Parenthetical dates for individuals are each’s Yale College class


The Collegiate School is founded by ten Connecticut ministers at a meeting in Branford, near New Haven, Connecticut.


Collegiate School’s name changed to Yale College to honor donation of Elihu Yale.

September 12, 1753

Reputed date of founding of Linonia, literary and debating society, excluding freshmen until February 1767.


Literary and debating society of Brothers in Unity founded, rival to Linonia, open to all classes.

December 5, 1776

Phi Beta Kappa founded as a secret society at the College of William and Mary (becomes inactive in 1780 due to the Revolutionary War).

November 13, 1780

Connecticut Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa founded at Yale.

September 5, 1781

Massachusetts Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa founded at Harvard.

July 8, 1819

Calliope, literary and debating society, founded by Southerners seceding from Linonia.


Chi Delta Theta founded, second Yale Greek-letter fraternity (dissolves 1844).

September 1827

Society of Alumni formed, first alumni association in nation.

May 1831

Avery Allyn publishes A Ritual of Freemasonry . . . to which is added a Key to the Phi Beta Kappa, anti-Masonic agitation follows.

September 1831

Secrecy at Harvard and Yale Phi Beta Kappa chapters ended by votes of members (including graduates, by then outnumbering current students)

October 1832

Opening of Trumbull Gallery, a windowless art gallery.

November 1832

Scull and Bone senior society founded (later Skull and Bones).


Alpha Delta Phi college fraternity chapter, known as “A.D.,” founded at Yale (originated at Hamilton College in 1832); surrenders charter in 1873.

May 1837

First foreigner, a Brazilian, elected by Bones (with a second in May 1840).


Psi Upsilon college fraternity chapter, known as “Psi U,” founded at Yale (originated at Union College in 1833).

November 5, 1841

Publication of first number of the Yale Banner, the college annual.

July 6, 1842

Scroll and Key senior society founded, after dispute during elections for Bones, for classes of 1842 and 1843

August 15, 1843

Townsend Premiums established for five best English compositions.


Sword and Crown and Star and Dart senior societies founded, expiring in 1843 and 1851, respectively.


Delta Kappa Epsilon, “DKE,” junior society founded (Yale the mother chapter), in schism from Psi Upsilon.


Berzelius (Colony Club) founded as final club in Sheffield Scientific School (converted to senior society, 1933).


First award of DeForest Prize, for best senior oration in English.

May 1856

Graduate members of Bones incorporate Russell Trust Association.


Skull and Bones tomb erected on High Street (enlarged 1883, 1903).


Book and Snake (originally Cloister–Sigma Delta Chi) founded as final club in Sheffield Scientific School (converted to senior society, 1933).


Earliest photographic portrait of class year of Keys.


Faculty abolishes sophomore and freshman societies for abuses, for the first time.

May 1864

Spade and Grave senior society founded, in dispute with Bones (last delegation in 1871; refounded in 1951).

November 25, 1865

Yale Courant weekly newspaper first published.


Yale Pot-Pourri first published, Keys-controlled annual publication opposed to Bones and Yale Lit.


Graduate members of Keys incorporate Kingsley Trust Association.


Scroll and Key tomb erected on College and Wall Streets.

July 6–10, 1871

Yale charter amended to provide for election of six graduates to be (Alumni) Fellows of Yale Corporation, substituted for state senators; alumni at commencement elect Alphonso Taft (1833, Bones), William Maxwell Evarts (1837, Bones), William Barrett Washburn (1844, Bones), Henry Baldwin Harrison (1846, Bones), and William Walter Phelps (1860, Bones), five of six elected; sixth man is replaced in 1873 by Mason Young (1860, Keys).

October 11, 1871

Inauguration of Rev. Dr. Noah Porter (1831, Phi Beta Kappa, and before senior societies), as eleventh Yale president, last non–senior society member college president in nineteenth century.

March 13, 1872

Corporation determines Yale has “attained to the form of a University” (use of name authorized by Connecticut in 1887).


Linonia and Brothers in Unity literary societies disband.


Yale Literary Chronicle first published, parody of Yale Lit., opposed to senior societies.

May 21, 1874

Juniors blocked in their rooms by non-society hecklers, harassing the senior electors, and so come down to their dormitory steps for election, necessitating direction, “Go to your room.”

May 20, 1875

Election exercises conducted completely outdoors for first time outside, on Old Campus in front of Durfee and Farnam Halls.


First Yale-Harvard football game (October 18); Yale faculty abolishes sophomore and freshman societies for the second time (May 24).

September 29, 1876

Bones tomb broken into by neutrals and its layout mapped and published.

January 28, 1878

Yale Daily News publishes first issue as anti-society publication; third issue (January 30) contains first Bones/Keys joke.

March 13, 1878

Bull and Stones members vandalize exterior of Bones and Keys tombs.

Spring 1878

Linonia and Brothers in Unity revived, but soon collapse for lack of interest; sophomore fraternities abolished by faculty action.

May 23, 1879

First Yale Daily News report of a Tap Day.


Walter Camp (1880, Bones), as Yale student and coach, develops the game of American football.


The Horoscope publishes almost annually, with lists of those expected to be tapped.


Wolf’s Head senior society founded, not to join Tap Day until 1889.

February 1, 1884

Senior class meeting considers abolition of senior societies, but the motion is ultimately defeated.

May 28, 1886

New York Times begins annual reports of senior society elections.

June 30, 1886

Inauguration of Timothy Dwight (1849, Bones), twelfth Yale president.


Graduate members of Wolf’s Head incorporate as Phelps Trust Association.


Yale College changes name to Yale University.

May 25, 1891

Yale Alumni Weekly first published.

May 1892

First published use of phrase “Tap Day” (in 1892 Horoscope).

October 18, 1899

Inauguration of Arthur Twining Hadley (1876, Bones), first non-clerical Yale president.


Sophomore societies abolished for the last time by President Hadley.


Book and Snake tomb erected on Grove and High Street corner.


Bartlett Golden Yung, son of first Chinese student in U.S., Yung Wing (1854), tapped by Wolf’s Head.

March 1903

Elihu Club founded (not a secret senior society for another twenty years).

June 27, 1905

Election of first non-clerical Fellow, Payson Merrill (1856, Bones), among successors to New England ministers as trustees of the Yale Corporation.


Election of first Native American, Henry Roe Cloud, by Elihu.


Berzilius tomb erected on Trumbull Street.


Elihu Club acquires 175 Elm Street (built c. 1772) as clubhouse.

Spring 1912

Owen Johnson’s Stover at Yale published; class of 1915 sophomores organize anti-society protest against Tap Day ostentation, society secrecy.

May 1913

Old Campus closed to visitors, only juniors and seniors admitted for Tap Day by dean’s order.

May 1914

Tap Day first moved away from Old Campus, held in Berkeley Oval, where most juniors reside.

May 1915

Juniors comprise own candidate list; Tap Day again held under Durfee Hall oak on Old Campus, only two upper classes admitted, general public barred.

April 19, 1917

Tap Day ceremony held both in New Haven and in Palm Beach, Florida, for naval aviators training there.

May 1918

No Tap Day ceremony, only announcements of those elected in New Haven and in service overseas.

July 5, 1918

Death of John William Sterling (1864, Bones), Yale’s greatest financial benefactor, leaves $18 million (equivalent to $275 million) to Yale, $10,000 to Bones.

May 21, 1921

Elihu joins Tap Day ceremony.

June 21, 1921

Inauguration of James Rowland Angell, fourteenth Yale president and first non-graduate (elected out of deadlock between Bones and Keys members on Yale Corporation).


Second Wolf’s Head tomb erected on York Street.

May 1933

Students stay in their rooms for Tap Day, but both societies and students find this inconvenient.

September 1933

First seven residential colleges open in fulfillment of the House Plan (Branford, Calhoun, Davenport, Jonathan Edwards, Pierson, Saybrook, and Trumbull).

May 1934

Tap Day moved to Branford College main courtyard, and Sheffield Scientific societies Berzelius and Book and Snake compete for first time with academic side societies of Bones, Keys, Wolf’s Head, and Elihu.

May 1937

Albert Hessberg (1938, Bones), first Jew tapped by a senior society.

October 8, 1937

Inauguration of Charles Seymour (1908, Bones) as fifteenth Yale president.

May 1941

Tap Day exercises moved from Old Campus to Branford College courtyard.


Tap Day held once more in students’ rooms.

May 1948

Tap Day moved back to Branford Court; Levi Jackson (1949), first black football player and captain of Yale team, offered both Bones and Keys, but pre-tapped by and joins Berzelius.

April 1950

“Stay-away-from-Tap Day” movement agitates against Branford courtyard tap.

October 6, 1950

Inauguration of Alfred Whitney Griswold (1929, Wolf’s Head) as sixteenth Yale president.


Spade and Grave refounded with involvement of Yale professors.

May 3, 1951

Tap Day in Branford courtyard by Dean DeVane’s direction; societies take second floor “stations” to run taps.


Manuscript senior society founded as underground.

May 1953

Tap Day exercises removed from Branford College courtyard and elections given again in juniors’ rooms.


Senior societies take over the management of Tap Day from Yale administration; Lawrence Bensky, first Jew offered membership in Wolf’s Head, its graduate board objects, he joins Berzelius.


Manuscript comes aboveground; tomb begins construction (completed 1963).

April 11, 1964

Inauguration of Kingman Brewster Jr. (1940, turns down Bones and Keys), as seventeenth Yale president.


Societies agree with Yale Dean’s Office not to contact juniors earlier than week before Tap Day.

April 28, 1967

Yale Daily News prints results of Tap Day elections for all senior societies for last time.

November 9, 1968

Yale Corporation approves coeducation for Yale College, beginning with freshman class and sophomore and junior transferees entering in September 1969.

April 1970

No Tap Day due to imminence of May Day (Black Panther) weekend; five women elected by Elihu (for 1971 club), the first society to do so.

May 1, 1970

May Day weekend with Black Panthers; Manuscript election nullified, and tomb closed by board; Spade and Grave and Mace and Chain dissolve.

June 1970

Last annual edition of Yale Banner to list society memberships.

Fall 1970

Manuscript corporate board elects 1971 delegation, including three women.

April 1971

Berzelius and Book and Snake tap women, the second year of women’s election eligibility (leaving only Bones, Keys, and Wolf’s Head all male).


First women named to Yale Corporation, Hanna Holborn Gray and Marian Wright Edelman.


A. Bartlett Giamatti (1960, Keys) inaugurated as nineteenth Yale president.


Benno C. Schmidt Jr. (1964, Wolf’s Head) inaugurated as twentieth Yale president.

May 1989

Scroll and Key admits women with class of 1990.

April 10, 1991

Bones club of 1991 taps six women; Russell Trust Association changes locks on tomb.

October 24, 1991

Bones’ Russell Trust Association votes to admit women.

December 12, 1991

Wolf’s Head’s Phelps Trust Association votes to admit women, last senior society to do so.

October 4, 1993

Richard C. Levin (Stanford BA 1968, Yale PhD 1974), inaugurated as twenty-second Yale president, only third in twentieth century not to be a senior society alumnus.


Kurt Schmoke (1971, Wolf’s Head) becomes first black to be Senior Fellow of Yale Corporation.


Forty-seven senior societies functioning at Yale.

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