competition, but the five-foot-six-inch, fifteen-year-old candidate in ludicrous clothes struck Murphy as “a little dark man with his hair parted in the middle and slicked back, wearing a salmon-pink tie and looking just like a westerner all dressed up for the east,” who had his nails done. Porter did not change much in his career at Yale, and barely passed his academic courses, but his musical talent—with over three hundred compositions worked out on the piano which traveled through his college rooms, including football songs like “Bingo Eli Yale” and “Bulldog”—and his performances with the banjo, mandolin, and glee clubs together earned him social acclaim. He was elected not only to DKE, but to the Whiffenpoofs, the Owen Johnson–founded Wigwam and Wrangler Debating Club, the Pundits, the Yale Dramatic Association, the University Club, and on Tap Day in 1912 to Scroll and Key. None other than Archie MacLeish, two years behind Porter, recited the prologue to and played the part of a baby in The Kaleidescope, a musical written and directed by Porter in his senior year for the Dramatic Association.

Porter was also a football cheerleader and the chairman of the football song selection committee, which in view of Cole’s well-documented preference for virile, big-muscled men, might have been a manifestation of the composer’s homosexuality, but as a classmate stated, “Cole was so bright and talented, one expected him to be a little different.” His graduating class considered him one of their most eccentric members, with his loud dress and extraordinary interest in things theatrical, while voting him the most entertaining of their number. He is said to have written several anthems for Scroll and Key, “but if so,” in the words of one biographer, “they have vanished forever behind all that ivy” on the society’s tomb. Porter’s alma mater, to which he left all his original manuscripts and other memorabilia, conferred an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters upon him in 1960, in his Waldorf Astoria apartment on the composer’s sixty-ninth birthday (the first Yale honorary degree ever conferred in a private ceremony, its award delayed by two trustees who disapproved of the honorand’s lifestyle).27

With Porter as with Murphy, the senior societies were clearly broadening the range of their tolerance for electing men who were distinctly not cogs in the machine that Owen Johnson had described and lamented. But perhaps Johnson had covered even that ground in Stover: “I’ll bet we get a lot of fruits,” a new freshmen traveling on the train with Dink to New Haven says to another. “Oh,” comes the reply, “some of them aren’t half bad.”28


However strong the nonchalance of the junior class in 1912, shrugging off the Stover criticisms and accepting elections in the normal course, the class immediately beneath was not having it. Sophomores of the class of 1915 thought changes in the system must be made. A core group of twenty-five made a compact not to take election until the three senior societies had been materially reformed, and then called several meetings of their class to formulate those reforms, to be instigated before their own Tap Day in May 1914. In time about 160 men (of a class of 291) coalesced into a formidable movement. On 13 April 1913 they met at the Taft Hotel to perfect their formal protest, as reported on the front page of the New York Times. The next day a meeting attended by two hundred called for committees to be appointed to meet with the faculty and with representatives of the three senior societies, after the entire sophomore class had been canvassed for pledges to refuse election in their junior year unless reforms were implemented.

This canvass produced a further pledge that the protesters would not accept elections to the senior societies unless Tap Day were altered and the basis of choice reformed to the satisfaction of two-thirds of the signers. The first petitions, signed by over sixty men, were more revolutionary, stating that everyone who signed promised never to accept an election to any senior society by the present method, and then stated that none of the signers would accept an election until the secret character of the organizations was done away with.29 When the demand for the meetings with the three senior societies was rebuffed, the protesters published an untitled pamphlet of four pages, signed openly by ten of the rebels and then distributed to their own classmates and to the forty-five senior society members, identifying their main points of dissatisfaction: “Excessive Secrecy” and “Inadvisable Choice of Members.” Reprinting the text, the Yale News broke its decades-long, self-imposed embargo on commentary on the societies (beyond reporting election results), and while not discussing the Sophomore Movement on its merits, gave praise to its temper and terms.

While claiming their movement did “not stand for abolition,” these sophomores found that the secrecy of the social system stifled spontaneity, engendered hypocrisy, and strained friendships, while the “sensational display” of Tap Day gave undue advertisement to the societies and overemphasized the distinction between the elected and those passed over. As for those elected, there should be “a recognition of merit, not on the basis of actual accomplishment alone, but to a large degree on the basis of what men have attempted to do, and on the revelation in that attempt of qualities of character and of personality.” In light of these concerns, the pamphleteers continued, “we suggest that secrecy be reduced to a reasonable privacy; that Tap Day as it now exists, be abolished; and that the greatest care in the choice of men, as outlined above, be exercised.”30

The criticisms were clear enough, but in the end the reforms proposed were both mild and imprecise. They received fair mockery in the anonymously published student periodical the Eavesdropper, in a “Pre-Tap Day Tragedy” titled “The Last Days of Pompilius.” The title character proposes “that forty-five men be chosen (by whom, I cannot say), in a new way (I do not know exactly how), and with a new idea (I cannot say precisely what). Then let their names be drawn from an urn by the youngest of the vestal virgins: the first man to go to Cranium et Ossa, the next to Papyrus et Clava, the third to Caput Lupi, and so on. Thus we may secure social equality in its purest form.”31

Wolf’s Head, the youngest of the three societies and the one most likely to be hardest hit in the event of a shortage of candidates, met on March 8 and tried to decide on some course of action. More remarkably, Skull and Bones responded with its own pamphlet in this war of words, titled “322,” and dated April 26, 1913. Noting that their society had decided in the fall of 1912 to drop the old customs of escorting the athletes home and of not speaking after Thursday night meetings, the Bonesmen argued that their “reasons for privacy and silence regarding . . . actions within our building” could hardly be understood by outsiders, nor was it appreciated “that the mutual trusts imposed on our members to guard our confidences has been one of the greatest factors in our growth.” The offensive sensationalism of the election ceremony, they noted, was bound to be reduced because in the fall of 1912 Yale College Dean Frederick Jones (Bones 1884, as it happened) had decreed the closing of the campus on the day of elections to all persons not members of the university, and had recently requested that the sophomore and freshman classes not be present as well on May 15. The students were instead to play an interclass baseball game that afternoon, while the professors were urged to attend a faculty tea in Forestry Hall, a mile from the main campus.

The Bones club repudiated any notion that their society, at least, chose “inadvisable men,” and so “we believe it our duty to live on in a manly and independent manner, undisturbed by rumors and criticism, so long as in our relations to other members of the University we do what we consider fair and just.” The gravity of the sophomore attack of 1913 may be measured in part by the extraordinary appearance of this Bones pamphlet, the first and last time in the society’s entire history that an undergraduate club, one that included Averell Harriman and Sidney Lovett, later the Yale University chaplain from 1932 to 1958, felt the necessity of making a public response to criticism.32

The sophomores remained rebellious under Dean Frederick Jones’s strictures, some quoted in New York newspapers as saying that they wanted the ceremony “scourged” from the campus, but if not, they wished to “see what’s going on.” Jones (a Bones alumnus of 1880) told the same paper that he was acting in an “advisory capacity” and that the faculty had “taken no official cognizance of the discussion” and would not unless it became a disciplinary affair.33 No annual Horoscope was to appear, due to the agitation, being replaced with the Eavesdropper as a pallid imitator, jesting about the senior societies but making no attempt to forecast results.

Owen Johnson wrote the New York Times, hailing the sophomores’ courage, “amazing to those who are familiar with the long tradition of underclass subjection.” He called for the preparation of a list of one hundred positions “to be acquired as the result of some ambitious effort” in the college’s athletic, dramatic, literary, religious, and scholarly activities, demanding that the senior societies agree to recruit only from this list, which would go far “in weeding out the chaff that is so objectionable.” Johnson concluded that “the action of the sophomore class at Yale in deciding to think for itself is to me the most amazing manifestation in the whole history of university conflict.” His suggestion of a list was indeed ultimately to be taken up in 1914, and after these 1913 elections, one newspaper opined that had one for that year been produced in a timely fashion, most of the men tapped would have been on it.34

The freshman class voted unanimously on the Tuesday preceding Tap Day not to attend the Thursday ceremony, and the sophomores passed their own recusal resolution early on election day in a mass meeting, some then going off to play baseball as bidden. For elections the campus gates were closed and temporary fences erected over remaining gaps, with the two campus policemen and some seniors deputized to stand guard against entry by the general public. Newspapermen and photographers were banned. These combined efforts reduced attendance to only about six hundred students. A report circulated that Wolf’s Head had pledged to the sophomores to adopt the reforms urged and had already given out its pledges to the juniors it would elect. The Elihu Club, never having participated in Tap Day, piously announced that it would refuse to participate and would accept the proposed reforms. This raised the alarming prospect, for the two oldest senior societies, of the sophomore class agreeing to accept elections the following year only to Wolf’s Head and Elihu.35

In what the newspapers called the “denatured” Tap Day of 1913, the societies themselves conducted the affair differently. Instead of the traditional black derbies and suits and ties, the seniors wore ordinary clothes and no hats, with the Bonesmen alone making any pretense of solemnity, striding along without looking left or right, or responding to the thirty or forty hecklers in the great oak tree. Despite being warned off, many graduates still chose to attend, passed in by “checkers” at the gates who were all younger graduates of the societies. While the raillery from the non-society seniors in the trees was said to be largely good-natured, the levity itself at Tap Day was a startling first: “Seniors’ Gibes End Tap Day’s Gravity,” headlined the New York Times. Most of the sophomores watched the elections from their windows in Durfee and Farnam, while the freshmen piled three deep in the windows of their residence Wright Hall, or jammed its forecourt, each class thus technically fulfilling the requirement that they “keep off the campus.” Not one girl’s face appeared at a window of Durfee, where in former years there were half a dozen tea parties going, and there were no carriages or automobiles.

Whether or not the sophomores found satisfactory the election of eight athletes by Bones and three by Keys, with their remaining new members “prominent in literary work” and eleven of those thirty belonging to Phi Beta Kappa, Dean Jones as the only faculty member present pronounced these results to be proof that these men had been elected on merit alone. Representatives of the underclassmen who had publicly pledged themselves not to join in the future unless changes were made declared they would take a vote sometime in the future on these 1913 elections, to decide whether those chosen had been so on deserts and achievement.36

Although many members of the class of 1915, now rising juniors contemplating their own Tap Day at the end of the academic year, remained as disgruntled as they had been as sophomores, nothing more formal was done until after Christmas 1913. While agreeing that the men elected the prior spring were “chosen absolutely on merit,” more was needed, and five alternative “plans” to developed to be voted upon: that the signers should not offer themselves for election under any consideration, or that they should not offer themselves for election from principle; or that they should offer themselves for election providing that Tap Day was moved to the Berkeley Oval, where the majority of juniors now lived, across Elm Street on the land now beneath Berkeley College; or that there be elimination of conflicts in the three senior societies’ prospect lists (which were never made public or shared among the societies); or that those societies agree to consider a list of seventy men whom the signers considered worthy of elections; or that they should offer themselves without insisting on any further reform. No alternative received the two-thirds vote established as necessary for adoption.

At a March meeting held to vote on the original resolutions, two-thirds of the signers declared that sufficient changes had not yet been made to warrant abandoning their protest. Among the men regarded as likely for election, however, most had voted to drop the matter, while a majority of those believed to have no chance at all for senior society membership voted to continue the struggle and enforce the agreement of the year before. Thus, those (now) juniors who inaugurated the reform movement were apparently to be deprived of the fruits of their labor, denied the privilege of entering the societies on which they had already forced some reform.

A revised plan was brought up at a subsequent meeting, at which the 157 voters, over half the class, with only four dissenting ballots, agreed to offer themselves for election, provided that the societies would in turn agree to consider the “class list” and to give out their elections in the Berkeley Oval. Dean Jones intervened once more, simply mandating that elections for the class of 1915 be held there (the senior societies had also urged this). A fence was ordered to be erected between the gaps in the Oval to keep out the curious, and entry allowed for the May 1914 Tap Day only to the juniors themselves and members of the senior societies. The event was otherwise closed to women and to the rest of the general public.37

The class of 1915 then worked on their second condition, taking up Owen Johnson’s suggestion of composing a list, theirs of fifty names—five more than the three societies’ membership maximum of forty-five—made up from other lists of forty-five men each made up by individual members of the class (both protest resolution signers and non-signers) about their own fellows, deposited into a ballot box in the Yale Station post. The winnowed final candidates’ names, tabulated by a faculty committee, were printed in the Yale News in alphabetical order on April 29, 1914. This list, the organizers emphasized, was to apply only to the Class of 1915, since such a requirement, if recurring in future, would lead to more than two years of “wire-pulling, fraternity politics, and toadying” before any scheduled election. While the three societies firmly refused to compare their own lists, for the elimination of conflicts, they promised their readiness to consider the News list in their selections. Individual juniors were still worried, because if a society required a unanimous vote, it was perfectly possible for a listed man to be ignored, simply because he had had a run-in with some present member.

It was rumored that Bones would take its full complement from the printed list, while Keys and Wolf’s Head would each take about two-thirds of their candidates. Many of the protesters were said to be reserving the right to “throw down” the societies’ proffers nonetheless, to evidence their belief that the reforms were insufficient. By threatening to withhold their candidacies, the class of 1915 would go down in Yale history as mounting the most successful protest to date against what their predecessors had styled the “poppycock” of the system. While opinions differed as to whether the atmosphere of rebellion significantly affected elections the year before for the class of 1914, with Dean Jones’s interventions, Tap Day itself had been stripped of many of its undesirable features.38

On election day, the three societies chose thirty-six of the fifty from the list made up by the juniors: all fifteen tapped by Bones, thirteen of those chosen by Keys, and eight by Wolf’s Head, so only nine elected had not been identified for society honors by their own classmates, of whom five represented the excess of the class list number (fifty) over the available slots (forty-five). The societies showed magnanimity: two of the Sophomore Movement manifesto signers of April 1913 were elected by Bones in 1914: Bayne Denègre, captain of the varsity crew, tapped last, and Harold Pumpelley, junior prom chairman and star of the football and baseball teams, tapped fourth; Keys chose a third, William Crocker of the varsity crew and San Francisco banking family. Only one man refused an election, from Bones, and went to Keys. Burch Harrison and the other six signers of the sophomore manifesto for reform were not tapped, but Harrison had publicly stated that he would not accept election due to insufficient reform. One signatory, Chandler Bennitt, stroke oar on the freshman crew and third stand scholar in the class, may have suffered the most public retaliation, as the New Haven Journal-Courier identified him as “leader of the reformer movement,” but held that his failure of election to any society was a “surprise.”

Among those elected that day, not among the protesters but both on the published list of fifty, were Archibald MacLiesh, chairman of the Lit. and captain of the water polo team and future Librarian of Congress and winner of three Pulitzer Prizes, for Bones, and Dean Acheson, freshman crew coach and future secretary of state, for Keys. (MacLeish, asked in 1923 to be godfather to Acheson’s son David, accepted, noting that the boy “may go Bones if I evangelize hard enough”—which David did.) Scornfully describing the Sophomore Movement’s adherents as “the Daughters of Dink,” MacLeish predicted that many of those who had pledged themselves against joining a society would be fighting to get themselves released from their commitment—which release the creation of the list, meant to force the hand of the electors, had indirectly facilitated for the elected. As for Acheson, he had been bequeathed the job of coaching the freshman crew by Averell Harriman, and when the latter was sacked as varsity coach, Acheson lost his position too. He said later, “I have been fired since, but never in better company.” Many years later, President Truman was to bring Harriman into the White House to help Acheson, who as secretary of state was at the center of the administration’s most difficult public trials.39

The next spring, in May 1915 for the elections for the class of 1916, the ceremony was moved once again, back to the main campus, but now to an open space in front of Durfee Hall so that enterprising onlookers might not climb into the old oak and shout down disconcerting remarks during the affair. Dean Jones issued instructions early on the day that none but juniors and seniors should be admitted to the central campus, that the other classes were to remain in their rooms, that the gates should again be locked and temporary fences put up to keep out those who did not belong to either class; visitors would not be allowed on the grounds—even faculty members were not encouraged to attend—while ropes were stretched across open spaces, and the campus was “closed as tight as a drum.” Still, the oak had its climbers, and the dormitory windows their deriding onlookers, yelling as the society delegates entered the crowd, “Not at home,” “You are in the wrong pew,” and “You can’t find him here today.”40

The following year’s elections of May 1916 saw one final spasm of the Sophomore Movement. The exercises were again held on the main campus, and in many respects, the senior society universe had been restored after the controversy and round trip to the Berkeley Oval for elections. Averell Harriman’s younger brother Edward, stroke of the crew, was elected to Bones, as was Henry Sage Fenimore Cooper, a member of the relay team which had recently equaled the world’s record, and a grandson of author James Fenimore Cooper (expelled from Yale as a junior in 1805 for a prank). Others then chosen by Bones were Alfred Bellinger, to serve in time as Yale’s professor of Latin, and Prescott Bush, first baseman on the varsity nine, later senator from Connecticut and father and grandfather of American presidents, as well as three men who were self-supporting, working their way through college.

However, the baseball pitcher Spencer Pumpelly, considered sure of election, refused to go on the campus; instead, he spent the afternoon riding in his automobile, and a New Haven paper reported that the Bones elections were delayed by their search for him. His brother Harold, the former football and baseball star who had been one of the signers of the sophomore class manifesto, had in the end been elected to Bones. Although no one would have remembered it at the time of the younger Pumpelly’s dramatic spurning of the now hallowed ceremony, not since William Kingsley repudiated his brother Henry’s senior society of Skull and Bones back in 1842 to found Scroll and Key had there been such a marked repudiation of the existing society system by a younger sibling.41

And in the spring of 1916, no one knew or even suspected that this would be the last Tap Day for three years, until 1919, after the end of World War I.


The First World War began in Europe in August 1914, barely eleven weeks after Tap Day for the class of 1915. While America was not to declare war on Germany until April 1917, the graduates, students, professors, and administrators of Yale were in uniform everywhere by 1915, and the ramp-up thereto began with military training camps that summer. Recent and not-so-recent alumni determinedly prepared there for the coming conflict: in September 1915, Hugh Bayne (class of 1892) and a dozen other Bones alumni from that class through that of 1914 wrote to Morris Hadley and the incoming Bones delegation about the graduates’ camp training in Plattsburgh, New York, noting that “out of 324 living Bonesmen who graduated after 1891—that is, out of those whose ages were under 46, over 4 percent attended the Camp. This, we believe, is a larger proportional representation than that of any other single body or organization, and is another evidence of the patriotism of our institution.”42

The Alumni Advisory Board recommended instituting military training at Yale itself. Seven hundred ten men from Yale, in classes ranging from 1880 to 1919, enrolled in Plattsburgh in the summer of 1916. Yale ROTC officially commenced in February 1917, and two months later war was declared. In a speech in May, Dean Jones announced that there were 1,544 men in active training on the Yale Campus, and the Yale Alumni Weekly on October 11, 1918, informed its readers that the campus was not the one they knew, but a “national officers’ training camp.”

A great mass meeting had been held in October 1914 to raise funds for the Red Cross, and twelve ambulances were furnished, followed by the publication of the first list of Yale participants in the war and a call for volunteer ambulance drivers in France. Archibald MacLeish and three other members of the class of 1915 Bones club—his roommate, and the captains of the baseball and track teams—joined the Yale Mobile Hospital Unit in June 1917. However, after reaching Paris, they found the hospital unit to be moribund, and at Archie’s petition, Hugh Bayne (by now a member of General Pershing’s staff) got the four men transferred to officers’ training in the field artillery as second lieutenants.

President Hadley announced plans for the organization of the Field Artillery Battery in the fall of 1915, for which French 75-millimeter artillery pieces arrived in March 1916 to allow training to begin in earnest, Yale’s being the only such college unit. Nearly a thousand undergraduates tried to sign up, with 486 men eventually recruited into four batteries, one of them commanded by the Yale president’s son Morris, who was the last man tapped for Bones the prior spring, a Lit. editor, Phi Beta Kappa president, and later founding partner of the New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy.43

The war record of the Yale Battery at the United States Army’s Fort Sill in Oklahoma was to have a discreditable coda. So many Yale men were there that on March 31, 1918, a Yale dinner was held in the mess hall, with several Bonesmen in attendance, all captains in field artillery units: 1917’s Prescott Bush of the 322nd Field Artillery, who led the singing at the dinner, Neil Mallon (three decades later to give Prescott’s son George Herbert Walker Bush his first job in the Texas oilfields), Ellery James, Kenneth Simpson, Knight Woolley, and, shortly to be initiated into the club of 1919, Charles Haffner Jr. Remembering the campus tradition of crooking now largely discredited in New Haven, possessed of a racial consciousness and a sense of Anglo-Saxon superiority, and learning that the iconic Apache leader Geronimo had died at Fort Sill after internment there, these young men saw a chance to add to the collection of skulls and femurs at their tomb. Sometime in May 1918, they claimed to have forced open a grave with an iron door and shipped some of the contents therein back to Connecticut.

Winter Mead, still a student on campus and a classmate of Haffner’s, wrote to a recent graduate member that “The skull of the worthy Geronimo the Terrible, exhumed from its tomb at Fort Sill by your club and the Knight Haffner, is now safe inside the Tomb, together with his well-worn leathers, bit & saddle horn.” It seems probable, according to several historians, that it was not Geronimo’s grave that was desecrated, since no biography of the Indian leader describes his burial in an iron-doored tomb, and his family is said to have quietly removed the remains to an unmarked site several years earlier. Still, if this was not an instance of a fanciful exploit founded on a purchase in the black market in Indian grave artifacts, it seems incontestable that something happened to another burial site, and as has been said, the Geronimo letter of Mead, “with its matter-of-fact reports of troop units and its boast about a grave robbery, speaks to the complex and contradictory mores of the privileged class in early twentieth century America.”44

Beyond the practice for the batteries, motivated students, faculty and graduates had been anticipating the federal government’s needs by organizing training for other branches of service: by the end of World War I, Yale’s record included the only college field artillery school, the first American mobile field hospital, the only school training officers for the Signal Corps, and, most remarkably, the first air units. As early as the summer of 1916, in a very different “sophomore movement,” the class of 1918’s F. Trubee Davison and some of his classmates had formed a Volunteer Coast Patrol squad, hiring their own seaplane, instructor, and equipment, and begun training in Port Washington on Long Island. In the fall they had taken part in naval maneuvers off Sandy Hook, and their “Aero Club” continued work with donated planes at the submarine base in New London. When the winter weather prevented flying, they busied themselves with the study of wireless and the theory of flying, while taking in more members.

The period from April 1917, when America declared war, to the spring of 1918 saw a deteriorating campus situation, with an uneasy and limited role for college men. The 1917 Selective Service Act established the draft age as twenty-one, and so affected only the older students, but the younger undergraduates, impatient and increasingly doubtful about the utility of peacetime studies, began to seek some quicker way into the services than the four-year ROTC course. Some got their parents’ permission, left college, and joined up, while others certainly lied about their ages and enlisted. War was declared during the 1917 spring vacation, and through the Yale News, the juniors made known their strong desire that Tap Day be moved up, while the seniors were still on campus and “intact” as clubs to hold elections.

There was no commencement exercise for the senior class, and by June, it was estimated that some seven hundred students had left the campus, the senior society men figuring prominently in the departures. The Yale Alumni Weekly, in an early autumn issue, announced that no member of Scroll and Key had returned to campus for their delegation’s senior year, and only two from Skull and Bones, one from Wolf’s Head, and three from Elihu. In November 1917, another YAW article by a professor serving as major in the Yale ROTC pointed out that all the high-stand men were gone—the Yale News chairman and fourteen of its board members, the Lit. chairman and three of its other four board members—and commented, “The intellectual leaders among the students are just where they ought to be—in France or making ready to go there.”45 Not until December 1918 and demobilization was Yale to begin to return to normal, from an armed camp back to an academic campus.


Among Yale’s undergraduates, twenty-eight men would pioneer American military aviation, on their own initiative. Their families’ immense private resources made possible the formation of the First Yale Naval Training Unit, which became the originating squadron of the U.S. Naval Reserve, growing out of little more than a military summer camp hosted by one of a group of sophomores. Leading members of the group in the class of 1918 included Frederick Trubee Davison, Robert Lovett, Kenneth MacLeish, Artemus Gates, and Alan Ames. In the poem titled “On a Memorial Stone” by Kenny’s older brother Archie first published just two years later, he wrote: “And generations unfulfilled,/The heirs of all we struggled for,/Shall here recall the mythic war/And marvel how we stabbed and killed,/And name us savage, brave, austere—/And none shall think how very young we were.”

The boys’ energetic, self-appointed leader was Trubee Davison, son of the managing partner of J. P. Morgan & Co. following Morgan’s death. Trubee had accompanied his father on a business trip to Europe in 1915 and signed on in Paris with the American Ambulance Field Service ferrying wounded soldiers from the trains to the American Hospital there. His classmate and friend Bob Lovett was the son of the chairman of the executive committee and president of the “Harriman System” of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroad lines, and had grown up alongside the Harriman sons Averell and Roland; he was to be voted the “hardest working” and “most brilliant” member of the class at graduation. A third classmate, football star Artemus “Di” Gates, was like Davison and Lovett a member of Psi Upsilon, but Gates’s oldest and closest friend since preparatory school at Hotchkiss was Kenneth MacLeish. Kenny, three years behind Archie, was sometimes asked if he was the brother of the man voted “most brilliant” by his classmates in the class of 1915, and the younger MacLeish aspired to membership in some senior society, although he simply had not had the time in New Haven to match Archie’s spectacular record of campus achievements which had brought a Bones tap.

Davison demonstrated to the Yale community how easy flying was by piloting his own plane from his home at Peacock Point in Locust Valley on Long Island Sound, to appear in New Haven at morning chapel and still attend class on time. Classmates in Psi Upsilon were contacted by his telegram in July 1916, invited to learn to fly under the banner of the Aero Club of America and to train privately that summer while staying at Peacock Point, practicing in flying boats purchased by his father and other donors. By summer’s end, Lovett, Davison, and Gates could solo. Others of the young flyers included John Villiers Farwell III, a star high hurdler, and hockey player Erl Clinton Barker Gould.

Yet to begin their Yale undergraduate careers at this date were even younger aspiring airmen: Trubee’s brother Harry P. Davison Jr. in the summer of 1916 was just leaving Groton School but joined his brother’s friends in the first Aero Club group, as did David “Crock” Ingalls, who would come up the same year from St. Paul’s, where he had starred in hockey (his later gift to Yale was the Ingalls Rink). Crock’s Yale attendance was encouraged if not ordained by his mother being the daughter of Charles Phelps Taft, half-brother of William Howard Taft. Joining the growing unit in 1917 were Kenny MacLeish, Archibald McIlwaine, George Lawrence, Curtis Read, and Reginald Coombe.

Finally securing his own parents’ permission and support, Davison over the next year fought tirelessly to have the unit officially recognized by the U.S. Navy, making frequent trips to Washington to petition Navy Secretary Josephus Daniels (Trubee missed the Junior Prom, being managed by Lovett, for one such meeting). Permission was finally secured in March 1917, and the group of fifteen juniors promptly withdrew from college, enlisting in the Naval Air Corps Reserve. What the newspapers began calling the “Millionaires’ Unit” traveled south to West Palm Beach, Florida, for further training.

Some four months later, on July 28, 1917, twenty-eight candidates, including members of a second Yale Aerial Coast Patrol unit, were taking their flying tests in order to obtain their Navy wings. Trubee, who was unwell and had fainted the day before, lost control of his seaplane during his test flight and spiraled into the sea, splitting his craft in two, breaking his back and injuring his spinal cord. When he was put aboard his father’s yacht for transport home, Lovett, Gates, and Ingalls raced ahead to New York in a Marmon roadster to locate a surgeon. With a broken back, Trubee never saw combat, but he remained active in the affairs of the First Naval Air Unit for the duration of the war and was awarded the Navy Cross for his services.

Living in pain the rest of his life, Davison following the Armistice returned to Yale to room with Di Gates and finished his undergraduate program as a member of the class of 1919. He was named by President Coolidge to head the National Crime Commission, and thereafter served under President Harding as assistant secretary of war for aviation. Retiring from politics in 1933, he went on to be president of the American Museum of Natural History for almost the next two decades, before joining the army when World War II came and leaving it as a brigadier general. Davison was elected to the Yale Corporation as a successor trustee in 1951 and became the first personnel director of the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency.

His aerial brother-in-arms Robert Lovett, after partnership in Brown Brothers Harriman with Bush, Harriman, and Woolley, became during World War II the assistant secretary of war for air (taking the post Davison had held in World War I). He then chaired the Lovett Committee, to advise the government on the post–World War II organization of American intelligence activities, which led to the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency. Lovett served under President Truman as undersecretary of state, then deputy secretary of defense, and finally secretary of defense. When John F. Kennedy became president, he offered Lovett his choice of three top Cabinet posts, State, Defense, or Treasury; although these were all declined, Lovett suggested the three men who were ultimately named to those positions. A friend of William Faulkner, Lovett told him the story of the World War I flyers and coastal boat patrols, which the author used in one of his finest short stories, “Turn About.” The tale was turned into the film Today We Live by the noted director Howard Hawks, with Gary Cooper in the Lovett role.46

The conflict’s irruption into campus life, when war was formally declared by the United States on April 6, 1917, caused the three senior societies to move Tap Day up by nearly a month from what had become its traditional date, the second Tuesday in May. Scroll and Key contacted Dean Frederick Jones with the message to be conveyed through him to Skull and Bones that they wanted to conduct initiation before most of the students left campus. Bones countered with the suggestion that elections—for which they had done no groundwork—be conducted in the week after spring vacation, with an accelerated Tap Day at week’s end, which was acceptable to both Keys and Wolf’s Head. Furthermore, since fifteen leading members of the junior class were now completing their school year, if not their schooling, in Florida, the societies declared they would send representatives there to offer election, as they had done in the past for candidates out of New Haven for illness or other excused absence.

On April 19 on the campus, Prescott Bush led off for Bones, to reach as his society’s first tap Newell Garfield, his baseball teammate, a basketball star, and an American president’s grandson. Thirty-two other men were elected that day in New Haven, including Lit. chairman John Farrar, later to found and chair the eponymous publishing house of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and, as the last man chosen for Bones, Charles P. Taft II, former President Taft’s son, basketball captain, football standout, and second highest scholar in his class. Keys’ elections in New Haven included Wilmarth Sheldon “Lefty” Lewis, to serve in World War II as the chief of the Central Intelligence Division of the Office of Strategic Services, a job secured through his friendship with Archie MacLeish, and thereafter to become a long-serving trustee of the Yale Corporation and the greatest collector of the works of Horace Walpole while editing the multi-volume edition of that Englishman’s letters. At his prep school graduation, Lewis had been urged to accept a Bones election by his headmaster, Sherman Day Thacher, founder of the Thacher School in California; another teacher there, related to the Rev. Joseph Twichell, told him that Keys was the better society.

Not tapped that day, to his surprise and humiliation, was a close friend of Farrar’s, Philip Barry, who was on the boards of the News and the Lit. A WASP from the fashionable Thacher School, Lefty Lewis was later to say about Barry, an Irish American public high school boy from Rochester, New York, that he was not “terrifically one of the boys” and that “nobody would have been surprised if he had been [tapped], but nobody was surprised that he hadn’t been.” Barry was to become one of the most fashionable playwrights of the second quarter of the twentieth century, author of Holiday and The Philadelphia Story, both comedies of manners later made into films with Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It must have been a sweet redemption that the honorary pallbearers at Barry’s death in 1949 included Bonesmen Gerald Murphy, Robert Lovett, and Artemus Gates, and two novelists renowned for examining the same American social class, John O’Hara and John P. Marquand.47

Earlier that same afternoon in Florida, just over thirteen weeks before the flying tests that would end in crippling Davison, the First Unit members gathered in the lobby of the Salt Air Hotel in West Palm Beach. Albert Olsen, former football manager and Yale senior, traveled there from New Haven to represent Bones, while unit member Samuel Sloan Walker, a senior, represented Keys; a Wolf’s Head elector was also present. Alternating turns, Olson and Walker clapped the backs of the chosen among the fifteen members of the junior class on hand and sent them off to their hotel rooms, each being cheered as he made his way up the stairs.

As widely reported in the following day’s newspapers, Bones’ Olsen directed crew manager Trubee Davison, Dramatic Association manager and Junior Prom floor manager Bob Lovett, football captain-elect Di Gates, Ten Eyck (and later DeForest) Prize winner and Record editor John Vorys, and football quarterback Alan Ames up to their rooms to accept formal election. For Scroll and Key, Walker tapped hockey stars Erl Gould and Chip McIlwaine, varsity crewmen Reg Coombe and George Lawrence, and football manager Curtis Read; not eleven months later, Read was to be killed in a seaplane accident, on February 26, 1918, at Dunkirk. Oliver James and Bill Rockefeller turned down Wolf’s Head taps, as did Lovett, and stayed downstairs with the remainder of the unit.

The few seniors on hand were already society members, and the underclassmen would have to wait another year for their opportunity. The society representatives sent a telegram to New Haven listing the Florida election results, confirming them by a telephone call, on a through wire arranged by a Bell Telephone executive who was a Bones graduate, to Trubee’s father Henry Davison’s office at J. P. Morgan in New York, and then relayed the same message to the societies’ respective headquarters in New Haven, all before the on-campus tap was held there in the late afternoon in the usual way.

Kenny MacLeish, swimmer, diver, pole vaulter, and active member of the Yale Home Mission, was the only junior to be completely passed over, an event his disappointed older brother was to call a “brutal business.” The younger MacLeish told his fiancée some seven months later “how terribly disappointed I was in not making a senior society”; the pain from the blow “almost kills me. I want to get to France and forget the whole thing and start over again.” He was to more than regain his honor, nominated by First Unit squadron commander Bob Lovett to be commander of Unit No. 2, in charge of 428 men and ten aircraft, a promotion he refused because it would bar him from flying. Less than a month before the war’s end, he was killed behind enemy lines on October 14, 1918, after destroying a German plane. Almost two weeks before, his best friend Di Gates had been shot down while in aerial combat in a French squadron; he was captured by the Germans, and survived, which Kenny was never to know. In World War II, Gates became assistant secretary of the Navy for Air, succeeding David Ingalls who held that post in 1919.48

Dean Jones, having intervened several times since the Sophomore Revolt to preserve the senior society system from its most objectionable excesses, now moved quickly to urge the eleven men tapped in Palm Beach to return for their initiations, and set in motion a series of telephone calls to secure the necessary permissions for all of them for a week’s leave. Their absence ultimately authorized by Secretary of the Navy Daniels, they departed Florida by private train for New Haven on the Saturday following their elections, and were thus enabled to be initiated in the usual place and way.49

However, despite the difficulty and drama of the election and the initiation for the class of 1918, the existential threat to the continuation of the senior society system was only now to be endured. At the thirtieth anniversary of Skull and Bones, in 1863, when Professor Timothy Dwight addressed the annual convention, the battle of Gettysburg was not a month past, and although two of Dwight’s classmates were then in service on the Confederate side, and a member of the Bones club of 1845, CSA Major William Connor, perished in that recent battle, no mention of this was made in his remarks: the Civil War had not forced its immediate presence into the college world. Ward Cheney, of the Bones club of 1896, went off to fight in the Spanish-American War and die in Luzon, leaving his $1,200 in government death benefits to his society, but his history was singular. In the First World War, the undergraduates’ response to their country’s military needs was dramatically different, draining away from campus the very members whose presence, with the inculcation of traditions in the densely packed senior year, guaranteed continuity.

When he left for Officers’ Training Camp in San Francisco, Lefty Lewis remarked to President Hadley that it would be easier to die for Yale than for the country because Yale was so intimate and close-knit, and the country so vast and diversified. The only occasion on which Lewis’s Keys delegation of 1918 was in their hall together their junior year was the all-night evening of their initiation. The same was true of the Bones club, and its delegation of 1919 never did manage a meeting of all fifteen. Similarly, over at Elihu, after the election of their 1918 delegation, only three members remained to carry on the club, and Thursday evening meetings were essentially abandoned.50

By June, only three Bonesmen remained in college, one of them the son of alumnus William Howard Taft, who heard his father vow with fellow society graduate members to do whatever was necessary to “continue the line.” The two undergraduates still on campus in the fall of 1917 met weekly on Thursdays, holding debates with whatever graduate members were on hand; by February 1918, those two were also in France. The uncertainty continued into the next year, after a decision at the society’s corporate midwinter meeting to hold elections for the class of 1919, with the directors empowered to choose the next club after conference and in conjunction with such undergraduate members as could be contacted in their overseas postings, and with fifteen being sought for election without reference to their being in the United States.

Inspired by Trubee Davison’s example, Ganson Goodyear Depew of the class of 1919, a grandson of Chauncey Depew’s brother, decided himself as a sophomore to form Aerial Coast Patrol Unit No. 2. For this effort he recruited Edward deCernea, Alexander McCormick, James Otis, John Jay Schieffelin, and four other members of this class and a man from the class of 1920, who together contributed funds for the purchase of Curtiss seaplanes in Ganson’s hometown of Buffalo, New York. They enlisted as second-class seamen at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in April 1917, then trained as mechanics in the Curtiss factory at the Navy’s direction. All of them passed their naval pilot’s flying test in the autumn of 1917, and Depew was soon made executive officer of the Pensacola Naval Air Station, but was bitterly disappointed when the excellence of his administrative abilities caused him to be kept stateside.

Five of the Second Unit were sent abroad, in November 1917, to England and France, where Ensign deCernea, before hearing by telegram of his election to Scroll and Key, successfully bombed a German submarine; he received the Croix de guerre and Legion of Honor from the French, before a crash ended his career and nearly his life. McCormick, barely four months after his election to Bones, was killed in a forced landing on September 24, 1918, becoming, as Yale News memorialized, the first of its editors to fall in service. In the Tap Day ceremonies for the class of 1920 held on May 15, 1919, when publishing in the Yale Alumni Weekly the society’s announcement of the tap of Henry Luce, Skull and Bones declared that it had been given by Winter Mead “for the late Alexander Andrew McCormick, Jr.”51

As early as March 1918, Alfred Bellinger of the class of 1917, serving in France with his air squadron, wrote to his society’s alumnus Dean Jones that he had constituted himself “a sort of central office for the French chapter” of Bones, offering to contact both graduate members and, when elected, the new members: “I am sure that all those over here will cooperate with me as far at their duties permit. I have the advantage of being well behind the lines at present and it is very unlikely that I shall be killed before June.” The Yale News announced in April 1918 that, for the elections to be held on May 16, “members of the Class of 1919 on leave for war service as well as those in residence will be eligible. . . . It is understood that elections of men absent on war service may be offered in time to make possible their announcement on Tap Day.”

Bones and Wolf’s Head each declared for News this article that it would not fill its entire complement of fifteen on Tap Day, but that further elections would be announced from time to time, while Keys expected to fill all its openings and would name its new members either on Tap Day or as soon thereafter as possible. Although more twentieth-century wars were to follow, the non–New Haven mass election ceremony in Palm Beach would never again be replicated, as men training for later wars did so in several locations instead of one. In the event, when Tap Day came that spring, it lasted over a month: with Bones, ten elections were offered on the stated day in May, and five in June. The remainder of the junior class in New Haven were asked to stay in their rooms between five and six P.M., but only three were elected there.

Others of the Bones contingent were given their elections, respectively, in Boston; in Oklahoma at Fort Devens and coming in from artillery practice at Fort Sill; in the lobby of the Hotel Belmont in New York City; on a station platform in New London, Connecticut, during a five-minute troop train stopover; in a Washington, D.C., hotel room at 3:22 A.M.; and four in France, although one of those had to be elected by mail since there was no graduate member nearby, and he was told to tap himself and mail the answer back to New Haven. Such a club required at least seven different initiations, spread over fourteen months (after the last normally should have graduated from college), at home and in France, at Saumur and other stations there, because of the difficulty for soldiers to obtain leave. For one initiate, Alexander McCormick Jr., this was his only attendance at the tomb in New Haven: he was killed near Calais, France, only three months later.

In Pensacola at the naval air station, executive officer Ganson Depew received a telegram on May 2 from George Parmly Day, class of 1897 and now the university treasurer, offering election to Scroll and Key. He got a second telegram the same day from Trubee Davison in New York, with an authorized offer of election to Skull and Bones, perhaps the only election to that society ever given by wire. In receipt of his acceptance, Davison sent a second telegram on May 4, advising Depew that initiation would be held on the eleventh, and urging him to obtain leave to attend in New Haven, as Davison’s class had secured in Palm Beach the year before. Joseph Swan, Bones alumnus of 1902 and then assistant director of the Department of Military Affairs in Washington, telegraphed Major Bayne in France on May 8 to inquire what had become of the offers of elections referred through Bayne and young Charley Taft for 1919’s Parker Allen and George Walker. Taft shortly thereafter telephoned Bayne about Allen’s affirmative, and the 1911 club’s Lieutenant Francis Randolph telegraphed him with Walker’s acceptance.

On May 10, 1918, before the scheduled day of election, for which there was no physical ceremony and on which day no society was to fulfill its quota of fifteen, Skull and Bones announced the names of the three men elected in New Haven, five in military service stateside, including Depew, and two in France with the American Expeditionary Force from whom no response had been received. These were Allen and Walker, whose acceptances by cablegram were announced in the News on May 21. Keys named four in New Haven, and six in service, with deCernea and Schieffelin added later, and Wolf’s Head chose four men in New Haven, including the already-published poet Stephen Vincent Benét, and four in service. Elihu joined these announcements with eight names in New Haven. By July, of the thirty men honored by Keys and Bones, twenty-nine were absent from college in the service of the government.52

“During the absence from the campus of practically all the members of the senior societies on military service,” reported the New York Times, “the older alumni were rumored to have carried on the business affairs of the societies, although strict secrecy prevented any of the details from reaching the public ear.” Trubee Davison served as a focal point for these efforts to sustain regular activities of his senior society while the members were so scattered. Weekly visits to the tomb for the current delegations were simply not possible, for the normal peacetime program, and initiations were particularly difficult, taking place when and where older members were in the same locale in sufficient numbers. New Haven resident graduates of the societies held meetings on Thursdays in their respective tombs during the American war years, inviting the few seniors then still on campus; one such gathering of Bones alumni in December 1918, without any undergraduates, utilized debate suggestions left from the last meeting of the club in attendance a year and a half before. Regular meetings of the three societies’ current delegations were resumed immediately after the signing of the armistice in November 1918.53

As the spring of 1918 advanced and the veterans returned from service to finish their degrees, the incomplete delegations for 1918 and 1919 were meeting on alternative nights in their tombs, using Wednesdays and Fridays, writing to their absent members about the renewed life of and in Yale College. For Tap Day on May 15, 1919, for the class of 1920, the elections were once more conducted exactly as in peacetime, without supervision from the graduates. With the campus again closed to visitors, the fifteen members of each of the three societies who were members of the class of 1919 appeared on the campus between the hours of five and six in the afternoon to choose from the three hundred members of the junior class. David Ingalls, captain of the hockey team and the only American ace in naval aviation—six kills, five in his first six weeks in combat—received the honor of the last man slapped for Bones, by Ganson Depew, and was elected alongside Trubee’s brother Harry Davison. In another echo of times past, three men refused Bones and went to Keys, including the man tapped by Unit 2 aviator John Schieffelin.

In their published election reports, both Bones and Keys noted that several of their electors were tapping on behalf of named seniors still on active duty overseas. At the last elections in 1918, for the first time in more than twenty years, both the editor in chief and the business manager of the Yale News had been passed over by all three societies, but this year the omission was made up, with the admission of men who had not served with the war heroes. These were Briton Hadden, tapped by Charles Haffner, and Henry Robinson Luce, tapped by the stand-in for the late Alexander McCormick, two men who were to embody the postwar spirit of the next decade, by founding Time magazine. Because Luce’s classmates included Harry Davison and David Ingalls, his magazine was to find his friends’ annual reunions of the First Naval Air Unit highly newsworthy.54

The month after this final Tap Day before the Roaring Twenties, in June 1919, at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, Yale began planning for a memorial for the university’s dead, the alumni agreeing to provide funds to construct a fitting memorial to express sentiment “rather than to serve any utilitarian purpose.” The architects of the Bicentennial Buildings created a massive limestone colonnade, suggested to some extent by the Temple of Jupiter Stator in Rome, placed along the southern façade of the dining hall Commons—at the time the largest World War I memorial in the United States. Names of the principal battles of the Great War were incised on the architrave above, and a terrace extended out from Commons supporting a large central block, comprised of an entablature and cenotaph, a monument erected to the dead but not containing remains. It was to be dedicated in June 1927, with Trubee Davison presenting the memorial on behalf of the alumni, honoring the memory of the 233 Yale comrades who perished of the “some ten thousand” who served.55


Arthur Howe


president, Hampton Institute

Gerald Clery Murphy


artist; president, Mark Cross Co.

Alfred Cowles


Cowles Communications

W. Averell Harriman


ambassador to USSR


ambassador to Great Britain


secretary of commerce


governor (N.Y.)


undersecretary of state


U.S. representative to Vietnam Peace Talks

Sidney Lovett


Yale University chaplain


professor of Biblical Literature, Yale

Thomas Leonard Daniels


board chairman, Archer Daniels Midland

Henry Wise Hobson


Episcopal bishop, Southern Ohio


president, Phillips Academy

Edwin Burtt


professor of Philosophy, Cornell

Archibald MacLeish


Pulitzer Prizes in poetry, drama


assistant secretary of state


librarian of Congress


Boylston Professor, Harvard


president, American Academy of Arts & Letters

Morris Hadley


cofounder, Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy


president, New York Public Library


chairman, Carnegie Corporation

Donald Ogden Stewart


author and screenwriter

Lawrence Tighe


treasurer, Yale

Alfred Bellinger


professor of Latin, Yale

E. Roland Harriman


chairman, Union Pacific Railroad


chairman, American Red Cross

Kenneth Farrar Simpson


U.S. attorney, Southern District of N.Y.


U.S. Congress (N.Y.)

Prescott Bush


U.S. Senate (Conn.)

H.S.F. Cooper


professor of Surgery, College of Physicians and Surgeons

Henry Neil Mallon


president, Dresser Industries

Howard Malcolm Baldrige


Congress (Neb.)

John Chipman Farrar


chairman, Farrar Straus & Giroux

Charles Phelps Taft


mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio

Charles Jacob Stewart


board chairman, Manufacturers Hanover Trust

John Martin Vorys


Congress (Ohio)

Frederick Trubee Davison


founder, Yale Naval Air Unit


U.S. assistant secretary of war (Air)


president, American Museum of Natural History


brigadier general, U.S. Air Force, World War II


director of personnel, Office of Strategic Services

Robert Abercrombie Lovett


U.S. undersecretary of state


U.S. secretary of defense (Truman)

Artemus Gates


first American air ace, World War I


president, N.Y. Trust Company


assistant secretary of the Navy for Air


U.S. undersecretary of Navy

Edwin McCrady Gaillard


chairman, Union & New Haven Trust Co.

Elmore Macneill McKee


Yale chaplain


William Christian Bullitt


first ambassador to USSR


ambassador to France

Mortimer Robinson Proctor


governor (Vt.)

John Adams Appleton


brigadier general, World War II

Albert Beecher Crawford


author, Football Y Men, Phi Beta Kappa Men of Yale

Cole Porter


composer, songwriter

Vanderbilt Webb


founder, Patterson, Belknap & Webb

Arnold Whitridge


professor of History, Arts & Letters, Yale

Samuel Sloan Colt


chairman, Port Authority of N.Y.

Henry Emerson Tuttle


artist, director, Yale Art Gallery

Dean Gooderham Acheson


U.S. secretary of state (Truman)


architect of Truman Doctrine

John Wesley Haynes


undersecretary of the Treasury

Wayne Chatfield Taylor


undersecretary of Commerce


president, Export-Import Bank


assistant secretary of the treasury

Daniel Collier Elkin


professor of Surgery, Emory

Otis Love Guernsey


president, Abercrombie & Fitch

Charles Pratt


president, Pratt Institute

John Henry Vincent


special assistant to secretary of Navy

Lawrence Newbold Murray


president, Mellon Nat’l Bank

Dickinson Woodruff Richards


professor of Medicine, Columbia

Lester Armour


chairman, Chicago National Bank

Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis


author, Walpole scholar


chief, Central Intelligence Division, OSS

John Franklin Enders


Nobel Prize in Medicine


professor of Bacteriology, Harvard

John Jay Schieffelin


rear admiral, U.S. Navy

Charles Gilbert Stradella


president, General Motors Acceptance Corp.


Arthur Bliss Lane


ambassador to Colombia, Poland

Ellsworth Bunker


ambassador to Argentina, Italy, India, Nepal, and South Vietnam

Richard K. Sutherland


MacArthur’s chief of staff

Philip Barry



Allan V. Heely


Lawrenceville School headmaster

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