CHAPTER TEN

image

DIVISIONS OF CASTE AND EXPANSION OF THE SYSTEM (1920–1939)

The new Yale, in so far as it is the creation of Messrs. Sterling and Harkness, is the expression of the alumni mind. Now the characteristic of the alumnus as such is that he is not so much interested in his university as an educational institution as he is in his university as the scene of his pleasant young manhood and the background of his oldest friendships. . . . The new Yale, that is to say, the new Yale of the $60,000,000 worth of buildings, the new Yale of the Colleges and the Sterling Library and the Payne Whitney Gymnasium, is the supreme, the perfect statement of the alumni point of view.

—Archibald MacLeish, “New-Yale,” Fortune, March 1934

THE PASSED-OVER: JEWS, BLACKS, AND PUBLIC HIGH SCHOOL MEN

The “democracy” of election to the senior societies could never be more fair and neutral than the dominant demographics of the Yale College student body permitted. This meant, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, that those who were not white Anglo-Saxons of the Protestant faith, and did not attend a preparatory school, were at a distinct statistical disadvantage on Tap Day. Only occasionally represented in the senior class pool of about three hundred members, Jews, Catholics, and African Americans in particular were thus unlikely to be chosen. Their continued absence in the ranks of society men was a constant and obvious rebuke to those who argued that all undergraduates in the Yale mix had a fair shot for the college’s supreme social honor. The finality and exclusiveness of the choosing created a faint and enduring fault line in the Yale brotherhood.

Beyond this, wealth in America’s Gilded Age had altered the character of Yale and other top-tier American educational institutions. It became so concentrated in the hands of so few, wrote E. Digby Baltzell, that “it is no wonder that the production of pig iron rather than poetry, and the quest for status rather than salvation, now took hold of the minds of even the most patrician descendants of the Puritan divines.”1 When wealthy businessmen sent their children to colleges like Yale, the presence of a significant affluent number, bearing a disproportionate influence on their fellow students, became an enduring element of social stratification.

For their offspring, the national upper class sought new modes of identification, such as a common educational experience in an exclusive boarding school, and then in one of a select set of Eastern colleges. The founding of the nation’s first country club (1882), the Groton School (1884), and the Social Register (1887) were all benchmarks in construction of a national chain of associations defining America’s social elite. Attended by the wealthy and fed by wealth, Yale symbolized the condition: a 1926 report on its thirty million dollars worth of property holdings named the university as the country’s wealthiest institution of learning.2

Still, admissions remained open, and Yale College was by no means an exclusive playground for the rich. Tuition had long been kept at modest levels, within the reach of many Americans—$39 in 1850, and $160 in 1914—and generous financial aid policies, both the college administration’s and those of sponsoring charities, permitted academically talented poor boys to attend. Fully 25 to 30 percent of the students were of an “underprivileged” status, and about 20 percent received scholarships in the 1930s.

Nevertheless, the aspirations of the newly wealthy for admission of their sons to one of the country’s preeminent colleges threatened to end this century-old tradition of social opportunity, and the shortage of student housing in New Haven led to concentrations of these monied offspring in private dormitories, where prep school graduates grouped to improve their chances of election to membership in the sophomore societies and junior fraternities, the gateways to the senior societies. Money had now become a major factor in achieving social success at Yale.3

Yale was unabashedly Christian, retaining compulsory daily and Sunday chapel until the mid-1920s. In contrast to Harvard, Yale’s admission form did not ask for the applicant’s race and religion. The university certified to the Carnegie Fund through President Hadley in 1906 that “no denominational test is imposed in the choice of trustees, officers, or teachers, or in the admission of students, nor are distinctly denominational tenets or doctrines taught to the students of Yale University.”4 Indeed, from the long middle of the nineteenth century, Jews were able to join Christian fraternities if they were interested. The class of 1869’s Lewis Ehrich was secretary of the freshman fraternity Kappa Sigma Epsilon, and Christian Yale encouraged his Jewish identity by excusing him from Sunday prayers on the condition that he attend Saturday service at a local synagogue.

Not until the 1870s was there a change in the view of American Jewry held by the general populace. By the end of that decade, Jews began to be publicly excluded from the social circles of the upper classes, and prejudice began to focus on both Jews and Catholics. Buttressing the Jewish stereotype on campus and throughout the nation was the arrival of immigrant Eastern European Jews, the first of whom arrived in New Haven in 1882, increasing forty-fold in number over the next four decades. At Yale in 1890, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity mounted a play called “Shylock: The Sarcastic Sheeny, or the Maneouvering Merchant of Verdant Venice.”5

Thirty-five years later, in March 1926, the Yale Daily News responded to Harvard’s new admissions policy in its consideration of “tests of character and personality as well as scholastic standards,” including requiring photo identification and background information regarding any change in paternal name, practices leading to easier exclusion of Jews. An editorial argued that “Yale must institute an Ellis Island with immigration laws more prohibitive than those of the United States government.” To keep the college open, “Yale would be justified even with her ideal of ‘service to the nation’ in sloughing off the unkempt at the same time she drops the unlettered.” The unkempt were not further described, but the reference was clear enough.

The bias of the Protestant ascendancy on the campus had counterpart biases in the disrespected minority which frustrated Jews’ election to the senior societies. Lewis Ehrich’s diary entry declaring disappointment in Skull and Bones for not rewarding scholarly merit was evidencing a strong difference in the educational values prevailing between Jewish students and their Christian classmates. Academic effort came to be placed well below the pedestal of an all-absorbing extracurricular life of sport and social competition. By the turn of the century, the campus slogan had become “We toil not, neither do we agitate, but we play football.”

By 1922, when the question of a quota on “Hebrew” enrollment at Yale became an administration concern, Jewish scholarly achievement was perceived as a detriment to the cohesion of an entering class in which the education of citizens was prized more than academic achievement: Dean Jones noted privately that “Some men say that they are not disposed to compete with Jews for first honors; they do not care to be a minority in a group of men of high scholarship record, most of whom are Jews.” Again, many of the Jews were on scholarships, which required a rank in the top quarter of the class to be renewed, a situation requiring intensive study which only reinforced their marginalization in campus life.6

Moreover, it was universally believed that the Jewish students were generally not interested in worshiping the college’s deity of team sports that so entranced their classmates, although there were exceptions to the rule, such as Robert Moses, class of 1909 and future New York city planner, who swam and championed other minor sports at Yale. This was itself part of a larger shift in the culture: where success had once been regarded as the culmination of a “race” in which victory went to the fleetest of foot, it was now a “game” in which one’s own activities were circumscribed not merely by the members of opposing groups but by members of one’s own group as well.7 Because the Jewish students, unlike many of their Gentile Yale brethren, concentrated as well on scholarship, their self-exclusion from varsity team sports in the pre–First World War era was a double-edged sword, removing them from the larger social scene and generating a handicap that existed away from the playing fields.

In other words, segregation of Jews arose from within as well as without, and rather than quarrel over the inherent evils of a caste system or mount a challenge to Yale society, Jewish students seem to have chosen to acquiesce, taking their assigned places in the hierarchy. Some as local residents may indeed have been off-campus members of the “Knights of Jerusalem,” founded by six young “townies” in 1871, which dominated for a few decades the New Haven Jewish young men’s world of 17- to 25-year-olds. The Knights were a mirror image of the exciting society world that they observed on the Yale campus, complete with their own motto, initiation ceremony, secret handshake, membership badge, debates and orations for the program, and the stated purpose of the “pursuance of exercise of a high literary character, and for the purpose of perpetuating friendship and brotherly love, as well as adhering to the laws of our forefathers in Jerusalem.”8

Thus, on account of their devotion to achieving good grades, disdain of team sport, and self-segregation, indifference to Jews existed in the fraternities alongside prejudice. Between 1900 and 1916, the annual fraternity elections at Yale brought into membership over 40 percent (roughly 2,000) of the Christian students, and 5 percent (exactly 9) of the Jews. These proportions were common at other universities nationally, and because young Jewish men wanted the benefits of Greek life that had been denied them because of their Judaism, the very first Jewish fraternity in the nation was founded at Yale in March 1895 by three Jews who identified the fraternity as “non-sectarian,” not particularly wanting to identify themselves as Jews. It soon branched out to Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, and MIT, among others, allowing Jewish students at these schools access to the Greek life that they were being denied in Gentile fraternities.9

Scions of American Jewry’s wealthiest financiers were members of Yale’s Christian fraternities, such as Joseph Seligman, class of 1908, in Psi Upsilon, and Robert Lehman, class of 1913, in Delta Kappa Epsilon. Occasionally some served as officers of campus fixtures: L. Richard Gimbel (1920, son of “Gimbel Brother” Ellis Gimbel) was business manager of the Yale Record. All had prep school credentials and were the descendants of German immigrants, but none of them were elected to a senior society, nor were any of their compatriots, although between 1900 and 1930 more than 1,200 Jews entered Yale. It cannot be said how much this exclusion was the product of a generally accepted philosophy, as opposed to a specifically implemented policy. Still, a national survey in 1927 evidenced that Yale was among eighteen American universities where Jewish collegians perceived “pronounced anti-Jewish feeling on the part of their fellow students.”

However, Jew and Gentile alike were aware that the Jewish numbers at Yale had steadily increased: the number more than tripled from 1902 to 1921. The Academic class of 1901 was only 2 percent Jewish, and in 1909 was still less than 3 percent, while the class of 1915 had a Jewish enrollment of almost 8 percent, and the class of 1925—freshmen in the year 1921—were over 13 percent Jewish, a percentage not to be surpassed until 1962, when the proportion was 14.2 percent. Many if not the majority of these were “townies” from New Haven or nearby cities (half of the in-state Jewish collegians, and 10 percent of all Yale undergraduates), and those living at home did not feel they belonged to Yale, being third-class citizens of the undergraduate republic.

One of them, Eugene Rostow of the class of 1933, who entered Yale on one of the college’s eight scholarships given to New Haven’s public high schools (a reason his Ukrainian Jewish parents had relocated to the city from New Jersey). He was later to serve as dean of Yale Law School, the first Jewish master of a Yale residential college, President Lyndon Johnson’s undersecretary of state, and President Reagan’s head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Rostow authored “The Jew’s Position” for the iconoclastic undergraduate journal The Harkness Hoot in November 1931. “The Jew,” he declared, “along with the artistic, the intellectual, the ‘queer,’ and the ‘furrin,’ has been classified as unsocial and socially impossible in this world of money, conformance, and uniformity.” As a junior Phi Beta Kappa, water polo team swimmer, member of Alpha Delta Phi and the Elizabethan Club, Lit. writer, and future winner of the Yale faculty’s greatest award for senior class citizenship, the Alpheus Henry Snow Prize, he thought in May 1933 that he would be the first Jew tapped by Bones or another senior society, and feared he could not resist the temptation. To put it beyond doubt, he had a good friend of his, opposed to the secret society life, drive him out of town on election day, so as not to be found to be tapped.10

Nevertheless, at a time when resorts around the country publicly advertised their racial and religiously biased prohibitions, Yale collegians were not inclined to widen their societies’ ranks to those of their college class so publicly identified as social pariahs. The Elihu Club had exhibited notable broad-mindedness in electing a Native American in 1910, but the very next year in a fall 1911 debate, the class of 1912 voted unanimously for the motion “That Jews should be denied recognition at Yale.”11 While not so formally or frankly expressed elsewhere, it seems probable that this attitude was generally shared by the other societies, and it is patent that their annual election results evidenced that sentiment. No formalities of final division were enacted prior to Tap Day, but the preceding lower-class years of undergraduate caste formation clearly created gaps between those social strata, even if the prep school Brahmins had not imported their social exclusivity from home, the patterns of discrimination passed on by inheritance.

As for Catholics, immigrants of this faith were historically less inclined than the Jews to send their children to colleges like Yale. In Robert Moses’s freshman class entering in 1905, of 351 members, five were Jews—listed as “Hebrews” in the Freshman Blue Book—and eighteen were Catholics, lumped with the Jews under “Miscellaneous Denominations.” American Catholics had lower regard for advanced education, warned by their bishops and priests not to educate their offspring beyond their proper station in life, but the same clergy also warned of the dangers found in non-Catholic institutions, to be avoided when their own centers of learning—especially Georgetown, Holy Cross, Fordham, and the Catholic University of America—were readily available.

While prior to the Second World War more Catholics than Jews attended Yale, the percentage of Catholics in New Haven was just below the national average, while the percentage of Jews was greater than their representation on other campuses. The Yale College class of 1904, for example, was 2.8 percent Jewish and 6.1 percent Catholic at a time when Jews represented less than 2 percent and Catholics about 12 percent of the national population; in 1934–35, the freshman class was 8.7 percent Jewish and 13 percent Catholic, when Jews comprised close to 4 percent and Catholics roughly 16 percent of all Americans. Not many of these Catholics, incidentally, were from New Haven, where the Italian population grew from 7 percent of the inhabitants in 1900 to over 25 percent in 1930, because the number graduating from high school was very small, and the Yale policy of admitting a fair number of New Haven sons did not lead to an “Italian problem.”12

Still, Yale’s official and social conduct did not consistently reflect the anti-Catholic bias prevailing nationally, when the pronouncements of the Ku Klux Klan were as anti-Catholic as they were anti-black. No evidence exists of a quota system ever limiting Catholic enrollment at Yale, and these students enjoyed a greater degree of social success at Yale than any other group of non-Protestants or nonwhites. Many were varsity athletes and belonged to junior fraternities and senior societies: in 1912, there were three known Catholics in the junior fraternities Alpha Delta Phi, nine in Delta Kappa Epsilon, four in Zeta Psi, and two known Catholics that year in each of Bones, Keys, Wolf’s Head, and Elihu.

Further evidence that Catholics found welcome and status on campus, such that their religious background did not interfere with full acceptance in Yale social life, is shown by the career of Father T. Lawrason Riggs, B.A. 1910. Lit. editor, president of the Dramatic Association, and a Keys man who served as Catholic chaplain at Yale from 1922 to 1943, Riggs maintained close associations each year with the series of Keys delegations. The novelist John O’Hara was late in life to write in a letter to his stepson at Yale, which the novelist did not attend but wished to, where he would have been a member of the class of 1927: “At Yale I probably would have made Bones (and wanted Keys) on literary accomplishment, and with little or no consideration of my being a Catholic, which I was then.”13

Fewest in number by far of the identifiable religious or ethnic components of the student body were African Americans. Yale encouraged exceptional blacks to attend by awarding them scholarships; some were transfer students from southern Negro colleges such as Talladega and Tuskegee, while a few came from New England private schools, and several were local youths. Still, only six blacks seem to have attended Yale College between 1853 and 1904, the most academically successful being William Pickens, a Talledega transfer who won the Ten Eyck Prize in 1903 (among thirty-five contestants in a class of three hundred) and was, like the class of 1874’s Edward Bouchet before him, elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Pickens, having worked his way through Yale College by washing pots and pans at the YMCA, was so thrilled by his Ten Eyck victory that an entire chapter in his memoirs of 1911 was devoted to his success. The complications of caste at this date are exemplified by his reminiscence: “The appreciation of my classmates was generous. When my name was seen among the ten [finalists], there was a mixture of amused and sympathetic interest. The proportion of amusement was overdone only by one Jew who was an unsuccessful aspirant for the honor and who referred to me as ‘the black Demosthenes.’ I told him it would have been more Jewlike for him to say black David, or black Jacob.” Pickens makes no comment on the senior society system, except perhaps obliquely: “I had been with the class two years, just the time required to merit a Phi Beta Kappa key, if one’s scholarship warranted . . . The Phi Beta Kappa Society is based on scholarship, and Yale is a very democratic community.”14

From 1853 to 1923, about thirty African Americans received their undergraduate degrees from Yale College. There were sufficient black collegians in 1909 to form the Yale chapter of the black student fraternity of Alpha Phi Alpha, founded at Cornell in 1906, limited to “Negro male” students and having ancient Egyptian motifs; Yale’s chapter, after struggles, was reactivated in 1913 with twelve brothers, only to disappear again in the war years, although there were five blacks in the class of 1916. Even this modest level of black representation was further reduced after selective admissions began: only seven African Americans graduated from Yale between 1924 and the end of the Second World War despite increases in class size during that period.15

W.E.B. Du Bois found no evidence of discrimination against blacks in the Yale admission process in 1910, and again in 1926,16 and university president James Rowland Angell in 1926 expressed his pride in Yale’s having avoided the Princeton tradition of systematically excluding blacks, even though this tolerance might have discouraged racially conscious Southerners from attending Yale. Involved in the debate over limitation of Jewish enrollment, Dean Robert Corwin (class of 1887, 1886 football captain, Bones, and chairman of the Board of Admissions from 1919 to 1933), stated in 1931 that “there has never been any negro question here, nor has the necessity been felt for adopting a policy of determining our acceptance of negroes or our treatment of them.” Still, as of 1931, perhaps partly due to the Depression, there was only one African American in the undergraduate school.17 While an undercurrent of antiblack feeling on campus existed, the failure of African Americans to be chosen for senior societies before the Second World War was as much a function of their extremely few numbers as anything else.18

Finally, the public school/private school social barriers at Yale were also fully evident in society elections, where a preparatory school background, because of pre-college networks of friendship, was a tremendous asset to society election, as were family traditions of attendance and society membership down the generations. The Carnegie Foundation survey for 1909 had found that Yale drew a higher percentage of its students from prep schools (65 percent) than any comparable institution except Princeton (78 percent); in 1916, just 26 percent of freshmen were from public schools, and only 12 percent came from west of the Mississippi River. By 1934, with the Great Depression’s economic pressures, the proportion of high school graduates in the freshman class had decreased to 25 percent, with 68 percent of them from New England, and only 3 percent from west of the Mississippi.19

From the early 1900s through the 1940s, between 40 and 60 percent of Yale freshmen were educated in private preparatory schools, with another 10 to 20 percent adding a year or two at a private school to their public education. By way of comparison, about 50 to 60 percent of Harvard freshmen and about 70 to 90 percent of those at Princeton were private school graduates. Of these percentages, however, only about half or less were really part of the so-called prep school crowd of the socially elite. The other half were the sons of middle-class business and professional families, who attended a local or neighboring private school of modest social reputation for a few years before going off to college.

The prep school crowd chose to attend Harvard, Yale, and Princeton because of alumni connections, college reputation, or private school affiliation. They were the graduates of the twenty or so best private schools, mostly located in New England. (In the Depression era, only about 10 to 12 percent of the country’s high school graduates were inclined to attempt college; since Greek and Latin were still required, a common route was high school and then a preparatory year or two, hence the name prep school.) At the top of the social hierarchy were the five Episcopal boarding schools known as the “St. Grottlesex” group: St. George’s, St. Mark’s, St. Paul’s, Groton, and Middlesex. Together with about a dozen others, these schools provided the candidates for Harvard’s ten final clubs, about 11 or 12 percent of the sophomore, junior and senior classes. This and similar groups of private schools sent to Princeton the candidates for the dozen or so upperclass eating clubs, and of course to Yale. future junior fraternity and senior society men.20

Thomas Bergin of the class of 1925, an Italian American townie on a scholarship for New Haven natives and later holder of the Sterling Chair of Romance Languages and master of Timothy Dwight College, was to remember that all of the football players in his class came from the prep schools, which provided better coaching. The same proved true for the News board (“High school boys were less likely to have training in that sector, too, and most of them could not afford the time that ‘heeling’ required”), and only three public high school boys his year were tapped for Bones. “[F]undamentally,” he concluded, “it was simply a question of money; we high school boys could not afford to waste time. Many of us spent our extra-curricular hours in gainful employment.” Of sixty senior society neophytes elected four years later in 1928, only two had come for college in New Haven from a public high school.21

Stephen Vincent Benét, who was a prep school product (although, from Albany Academy, not one of the grand ones) and served as Lit. chairman for his class of 1919, prepared a series of satirical poems for a drinking and singing group called the Vorpal Blades. Never published as proposed under the title “The Songs of Dear Old Yale,” the verses contained one line that sometimes appeared afterwards in magazine articles on the Yale senior societies, “I have seen that poor, dumb, pleading look, as in pre-butchered steers,” and depicted the social terrors of Tap Day:

And they all shook hands together beneath the old elm tree,

In the same old fix when the clock struck six and there they seemed to be,

When Bones passed by, and Keys gave cry, and Wolf’s Head jeered with glee,

When Hope went marching on.

Another of that set of verses, “The Uncollegiate Damned,” imagined the jeers of the passed-over, the triumvirate of the public high school men with the more recognizable castes of Jews and blacks, glorying in their unworthiness:

We never called Rosenberg ‘Rosy’

We never wore Brooks Brothers’ clothes,

Our Campaign Committees were rare as red kitties,

We slandered the News heeler’s prose.

We were seldom respectable souses,

We often said ‘Gracious!’ and ‘Hell!’

So with Hebrews and niggers we’re prominent figgers

When the Bones men burst out from Battell!22

In his first novel, The Beginning of Wisdom, published only one year after his graduation, Benét wrote more seriously that “Distinct cleavage between prep-school and non prep-school exists only in Freshman year to any extent—and then generally in the mind of the non prep-school man. For a Yale class, like most real and historic democracies, begins with a hereditary aristocracy, grows tired of it and knocks out its underpinnings so that its members slide gently back into the general mass.” Nevertheless, the quasi-preppie Benét was himself tapped for Wolf’s Head, and as late as 1942, public school graduates made up only 6 percent of the senior society men, compared to 25 percent of the freshmen.

Meanwhile, the number of Yale alumni sons was steadily increasing: in 1924 they comprised only 13.2 percent of the class, rising to the twentieth percentile in the 1930s. More than 30 percent of the freshmen in the late 1930s were themselves sons of Yale men, with perhaps half having a Yale grandfather, uncle, or older brother. Society membership reflected this trend: in the Bones club of 1938, three of the fifteen had brothers in the society and two had uncles (but of their seven children who attended Yale in the next generation, none were tapped for Skull and Bones).23

Ultimately, the social situation at Yale at this time (replicated at Harvard and Princeton) demonstrates that the actualization of democratic principles, such as individual merit and equal opportunity, was severely limited by the structure of existing networks inherited from before World War I, and by the way in which rights and opportunities were seen as the property of individuals. This was exquisitely evidenced by the reversal of the Harvard policy of 1922 which had excluded blacks from freshman dormitories, a reversal accompanied by the Harvard Board of Overseers’ ruling simultaneously that “men of the white and colored races cannot be compelled to live and eat in the same dormitory if they object to members of the other race.” As in business and society, the justification for maintaining inequalities based on racial and ethnic differences in the colleges—and thus in the Yale senior societies—was the right of private association.24

Still, the preeminent historian of Jews at Yale, Dan Oren, has written that “In hindsight, it seems that the vanguard of the profound changes in the Yale of the early 1960s was the undergraduate of the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, the Yale social system—based more on breeding than merit—was as strong as ever. In general, people flocked to be with their own kind: some by choice, some because of no other choice. Yet, beneath the surface, the forces that would later permit Jews, Catholics, blacks, public school graduates, poor students, and all at the bottom of the pyramid to claim Yale, once again, to be as much their own as anyone else’s, was almost imperceptibly gathering force. The university spirit was slowly invading the college. . . . Undergraduates were beginning to learn that the hidden meaning of university was diversity.”25

They were to learn of that diversity primarily through the creative disruption of the College Plan, funded by the munificent gift of Edward S. Harkness, a senior society graduate of 1897 attempting to bring to all collegians the remembered warmth of that particular social experience, in building luxurious dormitories with attendant amenities. These were essentially massive fraternity houses without admission fees beyond normal tuition, and comprised a mandated Yale democratic community within which all undergraduates must reside. While erasing the economic disparity in housing comfort, the creation of Yale’s residential college system, weakening through compelled dispersion the old social networks of prep school familiarity, was ironically to help save a pillar and product of that older regime, the senior society system itself.

A NON–SENIOR SOCIETY PRESIDENT

The growth of diversity was to begin, shortly into the decade of the 1920s, with a new president for Yale, who was not even a graduate of the College, let alone a product of the senior society system there.

In June 1921 Arthur Hadley, class of 1876, Bones, and Yale’s president since 1899, announced his retirement. His personal candidate for replacement was university secretary Angus Phelps Stokes, 1896 and Bones, who had served as Yale’s second most important officer for every year of Hadley’s presidency. The Yale Corporation then appointed a committee of five of its own members, chaired by Samuel H. Fisher ’89, a lawyer who worked with the Harkness family in management of their philanthropies. The committee’s members represented varied interests: Academic and Sheffield Scientific; Bones (Fisher and Nathan Smyth ’87) and Keys (John Villiers Farwell ’79, the first “westerner” to serve as Alumni Fellow); the cities of New Haven, New York, Pittsburgh, and Chicago; and business and manufacturing in addition to ministry and law.

Within the twenty-two-year span of Hadley’s administration, the clerical element on the Corporation had been substantially reduced: among the ten self-perpetuating Successor Trustees, only four were ministers, and of the six Alumni Fellows, elected since 1872 by the university’s graduates, not a single one wore the cloth. Now, Yale’s governing body was dominated by financiers and industrialists, not Protestant ministers. Furthermore, of the sixteen members of the full board, almost a dozen were graduates of the senior societies: five of Bones, four of Keys, and two from the Sheff fraternities.

Further electoral complications were added by regional rivalries and personal enthusiasms and enmities, on top of the society affiliations of several of the leading candidates. Beyond Stokes’ Bones affiliation, the rival contenders were Keys alumni: university treasurer George Parmly Day and George E. Vincent of the Rockefeller Foundation (and former president of the University of Chicago). Fisher’s papers declare that the Corporation’s members on the whole rose above party consideration, although in the informal balloting, preferences tended to follow the tomb: few Bones votes were counted for any Keys graduate, and there were virtually no Keys votes for Stokes, as the Keysmen were joining with the graduates of the Middle West in favor of Vincent or in organized opposition to Stokes. The latter was hobbled in this race from the start: his effectiveness as Hadley’s enforcer had gained him many enemies. Furthermore, Stokes was a clergyman, and Yale University was now too secularized to return to the nineteenth-century practice of minister presidents.

The Fisher Committee came up with eighty names for the Corporation’s review, to be considered under three heads, namely officers and members of the Yale faculty, Yale graduates and others servicing at other educational institutions, and non-educator achievers in other walks of life. Nominees considered, among others, included Bones’ William Howard Taft, Henry Stimson, Corporation Fellow Henry Sloane Coffin, and Professor Charles Seymour, who became university president next time around; Keys’ Frank L. Polk, the head of the American delegation at the Versailles peace conference; four other members of the Corporation, including Fisher; and future U.S. president Herbert Hoover. In the end after a thirteen-month search, a dark horse candidate was elected unanimously: James Rowland Angell, professor of psychology and then dean at the University of Chicago, and at this date president of the Carnegie Corporation. Not since the long-ago days of Harvard-bred rectors had Yale chosen a president who was not a graduate of its college.

In the months after his election, Angell was flooded with correspondence from alumni concerning the senior societies, some begging him to suspend judgment, while others urged their abolition with vehemence. He had brought a knowledgeable recent graduate into the center of his administration, naming as university secretary a member of the class of 1921, Robert Maynard Hutchins, voted by his class most likely to succeed, and a member of Wolf’s Head, who would go on to become dean of Yale Law School and then president of the University of Chicago. Angell accepted an honorary membership in the Sheff society Berzelius, a status long offered to administration and faculty members—Angell was indeed the fourth Yale president to be so named—and in time he came to think those societies neither wholly good nor bad, but variable from year to year. The new president made tentative efforts to enlist their help, on outbreaks of cheating, the drinking problem, and women visitors to campus, but found their members either afraid to jeopardize such influence as they still retained lest it be rejected, or hesitant to sit in moral judgment on their classmates.26

This university president’s major and lasting impact on their continued existence was in changing the college’s admissions standards, and thus the raw material for their elections. He spoke of Yale’s national mission, and the consequent desirability of such entrance standards as would admit the able high school student from the West. Yale should take high school boys into its confidence, he argued in his inaugural address, and try to bring in the rare outstanding boy, however irregular his previous training, because of the tonic effect his presence would exercise on the undergraduate atmosphere. The president periodically urged Yale’s graduates to increase the scholarship funds, so that no deserving candidates need be prevented from applying or later have to resign.

In these several ways, President Angell advocated a search for the ablest and most serious schoolboys, located through canvassing a greater number of regions and schools, attracted through an increase in regional scholarships, and sifted for admission through maintenance of the most rigorous and accurate possible testing with adoption of the new Scholastic Aptitude Tests. As the quality of the student body improved, he championed higher undergraduate educational standards, challenging the class leaders, whose very high levels of ability and background he respected, by deploring their neglect of scholastic opportunities after arriving at Yale. He repeatedly called attention to the fact that high school graduates, often of poorer background and training, consistently did much better in both their studies, standing higher, earning more honors, and losing fewer men by flunking. Because the senior societies had long ago seized control of the most coveted accolade for success in the Yale democracy, attention had to be paid to Angell’s repeated message.27

TAP DAY REDIVIVUS

In December 1919, having previously announced its second election results for the class of 1920 (including four collegians just returned from war service), the Elihu Club published an announcement that it would give out its 1920 spring elections at the same time and place as “the other Senior Organizations,” while adhering to its customs of offering additional elections in the fall to men chosen by the incoming members from their own class, and of having no stated number of members. Notwithstanding this self-inclusion into the Tap Day tradition for the class of 1921, the 1920 delegation insisted that it would “not become a Senior Secret Society,” having abjured secrecy for its seventeen years of existence. Still, Elihu was becoming more like its fellow senior clubs: it created in that year a gold badge, a copy of the seal of its namesake Elihu Yale, with distribution of instructions on its display, “as a pin over the hollow of the shoulder by all undergraduates except with a dress suit or tuxedo, when it is to be worn over the lower left pocket.”28

The revived ceremony could have had no more enthusiastic publicist than Henry Robinson Luce, a Yale missionary’s son hailing from Tengchow, China, and managing editor of the Yale News board, to which he had returned in January 1919 from military camp with his Hotchkiss School friend and longtime rival Briton Hadden, now News chairman. The two were later to be voted by their classmates as, respectively, “most brilliant,” and “most likely to succeed,” although only Luce was to make Phi Beta Kappa and win the DeForest Prize. In the upperclassmen’s absence on war duty, they had effectively managed the News from their sophomore year onward. Luce had written on to the Lit., and was elected to its chairmanship after losing the News election to Hadden, but reconsidered and resigned when he was warned that the Lit. post might be a disqualifier for society election, since it was now considered too remote from the “grand old Yale” of the senior societies to impress the Bonesmen, and furthermore, Luce had broken the unwritten rule that senior News editors were to steer clear of roles on other publications.29

He was plunged into despair when the New York Times article on the revival of Tap Day mentioned nine men as Bones prospects, including Hadden, but not Luce. Luce wrote his parents that Hadden took him for a walk to propose getting “ten of the sure Bones men together to make it known that none of them would go Bones without” Henry, but he declined, arguing that “Bones means everything for Yale, and that bucking it did no good for the college which means so much to us.” Hadden’s letter home after elections on May 15, 1920, expressed quiet satisfaction, commenting that “most of the fellows I think most of went Bones too . . . Luce for example” (along with David Ingalls and Harry Davison, Trubee’s brother, to rise to the presidency of J. P. Morgan, and Thayer Hobson, who later ran the publishing company William Morrow & Company).

Harry’s letter to his parents the next day was more ebullient: “[Y]our elder son received a terrific smack across the shoulders, delivered him by Winter Mead, 1919, Captain of the Crew and President of Phi Beta Kappa, and a member of the so-called society of Skull and Bones. And you can easily imagine that said son upon being told to go to his room did so go, and did moreover vouch for his being Henry Robinson Luce, and did accept an election to the so-called society! . . . I am sure you can imagine what perfect satisfaction is mine.”30

The Hadden-Luce relationship even within their society’s halls was contested: their club scrapbook contained a drawing of them on horseback, dueling with lances, because each was the greater warrior for facing the other. Still, their fraught partnership, within the network of their club and society alumni, was to have remarkable consequences for the history of American journalism: the invention of the weekly newsmagazine. In January of 1921, Hadden and his clubmate John Hincks went to Houston to usher at the wedding of another member of the Bones delegation of 1920. Hadden jumped off the train at least twenty times to buy a local paper and talked incessantly of starting a periodical publication based on newspaper accounts. As he explained it later, “I got an idea to start a magazine which comes out Friday with all the news condensed so . . . rich millionaires commuting home for the weekend can catch up on the news they missed.”31

Hadden joined Luce as young reporters together at the Baltimore News while planning this project, which was to become Time magazine, but a stock plan which left the two young men in control discouraged investors. Then their society clubmate Harry Davison bought forty shares and passed the prospectus along to J. P. Morgan senior partner Dwight Morrow, who also purchased forty shares, giving the fledgling publishers the imprimatur to attract further investors, and the enterprise was launched in 1923.32 Hadden died young, in 1929, and his role in creating the Time-Life-Fortunepublishing empire was eclipsed, but he is remembered in the Yale Daily News headquarters, the Briton Hadden Memorial Building, where Harry Davison spoke for the building committee at the dedication in April 1932.

As managing editor of the News board of 1920, Luce had the pleasure of announcing his own Bones club’s election in what was to become the traditional location in the right-hand column of the daily’s front page for reporting (outside the headline, and with no further commentary) only the names of those tapped, their electors, and refusals. Luce transgressed convention by including sub-headlines—“David Ingalls Last Man Tapped for Skull and Bones; DeForest Van Slyck First”—which had never in News history been devoted to exclusive, biased attention to a single society. Luce was compelled to issue an apology, shifting the blame the next day: “The Managing Editor hereby apologizes for his oversight in not correcting the headlines submitted by a reporter, on the Senior Societies’ elections, so as to make them conform to the traditional NEWS policy of mentioning no names in the headlines of all articles dealing with society elections.”33

While their members may have been largely abroad in World War I, the societies still exerted the same gravitational pull on the undergraduates in residence on campus. Stephen Vincent Benét (called his class of 1919’s “most distinguished classmate” at their twenty-fifth reunion—in 1929 he had won his first Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, following the publication of John Brown’s Body, and received his second posthumously in 1944) as an underclassman had thumbed his poetical nose at the august senior societies: “I haven’t the brains to go Bones,/I haven’t the looks to go Keys,/I’m too much of a dub/To go Elihu Club/So I’ll do as I (very well) please.34 In the growing senior society tradition of electing blasphemers, he was tapped by Wolf’s Head.

“I hope to God,” he wrote a classmate in July 1918, “you haven’t accepted an election to that bastardly Elihu Club. If you have, cancel it! There is nothing in our [Wolf’s Head] customs to prevent us taking a man in Elihu Club—but he forfeits his membership in E.C. by so doing—a thing which should not cause you great sorrow.” Sending on the gossip of the names elected so far, he concluded: “Well, I can’t tell you how damn glad I will be to share all the hush stuff we have so consistently blatted upon . . . At least I can assure you of one thing—there is one Senior Society which does not believe in Prohibition!”35 In his first novel, a roman à clef appearing in 1921, he recounted that his protagonist “promptly went to Wolf’s Head with [three friends]—thus breaking a tradition as old as the Lit. itself, that its chairman went to Skull and Bones or nowhere—and for once in his life felt completely content with one of his own decisions. Keys he never considered, and Keys had repaid the compliment.”36

The New York Times in its preelection article on the imminence of Tap Day in 1919 reminded its readers of the ceremony’s hallowed prewar features, now revived: the appearance of the three societies’ members on campus between 5:00 and 6:00 P.M. on a Thursday afternoon to offer the favored few elections near the historic fence on the “old quadrangle.” No “horoscopes” appeared this year, but “shrewd guesses . . . are made by the undergraduates, based upon the records and inclinations of the prominent members of the junior class.” Some of the strictures introduced after the prewar Sophomore Revolt were retained, in the closing of the campus, and the on-ground attendance of only the two upper classes.

Except for one year, custom and circumstance were not to change very much for the next two decades’ worth of elections. As promised, Elihu appeared on campus for the first time on Tap Day on May 19, 1921, to choose its next delegation; it proved a rocky start, with ten acceptances and seven refusals. The New York Post the following spring opined: “Elihu, which emphasizes no secret aspect and has human windows in its house, seems to be abandoning a highly desirable service by participating in ‘Tap Day’ at all. Its theory has been to ‘tap’ about ten, and a week later to elect the remaining five. This enabled Elihu to rectify in a measure the mistakes and omissions of the others . . . and election to Elihu was a rather special honor, because it represented a cool second thought and took in men of solid but perhaps less obvious qualities. The tendency now, however, seems to be for Elihu to join the common ceremony. Many of the best and most judicious men in both student body and faculty reject the change.”37

Although the New York Times had begun reporting the first and last men tapped by Keys, as well as by Bones, the leveling out of the societies’ respective reputations can be seen over these decades. The first man tapped for Bones in 1923 refused and joined Wolf’s Head, and Elihu rebounded, with eleven acceptances (including future Yale Librarian James Babb) and only one refusal. The next year, Elihu gathered in fourteen against a single turndown, while Bones suffered two rebuffs and Wolf’s Head and Keys one apiece. One of Bones’ 1924 turndowns was Simon Whitney, who had also refused election to all five junior fraternities. One of Keys’ 1924 acceptances was varsity and Olympic champion oarsman Benjamin Spock, who was to write the book Baby and Child Care, which guided the upbringing of millions of infant Americans from the late 1940s through the decades that followed. In spring 1925, Elihu managed to elect a full fifteen, enduring only two turndowns to Bones’ four, which included John Hay Whitney and another who went to Keys, and two to Wolf’s Head.38

The New York Times pre–Tap Day article for 1926 pointed out to its readers that when a slapped junior refused to budge, he was taking his chances, “because it is an ironclad rule at Yale that no member of the junior class shall be pledged in advance by a senior society. Two or three refusals of [each of] the different societies occur almost every year, almost all based on local reasons.” One example of this was the choice of John Hay “Jock” Whitney, son of Bonesman Payne Whitney (1898), who was to leave at his death in 1927 the largest estate, at $178 million, ever appraised to that date in the United States, and grandson of Bonesman William C. Whitney, class of 1863, who was secretary of the Navy for Grover Cleveland, as well as of John Hay, secretary of state for Theodore Roosevelt. Notwithstanding his ancestors’ membership, young Whitney believed Bones to be ridiculously secret, but moreover, as a polo player and second university crew stroke (credited with coining the term “crew cut” for that haircut), he was more impressed with Keysmen Louis Stoddard and Watson Webb, constituting half of the first United States polo team ever to beat Great Britain, and the Keys members who numbered five of the eight oarsmen who had won the gold medal in the 1924 Olympics.39

Similar personal predilections swayed the son of treasury secretary Andrew Mellon, vice chair of the News Paul Mellon, standing in the Branford College courtyard on Tap Day two years later in 1928, when two hands came down on his shoulders as the first man tapped that season by both Bones and Keys. Mellon, who was later to name one of his stable of thoroughbreads “Branford Court,” calmly smoked a cigarette while the two society representatives stood behind him for five minutes, waiting for the clock to strike, then “said in a low voice, ‘Scroll and Key,’” and walked from the enclosure. He recollected in his memoirs that unlike Bones, which took the “more visible and prominent juniors,” Scroll and Key was “likely to tap rather easygoing types and perhaps a more heterogeneous mixture of athletes, humorists, literary aspirants, and socialites . . . I accepted [Keys] since I had a fair idea that several of my closest friends would be going that way, too.” Mellon’s later service on the Yale Corporation with Jock Whitney gave the university a one-two philanthropic punch the likes of which few other academic institutions have ever matched (Mellon’s most notable gifts being the Clare Fellowships to the University of Cambridge, and the Yale Center for British Art).40

The ceremony and system continued to attract criticism, both local and national, but the critical themes were old ones: first, the societies did not elect men (or perhaps, enough men) for non-social distinction, and second, the system itself was corrupted by non-scholarly ambition. Even the Yale Alumni Weekly, after the 1929 elections, found that while “Elections to the Senior Societies at one time meant ‘recognition’ of leadership and distinguished performance in the undergraduate world, plus character, and for that reason were ‘honors’ so recognized by the Campus at large,” a change had come. “The great size of the Classes since the War (running to over 500 men), the rise of the Junior Fraternities as social clubs and the mixing of all Classes in class-room work, have been subtly and steadily changing all this, so that the character of the Senior-Society elections—and hence their importance on the Campus—within the last few years has materially altered.”41

What had been said at the turn of the century about the baleful influence of the banned sophomore societies was now being laid three decades later at the feet of the junior fraternities, but the senior societies cannot have felt, by the examples of college leaders in sports, publications, and social eminence invited to join them, that they were sailing under false colors, as measured by results. Bones continued to seek out anointed leaders of the campus’s leading social and athletic organizations, and Keys, at Jock Whitney’s election, took in as well the News chairman, the student council president, the prom chairman, and the captains of the football, baseball, and hockey teams.42

For the outside world, the Owen Johnson of the 1920s was Henry F. Pringle, a Cornell man (and a decade later the author of a two-volume biography of William Howard Taft). He weighed into the debate with a long article in the January 1929 Harper’s titled “Young Men on the Make.” Centering his attention on Yale as exemplary, although not without brief sideswipes at Harvard, Princeton, Dartmouth, and even Cornell, Pringle described a type of modern undergraduate whom he characterized as calmly ambitious, self-seeking, and materialistic; who sought the laurels of extracurricular activity to exchange them for a soft berth after graduation; and who planned his college career with Machiavellian cunning and allowed the fact that some Yale alumni were millionaires to color his attitude throughout his college course.

“The hard-working Freshman, lathering himself to exhaustion in an editorial competition for the Yale News, may not be moved in the slightest by his potential debt to Yale,” but rather understands that a News editor, “makes a Senior Society and that ‘Senior Society Men are taken care of when they get out.’” The “young men on the make” mocked here “need little coaching to appreciate the possibilities which all this offers. And at Yale because of the fanatical solemnity with which the senior societies—Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Wolf’s Head—are regarded, the opportunities are greater than at any other university in America.” The Yale Alumni Weekly, whatever its own criticisms of the system, wasn’t having it. In reviewing Pringle’s article, it declared that “‘Heeling’ is one thing the Senior Societies will not brook. Two sterling and prominent candidates for one Senior Society were passed up not long ago because the merest zephyr of suspicion found a motive in their achievements . . . No; the man is yet to be who can manoeuvre his way into a Senior Society, or who, when elected, can go to his room with an arrière pensée.43

This means that, more than ever, offers were duplicated, and some necessarily refused. On Tap Day in 1929, Wolf’s Head for the first time had no refusals, while Keys and Bones each experienced one, and Elihu suffered five. In the spring of 1930, ten refused elections, with two men declining Bones who went to Keys, and two rebuffing Keys, to Bones; declining Elihu for Bones was Henry Heinz II, later president and board chairman of the family food company. Of that election, the New York Times commented editorially, “more and more of the undergraduates are taking non-election casually instead of tragically.”44

The atmosphere in the spring of 1931 was much different. Wilder Hobson, former Lit. chairman and a Keysman of the recent crowd of 1928, said in a letter to the Yale Daly News that Tap Day was an institution as obsolete as “the antimacassar, the wall motto and the works of Sarah Orne Jewett.” Even before this, into the growing fray came a new campus journal, the irreverent Harkness Hoot. Reflecting that magazine’s many Menckenesque crusades, the headline in the New York Herald Tribune for May 14, 1931, proclaimed “Yale ‘Tap Day’ Today Likely to Be Its Last,” quoting Dean Clarence Mendell’s opinion that, because senior societies “are taken much less seriously today than they were twenty or even ten years ago,” a “very substantial group of students and alumni think [Tap Day] is a demoralizing factor in the life of the college, and it is entirely likely that it will soon be a dead tradition, along with freshman fraternities and fence rushes.”45

THE HARKNESS HOOT

The iconoclastic periodical of the early 1930s at Yale was the Harkness Hoot, named after its office location in the Harkness Quadrangle. The new journal pledged “to arouse a healthy skepticism regarding many institutions now taken for granted,” a pledge redeemed many times over its four-year run of outrage and inspiration. Its first target was Yale’s neo-Gothic building program (the Sterling Memorial Library and law and graduate schools then all under construction) as “girder gothic,” sterile, and aesthetically retrograde. An editorial in the Nation, headlined “Revolt at Yale,” observed: “Harvard has a reputation for indulging at times in rather frank self-criticism, but the extremest outbursts ever heard at Cambridge seem feeble and timid in comparison with the drastic excoriation of Yale methods and Yale men which has been administered by the Harkness Hoot.”46The editors for the class of 1932 were Richard M. Childs, a Lit. editor, and Richard M. Bissell Jr.

Childs authored one of the Hoot’s most notorious articles, appearing in the April/May 1931 issue, titled “The Elks in Our Midst.” Its long subtitle read: “For Decades Fear and Trembling Have Attended Any Undergraduate Mention of Yale’s Senior Societies and Their Shrouded Secrecy. Here a Junior Examines the Evils They Represent, the Imposture They Encourage, and Concludes That They Must Go.” The first evil Childs discerned was that “judgment is made, and . . . a line of distinction is drawn between individuals,” which the societies might not intend, but nonetheless effected. While “it may be impossible for any one to appreciate their actual meaning who has not experienced their inner mysteries,” nevertheless, “when the fundamental and spontaneous reasons for the existence of a club or Secret Society are lost sight of, when they grow into a social power beyond themselves—and at Yale that social power is symbolized and maintained by so public a ceremony as Tap Day—then the sincerity of such institutions may be questioned.”

Secondly, extracurricular activities, good in themselves as worthy exercises and relief from academic pressures, had become effectively blessed or dismissed by election results: “The Senior Society tradition of what is to be accepted and what is not, has attached a definite standard to every position in the undergraduate world and has made it desirable or not,” thus perverting both preference and direction of individuals who otherwise might not make choices which were necessarily influenced by hope of election. To be accepted, Yale men fall into one stamp, one mold, and renounce their individuality because of age-long traditions established by the virtuous ‘big men’ at a Yale of another day.” For this, the senior societies had to go. “These campus Elks, Masons, secret what-you-wills, that undertake to select men on a basis of personality and accomplishment, seem so hideously out-dated, so out of step with the very ideals of university life, that it is hard for us to believe in their existence today.”

His solution was draconian. “If the members of [the class] of 1932 recognize the issue, and decide that the day of the Societies is past, they can kill those Societies by a moment’s action. No more is needed than the juniors refrain from appearing, like slaves for sale, upon the Campus on Tap Day. If the Class simply stays in its rooms for that one hour, the Senior Societies automatically fall. And out of that change of mind, some newer and more fitting social system may arise.”47

Despite this jeremiad, Tap Day on May 14, 1931, held only weeks after the Hoot’s appearance, was not much different than the immediately preceding years’ ceremonies, and indeed was witnessed by an unusually large crowd of students, faculty members, and graduates, “possibly,” the New York Times plausibly ventured, “because of the recent agitation against ‘tap day’ and the feeling that today’s ceremony might be the last.” Most of the 585 juniors gathered in the Branford Court of the Memorial Quadrangle, and at 5:45 P.M. marched in a body across the street to the campus and waited in the rain for the ceremony to begin at 6:00. Frederick Baldwin Adams Jr., secretary of his class and later director of the Morgan Library, was the first man tapped by Bones, joining playwright Eugene O’Neill’s son there. Three men rebuffed Bones for Keys—a “surprise” was a fourth turndown of Bones for Wolf’s Head by Glee Club president Basil Henning, later a Yale professor of History and long-time master of Saybrook residential college—and three men offered Keys chose Bones instead.

The most remarkable result was that one of the new Keysmen was Richard Childs himself, the author of “The Elks in Our Midst.” He did not appear on campus (his Keys tapper went directly to his dormitory room to offer election), but he accepted. A Bones representative visited the same room to offer election to Childs’s roommate and Hoot co-editor Richard Bissell—later, the first member of the Yale faculty to introduce Keynesian approaches and techniques to the study of economics there, and still later for the CIA, overseer of the U-2 spy plane program and author of the disastrous invasion at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba in 1961. Bissell, whose older brother had been in Bones—but never discussed the society with him—refused the invitation.

He was to write decades later that he regretted not having the presence of mind, when told, “Go to your room,” to say “I’m in my room,” but he disapproved of the selection standard of worldly success, as “counterproductive to true education,” and “most of the people I knew were happy that I turned them down,” although, “I felt a little depressed for a while. It meant I was out of a lot of things I wanted to be in.” The New York Times later interviewed Childs, who said that he had not changed his view about the societies and still believed that they would eventually be abolished.48

The following spring’s Tap Day in 1932 had about two thousand spectators, but the next year the class of 1934’s student council took up Childs’s suggestion, asking all members of the junior class to remain in their rooms from 5:00 to 7: 00 P.M. Many indeed signed an agreement to refuse to go on the campus during election hours. No editorial reason for the directive was given by the council; the New York Times reported that some juniors had been known for some time to favor remaining in their rooms during the tapping ceremony, but “whether this change now is a protest against [the traditional method], or an outcome of the present uncertain condition of fraternity life, is not clear.”

On 1933’s election day the juniors honored their pact: in the sneering words of a Hoot editorial which followed, they “trembled this year in their rooms, instead of standing on the campus for an hour in a self-conscious herd to wait the touch and the words without which a Yale career is empty and comfortless.” While two lone freshmen were playing catch beneath the old oak where the choosing had been held previously, the seniors walked from the society halls, going directly, as they had not since the 1870s, to the juniors’ rooms, quietly notifying them of their offers, then returning to their tombs with the results. “Many sat in their rooms from 5 o’clock, when the elections began, until after 7 P.M., when they were completed,” the New York Herald Tribune noted, “without hearing such a knock.” It was hard on the choosers, too: unable to check a man off their list when he left the campus at the behest of another organization, they had to go to his room and offer an election anyway, sprinting from their headquarters to the widely separated rooms of the different juniors each time, and then reporting back on how they fared. “It could not have been run off in an hour,” reported the Yale Alumni Weekly, “for there was a great deal of negotiating to be done.”

While all four societies elected their full quota of fifteen men, the turndowns this year were almost certainly multiplied by the self-inflicted isolation of the offerees, who, removed from the campus ground and perhaps, “watching furtively out [their] windows,” could hardly see or otherwise know to whom offers were made: Bones suffered four refusals, Wolf’s Head two, Elihu five, and Keys an astounding ten.49 A contemporaneous review in the New York Times Magazine on “College Ways in America” reminded readers that “The new procedure of having the whole matter handled privately is the original procedure. The public arrest and order to ‘go to your room’ is a mere interpolated interlude. Yet it is precisely this interpolation which has become Yale’s peculiar institution and has invested Yale’s senior societies with a glamour for the country at large which does not clothe the proud clubs of Princeton or Harvard, famous among Harvard men as are Porcellian and Signet and such like and illustrious as is Ivy among the Princetonians.”50

The following year’s election was accompanied by renewed condemnation and ridicule of the system. The Yale Daily News published a blistering editorial, slamming the societies (“Their method of choice, their breaking apart of old friendships, their demand on student time, their constant secrecy, their political influence at Yale have been criticized with such telling regularity that they need no repetition”), with many echoes of Owen Johnson: “Deplorable in any form is the cult of success . . . This attitude which exists at Yale is not restricted to New Haven but is to be found in most colleges and universities to a varying degree.”

The Yale Record, the college’s humor magazine, in its May 1934 issue featured cartoons, photographs, and short articles mocking the spirit of mystery surrounding the societies, lampooning individual juniors regarded as logical candidates for membership, and ridiculing the institution of Tap Day itself. The barbs included a photograph of a herd of grazing sheep, with the label, “A few prominent members of the Junior class confidently awaiting the climax of their undergraduate careers.” A playscript rendering of a society election caucus ended with the direction: “Please remember that if the candidate is found in possession of a copy of the Hoot, he is automatically excluded from membership.”51

The reform did not stick: the class of 1935 was not bound by a student council resolution of the class of 1934, and as reported by the Alumni Weekly, the “innovation takes too long a time and leaves both Classes in doubt as to just who has been elected and to what.” Meanwhile, there would be further complications the next year from the fact that “the juniors will be scattered throughout the seven new residential colleges.” Thus, Tap Day reverted to its old ceremony of public slapping, but in a new venue, Branford College main court in the Memorial Quadrangle, and in relative privacy, with no alumni or relatives present.

The gates of Branford were locked, except for the two used by the participants, and spruce boughs were leaned against the gates to block the curious public’s view. The junior class stood at one end of the courtyard, near Harkness Tower, under a spreading elm, and were then approached by the tappers of the six senior societies (the former Sheff fraternities Berzelius and Book and Snake now making their first appearance as senior societies on the traditional election day). John Pillsbury Snyder Jr. of Minneapolis, captain of the hockey team, astonished his classmates by refusing successive offers from to Keys, Elihu, Berzelius, and Book and Snake, and received no more taps, leading to the conclusion that he had decided to accept election to Bones or to none.

Each society had requisitioned headquarters space in Branford students’ rooms, where successful taps, or unfortunate refusals, might be reported. The increased number of electing societies multiplied the number of refusals, and the general confusion. One senior tapped the same junior twice at a ten minute interval, the junior refusing to budge both times. More remarkably, two men standing together were tapped one after another by the same society, but this resulted in one refusal and one acceptance. The refuser then changed his mind and proceeded to run off the court after his friend and the electing senior, and the elector who had been rebuffed, seeing the evident change of mind, sped back toward his first choice. As for the torrent of criticism from Yale campus publication, the New York Times headline for its elections article said it all: “Societies at Yale Going Blithely On. Blasts from Campus Press for Tap Day Seem to Have Left Targets Unscathed.”52

In the publication’s final year before discontinuance by its student sponsors (it was a private enterprise and had never been censored by the authorities), the May 1934 Hoot chose, with its “newly acquired mantle of respectability weighing heavily,” to return to campus, “one of Yale’s oldest traditional amusements, Senior Society baiting.” The issue’s introductory piece was a poem, “A Freshman’s Prayer on Thursday Night,” reminding the lowly underclassmen of the Hoot’s opinion of their irrational longing:

Hear the clumping of their feet

As they go marching down the street!

Perhaps, some day, if I am good,

I may be of that brotherhood.

There’s something fine about a mask,

It saves the mind full half its task;

There’s something grand about a club,

So few can join it, there’s the rub,

And those outside are filled with awe.

What prompts such awe can have no flaw.

O Lord I pray thee let me be

A god, in such society,

For, tho I know not what they do,

I greatly want to do it, too!53

THE COMING OF THE COLLEGE PLAN

Edward S. Harkness of the class of 1897 had formalized his interest in charity when in 1918, together with his mother, he founded the Commonwealth Fund with the family’s Standard Oil investment millions. To organize this institution, “to do something for the welfare of mankind,” he called on his longtime friend and financial advisor, New Haven lawyer Samuel Fisher, who shared Harkness’s interest in the activities of the YMCA, of which Fisher had been president his senior year, 1888–89. A member of Bones as an undergraduate, and Successor Trustee on the Yale Corporation from 1920 through 1935, Fisher was classmates with James Gamble Rogers, a member of that year’s Keys delegation, and the three men became close friends, taking frequent trips together.

For Gamble, as he was known at Yale, the college was the place where this Chicago high school graduate, who knew few if any of his classmates, was introduced to a special culture, a world made up of sports (he was baseball manager), shared amusements, and traditions acquired and constantly renewed in the collective, ritualized activities of a selected group of young men just starting to define their lives. “Nothing,” his grandson was to write, “was more important than class spirit while he was at college, nor would anything evoke fonder memories in his days after graduation.”

Rogers had designed Harkness’s Fifth Avenue home in 1907–08, a great opportunity for an out-of-town architect from Chicago, and a commission probably obtained for Rogers by his Keys clubmate, Dr. William Armstrong. The architect found resonance in his client’s desire, generated by Harkness’s remembered happiness in Wolf’s Head, to do something for the “average men” at Yale who, not being members of the junior fraternities or senior societies, had been left out of the college’s most rewarding social experiences. Rogers designed the Harkness Memorial Quadrangle, the family’s tribute to Edward’s deceased older brother Charles, of the Wolf’s Head delegation of 1883. Those linked dormitories were completed in 1921 to provide housing and meals for over six hundred students.

That year Rogers was appointed consulting architect to Yale University, specifically charged with guiding the physical growth of the campus. When he appeared at the Yale Corporation meeting for his first presentation, he arrived with only one detailed drawing, showing the floor plans of one single and one double room: the latter proved to be the plan replicated in virtually every staircase of Rogers’s eight residential colleges a decade later, and familiar to generations of Yalies who occupied them, first as doubles, then from the onset of the overcrowding of World War II as quads.

He found himself working closely with an old Chicago friend, the chair of the Corporation’s Committee on the Architectural Plan, John Farwell, the first “Western” member of Yale’s governing body, elected in 1911, and a key player in the selection of President Angell. Farwell, of the class of 1879, was also a Keys alumnus, as were his brothers in the classes of 1882 and 1884, respectively, and coincidentally related by marriage to Rogers. Through Keys, they were all members of a community which, after graduation at least, depended little on one’s class year.

Two other university officers were among the College Plan’s dramatis personae: George Parmly Day, class of 1897 with Harkness and Keysman, founder of Yale University Press and university treasurer from 1910; and Charles Seymour, class of 1908 and Bones, professor of History and, from 1927, provost. Seymour had graduated from King’s College, Cambridge, before matriculating at Yale, and returned to Cambridge for an MA after graduating in New Haven. Harkness himself was assisted in his office by Malcolm Aldrich, class of 1922, football captain and Bones, who was to succeed Fisher as managing director of the Harkness philanthropies, and became second president of the Commonwealth Fund.

The intertwining of personal and professional motives and relationships, under the benign shadow of Edward Harkness, helped define the roles all were to play in the justification, formulation, and execution of the College Plan. Farwell’s insistence that it was “the desire of the Architectural Plan Committee to recommend to the Corporation architects who are Yale graduates” led to the displacement of Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue as the previously appointed architect of the Sterling bequest executors for the Yale Library and other Sterling-named structures. This tight network of Yale graduates which resulted, coalescing around the two principal donors to the university—Sterling and Harkness themselves connected by derivation of their respective families’ assets from the Rockefeller fortune—was a small group of men related by marriage, intellectual outlook, and common membership in Yale’s three oldest senior societies.

During the summer of 1927, Rogers, Fisher, and Harkness himself accompanied President Angell on a secret mission, traveling to Oxford, Cambridge, and several other institutions to discover what made the “Oxbridge” tradition so attractive and effective. Yale’s entering class had grown, between 1910 and 1923, from 302 students to 886. The university as a whole desperately needed to add new dormitory space, and to create smaller, more congenial residential units in the process, while maintaining the atmosphere of the older Yale which they all so admired. The social system, which had functioned beautifully with classes that graduated three hundred at Yale, now was failing. In the middle 1920s Professor Chauncey Tinker was obliged to introduce two seniors to each other, in order that the first might ask the second to move over and vacate his seat!

Harkness wished to create places where rich and poor collegians alike could be educated into high moral thinking and action, in congenial, small-scale surroundings, while isolated from the pressures of the modern world—but enjoying that world’s physical amenities. These quadrangles were to become the cloistered settings for social bonding and a place of origin to be remembered by alumni as the common and culturally significant sources of their positions (as were their tombs for senior society members).

This would have been in the forefront of the philanthropist’s consciousness, as in 1923–24 he had commissioned Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue to design a new hall for Wolf’s Head, on York Street, to replace the original tomb at the corner of Prospect and Trumbull Streets, a design which Goodhue had completed at the time of his sudden death in April 1924. Its pickled stone façade of blind windows and blind dovecotes in the gables was shielded by a tall, solid wall and lots of shrubbery; modern Gothic and yet remote, the new hall was an across-the-street reflection of the official Yale Gothic of James Gamble Rogers’s Memorial Quadrangle, and the first tomb to have a front walled courtyard. It was a commission which Rogers had desired, but loyal Wolf’s Head alumnus Harkness could not stand the notion that a Keys man should be the architect for the new Wolf’s Head tomb.

Rogers, in a memorandum titled “The Future of Yale College,” fashioned an argument for recalling and making real his memories of late-nineteenth-century Yale in a new construct, to soften “the penalty that we have to pay for the great expansion in the sizes of our classes” in the intervening decades. “In our minds,” he wrote, “Yale College represented not merely a gracious association but a great spirit, a spirit of fellowship, forbearance, sympathy, and that highest of education, the culture that comes from close friction of those students who are not of one kind by the usual selection” (emphasis supplied). This gentleman of Keys, the first junior ever to turn down Bones his election year, here celebrated the glorious diversity of association which all these godfathers of the College Plan—all senior society graduate members—surely foresaw. The project for the subdivision of Yale College was thus an explicitly social one, seeking to establish the small and sheltered academy where men were educated by intimate association into shared social and moral values, so that they might eventually give leadership to the outside world.

The leveling clarity of this program created some opposition, particularly among the Yale fraternities, but the reaction to the plan was considerably more muted in New Haven than it was up at Harvard. When Yale took too long to respond to his gift proposal, Harkness (thinking he had been rebuffed) traveled to Massachusetts to offer his plan to Harvard president Abbot Lawrence Lowell. Lowell agreed immediately, even before consultation with his own faculty, and soon announced a major anonymous gift to start what became Harvard’s house system. This declaration provoked the more conservative students in Cambridge to resist the plan’s equalizing tendencies, afraid that they might lose the self-selecting intimacy of their eating and final clubs and be forced to room with Jews, Italians, or other groups of social undesirables.

Yale quickly cleared up the misunderstanding with its donor. In the residential college system approved by the Yale Corporation in October 1929, the assumption was at last explicitly made that “at Yale social elements play a significant role in education.” In each of the ten planned residential colleges, upperclassmen of all three classes, about 65 in each, would live together, without exception for off-campus housing choice, in deconstruction of the traditional, horizontal class allegiances of old Yale, while absorbing the values and wisdom of those about to graduate. The residential college populations were to be cross sections of the student body, mixing pupils of different economic backgrounds, academic interests, and religious affiliations. Those “average” or in Hadley’s formulation “overlooked” men without previous connections, meaning membership in prep school or big city social cliques, would more naturally be considered for and participate in the extracurricular activities that often formed the more memorable part of an education in New Haven.

The Yale Corporation thus adopted Rogers’s proposal for creating new quadrangle dormitories, styled “colleges” on the Oxbridge model, each housing between 150 and 250 students, while housing all freshmen on the Old Campus. These were to be administered by a master and a dean, and equipped with a dining hall, a library, common room lounges, and a luxurious master’s house, with some three hundred scholarship students working at Harkness’s insistence as researchers, library assistants, or organizers of special events in a “work-study” program, rather than serving their rich friends in the dining hall. As a Yale Daily News article subheader highlighted: “Jobs for Self-Supporting Students Permit All to Enroll in Colleges in Spite of Meal Minimum.” For all this, Edward Harkness was prepared to spend $15,725,884.96, Yale’s largest gift since the Sterling bequest of 1918.54

One of the architectural features shared by the Collegiate Gothic residential college façades at Yale are carved ornamental details on chimney ends and entryways, eclectic images of all the extracurricular and academic activities that had one time or another taken place on campus. Although these figures were Rogers’s conception, he left no known documentation in his papers regarding their meaning. It has been said that the series of scenes at the end of the west interior courtyard of Trumbull College, above a wooden entryway door, showing horned devils, wolves, magicians, kings wearing crowns, clowns, Indians, and Puritans with broad-brimmed hats, some of them tossing a tail-coated man in a blanket, depict a Skull and Bones initiation. Still, there are no skulls or femurs in the scene, which seems to have been inspired instead by figures in E. Crisand’s 1862 engraving Initiation of Yale Freshman—Secret Societies.

The College Plan, explained an article in Town & Country magazine about both the fraternities and the societies at Yale, archly titled “One Foot in the Grave and One in the Tomb,” meant “dividing the University into small independent units, each with a dining hall, a library, and every comfort the fraternity houses could offer, except a dark shrine, suitable for mumbo-jumbo, under the eaves. Moreover, the facilities would be better and cheaper.” The senior societies, with “one foot in the tomb,” were not existentially threatened by the College Plan, but some Yale fraternities were to go under, having “one foot in the grave,” burdened by expensive mortgages on lavish houses (although most would survive).55

In the Sheffield Scientific School, by contrast, there were eight clubs, all operating dormitories in which their members slept as well as ate after the sophomore year. For the Sheffield fraternities with both tombs and separate members’ dormitories, namely Berzelius and Book and Snake, their proffered benefit of undergraduate housing was now a useless burden, and decisions had to be taken urgently about their future.

THE FOUNDING (1848) AND INCLUSION (1934) OF BERZELIUS

During the nineteenth century’s second half, Yale College (also known as the “Academic” division or “Ac”) and the Sheffield Scientific School, separated only by a few streets in the city, “were two separate countries on the same planet.” Sheffield was a technical science school that stood separate from, and in a second-class relation to, Yale College from 1862 to 1945. It was the fruit of the Land-Grant Act of 1862 that Yale successfully snatched for itself away from the public sector. In 1862, it had graduated six men, and by 1893’s class, 110. Academically, President Hadley wrote in 1895, “Sheff,” as it was familiarly known, “offers the student a choice of seven courses, according to the line of work for which the student would prepare himself—one for the chemist, one for the biologist, one for the civil engineer, one for the mechanical engineer, one for the mining engineer, one for the agriculturalist, and one for the general businessman.”

Nevertheless, in his 713-page magnum opus of 1871, Four Years at Yale, Lyman Bagg devotes only four pages to Sheff, then a quarter century old, and mentions its student societies not at all. The gap is further illustrated by journalist Edwin Slosson’s simile in his Great American Universitiesof 1911: “President Hadley occupies a position like that of Francis Joseph, Emperor of Austria-Hungary. Yale is a dual monarchy; the person of the sovereign being the bond between College and Sheffield.” The social divide was suggested by a character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of 1920, “May Day,” attending a fraternity dance in the Yale Club and speaking to disheveled soldiers hiding in a broom closet: “I thought perhaps you might be members of the lovely section of the university known as the Sheffield Scientific School.”56

While the Old Brick Row on the spacious Old Campus quadrangle nourished Yale College men and their traditions over four years, “Sheff” had but one building, at the head of College Street, and no campus where its students on their three-year PhB course could gather for recreation; no official dormitory where they could enjoy undergraduate life rooming together; no common dining hall; and no rules and regulations, or compulsory chapel. Comprising so low a percentage of the student body—in 1870, Ac had 522 students, and Sheff had only 125—they made no noticeable impression on the larger college community: few acquaintanceships were formed with Ac men in occasional interactions at the boathouse and gymnasium. When a secret fraternity or society system ultimately formed in Sheff, its seven components were recruited each year by the admission of freshmen, and about one-third of Sheff students were members.57

Although the University had by the 1930s effectively integrated the Academical side with the Sheffield Scientific School, the undergraduates’ still separate social systems had lagged far behind. In the spring of 1933, the Sheff’s two scholarly honorary societies, Torch and Aurelian, announced that they would for the first time elect their numbers from the entire class of 1934, although, as in the past, these societies would be neither secret nor “final.” Accepting membership therein, it was made known, would not preclude the Ac men from accepting membership in the classic senior societies if offered later in the month. Whether there would be reciprocity, with the Ac side’s senior societies enlarging their own candidate pool to include Sheff men, was then unknown.

Still, a break in the old forms had earlier that spring already been initiated by the Sheffield fraternity the Cloister Club, more familiarly known as Book and Snake, possessors of a formidable windowless tomb just west of the Commons and across from the Law School at the intersection of Grove and York Streets, erected opposite the Grove Street Cemetery gate in 1902. Book and Snake had already decided to become a regular university senior society and to choose its members from the junior class at large.

This had truly scrambled the society egg, making for a total of five senior societies, four (Bones, Keys, Wolf’s Head, and Elihu) electing from the Ac class only, and one electing from the entire class, and two non-secret organizations (Aurelian and Torch) choosing from the 800-member class at large. This could leave a sizable number of college juniors, the men in 1934, out on a limb, losing to “prominent young men from the Harkness side of Elm Street,” berths formerly allotted to them. That cloud of confusion quickly began to dissipate when Colony, the second surviving Sheff fraternity, made a posting in the Alumni Weekly on May 12, 1933: “The Berzilius Society, in keeping with the spirit and purpose of the Residential College Plan, announces that it will become a Senior Society electing its members from the Junior Class of the University.”58

The rush to a college-wide democracy was ringed with caveats. The end of what little class solidarity still remained at Yale was foreseen, with the creation and construction of ten new residential colleges, seven in number to start, and three delayed by the economic repercussions of the Great Depression. Their occupants would be comprised of the student body of three schools—Academic, Scientific, and Engineering—all for the first time compelled to live together, which to the Alumni Weekly strongly suggested that the “Senior Society set-up at Yale may be obliged to undergo drastic reorganization if it is permitted by the changed conditions to survive at all.”59

Sheffield Scientific School began with the foundation of a laboratory for teaching Agricultural Chemistry in 1846, the nation’s first graduate program in chemistry, but without benefit of a Yale degree for its students or salaries for its few professors. The C.T.I. Society, later the Berzelius Chemical Society and then just the Berzelius Society, was founded in the fall of 1848 to satisfy the desire of its members for a more diverse study of the sciences than the school then offered (very like the Ac side’s Eulogia Club’s members’ dissatisfaction in 1832 with their speech training). Its Constitution named for “its objects the discussions of such literary and scientific questions as may be deemed of interest and importance,” and it was otherwise dedicated, in a new Constitution of 1857, to the “social and intellectual improvement of members” and the inclusion of all those interested in scientific inquiry.

Berzelius was formed as a secret organization, at a time when the faculty had disbanded open societies and disdained the secret societies, meaning not only Skull and Bones, but the Yale chapters of the first fraternities which were also secret societies. Its own proceedings were only deemed confidential, as described in a club resolution: “The old and discredited science of alchemy was dark, mysterious, and esoteric: the new science of chemistry seeks light and truth and is open to all.” The first president was Joseph Willett, a 23-year-old professor of Chemistry at Mercer College in Georgia who came to New Haven to improve his job qualifications, and it was he who founded the society with eight fellow students and suggested the Latin motto, echoing Phi Beta Kappa, which gave the student organization its original name of C.T.I. That changed when in the winter of 1849 news reached America of the death of Jöns Jakob Berzelius, the preeminent Swedish chemist, whom the young men chose to honor by renaming their society.

High-stand students were soon being chosen as members, and its prestige grew in the eyes of the Sheff faculty. By 1852, its fourth anniversary, Berzelius could boast six founding members. William Blake, William H. Brewer, George J. Brush, William J. Craw, Mason C. Weld, and George C. Weyman, some destined to become famous as teachers and scientists, were granted the degree of PhB by the Yale Corporation, thus becoming the scientific school’s first graduates. Brewer assumed the role of the society’s faculty advisor upon his return to Yale as professor of Agricultural Chemistry in 1864.

In his history of the society, Brewer described the adoption of its pyramidal badge, originally flat, a re-creation of a then familiar chemical apparatus known as Liebig’s potash bulbs, in black enamel with the letters “C.T.I.” in gold; later, a New Haven jeweler was able to create rounded bulbs. Justus von Liebig was, in 1848, second only to Berzelius in renown as a great man of chemistry, and was made an honorary member of the society. While he never came to the United States, he proudly wore his Berzelius pin on ceremonial occasions in Europe. The Berzelius shield in the 1865–66 Yale Pot-Pourri showed fifteen linking rings, symbolizing the number of delegation members, surrounding the C.T.I. initials of the society’s motto. Later in that decade, a new shield replaced the old, with the letter “B” surrounded by the potash bulbs in gold, and the letters C.T.I. below.

Meeting first in the laboratory, but frequently interrupted by raids from other societies, and then in each others’ rooms, members continued their functions aimed toward the stimulation of interest not only in science, but in debating and literature, and sometimes purely social meetings were mounted. In 1862, eight years after the construction of the Bones tomb and shortly after Keys had built its hall, the society moved to the second-story rear of a house at 744 Chapel Street at the southwest corner of State Street, the ground floor of which was occupied by Whittlesey’s Drug Store, securing its first room furnished to the members’ own taste. Occupying the whole floor allowed the growth of new customs, such as billiards competitions in their own billiard room and the formation of the “Shelf Committee,” charged with procuring “a large pitcher of foaming beer and a bag of crackers”; any repast of the society is still called a “Shelf.”

The group’s loftier purpose remained central: each week, a student would be responsible for framing that meeting’s talking points by introducing an original essay, chairing a debate, or delivering an oration, practices which came to be known as “Literary Exercises,” with faculty in attendance to enhance the quality of discussions. The Berzelius Trust Association was incorporated in the State of Connecticut in May 1864, and the society began in 1868 to offer a prize of $10 in gold for excellence in English composition, with its sponsorship accepted by the faculty and the prize awarded among the other competitive college prizes.

Inwardly, however, some focus had been lost, with the Shelf Committee’s endeavors sapping strength from the Literary Committee and its programs. Berzelius men had changed, perhaps inevitably, from graduate students in search of a forum to examine scientific research, into undergraduates in search of social fellowship. William M. Scaife, president of the delegation of 1873, wrote a report lamenting the levity with which the members were approaching the Literary Exercises. In response, members voted to modify them, “so as to remove every cause of ill-feeling,” without abandoning the underlying commitment to scientific progress that these exercises were meant to foster. A Scientific Subcommittee was created to deliver a synopsis each week of the most important scientific periodicals, to complement the students’ coursework and enliven the debates which the Literary Exercises were designed to frame. This “Compromise of 1873” nonetheless marked a departure from the society’s original academic mission, by releasing its members from “compulsory” literary contributions—and thus freeing them to pursue the more pressing objective of becoming the leading Sheffield social fraternity.

Having moved quarters from above the drugstore to rooms over the Yale National Bank in a building at Chapel and State, Berzelius advanced plans for a hall of its own, purchasing a lot for $3,200 at the corner of Prospect and Sachem Streets, and expended another $7,325 in construction costs. This building initiative was initially balked by the Sheff freshmen who in 1873 tried to force Berzelius and its rival Sigma Delta Chi (later Book and Snake) to become senior societies, but this revolt was defeated in October 1875, and on June 14, 1877, the first meeting in the new hall was celebrated.

Then, a group of nine members formed a club of their own and, with the consent of the Sheff faculty, rented 88 Wall Street as a dormitory for the following year, an effort deemed so successful in its intellectual and social advantages that plans were soon started for the erection of a society dormitory. Once the necessary funds were raised and plans were designed, in 1897, on the fiftieth anniversary of the Sheffield Scientific School, the cornerstone of the Colony, the society’s first and last residential hall, was laid in the presence of over a hundred graduate and undergraduate members. By the fall of 1898, construction was complete, and Berzelius members—sophomores through seniors—moved into their new home at 17 Hillhouse Avenue. Boasting a residential hall, Berzelius in all but name became a college fraternity, housing twenty-five members.

In January 1908 a fire broke out in the Prospect Street hall, gutting most of the structure before the fire department could locate a member of the society to let them in to fight the blaze. To maintain its social leadership, the society recognized that it “ought to have a site and building second to none” and began fund-raising for their next and present tomb. This was erected three years later at the intersection of Whitney Avenue with Trumbull and Temple Streets. This, the only Yale senior society tomb facing on three streets, was an adaptation of the Petit Trianon, of which New Haven version it was said “the windows do not appear false or purely decorative; they seem to have been closed following the death of an ancient inhabitant.” President Hadley was in attendance at the laying of its cornerstone in a midnight ceremony which saw a copper box containing the society’s records placed in the foundation.

In 1933, Sheff was absorbed completely into Yale College, and the Colony itself was sold to Yale because the new residential college system was destroying the demand for independent dormitories (four of seven other Sheff fraternities, all of which operated dormitories, were not to survive). However, the university was of course not also in the market for mausoleums, so the future of the tombs controlled by those societies was in doubt. The Berzelius membership, past and present, voted by referendum to become a true senior society in competition with the others on Tap Day. Yale’s president James Rowland Angell, not a Yale graduate and thus never a member of a senior society, had been made an honorary member of Berzelius in 1923 and was approached for his advice and blessing. He responded that “[i]f you [become a senior society] with the high purpose of helping your members and basing your elections entirely on character and achievement, there is a place for you. But if you intend electing only those who are congenial and you are to be only another social body, there is no place for you as a Senior Society.”

Recognizing that the objective selection of the best possible candidates from a wide range of campus activities was critical to establishing a sustainable niche within the competition, the society defined its election approach as the “cross-section principle,” as opposed to what it deemed the “high-pressure salesmanship or social alignment” of the other societies. The Berzelius Trust Association from 1934 on forwarded to its graduate membership lists of junior class prospects, asking for information on the named candidates, and the names of any other juniors related to graduates; the lists were composed after its Undergraduate Campaign Committee compiled small cumulative record cards for the two or three hundred prospective junior candidates, each with a picture of the candidate, his home address, his father’s educational and professional background, the student’s scholastic average, and his literary, athletic, social, and other extracurricular interests.

While Berzelius suffered six refusals on Tap Day in 1934, which was not surprising for its first outing (Keys had five that year, and Elihu seven), all of its fifteen acceptances that year were from the Academic Department. This remained true for the next five years running, because the remaining Sheff fraternities—St. Anthony, St. Elmo, Vernon (Phi Gamma Delta), and York Hall (Chi Phi)—did not yet permit any of their members to accept senior society elections. Berzelius told its members that they would continue to give careful consideration to all Sheff men available, and announced a belief that “with the growth of the residential colleges and concurrent decline in residential fraternities, Sheff men will be available for election in the future.”

The society was further thrilled, in announcing these 1934 results to its membership, to note that both the Yale News and the Yale Alumni Weekly, in reporting the final election lists, had placed the senior societies in order of age, which meant Berzelius (1848) came after Scroll and Key (1842), but before Book and Snake (1863), Wolf’s Head (1888), and Elihu (1903). After Tap Day in 1936, the Undergraduate Information Committee was able to report that it had only one refusal, matching the results of Keys and Wolf’s Head, and bettering the offering fortunes of Bones, Elihu, and Book and Snake. Furthermore, “[i]t will be seen from [that biographical] list of men that Berzelius is following its adopted definite policy of choosing its members on the basis of character and achievement and of selecting men of different types rather than of one type and those representing a cross-section of the various extra curricular activities in the University.”

In self-electing to survive as a senior society, Berzelius also simultaneously transformed its program. The Literary Exercises were replaced in 1934 with both a “personal audit,” which matched the “life history” evenings of Skull and Bones, but enlivened the presentation with the subjective give-and-take of questions and comments from the member’s auditors, to occur on Thursday evenings. This was supplemented by a Sunday night speakers program, hosting successful graduates, Yale administrators and professors, honorary members, and others to share their own life experiences and wisdom. Other traditions, paralleling the maturation of the other Yale senior societies, followed: the Berzelius answer to Keys’ “Gaily the Troubadour” was the “C.T.I. Parting Song,” written by Fenno Heath, of the 1950 delegation, and Yale Glee Club Director from 1953 to 1992.60

THE FOUNDING (1863) AND INCLUSION (1934) OF BOOK AND SNAKE

Berzelius’s fifteen-year monopoly of Sheff student society organization from its founding in 1848 lasted only five years longer than Skull and Bones’ monopoly of Ac’s senior society system. The supply of interested students was outstripping the membership limitation, and Berzelius’s solution in 1863 was to create a “brother” society, called the Literature and Science Society, to meet weekly in South Sheffield Hall for literary exercises and debate. Book and Snake’s historian has claimed that Berzelius’s true aim here was to stop the formation of any other society that might oppose their social hegemony, by appointing to “L. and S.” any students who appeared to be restive or on the verge of founding a new group.

This farm-league system collapsed after less than a season, as a band of disgruntled junior class members of this class of 1865 broke away to form Cloister, first known as Sigma Delta Chi and later as the Book and Snake society. The new club did not take long to ape the bad manners of the Ac side societies Bones and Keys. French windows opened from the Berzelius hall onto a flat roof, where on pleasant evenings the members adjourned with their chairs. Professor Benjamin Silliman Jr., the society’s first honorary member, attended a meeting where a “spread” from the Shelf Committee had been placed on the roof to keep cool. When the Berzelius delegation went up to eat, the comestibles had disappeared, the first recorded act of “crooking” against the older society, for which its new rival was suspected.61

The founders of Cloister, on November 17, 1863, were James Bishop Ford, William James Mitchell, Sanford Robinson, Harry Rogers, William Wheelwright Skiddy, and John Whitman, together with a freshman, Joseph Thompson Whittlesey. Like Berzelius, it was a secret society, and rented a small hall-end room on the top floor of 851 Chapel Street, furnished with plain wooden chairs and a small table for meeting purposes. In 1876 its members chose to set up a residential home of their own, taking a brick structure at 36 Elm Street adjoining St. Thomas Church for living quarters, while ultimately expanding into the full top floor on Chapel Street for their society functions.

The name they chose was the Sigma Delta Chi Society, for a purely Scientific School organization without other college affiliations. When the new group’s existence became known within Sheff and its founders identified by anxious members of Berzelius, the rebels were approached and offered immediate membership in Berzelius if they would abandon their plans. The offer was promptly rebuffed and soon Sigma Delta Chi openly solicited new members, electing from all three Sheff classes. After the pledges’ initiation in their first rooms, all members the following day appeared wearing pins on their cravats, diamond-shaped with their three Greek letters, in gold on a black enameled ground. Rules of secrecy were laid down: no discussion of the society with outsiders, and no notice to be taken of their remarks about it. By 1868, a sinking fund was started to enable a proper tomb to be constructed.

When the delegation of 1876 rented 36 Elm Street for a members’ dormitory, with one toilet and one tin bathtub, that became the first of the Sheff society dormitories, named the “Cloister” by John Hays Hammond of that class (later to become Cecil Rhodes’s chief mining engineer in South Africa, a professor of mining at Yale, and a Taft-appointed special ambassador to Great Britain). The same year, the society’s name was changed to Book and Snake from Sigma Delta Chi, in determination that there should be no confusion with any national Greek-letter fraternity. The Stone Trust Corporation, named after early member Lewis Bridge Stone, was incorporated in Connecticut to hold the society’s property and funds, and, echoing the corporate charters of Bones and Keys, “for the purposes of the social, intellectual and moral improvement of its members.”

The Trust secured an option on land at the southeast corner of Grove and High Streets, ultimately purchased for $10,000, but not until 1901 were the funds raised to build a tomb of Vermont marble in the Greek Ionic style, at a total cost of $81,000 for land and building. The architect was a Book and Snake member, Louis Metcalfe ’95-S, and upon its completion the two-story structure, forty feet tall, sixty feet long and forty-two feet wide, with four marble ionic pillars framing its doors, was deemed by some “the most perfect example of Greek architecture in America.” The steel used in the construction of its alcove was that material’s first use in a domestic building in the United States. It has been said that this archeologically correct temple stands as a “solid classisistic answer” to the Egyptian-gated cemetery across the street. “It is the perpetual attempt of establishing an official perfect order on earth, a sort of platonic reflection of heavenly secret societies.”62

Its front door is a replica of the north door of the Erechtheion building on the Acropolis in Athens. Without a single slit or window in the solid marble walls (and more remarkably, a roof of huge marble tiles), it is surrounded by an iron fence, and the original wooden doors were in time replaced by bronze ones. Smoke from the furnace was carried by pipes to the chimney in the neighboring Commons building. A New Haven newspaper article reported that visiting strangers were told the building was a crematory, and that the snakes or “caduceuses” entwined around the iron pickets (the society’s symbol is a book surrounded by the ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail) represented that “all Yale men were bachelors, and the snake was put there to remind all the students of Eve so they would remain bachelors.”

When the Yale residential college plan was announced, immediate speculation followed that private dormitories, such as the Cloister and the Colony, would not be permitted to intrude on the university’s plans that all undergraduates were to live together. W. W. Skiddy, one of the founders of Book and Snake, had long wanted to dispose of the Cloister and convert Book and Snake into a senior society along the lines of those in Ac, and offered a considerable sum to support that conversion, but found no majority in favor after a substantial and seemingly final discussion of the possibility at the graduate reunion in 1920.

The announcement of the Harkness college plan gift, with residency commencing in fall 1933 and the last distinction between Sheff and Ac disappearing, compelled the Stone Trust to poll its members in May 1932. The votes in June were 189 to become a senior society, 2 to become a junior society, and 32 to await further developments. In spite of the protests of many graduates and undergraduates, the Trust voted in February 1933 to dispose of the Cloister at 1 Hillhouse—the property is now the university provost’s office, with a memorial plaque on the first floor—and to make Book and Snake a senior society. The conveyance of the Cloister was announced as a gift, but in truth Yale paid $25,000 for the building, said to then be the oldest society dormitory still standing in the country, and $5,000 for the furniture, with the income used by the society for a complete interior renovation of the Grove Street tomb.

Although the graduate members had pressed for conversion to a senior society, the truth was they could give the undergraduates no help in establishing a new raison d’etre, and in shaping traditions that had to be made into the pattern established by others. In May 1934, Book and Snake went onto the campus for elections. They had taken in seven Yale College seniors as members in March, who now worked with the twenty Sheff side seniors and juniors to plan their selections—knowing that taking in a regular complement of fifteen on Tap Day, or as close as may be, was crucial to the new senior society’s future. They decided not to pledge any juniors beforehand, as some of the Ac side societies were still said to do, although, without extracting a pledge of acceptance, they told several juniors that their names were under serious consideration, a policy that was to continue. They also decided (as did Berzelius) that they would take in men not only from Yale College but from Sheff and the Engineering School, an ecumenism not at first shared by the original senior societies. In May 1934, Book and Snake received eleven acceptances from candidates they felt to be worthy, and had no trouble filling their full complement in the years thereafter.63

Interestingly, undergraduates at the Sheff fraternity St. Anthony’s Hall at this time also wanted to become a senior society, but their graduate members forbade it, determining to stay a “final” organization and not allowing their members to accept election in any of the senior societies. Of the remaining Sheff societies, the St. Elmo Club, Vernon Hall (Phi Gamma Delta), and York Hall similarly survived the advent of the College Plan, but the Sachem Club (Phi Kappa Sigma) and Franklin Hall (Theta Xi) expired; all six sold their dormitories to the university as well, although for a while their members continued to live in them.64

THE DECADE ENDS, THE SOCIETIES SAVED, AND ONE CASTE BROKEN

In “Senior Societies and the Lord Jehovah,” an article appearing in the Harkness Hoot issue for the month of 1933’s Tap Day, an anonymous society member celebrated the irony that the accession of Berzelius and Book and Snake to the old Ac system of such organizations was that system’s very salvation. The recurrent challenges to the senior society social regime since 1928 had set their constituents back on their heels, beginning with the numerous Bones turndowns of that year and continuing through the Hoot editors’ call for juniors to stay in their rooms. Now, old snobberies were to be eliminated by the College Plan: “Every undergraduate would be just as good as everyone else. No more of the old system that had crystallized while Yale was half as big as it is now,” and “a new social order . . . [brings] chiefly new benefits for Yale College’s recurringly remembered Forgotten Man. For him, left out of the fraternities and Senior Societies alike, are social reforms such as the House Plan created.”

The senior societies, the author reflected, had two possible courses of action to “serve the forgotten undergraduate better (and regain prestige), by taking in a larger percentage of each class,” effected by electing more than fifteen men or by founding new societies. The first alternative was unsatisfactory: fifteen men per class had been found to be the optimally sized unit for their purposes. And as the rough births of Spade and Grave, Wolf’s Head, and Elihu had shown, “it takes an unusual set of circumstances, combining nerve, luck, good men ‘overloked,’ a new philosophy, and some financial backing, for the second alternative to succeed. And right here, in walks the College Plan and plunks down in the lap of the undergraduates two new Societies with history, buildings, and famous members equal to any,—Berzelius and Book and Snake.”65

Edward Harkness had aimed by his gift to induce Yale College to offer its students a satisfactory form of fellowship and social companionship on a common basis, not subject to man-made distinction. Not at all anticipated was the further consequence of the buttressing of the very system which celebrated those distinctions, through the subsequent choices of Berzelius and of Book and Snake to join the other societies in chancing their fortunes on the Tap Day field. Similarly unforeseen by the four senior societies which had preceded their joinder in the May contest were the electoral successes of the two Sheff societies, which were strong from the outset.

The corporate parent of Wolf’s Head, the Phelps Association, noted in surprised consternation to its membership in December 1936: “Lacking in prestige, as perforce they must, the two new societies are looked upon by many as being ‘as important as any of the others.’ As new College generations make their appearance, these new societies will appear always to have existed. This is true not because they have unearthed any newer or more important formulae for the advancement of senior societies at Yale, but because the majority of opinion feels that these societies are ‘still a most important phase of Yale life.’ It is only natural, then, in view of this feeling, that men will choose from among our newer rivals should they feel that their chances with the others are poor.” Wolf’s Head could not—nor could any other senior society on the Academic side—“either individually or as an organization dismiss our present status with a cursory pat on the back,” but must instead maintain “decent contact with undergraduate opinion in its ever-changing attitudes.”66 In May 1935, Wolf’s Head had suffered sixteen refusals on Tap Day, unhappily noted by the New York papers as a Yale record, and did not fulfill its quota until 10:45 P.M. that evening: the wound was hurtful, and better organization the following year yielded only one rebuff.67

The annual election ceremony settled into relative equilibrium for the balance of the decade, ninety men being tapped within the established hour for the six societies, about one in five men being chosen from the pre–World War II classes averaging about 450 senior class members. Light relief was provided in the elections for May 1937, with the appearance of six solemn members of the new mystic order, “The Donkey’s Ear,” who lock-stepped in single file through the York Street gate, their heads hooded in black cotton stockings, followed by two unhooded men bearing a stretcher. Seemingly finding his man, the chief Donkey gave a worried and bespectacled undergraduate a resounding tap, whereupon he fainted, to be carried away by the stretcher-bearers, followed by the hooded band, lock-stepping out of the courtyard before the clock chimed five.68

That year, the New York Times was to report, Scroll and Key elected as its last man Willard Brown ’38, chairman of the charitable Yale Budget Committee and the first man to be elected secretary of his class as the leader not only in Yale College but in the Sheffield Scientific School and the School of Engineering as well. A wave of rebellion again stirred the junior class in 1938, and hundreds of signatures were obtained on a petition whose adherents pledged not to appear on campus on Tap Day, but virtually all did so, and the leader of the insurgents accepted the supreme accolade, that of being the last man tapped for Bones. That year, the Yale News noted that at least five of the Bones taps were working their way through college, and in 1939, that Lit. chair Richard Wilcox ’40 refused both Bones and Keys for Berzelius.69

Thus, despite persistent attack, the senior societies retained their degree of eminence through the 1930s. This was not attributable to their secrecy, according to an informed contemporary journalist, “which is more and more regarded by non-members as a joke, but to the simple fact that, despite the obvious injustice of some of their elections and omissions, they have always managed to collar most of the outstanding men in every class. Just as the legendary American boy keeps a corner of his eye everlastingly fixed on the White House, the Yale undergraduate still doesn’t lose hope of seeing the inside of one of those sinister windowless crypts until the heavy bronze doors have clanged shut without him.”70

Several of those elected in the five years before World War II began were to become well known in the decades after that war: to Bones, went Lyman Spitzer ’35, to become Princeton astronomer and astrophysicist; Jonathan Bingham ’36, ambassador and congressman; Brendan Gill ’36, New Yorker writer; John Hersey ’36, journalist and novelist; Potter Stewart ’37, U.S. Supreme Court justice; J. Richardson Dilworth ’38, financier; William Bundy ’39, assistant secretary of state and editor of Foreign Affairs; his brother McGeorge Bundy ’40, Harvard dean of faculty and national security advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson; Reuben Holden IV ’40, secretary of Yale University; and Harold Howe II ’40, U.S. commissioner of education. To Keys went Robert Sargent Shriver ’38, first director of the Peace Corps and ambassador to France; Stanley Resor ’39, secretary of the Army; and Cyrus Roberts Vance ’39, secretary of Defense.

Elected to Berzelius were William Proxmire ’38, U.S. senator from Wisconsin, and William Scranton ’39, governor of Pennsylvania and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; and to Book and Snake, David Dellinger ’36, antiwar leader in the ’70s, and Henry Ford II ’39, leader of the family automobile company (who gave each of the ushers at his first wedding, including Mac Bundy, a Ford car). The class of 1936 has often been called “Yale’s greatest class,” but several of its later luminaries were not elected to any of the six senior societies in May 1935, including William Beinecke, donor with his brothers of Yale’s rare book library; August Heckscher, author and President Kennedy’s special consultant on the arts; and Walt Rostow, a Rhodes scholar and senior counselor to President Lyndon Johnson.

The most remarkable tap, that of football halfback Albert Hessburg II by Skull and Bones, was ignored in the newspaper reports, despite its lack of precedent: Hessburg was Jewish, and thus the first Jew ever to be elected to a senior society. Co-captain of the freshman football squad, and later outstanding in track, he was best known as a swift-footed star halfback on the legendary Yale teams of the 1935–1937 seasons, playing with Larry Kelley and Clint Frank, both football team captains and back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, and both in their respective years Bonesmen. It is said that Hessburg’s tap in 1937 sent shock waves through the Yale community, not of anger, but amazement. For the Bones delegation that chose him, his faith was irrrelevant, since Hessburg’s achievements in their eyes merited election, and when interviewed years later about this seeming anomaly, Hessburg said he was treated just like everyone else. But a significant social barrier had at last been breached in the undergraduate body. Almost three more decades were to pass before there was a Jew sitting at the Yale Corporation table in Woodbridge Hall.71

FAULKNER, FITZGERALD, HEMINGWAY, AND O’HARA

In the late nineteenth century, Yale’s senior society system and Tap Day had figured as plot points in the occasional popular periodical, reflecting the sophistication of magazine readers in New York City and other metropolitan centers, mostly in the nation’s eastern half, who were aware of the details of Yale College life. The New Yorker ran cartoons for its knowledgeable metropolitan subscribers, one published during Tap Day week showing a dowager at a tea party informing a companion, “Oh, yes, Harold is doing very well at Yale. He’s been tapped for Skin and Bones.”72

In these two twentieth-century decades between the world wars, four major American authors—William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and John O’Hara—reached a much larger public in frequent mention of these organizations, drawing on the societies’ national and even international notoriety, and often on close acquaintance with their prominent graduate members. By way of contrast, Harvard’s final clubs were to figure in only one well-known novel of the era, John P. Marquand’s The Late George Apley, the Pulitzer Prize winner for 1938, concerning a family whose legacy membership is maintained—“It is the fondest hope of your mother and me that you will be taken into the Club [Porcellian] which has had an Apley for a member for many generations”—but the name of “the Club” is never actually found in the book.73

Although from the upper middle class, the Irish-Americans Fitzgerald and O’Hara felt they were outsiders and sought the perquisites, both outward and inward, of their Protestant betters, with their country clubs and their cars and, above all, their assurance. In the words of an O’Hara biographer: “In those days Yale as a concept permeated the national mind, with various degrees of meaning related to wealth, social position, natural leadership, and the achievement of worldly success. The big block ‘Y’ had the effect of a Chinese ideogram, signifying all those things, wrapped in a romantic aura of ivy-covered walls, secret societies that met in windowless stone buildings, the music of close harmonizers, and the longest list of football victories in America. . . . The complicated Yale social system of clubs and fraternities also gave the outside something to marvel at, for it appeared to provide enough paneled barrooms, hung with portraits, team photographs, and sporting prints, to accommodate hundreds of well-dressed young men. The world outside believed that most of these youths, for all their genial manners, were engaged in hard and bitter competition within the system of undergraduate Yale. Popular belief had it that the offices and the societies the young men achieved by senior year indicated the leaders not only of Yale College at the time, but of the entire country, a few years in the future.”74

Yale as such a trope is easily seen in the short stories of William Faulkner. Unlike his fellow authors of these decades who wrote about Yale but had not attended it, Faulkner actually lived in New Haven for a while, working as a clerk in the Winchester Repeating Arms Company in the spring of 1918. He was visiting his Oxford, Mississippi, hometown friend, Phil Stone, a member of the Yale class of 1914, who entered as a senior after graduation from the University of Mississippi and so was not a senior society member, but lived on High Street up from the Bones tomb. Yale, New Haven, and the North were an abrupt shift for the twenty-year-old Faulkner, with considerable exposure through Stone to the college’s high culture and social sophistication.

Faulkner’s short story characters include Oklahoman Hubert Jarrod of “Dr. Martino” (1931), “with his aura of oil wells and Yale . . . three years now in New Haven, belonging to the right clubs and all and with money to spend”; Allen of “Fox Hunt” (1930), another “Yale boy” whose “poppa had found an oil well;” and “shanty Irish” Monaghan, in “Ad Astra” (1930), a pilot in a Camel squadron whose father’s wealth “from digging sewers in the ground” enabled his son’s attendance at Yale, and whose own bravery had earned him a Military Cross from Great Britain and friendship with the southerner Gerald Bland, an American “Rhodes Scholar transferred out of an Oxford battalion.” In “Turnabout” (1932, and to be included in Hemingway’s anthology Men at War), worked up from the war stories told to him by Robert Lovett, Faulkner combined the enlarging attributes of education at Yale and Oxford, describing his protagonist Bogard, modeled loosely on Bonesman Lovett, as “not Phi Beta Kappa, exactly, but Skull and Bones perhaps, or possibly a Rhodes Scholarship.”75

Stover at Yale’s fascination for Princetonian F. Scott Fitzgerald (class of 1918) has already been described. When he and his wife moved to Paris in 1924, that fire was further fueled by his friendships with aesthete and painter Gerald Murphy (Yale class of 1912), poet Archibald MacLeish (1915), and author and screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart (1916), all Bonesmen living in France in the American expatriate community of authors and artists in the 1920s. Gertrude Stein was to tell Ernest Hemingway that they were “all a génération perdue,” a lost generation.

Fitzgerald had sent Don Stewart to the magazine Vanity Fair to help start the Yalie’s writing career and would have known Stewart’s 1921 article in H. L. Mencken’s Smart Set which celebrated the system and his own senior society; the two writers were later paired in Hollywood for the screenplay for Clare Boothe Luce’s The Women. Stewart may well have introduced the Fitzgeralds to Sara and Gerald Murphy, and Gerald and Archie MacLeish were both appropriated as models for characters in Fitzgerald’s Tender Is the Night—to the fury of another Murphy family friend, Ernest Hemingway.76 Beyond occasional mention in his short stories, the Princetonian was to reference the Yale senior societies in all four of his completed novels.

In Fitzgerald’s autobiographical first novel of 1920, This Side of Paradise, his protagonist Amory Blaine describes the high point in a traveling student production of Princeton’s Triangle Club, “a brilliant place in ‘Ha-Ha Hortense!’” “It is a Princeton tradition,” Fitzgerald wrote, “that whenever a Yale man who is a member of the widely advertised ‘Skull and Bones’ hears the sacred name mentioned, he must leave the room. It is also a tradition that the members are invariably successful in later life, amassing fortunes or votes or coupons or whatever they choose to amass. Therefore, at each performance of ‘Ha-Ha Hortense!’ half-a-dozen seats were kept from sale and occupied by six of the worst-looking vagabonds that could be hired from the streets, further touched up by the Triangle make-up man. At the moment in the show where Firebrand, the Pirate Chief, pointed at his black flag and said, ‘I am a Yale graduate—note my Skull and Bones!’—at this very moment the six vagabonds were instructed to rise conspicuously and leave the theatre with looks of deep melancholy and an injured dignity. It was claimed though never proved that on one occasion the hired Elis were swelled by one of the real thing.”77

Fiztgerald’s heroine’s father in “The Popular Girl,” published in the Saturday Evening Post in February 1922, “had never quite lost the air of having been a popular Bonesman at Yale.” In the last of eight Basil Duke Lee stories, “Basil and Cleopatra,” also published in the Saturday Evening Postand taking Basil from boyhood in the Midwest through eastern prep school to Yale, Basil muses: “‘I want to be chairman of the News or the Record,’ thought his old self one October morning, ‘and I want to get my letter in football, and I want to be in Skull and Bones.’” Scroll and Key was not overlooked: The Beautiful and the Damned, Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel of café society in New York during the Jazz Age, finds the heroine Gloria Patch having a brief fling with “Tudor Baird, an ancient flame” who “came by way of the Aviation Corps.” “A Scroll and Keys [sic] man at Yale, he possessed the correct reticences of a ‘good egg,’ the correct notions of chivalry and noblesse oblige.”78

In his 1925 masterpiece The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald reimagined himself, or at least that novel’s first person narrator Nick Carraway, as a Yale graduate of 1915, chairman of the Yale News, and a senior society clubmate of star football end Tom Buchanan, the brutish and philandering husband of Jay Gatsby’s lost love Daisy. Although no specific society is named, it is telling that a few months after The Great Gatsby appeared, the New Yorker published a “suggested bookplate” for the library of F. Scott Fitzgerald, featuring a skull-topped figure in a tuxedo and waistcoat reveling at a party. While the book’s sales initially languished, in 1998 the Modern Library editorial board voted it the twentieth century’s best American novel.79

Dick Diver, the protagonist of Tender Is the Night (1933) and a Rhodes scholar from Connecticut in 1914, hears “about fraternity politics in New Haven” from a classmate: “‘Bones got a wonderful crowd,’ he said. ‘We all did, as a matter of fact. New Haven’s so big now the sad thing is the men we have to leave out.’” Diver’s internal monologue shows a great familiarity with the tensions of Tap Day and the Yale collegians’ customs. “Could I help it that Pete Livingstone sat in the locker-room Tap Day when everybody looked all over hell for him? And I got an election when otherwise I wouldn’t have gotten Elihu, knowing so few men. He was good and right and I ought to have sat in the locker-room instead. Maybe I would, if I’d thought I had a chance at an election. But Mercer kept coming to my room all those weeks. I guess I knew I had a chance all right. But it would have served me right if I’d swallowed my pin in the shower and set up a conflict.”80

Ernest Hemingway, friend of Fitzgerald and another intimate of the Murphys’ circle on the Riviera, also used the Yale society system in his work, but his attitude was distinctly not that of a worshipper. Satire counterbalanced his regret at having had no share in the cultural rituals common to his new friends. Fitzgerald and Edmund Wilson and Harold Loeb (Hemingway’s model for the ridiculed Robert Cohn in The Sun Also Rises) had attended Princeton; John Dos Passos had gone to Harvard; and MacLeish, Stewart, and Murphy all went to Yale. Hemingway had declined to apply to college, and feelings of inferiority showed in his aggressiveness.

Ironically, his remote ancestor Jacob Hemingway, born in East Haven in 1683, was the first—and for his first half year, the only—student to receive instruction at Yale College, to which Connecticut had granted a charter in 1701; Ernest’s grandfather retailed the story to him as a “family legend.”81 While the fledgling author formed friendships with writers in Paris, including MacLeish and Stewart, by 1937 he had quarreled with virtually every one. In his posthumously published memoir about the Parisian years, A Moveable Feast, he omitted Stewart entirely and mentioned the Murphys and the MacLeishes in only one sentence. While in 1930 he had written MacLeish that he was “the best living writing poet,” by 1945 he told another correspondent, disparaging Archie’s “‘Patriotic’ verse”: “You know his bro[ther] Kenny was killed in the last war and I always felt Archie felt that sort of gave him a controlling interest in all deads.”82

Unlike the references of his fellow authors to the Yale society system, Hemingway’s were aimed to provoke or wound. He began cautiously: in 1932, he had inserted into Death in the Afternoon, his nonfiction treatment of bullfighting in Spain, the phrase “Bones face,” the designation for the hard stare assumed by a member of that society when suddenly challenged in conversation by casual mention of his club.

Not many years later, he was unrestrained, crafting a novel enlarged from his two published stories about Harry Morgan and set in a shabby, corrupt Key West. The protagonist is a rugged individualist betrayed by the forces of wealth and privilege, in a story full of rich and poor people, many of them versions of individuals Hemingway knew, or with whom he wanted to settle scores. When published, winning the author a cover story in Time in October 1937, the novel’s multi-page passage at the end described the occupant-owners of the yachts lying at night at the Key West fringe piers, and said of one millionaire’s daughter: “The fiancé is a Skull and Bones man, voted most likely to succeed, voted most popular, who still thinks more of others than of himself and would be too good for any one except a lovely girl like Frances. He is probably a little too good for Frances too, but it will be years before Frances realizes this, perhaps; and she may never realize it, with luck. The type of man who is tapped for Bones is rarely also tapped for bed; but with a lovely girl like Frances intention counts as much as performance.”83

The longest reference is found in his play of 1938, The Fifth Column, where Philip and Dorothy, the author’s stand-ins for himself and Martha Gellhorn in Madrid, are reporting on the Spanish Civil War. Dorothy claims not to understand his plans for the future, provoking the following colloquy:

PHILIP: And because you don’t understand, and you never could understand, is the reason we’re not going to go on and live together and have a lovely time and etcetera.

DOROTHY: Oh, it’s worse than Skull and Bones.

PHILIP: What in God’s name is Skull and Bones?

DOROTHY: It’s a secret society a man belonged to one time that I had just enough sense not to marry. It’s very superior and awfully good and worthy, and they take you in and tell you all about it, just before the wedding, and when they told me about it, I called the wedding off.

PHILIP: That’s an excellent precedent.84

Perhaps Hemingway thought any Bonesmen in this play’s audience would be forced to leave the theater, like those in the Triangle Club production described by Fitzgerald. Since Gellhorn, Dorothy’s model, is not known to have aborted a wedding with a Bonesman, the play’s otherwise incongruous swipe in this script at the senior society of Murphy, Stewart, and MacLeish seems to have been in general derision for the club of his college-educated friends.85

Stewart, who had run with the bulls alongside Hemingway in Pamplona, was instrumental in getting his In Our Time published in New York, and gave him large checks to tide him over, said of him: “He was charismatic; and it was for this very reason that the mean streak startled you so much when it came to the surface.” Five years later Hemingway attempted to repair the breach of several quarrels with MacLeish by inviting him to Cuba and promising not to be “self-righteous, no-good, and bastardly” as during his “great 37–38 epoch when [I] alienated all of my friends (who I miss like hell).” But what had been committed to paper in abusive letters as well as sarcastic fiction does not come so easily unsaid, and it does not seem possible that either Stewart, who had promoted his early publications, or MacLeish, who had funded Hemingway’s skiing vacations, or Murphy, who had loaned the author his artist’s studio in which to write, was ever able to feel, after 1938, the same sort of affection for Ernest Hemingway that they had once felt.86

The fourth major writer of these decades whose work often referenced Yale and its senior societies was the Irish American John O’Hara. He seems to have been a confirmed Yale man by the time he started prep school. What one individual or event triggered his Yalephilia is obscure: as a boy, he read Yale professor William Lyon Phelps’s newspaper columns, which made him impatient with the parochial views of his schoolteachers, and he later claimed Stover at Yale’s author Owen Johnson as an influence on his writing.

Still, he seems to have selected the college in New Haven, in the words of one biographer, “because in his youth it was the objective correlative for all the things he admired, which may be summed up in the word class. Harvard was effete or intellectual; Princeton was agreeably social; but Yale represented power and an automatic assumption of privilege and style.” While it is not clear whether he passed the Yale entrance exams and been accepted, the valedictorian-designate of Lewiston, New York’s Niagara Prep went on a drunken bender the night before his commencement and was not allowed to graduate, with his furious father insisting on the reprobate son’s working to prove his seriousness (“I’ll be damned if I’ll send a drunk to Yale!”).87

When his father died the following year, the consequent alteration in family finances put an end to his ambitions for entering Yale in the fall of 1925—or at least his chances of being a gentleman who browsed at the clothier J. Press and danced at the Fence Club, instead of a bursary boy who waited on tables.88 Like Hemingway, he never did attend college. After a stint as a reporter, he got a job through the New York Yale Club’s placement office at Briton Hadden and Henry Luce’s Time, then three years old, where he became friends with Wilder Hobson, the wittiest member of the Yale class of 1923, “Most Likely to Succeed,” and a member of Scroll and Key, but O’Hara was shortly fired. Meanwhile, he patronized the famous gin joint “21,” where he once saw a group of undergraduates from New Haven and invited them to join him, to question them closely about Yale, as he was eager to have up-to-the-minute information about social customs and college slang. He was also dating Margaretta Archbald, a Bryn Mawr graduate who roomed with her cousin Mary Brooks, then being successfully courted by Wolf’s Head graduate A. Whitney Griswold. In later years, O’Hara would claim that he always knew Whit Griswold would become president of Yale.89

So O’Hara had always wanted to go to Yale. Years later, when he was thirty-seven years old and a famous, established author, an anecdote circulated that when Hemingway, James Lardner, and Vincent Sheean were soliciting funds during the Spanish Civil War and trying to figure out what to do with an unexpected payment, Hemingway said, “Let’s take the bloody money and start a bloody fund to send John O’Hara to Yale.” Now, spending time with graduates of Yale and other prominent universities, he imagined that he had missed something important, and that if he had gone to New Haven, his career problems would be over (more likely, he would have rebelled against the system and sneered at those who strove for a place within it).

To compensate, he made himself a close student of the customs and benefits he thought accrued, devouring in his study the Social Register, Who’s Who, Baird’s Manual of American College Fraternities, and the Yale yearbook for 1924, his never-realized freshman year. He shared with Colonel James Archbald, Margaretta’s father and a Yale graduate (some Archbalds were in Scroll and Key), a passionate interest in the arcana of university fraternities and clubs and secret societies.90

He put this knowledge to use in his life’s literary work of fourteen novels, beginning with the bestseller Appointment in Samarra in 1934, and 402 short stories—he virtually invented what the world came to call the “New Yorker short story.” BUtterfield 8, the sexually frank (for 1935) cautionary tale of Winston Liggett, “a yacht racer . . . a big Yale athlete,” and the married paramour of Gloria Wandrous, played by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960 movie version, a woman well known in the smarter speakeasies, and willing to go home with a casual acquaintance. O’Hara—a self-described “Mick” in this novel as James Malloy, “is often taken for a Yale man, by Yale men. That pleases me a little, because I like Yale best of all the colleges”—showed a keen appreciation in this novel of the caste-ridden Yale senior society system, and the place in it of Jews, likely to hail from Connecticut.

In the book, the architect Paul Farley, Irish Catholic product of Lawrenceville and Princeton, and his client Percy Kahan, a Jewish businessman, run into Liggett; after prompting that they were classmates, Liggett pretends to remember Kahan from New Haven, before breaking away. “‘I didn’t know you went to Yale,’ said Farley. ‘I know. I never talk about it,’ said Kahan. ‘Then once in a while I see somebody like Liggett, one of the big Skull and Bones fellows he was, and one day I met old [former Yale president] Dr. Hadley on the street and I introduced myself to him. I can’t help it. I think what a waste of time, four years at that place, me a little Heeb from Hartford, but last November I had to be in Hollywood when the Yale-Harvard game was played, and God damn it if I don’t have a special wire with the play by play. The radio wasn’t good enough for me. I had to have the play by play. Yes, I’m a Yale man.’”91

In his 1949 bestseller, A Rage to Live, O’Hara revealed to his many thousands of readers more of his knowledge of the inner workings of the senior society he most admired, in describing the program of “Death’s Head,” an amalgam of Skull and Bones and Wolf’s Head, with the added suggestion of inherent scandal. The novel’s protagonist Sidney Tate seeks advice on buying a farm from Paul Reichelderfer. “He had also been tapped for Death’s Head, the Yale senior society to which Sidney belonged.”

The passage that follows shows a deep familiarity with the interior life of the senior societies at Yale. “As part of his initiation into Death’s Head a neophyte was required under oath to reveal any and all facts concerning his L.H., or Life History, and C.B., or Connubial Bliss. The life history part was not so embarrassing as details of connubial bliss. ‘C.B.’ was so called because in spite of the fact that most of the members of Death’s Head were bachelors, now and then it would turn out that a neophyte was secretly married and it became necessary to hold a ceremony in which his wife was made a Death’s Head wife. But married or not, the neophyte was compelled to tell the members of the society all they wanted to hear about his relations with women, and more than once it had happened that a man had to admit to maximum intimacies with a girl whose brother or fiancé was present. The theory was that one Death’s Head Man could have no secret from another, and that the brotherhood existing among the members transcended all outside considerations.” At Tate’s wedding, his wife “was initiated with the brief ceremony reserved for all brides of Death’s Head men,” and his funeral is attended by “four out-of-town members” of his senior society.92

O’Hara was haunted by the mystery of the real “Death’s Head,” accepting it as a fact of life that the men elected every year became a part of the tiny power structure that ran the country. He spoke with reverence the names of the great men who had been tapped for Skull and Bones, the innumerable Tafts, Binghams, and Bundys, and took pride in mentioning as well the names of his several personal friends in the society. Over the years, the writer contrived to accumulate a startling amount of Bones lore, which he would reveal only to Bonesmen: sharing with them his samples of their secrets made him, in a fashion and for the time being, one of them. It was, according to Brendan Gill, the most cherished of his daydreams that if he had attended Yale, he would have been tapped by the oldest senior society.93

In his vain quest for an honorary degree, O’Hara presented the manuscript of BUtterfield 8 and the proofs of Appointment at Samarra to the Yale Library. He was invited in March 1948 to speak at the Elizabethan Club, Yale’s undergraduate literary society, with remarks titled “Writing, What’s in It for Me?” Divulging that he had not gone to Yale, he referred to his friends Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner. Completely off the mark both times, he alluded to Cole Porter as “one of the founders of the Elizabethan Club” and “the only man ever” to “display a special kind of independence: he resigned from Skull and Bones.” The event was not a success. O’Hara with universities was the same as O’Hara with clubs: he did not know how to be a diffident gentleman.94

In 1959, O’Hara wrote New York city planner Robert Moses, who had graduated from Yale in 1909, that “Yale has no one, and since Red [Sinclair] Lewis has had no one who went to Yale and from there to the typewriter to comment on 20th Century America and 20th Century Yale. For that combination you have to come to me, Niagara Prep ’24.”95

TAPPED FOR SKULL AND BONES, 1920–1939

Henry P. Davison Jr.

1920

president, J. P. Morgan

Briton Hadden

1920

founder, Time magazine

Francis Thayer Hobson

1920

chairman, William Morrow & Co.

David Ingalls

1920

assistant secretary of the Navy

   

donor, Ingalls Rink

Henry Robinson Luce

1920

cofounder, Time, founder Life, Fortune, Sports Illustrated

Stover Boardman Lunt

1921

chairman, W. W. Norton, Inc.

Langdon Parsons

1921

professor of Obstetrics, Harvard

Malcolm Pratt Aldrich

1921

chairman, Commonwealth Fund

Frederick Whiley Hilles

1922

professor of English, Yale

Robert Guthrie Page

1922

chairman, Phelps Dodge Corp.

John Sherman Cooper

1923

U.S. Senate (Ky.)

   

ambassador, India, Nepal, German Democratic Republic

Russell Davenport

1923

creator, Fortune 500 list

Francis Otto Matthiessen

1923

professor of Literature, Harvard

Henry Elisha Allen

1924

professor of Humanities, University of Minn.

Edwin Foster Blair

1924

partner, Hughes Hubbard Blair

Walter Edwards Houghton

1924

professor of English, Wellesley

William Thompson Lusk

1924

president, Tiffany & Co.

Charles Merville Spofford

1924

president, Metropolitan Opera

   

brigadier general

Charles Stafford Gage

1925

treasurer, Yale

William Bunnell Norton

1925

professor of History, Boston University

Benjamin Crawford Cutler

1926

orchestra leader

Charles Graydon Poore

1926

book critic

Frank Ford Russell

1926

chairman, National Aviation Corp.

Wallace Parks Ritchie

1927

professor of Neurosurgery, University of Minn.

Frederic Flavor Robinson

1927

president, National Aviation Corp.

Anson Phelps Stokes Jr.

1927

Episcopal bishop, Mass.

George Herbert Walker Jr.

1927

director, White Weld & Co.

Edward Rogers Wardwell

1927

partner, Davis, Polk & Wardwell

Lancelot (“Lanny”) Ross

1928

singer and movie actor

Charles Alderson Janeway

1930

professor of Pediatrics, Harvard

Gaylord Donnelley

1931

chairman, R. R. Donnelley & Sons

   

chairman, trustee, University of Chicago

Henry John Heinz II

1931

chairman, H. J. Heinz Co.

Lewis Abbot Lapham

1931

president, Grace Lines

   

president, Bankers Trust

William Learned Peltz

1931

professor Clinical Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

John Mercer Walker

1931

CEO, Memorial Sloan Kettering

Frederick Baldwin Adams Jr.

1932

director, Morgan Library

Robert Frank Fulton

1931

professor of Religion, Union College

Samuel Hazard Gillespie

1932

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

John Reagan “Tex” McCrary

1933

inventor, radio/TV talk shows

James Quigg Newton Jr.

1933

president, University of Colorado

   

mayor of Denver, Colo.

Amory Howe Bradford

1934

vice president, business manager, New York Times

Hugh Terry Cunningham

1934

director of training, CIA

Harry Halstead Harper Jr.

1934

executive editor, Reader’s Digest

Frederick Peter Haas

1935

general counsel, Liggett Group

John Sargent Pillsbury Jr.

1935

chairman, Northwestern National Life Insurance

Charles Seymour Jr.

1935

professor of Art History, Yale

Lyman Spitzer Jr.

1935

professor of Astronomy, Princeton

   

conceived Hubble Space Telescope

George Schley Stillman

1935

secretary, Museum of Modern Art

Charlton “Sunny” Tufts

1935

entertainer

Jonathan Brewster Bingham

1936

U.S. ambassador to UN

   

U.S. Congress (Conn.)

Brendan Gill

1936

writer, The New Yorker

John Richard Hersey

1936

journalist and novelist

John Merrill Knapp

1936

dean, Princeton University

Richard Anthony Moore

1936

president, Times Mirror Broadcasting

   

U.S. ambassador to Ireland

Louis Walker

1936

managing partner, G. H. Walker Co.

Richard James Cross

1937

professor of Medicine, Rutgers

John Warner Field

1937

chairman, Warnaco, Inc.

William Horsley Orrick Jr.

1937

U.S. Cistrict Court judge (Northern Calif.)

Potter Stewart

1937

justice, U.S. Supreme Court

James Howard Dempsey Jr.

1938

founder, Squire Sanders & Dempsey

Joseph Richardson Dilworth

1938

chairman, Rockefeller Center

   

chairman, Metropolitan Museum of Art

   

chairman, Institute for Advanced Study

Lawrence Dunham Jr.

1938

director, Yale Office of Development

John Edwin Ecklund

1938

treasurer, Yale University

Joseph Carrière Fox

1938

founder, Fox International Fellowships

Gaspard D’Andelot Belin

1939

general counsel, U.S. Treasury

William Putnam Bundy

1939

U.S. assistant secretary of state

   

editor, Foreign Affairs

TAPPED FOR SCROLL AND KEY, 1920–1939

Elisha Boudinot Fisher

1920

chairman, U.S. Radium Corp.

Benjamin Brewster Jennings

1920

chairman, Socony Mobil Oil Co.

Seymour Horace Knox

1920

chairman, Marine Midland Bank

Richardson Dilworth

1921

mayor of Philadelphia

Charles Shipman Payson

1921

principal owner, New York Mets

John Archer Gifford

1922

undersecretary of Navy

Charles Albert Wight

1922

president, Freeport Sulphur Co.

Wayland Farries Vaughan

1923

professor of Psychology, Boston University

James Stillman Rockefeller

1924

chairman, First National City Bank of New York

Frederick Sheffield

1924

founder, Webster, Sheffield law firm

Ostrom Enders

1925

chairman, Hartford National Bank

Augustus Newbold Morris

1925

president, New York City Council

Dr. Benjamin McLane Spock

1925

author, Baby and Child Care

Frederick Augustus Potts Jr.

1926

chairman, Philadelphia National Bank

Joseph Warren Simpson Jr

1926

chairman, First Wisconsin National Bank

Carlos French Stoddard Jr.

1926

executive secretary, Yale University Council

Andrew Varick Stout Jr.

1926

chairman, Dominick & Dominick

John Hay Whitney

1926

publisher, New York Herald Tribune

   

U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom

   

president, Museum of Modern Art

   

founder, J. H. Whitney & Co.

William McFarlane Hinkle

1927

professor, Art History, Columbia University

Henry Barnes Potts

1927

chairman, Philadelphia National Bank

Robert Hawthorn Wylie Jr.

1927

professor, Clinical Surgery, Columbia University

Robert Chesney Osborn

1928

artist/cartoonist

James Cox Brady Jr.

1929

chairman, Purolator

Winthrop Gilman Brown

1929

U.S. ambassador to Korea, Laos

Paul Mellon

1929

donor, Yale Center for British Art, Morse and Stiles Colleges

   

president, National Gallery of Art

Horace Reynolds Moorhead

1929

treasurer, Gulf Oil Corp.

Ernest Brooks Jr.

1930

president, Old Dominion Foundation

Thatchere Magoun Brown Jr.

1930

managing partner, G. H. Walker & Co.

Robert Ward

1930

professor of Pediatrics, University of Southern California

Dale Hale Clement

1931

professor of Pediatrics, Yale

Raymond Richard Guest

1931

U.S. ambassador to Ireland

Robert Manueal Heurtematte

1931

Panamanian ambassador to U.S.

   

undersecretary, United Nations

Ethan Allen Hitchcock

1931

board chairman, Educational Broadcasting Corp., Olivetti Underwood Corp.

John Holbrook

1931

president, New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Donald Roderick McLennan Jr.

1931

chairman., Marsh & McLennan

Maynard Herbert Mack

1932

Sterling Professor of English, Yale

   

director, National Institute for Humanities

William Marvel

1932

chancellor, Delaware Court of Chancery

Chales Henry Tenney

1933

U.S. District judge, Southern District of New York

Robert Ferdinand Wagner Jr.

1933

mayor, City of New York

   

U.S. ambassador to Spain

Sidney Norwood Towle Jr.

1934

headmaster, Kent School

Joseph Peter Grace Jr.

1936

president, CEO, W. R. Grace & Co.

Horace Havemeyer Jr.

1936

president, National Sugar Refining Co.

Bayard Dominick 2d

1937

chairman, Dominick & Dominick

Waldo Cory Melrose Johnston

1937

director, Mystic Seaport Museum

Henry Emerson Butler Jr.

1938

professor, University of Arizona

Francis Cowles Cady

1938

professor, University of Connecticut Law School

Gordon Grand Jr.

1938

president, Olin Mathieson Chemical Corp.

   

U.S. Congress (Conn.)

Burton Allen McLean

1938

president, Educational Management Services, Inc.

Robert Sargent Shriver

1938

first director, U.S. Peace Corps

   

director, Office of Economic Opportunity

   

U.S. ambassador to France

Thaddeus Reynolds Beal

1939

president, Harvard Trust Co.

Andrew Nicholas Brady Garvan

1939

professor of History, University of Pennsylvania

Stuart Clayton Hemingway Jr.

1939

president, Towle Manufacturing Co.

Gilbert Watts Humphrey

1939

chairman, CEO, Hanna Mining Co.

Malcolm Muir Jr.

1939

executive editor, Newsweek

Stanley Resor

1939

secretary of the Army

   

U.S. ambassador for force reductions

   

undersecretary of defense for policy

Cyrus Roberts Vance

1939

secretary of the Army

   

deputy secretary of defense

   

secretary of state

   

chairman, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

   

chairman, Rockefeller Foundation

TAPPED FOR WOLF’S HEAD, 1920–1939

Walter Millis

1920

journalist and historian

Robert Maynard Hutchins

1921

president, University of Chicago

Philip Pillsbury

1924

chairman, Pillsbury Corp.

Clark Millikan

1924

professor of aeronautics, California Institute of Technology

Douglas MacArthur II

1932

ambassador to Japan

Rogers C. B. Morton

1937

chairman, Republican National Committee, secretary of Interior, secretary of Commerce

TAPPED FOR ELIHU, 1920–1939

Jake Anthony Danaher

1920

U.S. Senator (CT), federal judge

Eli Whitney Debevoise

1921

co-founder, Debevoise Plimpton

William S. Symington

1923

first sec’y of Air Force, U.S. Senator (Mo.)

James T. Babb

1924

Yale librarian

John Collins Pope

1925

professor of English, Yale

Winston F.C. Guest

1927

international polo player

Edward H. Dodd Jr

1928

president, Dodd, Mead publishers

William McChesney Martin Jr.

1928

chairman, Federal Reserve

William Horowitz

1929

first Jewish Yale Corporation member

George B. Young

1934

chairman, Field Enterprises

John Marks Templeton

1934

founder, Templeton Investments

Alexis W. Thompson

1936

owner, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles

Ray D. Chapin Jr.

1937

chairman, American Motors

TAPPED FOR BERZELIUS, 1920–1939

David Dellinger

1936

peace activist

William Proxmire

1938

U.S. Senator (Wis.)

William Scranton

1939

governor of Pennsylvania

TAPPED FOR BOOK AND SNAKE, 1920–1939

Whitelaw Reid

1936

chairman, New York Herald Tribune

Henry Ford II

1939

chairman, Ford Motor Co.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!