The society halls are retired and guard their own secrets. Curiosity stops abruptly at the iron doors.

—Henry Howland, “Undergraduate Life at Yale,” Scribner’s Magazine, July 1897

Through 1855, the delegations of Skull and Bones, like those of Scroll and Key, held their meetings in rented rooms in commercial buildings in New Haven. Furthermore, Bones like Keys that year had no particular legal being or tenure, thus running the risk, in any annual election gone wrong or during a fractious club year, of simply imploding and disappearing, like Rose and Crown or Star and Dart. These two circumstances were not tolerable to the Bones graduate members, many of whom lived in New Haven and who as the group’s elders now had over two decades of reputation to protect and memorabilia to preserve. They acted decisively in 1856 to rectify both situations, incorporating the society in the State of Connecticut as a trust and granting it fee simple title to a remarkable structure that announced, if any were in doubt, the Skull and Bones was here to stay.1


In his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius wrote of the Divine Augustus and the city of Rome, “He would boast that he inherited brick and left it marble.”2 The same could not be said of the New Haven divine, Jeremiah Day. He inherited Yale’s Old Brick Row on his inauguration as president in 1817, to which under his tenure were added North College in 1820 (flanking Elm Street), then the Second Chapel in 1823, the Trumbull Gallery behind the chapel in 1832, and the Divinity College in 1835. All the new buildings, like the old, were made of brick. Not until the construction in 1842 of the Old Library (now Dwight Hall) in Early Victorian Gothic style was there a college building to make pretentions to architectural beauty. It was the very first to be built with stone facing, of roughly dressed Portland brownstone. A second such, Alumni Hall, was completed in 1853.3

So, when the block west of the central campus on High Street near the corner of Chapel was mostly occupied by large, single- or two-family houses and stables, a campus sensation was caused by the construction of a windowless, tomb-like structure. Called “Yale’s version of the Great Sphinx,” this was built in Egypto-Doric style with the same brown Portland sandstone used for the college library. What is now the southern (left-hand) third was the original building, its centered door where there is now a slotted, darkened window. The annual dinner invitation to returning alumni who would behold the new hall proclaimed: “Quid dicam de ossibus? (Cic. de Nat. Deorum. II. 55.) O fortunate, quorum jam moenia surgunt! (Virgil. Æ. I. 430.)” “And where shall I begin about the bones? Ah, happy are you whose walls rise today!4

From its outer facing the new Bones hall seemed large and sumptuous. Its cost was estimated to be about $30,000 (wildly off the mark), but the cost of the Old Library had been less. The society’s lot was approximately forty-five feet wide along High Street by one hundred seven feet deep to the west, and was thus only partly covered on the east-west axis by a building rectangular in shape, with a frontage of twenty-nine feet, a height of about thirty feet, and a length of forty-four feet. This made the Bones structure only one story shorter than South Middle (Connecticut) Hall, and almost half the length of that dormitory in its depth facing High Street. The forbidding façade was not yet softened by the covering of Virginia creeper planted eight years later in 1864, and the “tomb”—for that was the name it attracted, to be used for the windowless halls of all the succeeding senior society buildings—stood back a rod or more from High Street, separated from it by a post-and-chain fence.

Its aspect was forbidding: the sandstone blocks, quarried in East Haven, were darker than the surrounding buildings. The hall seemed to be entirely cut off from the light as far as the interior was concerned, since no windows were to be seen. The massive, close-fitting doors were of iron (a common feature of side-hill tombs in New England), twelve feet high and five feet wide, upon which the society emblems were displayed. These were replaced in 1864 by new iron doors of a dark green color, again a dozen feet high, finished off in panels; heavy clasps of brass closed over the keyholes, secured by padlocks, beneath one of which the bell-pull was concealed. The roof, nearly flat, was covered first with plates of tin, replaced in 1867 with half-inch plates of iron. The skylight was similarly protected, with the chimneys and ventilators ranged around the edge of the roof. In the rear, a pair of small, blind windows were barred with iron, and below at the foundation level were scuttle holes, openings into the cellar which were also barred.5

From the time the current year’s club took up occupancy on March 13, 1856, the tomb became a campus focal point which itself inspired new rituals for the society’s members and new habits for outsiders. Its features, such as the beveled sandstone pylons along the street frontage and the padlocks, figured in the edge-burned letters sealed with stamped black wax inviting the neophytes to come to the tomb (invitations that were inevitably seen by roommates and others). “Pass through the sacred pillars of Hercules and approach the Temple,” the text read. “Take the right Book in your left hand . . .” Would-be intruders discovered that if the wrong padlock was pulled or the right one twisted the wrong way, a warning bell was set off inside, indicated a non-member’s approach on the steps.6 Members to this day are discouraged from entering or leaving the building before witnesses. If observers are unavoidably present, those same members refrain from making eye contact with them and with each other, and enter in quick single file, silently.7 Senior society men of all societies, starting with Bones, also refused to speak when passing in front of their halls.8

Very soon, casual pedestrians with some knowledge of the tomb’s identity would pass it by only along the eastern, far side of High Street, and not in front of the building.9 The seemingly unrestrained growth of the Virginia creeper plantings over the years made the tomb look neglected (the College Courant of July 3, 1869, reported that the “woodbine on Skull and Bones is very luxuriant this year”), and the front yard landscaping between the pillars and the big doors was often unkempt (the Courant two weeks later noted that “the grass has recently been mowed in front of the Skull and Bones hall”). “The society halls,” a commentator of the 1890s was to observe about them all, “are retired and guard their own secrets. Curiosity stops abruptly at the iron doors.”10

The Bones tomb today is well over twice the size of that constructed in 1856: a second block was added onto the rear in 1883 (on the balance of the land originally acquired in 1856); then the original block was faithfully duplicated to the north (to the right, when facing the hall) in another expansion in 1903, when a new entrance was placed between the old and new “testaments,” or wings. The architect was Alexander Jackson Davis (1803–1892) and not, as has sometimes been speculated, Henry Austin (1804–1891), who was responsible for the somewhat architecturally similar brownstone Egyptian Revival gates erected in 1845 at the Grove Street Cemetery just a few blocks north of the Bones tomb. Davis had in 1853 designed Alumni Hall, financed partly with donations from Linonia, Brothers in Unity, and Calliope for their respective new meeting rooms. Demolished in 1911 to make way for Wright Hall, the stonework of its twin Gothic towers in “an act of filial piety” (arranged through a college administration dominated by Bones members such as President Arthur Hadley and Secretary Anson Phelps Stokes) was moved down and across High Street and reerected behind the Bones tomb, where they now loom over an otherwise hidden garden.11

The original Bones hall is among the very last to be constructed of the examples of the Egyptian Revival in American architecture (1808–1858): there are at least eighty such structures in the United States, and almost every major American architect of the period worked in the mode. Ancient Egyptian monuments had received featured article treatment in the American Quarterly Review in 1829, which relied on 930 engravings in the twenty-one-volume Description de l’Egypte appearing sequentially in Paris from 1809 to 1828, prepared by the Commission on the Arts and Sciences which had accompanied Napoleon’s military campaign in Egypt from 1798 to 1801. The second edition was available to Austin in the New Haven library of his fellow architect Ithiel Town, as was Baron Dominique Vivant Denon’s illustrated Voyage dans la Basse et la Haute Égypteof 1802.12After publication of those monumental volumes, Egypt was no longer some vague country vanished, except for biblical references to the Israelite captivity, in the mists of time: Americans revered the history of democratic Greece and republican Rome, but had a new awareness of the older civilization which those ancients themselves thought of as ancient.

Such buildings and monuments (including obelisks, such as the Bunker Hill monument of 1833, echoed in the memorial graves of ten out of the first seventeen United States presidents) were also treated at length in the first complete book on architectural history published in the United States, Mrs. C. Tuthill’s History of Architecture of 1844, where she writes of their “size and magnificence” and their “grave and sublime [effect].” The style was also hailed as “economical,” not only in the sense of simplicity of form, but economical to build as well, “having few and bold details; and consequently, not requiring expensive workmanship or materials.” All of this—sublimity, gravity, and economy—would have appealed mightily to Davis’s senior society client, rejecting his designs which resemble the Gothic-ornamented Dwight Hall for the simpler, windowless structure erected on High Street. As Emerson had observed in his “American Scholar” of 1835, “Instead of the sublime and beautiful, the near, the low, the common, was explored and poetized.”13

Davis’s design seems to be based on no one structure’s image in the Description or Denon’s Voyage, although features of several plates from both are suggestive. Framing the doorway were straight walls, like those in Denon’s engraving of the Tombeau Egyptien at Lycopolis. To crown the portico, he imported a classical Greek pediment (the low-pitched triangular gable following the roof slopes, necessarily pitched to weather the rains and snows of New Haven, instead of the flat roof of the torrid Nile Valley), and added Egyptian plain horns at each pediment end and, at its apex, a small conical cap echoing the large one above the door of the Temple of Thebes at Kornou. The society’s “portal” in its relative monumentality suggested those at the Temple of Karnac as depicted in the Description.14 The windowless nature of the building provided challenges in designing for ventilation: flues were built within the walls, and drafts were started with Bunsen burners, perhaps suggested by Professor Benjamin Silliman Jr., Bones 1837 and the author of America’s first college chemistry text.

The new Bones hall also resonated backward in Yale campus architecture. On October 25, 1832, just weeks before the founding of the first senior society, Colonel John Trumbull had moved his collection of history paintings, chiefly commemorating the events and self-sacrificing heroes of the American Revolution, into the almost windowless but skylit box of the Trumbull Gallery. This “taut little tomb with stucco imitating stone” was erected at the northern end of the Old Brick Row in the northwest corner of the campus, and the artist as arranged in the deed of gift was interred in its basement upon his death in 1843. This was the first art museum connected with an educational institution in America, and one of the oldest in the English-speaking world, its chief chronological rival being the National Gallery in London.

Trumbull had studied some architecture at Edmund Burke’s insistence while in prison in London as a reprisal for the arrest of Major André, and designed the gallery himself. He asked the architect Ithiel Town for advice, and Town and his then partner Alexander Davis prepared a watercolor drawing of a small Greek Doric temple with pillars articulating the unbroken, windowless walls. In altering this design, Trumbull retained many of the primary features: vertical columns on the plane of a façade without openings emphasized the fundamental boxlike nature of architecture as enclosure, on a highly reductive level.15 Given the similarities, it seems almost certain that the first version of the Trumbull Gallery temple proposal was the starting point for Davis’s work as architect of the Bones tomb. The floor plates of the two buildings are virtually similar in size and proportion. “Whether or not there is a causal link [between the two buildings],” writes architect Patrick Pinnell, “the similarity of form and purpose is striking: inside a sepulcher, mysterious processes take promising but uninitiated young men through a Lehrjahre [an apprenticeship or learning year] of self-discovery and group bonding.”16

The period from the Bones hall’s conception to its opening was a relatively short four years. The club of 1853, under the leadership of Albert Heard and of William Crapo of the just-graduated club of 1852, formed a committee to raise enough money over five years to build the hall—“a stone building devoted entirely to our own use and convenience”—for which they had already considered plans. The proposal was so daring (no society or fraternity at Yale had ever built its own hall) that the possible opposition of the faculty had to be explored first. Crapo approached tutor William Kinne, of the club of 1848, who favored the idea and agreed to speak with Thomas Thacher, Yale professor of Latin since 1842 and a member of the Bones club of 1835, for sounding out the college administration. (Thacher, according to a memoir of a member of the class of 1859, “probably knew the students and their affairs most intimately [of the fourteen professors then on the faculty], and at one time was so popular as to be designated Vir [Man] in a mock catalogue.”)

Thacher replied that the faculty could give no recognition to Skull and Bones any more than to any other student society, since it was inappropriate to make any distinctions among them, but if the society’s alumni chose to put up a building for their use at commencement meetings “to renew old college associations . . . the faculty nor any other power about the college could not prevent it—that if the graduates after having erected such a building for their own purposes & conveniences see fit to permit students to occupy it, he did not see that the faculty could prevent that!”17 The message was clear: there would be no formal faculty permission to build a hall, but no assertion of power to forbid such an effort, and no particular will to do so. In conformity with the professor’s sinuous counsel, the graduates became the outside movers, and the seniors’ club stayed in the background. William Elliott (class of 1844), Henry Harrison Baldwin (1846, three decades later the governor of Connecticut), and Franklin Fisk (1849) took leadership roles in pledges and agreed that Robert Bliss (1851), a New York stockbroker and banker, be engaged to call upon other graduate members and invest the funds so raised.

Religious buildings in Egypt, Greece, and Rome were not planned with interior sizes to accommodate large groups of people, or conceived in terms of complex and varied functions. Rather, they were sacred shrines of a restricted size and form to be visited only by the elect, and the final design for the Bones hall met this standard. Using the $6,000 budget produced by the builder Atwater Treat for lot dimensions of 25 by 45 feet, Bliss was directed by the building committee to approach the New York–based architect Davis, who had worked with the contractor Treat on other projects. In the end, the cost was $7,500, with the last payment made in July 1862.18 The groundbreaking was on May 17, 1855, and the cornerstone was laid two weeks later on May 31. The builder’s proposal for an iron fence was denied for reasons of cost, the notion of a wooden fence was rejected because of probable vandalism, and the idea of a box hedge was eliminated because it would take too long to cultivate it. Instead, six stone posts with two chains running between them were installed, a distinctive feature of the tomb that exists to this day.

The only public record of the interior of the original 1856 hall of Skull and Bones was published in 1876 with floor plans by the “Order of the File and Claw,” in a pamphlet titled The Fall of Skull and Bones, recording a break-in on the Friday evening of September 29 of that year. The intruders (self-described as “neutrals . . . [having] the vulgar eyes of the uninitiated”) went through the one-inch iron bars of the back-cellar windows of the “Eulogian Temple,” using files and a “powerful claw” to draw out the long nails that fastened the iron netting to a wooden frame behind the window bars, and a hatchet to dig through the brick damp-wall to loosen the iron plate to which the window bars attached. Breaching all those protective measures to gain entry into the basement, then breaking through the wooden door at the top of the cellar stairs, they opened the two iron shutters which covered the back windows of the main hall, and “proceeded to examine the Temple at our leisure.”

Their pamphlet, a narrative of the invaders’ discoveries, included floor plans of the cellar, first, and second floors. The cellar included a kitchen, pantry and sink, and furnace. Not mentioned were any improvements on which the College Courant of April 9, 1870, had speculated, reporting that “last week Skull and Bones hall underwent several midnight repairs under the direction of Jesse Cudworth Jr., the well-known stove dealer and tinner of New Haven. Our reporter doesn’t see the use of having these things done at midnight, for he objects to being up so late at night in order to serve the College world with all news items of interest.” Also located there was the “Jo” or toilet, where “a light is always kept burning,” and which was “ornamented with a dilapidated human skull and a framed set of ‘Directions to Freshmen,’ signed Thomas Clap, and dated Yale College, 1752.” The dishes in the pantry pictured a skull and crossbones, and each spoon and fork was marked “S.B.T.” On the first floor, another toilet was situated above the basement Jo, and the main hall, “called by the initiated ‘324,’” was decorated with colored tiles, while the walls were “gaudily frescoed.” The only objects of interest in 324 “were a glass case . . . containing a large number of gilded base-balls, each inscribed with the date, score, etc., of a university game.” The intruders were disappointed, because “thus far we had found little to compensate us for our trouble.”

On the second floor they found three parlors, one containing the library, with “the Constitution of the Phi Beta Kappa and a catalogue of Scroll and Key Society through 1868.” The middle room, numbered “322,” was the sanctum sanctorum featuring a “life-size fac-simile of the Bones pin, handsomely inlaid in the black marble hearth” of a fireplace, which also bore the marble motto just below the mantel in old English text, “Rari Quippe Boni.” A collection of French-made pipe bowls with the members’ titles and club numbers inscribed thereon and “packs of well-worn cards served to indicate how the society manages to kill five or six hours every Thursday evening,” they speculated. Along the hallway walls fronting the three parlor rooms were forty years of photographs, each representing one of the fifteen-member clubs, of “poor” finish and thus probably “taken each year with the apparatus belonging to the society.” The society’s hallway safe was also rifled, but to the invaders’ disappointment, they found nothing but “a bunch of keys and a small gold-mounted flask half-filled with brandy.”

Finally, they noted a small closet containing unbound sheets of the society’s catalogue, “a set of handsome memorabil books, one for each year,” and two general storerooms filled with boating flags and foreign language books. The disappointed authors observed that there were neither billiard tables nor musical instruments, and “a total absence of all the ‘machinery’ which we had been led to expect . . . [A] thorough examination of every part of the Temple leads us to the conclusion that ‘the most powerful of college societies’ is nothing more than a convivial club.”19 They could see, in other words, only what they could view, so the society’s true secrets remained safe. Nevertheless, reports the pamphlet, after the break-in was discovered the next evening, all five basement openings were duly sealed or resealed.

Subsequent break-ins provided further public reports of the interior. A Denver newspaper in 1886 carried an article in which the writer claimed to have seen the inside of the Bones hall, in “brown stone” and “by a recent addition [occurring in 1883] more commodious than the others . . . It is nicely fitted up, the walls are appropriately frescoed in lavender, maroon and chrome tints with skulls and cross-bones in the panels, and the chandelier globes have their symbols ground in them, but there is not enough difference between this hall and the others [of Scroll and Key and Wolf’s Head] to pay for any further description here.”20

So, befitting its seniority and graduate member financial strength, Skull and Bones became the first “landed” senior society, or indeed fraternity of any sort, to have its own free-standing building at Yale College—today the oldest surviving college society or fraternity hall in the United States. It also established a trend on the campus, and soon nationwide for the next few decades, for fraternity buildings to be windowless (the only Yale senior society building with actual windows one may see through, except that their venetian blinds are drawn, is Elihu’s clapboard house facing the New Haven Green).

The second such was not the hall of Bones’ rival Scroll and Key, but rather one built by the junior fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon, founded in 1844, which was then sending more members to Keys than either of its junior class rivals and had been using rented rooms in the Adelphius Hall at the corner of State and Chapel Streets. The door was iron, and there were no windows, save the skylights in the flat tin roof. As described in that fraternity’s 1910 official history, “The parent Chapter from the beginning developed architectural aspirations, the earliest temple-like halls of secret societies in this country being those of Skull and Bones and ΔKE at Yale. . . . The old ‘Tomb’ at Yale with its windowless walls, its forbidding exterior, and its mystic symbols has raised the hopes and desires of many an undergraduate, and its original plan has been copied by . . . a number of other fraternities.”21 It was erected in 1860–61, through a generous loan from Henry Holt, a member of the class of 1862 and in time the founder of his eponymous publishing house.22 The brothers of DKE were still calling their hall a “tomb” in 1916 (“it was never called a ‘frat house’; that collegiate stuff was for places like state universities,” author and screenwriter Donald Ogden Stewart of that senior class remembered).23

Scroll and Key desired a new hall with the delegation of 1855, just five years after moving to the Leffingwell building on Church Street, and successor clubs were urged to begin saving to that end. A committee was organized by one of the graduate founders of the class of 1842, John Addison Porter, by then a faculty member of the newly formed Yale Scientific School, and money was subscribed. The fund of $555.27 inherited by the club of 1860 was of course inadequate to the goal, and two initiatives were undertaken to pick up the pace: graduates began to be invited back to every possible society meeting, and an application was made to the Connecticut Legislature for a charter, creating the Kingsley Trust Association in order to hold and convey property up to the value of $10,000.00.

Architect Richard Morris Hunt of New York was asked to prepare an elevation in Egyptian or Byzantine style, which was approved by the society in January 1864. Why these devotees of Ruskin—to judge from the language of their constitution—chose Hunt to be their architect is a mystery; perhaps family friendships formed when Hunt’s widowed mother brought her young children to reside briefly in New Haven lay behind the commission. A surviving presentation drawing shows that the tomb as built was less than a third of its proposed scheme, which included a low wing to the north, toward what is now Woolsey Hall, penetrated by a central pass through, to join a projected three-story pavilion with eight bedrooms under a pitched roof.24

Its high style and elaborate finishes were ruinously expensive, but very pleasing in prospect to the men of Keys: “It would rag the old charnel house in High Street beyond the hope of recovery . . .” A lot was bought on Prospect Street, backing up to Joseph Sheffield’s garden, and thereafter sold as inadequate; another lot, on High Street, where the Bones hall was located, near Atwater (later Library) Street—now closed and built over by the walkway between Jonathan Edwards and Branford Colleges—was bought by the Yale Corporation to keep it out of C.S.P. hands, either as an act of long-range planning policy (it became the site of the Kent Laboratory in 1887), or perhaps as a cat’s-paw for Bones to frustrate its rival from building on High Street.

The fits and starts of the building committee and the fundraisers over fourteen years ended when there became available for $5,000 a lot 36 by 110 feet on the corner of Wall and College Streets. This belonged to the Berzelius Trust Association, a fraternity and not yet a secret society, of the renamed Sheffield Scientific School, in a deal which cannot have been a coincidence (given that John Addison Porter was Sheffield’s son-in-law). Contracts were executed and delivered, and on November 25, 1869, ground was broken with appropriate festivities before graduate members representing classes as far back as 1843, using a silver spade which had been consecrated in the hands of President Woolsey for the groundbreaking for the divinity school the month before (“this moment,” reported the College Courant, “was accompanied by a low murmur of the entire circle but the words were indistinguishable”).

“Gaily the Troubadour,” the society song which accompanied the Keys seniors’ return home after meetings, “was then sung as it never has been sung before, and again forming in line, the procession returned to the soon-to-be deserted Hall on Church Street.” Perkins & Chatfield were the contractors, the foundation was laid in January 1870, and the completed building was delivered to its new owners in May, with the dedicatory celebration taking place at the commencement meeting on July 13, 1872. Hunt had gone over budget, and many items, like the stone and cast iron fence along the two corner street fronts, were added later. A Bonesman of the club of 1871 who gained surreptitious entry drew a rough floor plan, showing a parlor, dining room and washroom on the first floor; a “lounging room,” meeting room, and library on the second; and in the basement, the kitchen, wine cellar, furnaces, and the “joe.”25

Writing just three years after its construction, Bagg noted that the new structure was “far superior in costliness and architectural beauty, not only to the Bones hall, but to any college-society hall in America.”26 One newspaper report put the cost at $60,000 (the actual costs with architect’s fees amount to about $45,000), with “a marble exterior, while the interior is furnished to correspond.” After comparing Yale’s Old Brick Row to barracks, its chapel to a highly ornate stable, and the divinity school to a French apartment house, the American Architect and Building News said of the Keys hall: “The doorway is rich and graceful; the whole building is designed skillfully, and with special skill for its purpose.”27 Nineteenth-century artists’ studios commonly had exotic orientalia lying about to suggest that the painter was sophisticated, well traveled, and in touch with mysterious powers: Hunt’s Keys hall is one instance in which the trope got turned into a building.28

Richard Morris Hunt was the first American to attend the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, and later cofounded the American Institute of Architects. His many notable later assignments included the Fifth Avenue façade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty; and various palatial residences for the extended Vanderbilt family, including “Marble House” and “The Breakers” in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. According to the Architectural Record, his final design for Scroll and Key’s tomb was “devoted to the celebration of Eleusinian undergraduate mysteries, as one might infer from its architecture. . . . The Moors in Spain devised an architecture of which the exterior was almost exclusively dead-wall, and the Spanish-Moorish naturally provided a precedent for so much, or rather so little, of decorative detail as the exterior shows, only the columns that bear the stilted arches and the enriched band at the impost.”29

Truly the Xanadu of Yale, the new hall in Moorish Revival style provided a frontage of thirty-six feet on College Street, fifty-five feet long with six feet of ground on each side, and open spaces of about twenty feet before and behind. Set behind a street-front Moorish gate and patterned forecourt, the thirty-five-foot-high building is composed primarily of light yellow Cleveland stone, accented by thin layers of dark blue marble, and four pillars of Aberdeen granite with marble cappings in front supporting three projecting arches, all features extracted from Islamic architecture. The narrow openings they frame, pattern-pierced stone window screens which are only decoration in the wall pattern, are provided with three bull’s-eyes, admitting air. Beneath the central arch, at the top of a half-dozen stone steps coming up from either side, are a pair of massive paneled iron doors. Five similar arches ventilate each side of the building, and a corresponding number of barred scuttle-windows gave some light to the cellar. At the top are rows of short pillars, with two stars cut out between every such pair.

Hunt’s modern biographer has observed that “The large areas of blank wall seem intended to conceal what may be transpiring within; indeed, the exterior design of the hall proclaims that the activities it houses are to be kept secret, while the weighty, almost impregnable structure implies that they must be of great importance.” Soon, quickly growing ampelopsis was imported and trained over the hall, making it look even more hermetically sealed. Its patterned design even figured into coded messages of possible election: Robert Simpson Rodman, tapped for the Bones delegation of 1879, was said in his freshman year to have “received the mysterious warning, ‘Beware of the zebra-striped edifice on College street,’ which most people construe: ‘You may go to Bones.’” The Yale News quoted the collegians referring to the hall the same year as “the College Street tea chest.”30

The sheer expense of the construction of these society halls was occasionally a subject of faculty meetings. Professor of Greek James Hadley (whose son Arthur, the first lay president of Yale, and grandsons were in their respective classes tapped for Bones) is said to have remarked, on hearing a report that when “one of the secret societies was about to bore an artesian well in the celler of their club house . . . [and] [i]t was suggested that such an extraordinary expense should be prohibited . . . [the professor] closed the discussion and laughed out the subject by saying that from what he knew of the society, if it would hold a few sessions over the place where the artesian well was projected, the boring would be accomplished without cost.”31


In the beginning, American college officials looked unkindly on sports. The prerevolutionary laws of Yale College stated that “If any scholar shall play at Hand-Ball, or Foot-Ball, or Bowls in the College-yard, or throw any Thing against the College, by which Glass may be endangered . . . he shall be punished six pence.” By the early nineteeth century the ability to play sports at Yale was a function of the schedule of studies. The rigid scheme of recitations called for three classroom exercises a week, omitting Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, and leaving those weekdays the only half-holidays. Five P.M. recitations four days a week allowed insufficient time for both the afternoon lesson, and getting back and forth to a boathouse or field for practice in a shell or on the diamond. However, the classes were released all at once on the biweekly half-holidays: four hundred fifty men could then find recreation, which this common schedule concentrated.32 The discovery of the glass case of gilded baseballs in the Bones tomb during the break-in of 1876 is strong indication, twenty years after the hall’s construction, that organized sport had become a new and important element of undergraduate life, and that the leaders of those teams had become desirable candidates for the senior societies.

The first manifestation of these twin phenomena was the Yale Navy. New Haven in the nineteenth century was a popular beach and resort area, and the students at Yale swam and sailed in Long Island Sound. In 1843, the year Scroll and Key was founded, junior William Weeks organized classmates into a club—the first rowing club in any American college—to buy a nineteen-foot boat, the Pioneer. Within a few weeks, freshman and junior syndicates were formed to purchase similar craft, and “scrub races” or other informal tests of strength and skill occurred. By 1853, no less than fifteen boats were owned by class clubs, most bought secondhand and often passed down to a club in a lower class. The entire college was divided into twelve clubs of twenty men each, on the Oxbridge college model, in 1859, but by 1868 there was a reversion to clubs once more organized by class.33

The organization of six- or eight-man crews and coordination of races began to generate team spirit: the Lit. of 1851 spoke of these “jovial remigiary expeditions” as producing some of “the strongest bonds of friendship and fellow-feeling.”34 The man who effectively originated intercollegiate athletics in America was the bow oar for the eight-oar barge Undine, a just-elected senior society member named James Morris Whiton, second high-stand man in the class of 1853, Junior Exhibition speaker, Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Delta Phi, Skull and Bones, and the first recipient of a PhD degree in the United States, from his alma mater.

Whiton’s grandfather John was an 1805 graduate of Yale; his son James, skipping college, became a wealthy merchant in Boston, enabling our James to attend Boston Latin School and then Yale. In 1852 his Boston Latin classmate Joseph Brown up in Cambridge was captain and coxswain of the eight-oared Oneida that had inaugurated Harvard rowing in 1846 and was now owned by the class of 1853. At Whiton’s suggestion, the two decided “to test the superiority of the oarsmen at the two colleges” at a regatta at Center Harbor on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, which Whiton had first seen while riding a train on the Boston, Concord and Montreal railroad line, of which his father was a director.

The contest on August 3, 1852, over a two-mile course occurred among three Yale boats (including the Shawmut, in which Randall Lee Gibson rowed, and Whiton’s Undine) and one from Harvard, involving thirty oarsmen from New Haven and eleven from Cambridge. Treated in the contemporary press as resort news and thought by Whiton at the time to be “an eight days’ junket at the expense of a railroad corporation . . . as unique and irreproducible as the Rhodesian colossus,” this regatta was instead later to be justly remembered as the first American intercollegiate contest of any kind, repeated almost annually for the next forty years. The character of the first regatta may be inferred from the fact that the New Haveners’ training table consisted of abstaining from pastries, and a remark made by one of the Harvard crew that “they had not rowed much for fear of blistering their hands.” Although there were no professional coaches, nor regimented training, nor any abstention from drinking and smoking, here were demonstrated for the first time in American college sport most all the features of athletic rivalry which have since played such an important part in the history of our universities: “the hard training, great popular excitement, the special trains, the cheers and colors of contending colleges, the recriminations and charges of unfairness, the newspaper sensationalism, and the fierce exultation and abandon of victory with which the modern audience is so familiar.”35

While more than three years were to pass before the next race at the lake, the excitement generated at Lake Winnipesaukee found more immediate expression in the combination of the New Haven fleet as the “Yale Navy.”36 The distinction of holding the commodoreship of the Yale Navy (the presidency, after 1870), and even being an officer or member of the five class boat clubs, began to be noted in the Psi Upsilon fraternity catalogue, along with class prizes and oratorships. The senior societies similarly took note: of the eighteen commodores between 1853 and 1870, the only athletic honor of its era, Keys boasted eight, Bones two, the new senior society Spade and Grave two, and neutrals six. In the election for the class of 1880, five of the university crew and its coxswain were elected to the two senior societies.37

The second sport to rise in popularity on the campus was baseball. A letter home to his mother from the Yale College protagonist of John Wood’s novel College Days, set in the mid-1870s, recites that “In the afternoon we go out and play ball at Hamilton Park or row on the harbor.” The game had been played informally at Yale before the Civil War, but not until the troops brought it home did the pastime sweep the country. The first college nine was formed at Princeton in 1858, and Yale class clubs were featured in the Yale Banner from 1859. The first regular varsity baseball nine was formed from the best men of the class clubs in 1865, following the formation of the “Yale University Base Ball Club,” under the presidency of James Coffin of the class of 1868, and the first intercollegiate game was played against Wesleyan that year.38

The growing prominence of sports almost immediately affected the candidate pool for the senior societies. Wood’s 1894 novel describes the speculation: “The question was always being asked—will So-and-so go to Spade and Grave [the novelist’s code name for Bones]? Where will So-and-so fetch up? To hear a knot of men talking on the sophomore fence one would have imagined that the elections into the senior societies were just then about to be given out. Then [the mid-1870s] as now the senior societies were considered as more or less of a reward of social standing, or merit in the class. There were certain men whose honors always entitled them to membership, such as Yale Lit. men, prominent boating and baseball men, popular men, committee men or high-stand men.”39

Bones at first did not elect the varsity baseball players, and when the intercollegiate series against Harvard began in 1868, with Yale losing to Harvard that year and for the next five, that society was explicitly blamed (although Henry Rutherford Elliot, Bones 1871, had been president of the B.B.C.). The Iconoclast, an undergraduate publication attacking the society in October 1873, proclaimed that “Bones prefers to give her elections to the high-stand man and the literary man while she looks coldly on superior ball men and passes them in disdain. If it were understood that the best base ball player in every class was as sure of an election to Bones as he who takes 1st prize compositions, would it not call out a great amount of latent talent? . . . It is evident to all who witnessed the disappointment of ’74 when her best ball player—we might add, one of the best players that has ever entered college—failed to receive an election to Bones, and when men of no merit whatever supplanted him, that the society does not make it a point to encourage base ball. Here, then, lies the evil; all men want to go to Skull and Bones; playing ball will not take them; hence men will not play base ball to get there.

Sometimes Skull and Bones, like the United States Supreme Court is said to do, follows the election returns: the captain for 1870, Samuel McCutcheon, and Clarence Deming, the captain for 1871 and 1872, were both made members, and Samuel Clark Bushnell, chosen for the delegation of 1874, was elected B.B.C. president his senior year. The captain of the 1874 and 1875 teams and two of his teammates were elected to the Bones club of 1875, and the captain for the 1876 and 1877 teams was elected for 1877. Charles Francis Carter, tapped for Bones in 1878, is generally credited with introducing the curve ball into college baseball pitching (it had been used in the professional leagues for about a decade), and struck out fifteen Harvard men that year. From 1880, Yale began to win consistently in baseball, and the team captains for 1881, 1882, 1885, and 1886 were chosen for Bones. From 1886 to 1890, largely as the result of pitcher and Bonesman (1888) Amos Alonzo Stagg’s run of fifteen victories in twenty-one games against Harvard, the championship remained in New Haven.40

Football at Yale took longer to develop. No games were allowed in the college yard, so they were always played on the New Haven Green: as early as 1840, an annual game was played by the freshmen and sophomores. The rules had changed little since the eighteenth century, but there was some evolution, from kicking the ball over the goal line, to allowing the ball to be run laterally out of bounds, and then by 1863, to a rushing game where a ball carrier tried to evade tackles. The roughness of the annual freshman-sophomore game became so dangerous that the faculty banned it in 1857, and then the town banned the student use of the Green, despite the opposition of the college authorities in support of the old prerogatives.41

The first ever American intercollegiate football match was played in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers. Three years later, Yale played its first intercollegiate game, against Columbia, resulting in a victory that was the beginning of what would become the most successful college football program, in terms of victories, in the first century of college football. Representatives of Harvard, Yale, and Columbia met in Springfield, Massachusetts, in November 1876, denominating themselves the Intercollegiate Football Association and formalizing for the first time rules to apply to all future games, fixing the official type of ball (a rugby ball), the dimensions of the playing field (140 by 70 yards), and the duration of play (ninety minutes).

The further reformation of the rules of the game, its national dominance by Yale under Walter Camp (class of 1880, Bones), and the resulting influence on the senior societies were all products of the succeeding decade. By that time, leadership roles in the baseball “nines” and the football “twenties” were positions of prominence: as stated in the Yale Record for June 18, 1881, “The presidences of our athletic interests are as important and responsible postions as any in the gift of the college.” Elections to Bones were accepted by the captains of every Yale football team in the decade from 1878 through 1887, excepting only those of 1880, 1881, and (when the captain went to Keys) 1882. During the fourteen years between 1875 and 1890, Yale won every game played against Harvard and most of the games against Princeton, the other acknowledged leader of intercollegiate football in America.42

What Yale historian Brooks Kelley has styled the “rise of the extracurriculum” manifested itself in other ways besides organized sports: a chorale society with an orchestra was also something of a team. James Fenimore Cooper, originally a member of the Yale class of 1806 but expelled as a junior for a prank which exploded another student’s door, was to point out in his The American Democrat of 1838 that not only did American culture lack serious music, but moreover the public did not understand the importance of this shortcoming. A music society had been founded at Yale by undergraduates as early as 1812, and this became the Beethoven (Sacred Music) Society in 1826. This group always formed the college choir until 1855, and provided, in the absence of an organ, orchestral music at religious services; by that date, it numbered about thirty members, two-thirds of whom were singers and the rest composing the “grand orchestra” of strings, wind instruments, and a “big drum.”43

Even as Cooper wrote, undergraduate Richard Storrs Willis worked in New Haven to further the cause of music in America. He served twice as president of the Beethoven Society, in his junior year, when he was chosen for Bones in 1840, and again as a senior. Before his graduation, he organized Yale’s first orchestra, and later studied with Mendelssohn in Europe. He introduced “Gaudeamus” and “Integer Vitae” to the Yale campus in 1848, bringing them from German universities, and with the assistance of James Kittredge Lombard (Bones 1854) published the first collection of college songs, arranged for tenor, baritone, and bass, in 1853—the first songbook of any college, with new editions following every few years. The lyics of “Gaudeamus,” often performed as the opening piece of concerts by the Yale Glee Club, reflect an endorsement of the bacchanalian mayhem of student life, while simultaneously retaining the grim knowledge that one day we all will die. The seventh stanza would particularly have amused the Latin-learned Willis and Lombard, and all their auditors who were society members: in its English translation, “Let sadness perish! Let haters perish! Let the devil perish! And also the opponents of fraternities and their mockers, too!”44

Under Willis’s leadership, the Beethoven Society pushed toward its objective, the installation of an organ in the Yale Chapel, achieved in 1851—a revolutionary innovation, because of the ancient Puritan prejudice throughout New England against the use in public worship of Bach’s chosen instrument. President Woolsey, using the gift of Joseph Battell, in 1845 appointed Gustave Stoeckel to be the organist and choirmaster in the college chapel, commencing formal instruction in music at Yale. With the appearance of an organized choir in chapel, the function of the Beethoven Society had come to an end, and after the Civil War, it gave way to the new University Glee Club.45 Still, before its demise, the Beethoven Society’s president and other officers were recognized as important men in the class: the president for 1851–52, the treasurer for 1852–53, the secretary for 1854–55, and the president for 1868–69 were chosen for Bones, and the presidents for 1861–62 and 1863–64 were elected to Keys.

Singing had also become a feature of the public face of the senior societies and fraternities. The College Courant for June 24, 1868, reported that during 1865 and 1866, “each of the three societies [Bones, Keys, and Spade and Grave, founded in 1864] were accustomed to sing a song upon the College Green” upon returning from their Thursday evening meetings. About two or three o’clock Friday morning they were always to be heard, with the Bonesmen singing a familiar Yale song, known as “I Shall Be His Dad,” the members of Keys their well-known “Gaily the Troubadour,” and Spade and Grave warbling the modern “How Can I Leave Thee.” By 1870, a cappella duels between groups crossing paths on their way back to their dormitories drove the college administration to ban all society singing outside of the halls because these informal contests in the middle of the night were interrupting sleep. Bagg wrote in 1872 that “[t]his custom of singing is a comparatively modern one, and the secret societies have the credit of introducing it—several of the college melodies having been originally their private property.”46

The most famous of all such anthems, Scroll and Keys’ “Gaily the Troubadour,” was first sung by the delegation of 1856 to accompany its marching home. Initially the society members had not retired in a group, though sometimes, and especially by the club of 1849, serenades were offered to certain ladies of Hillhouse Avenue, “who testified to their pleasure in various unmistakable ways.” The usage completely changed by 1855, with a march across the Green at midnight, singing lyrics to the tune of “Juvallera.” The next delegation adopted “Troubadour” in its place. A member of that year wrote: “We left the Hall . . . walked two abreast, the fifteenth man leading each in turn. As we entered the Green at Church Street, we started ‘Gaily the Troubadour’ and continued singing, separated in front of the Lyceum, keeping time to our music, each one ceasing to sing as he entered his hall.” By 1860, the line of march was varied, to cross the Green as far as Temple, then shifting left and up Chapel to the Brick Row. There the group passed “the whole line of College buildings in profound silence” to the steps of the Chapel, where the “Troubadour” was sung, the singers thereafter dispersing to their rooms. Because this would occur anywhere from one to four A.M. in the morning, on certain lengthy meeting nights it had become daylight, so the whole club continued into chapel for morning prayers. (Bones, too, had a parting song in the 1850s and ’60s titled “Farewell” and sung to the tune of “The Old South Joe,” but neutrals so disapproved that it was ultimately abandoned.)47


Less elevating than the Beethoven Society, but ultimately more significant to the rising classes and the senior societies, was the Wooden Spoon Presentation and Promenade. The Junior Exhibitions, held over an entire day in April, had showcased oratorical presentations in front of the college president, faculty, and friends of the juniors who received high appointments. To this was joined in 1851 the Junior Promenade, held either the day before or the day of the exhibition.

The Spoon presentation began as a burlesque of the “Junior Ex,” but in time came to overshadow the older exercise and dance. It was defended as an opportunity for those not chosen for their grades by the faculty for the Junior Exhibition to exhibit their other talents: “This presentation of the Spoon affords an opportunity to them who do not speak upon the College stage (although not to them alone) to appear before an audience and show what are their powers.” The Presentation of the Wooden Spoon was also championed as a true tether to the college: “What will make [the early graduates] soonest shout, old Yale was a glorious place? Is it the strictness of the College laws, the order of the recitations, the discipline of every exercise, or it is some little piece of fun, some trivial joke, some odd custom, unworthy perhaps of full grown men, and yet which bound them when young to their College home with cords which Time itself is unable to sever?”48 The wooden spoon was originally presented as an award to the biggest eater in commons, and then, aping a Cambridge University tradition of nicknaming as a “wooden spoon” the person who came last in the mathematical examinations there, it became a booby prize. At Yale, this went not to the poorest scholar in the class but to the lowest on the list of fifty appointed to speak at the Junior Exhibition.

Soon the award metamorphosed into a popularity contest. From 1854, the junior class was electing a Spoon committee, styled the “Society of the Cochleaureati” (from the Latin cochlear, for spoon, and laureatus, crowned with a laurel). Chosen by the whole class from the men withoutfaculty scholarship appointments, it was a classic secret society, with closed meetings, small gold spoons nearly an inch and a half long worn on the vest lapel, and a “midnight doxology” sung after gatherings. The steel plate emblem engraved on the invitations to their annual festivals included in one quadrant a Phi Beta Kappa pin—upside down. Those elected were said to be the nine “best fellows,” the “wittiest, most ‘popular,’ genial, and gentlemanly men of the class.” The Wooden Spoon Man, supposed to be the best of the best, was elected from their own number by the “Cochs” (the sole abbreviation, pronounced with a hard “ch” [or “k”], which encouraged visual puns, too). “Thus the position of Spoon Man grew to be the highest elective honor of the college,” wrote Bagg in 1872, “and that of Coch [a single member of the committee] but little inferior to it.”

The Spoon Exhibition thus became the event of the college social season, drawing the largest and most remarkable audience of any event in New Haven, especially “snab,” the college term for fashionable ladies and pretty girls. The Spoon Promenade of the evening before the exhibition was similarly brilliant, with orchestral music, and oversubscribed admissions for a hall with a capacity of over 2,500 persons. The spoon itself—by this time a two-foot wonder of rosewood or black walnut, ornately carved, with an engraved silver label, in a velvet-lined case—became “a prize more craved than the Valedictory or De Forest Medal. . . . Nor at Yale did the fact that the Wooden Spoon Committee was a sure step to Senior society election dull undergraduate ambitions to become ‘popular’ and win a place among the nine ‘Cochs.’”49

Ceremonies usually were scheduled for the Monday and Tuesday in July preceding Presentation Day, but in 1871 that event was moved to the Tuesday, a schedule shift coupled with the elimination of the two-week vacation which had always followed. This calendar alteration, along with dismay over both the ever increasing expense for mounting their ceremonies and preelection “spreads,” and the political machinations which now surrounded election of the Cochs (at the end, the two leading junior societies divided the Spoon Committee memberships between them, and then annually alternated the Spoon Man’s society origin), brought the sudden end of the Wooden Spoon ceremonies, through disgust of the students themselves at what had become an affront to their prized Yale democracy.50

Of the relative standing of college honors in this decade, Bagg is instructive: “The position of DeForest Man corresponds in rank to that of Valedictorian in scholarship, of Wooden Spoon Man in popularity, of Navy Commodore in boating matters; it is the very highest of the literary honors, and, as these are thought more of than any others, it may be called the highest honor of the whole college course.”51 The comet of the Wooden Spoon in the twenty-two classes between 1848 and its abrupt demise in 1871 cast a gravitational pull upon the senior society system, and the practices of the Cochs themselves reflected that system. According to the New York World of June 26, 1867, the newly elected juniors “are initiated by the cochs of the Senior class into a sort of secret society, hold meetings every Friday in their rooms, in succession, when a supper is served, and the future exhibition promised, and at one of which they choose of their number the spoon man.”

The Spoon Man in the 1848–1871 span (there were none in 1849 and 1851) came nine times from Bones and six times from Keys, reflecting the elder society’s policy of tapping the topmost individual in each field, but this census evidences that seven were neutrals. In the same span, of the 205 individuals on the Spoon Committee, Keys claimed seventy-four, Bones sixty-four, and other societies twelve, while fifty-five were neutrals. The only class in which all of the Cochs belonged to the two senior societies was 1864, with four from Bones and five from Keys. Popularity, however, certainly did trump intelligence: it was a faculty proverb that the Spoon Exhibition always dropped one of the committee from his class, but of the whole number, only a dozen Cochs failed to graduate, two of whom were Spoon Men.52

Still, the Bones strategy of tapping the high achievers carried its own significant risks. The older society clearly missed, through mistake or caprice, men in the junior class who, if raw excellence was the main criterion, deserved to be elected, even allowing for the occasional “outsider.” That failure, and the society’s seeming indifference thereafter to those passed over, compounded its reputation for arrogance. Potential could also be misperceived, and promise overlooked. After his twentieth reunion, a Bonesman of the class of 1870 wrote his sister that it was “rather curious to note some surprises in the careers of the men. Some who could hardly keep up in class were now distinguished men, and some whom we had expected to lead armies and govern nations are keeping dry goods stores or making coffins in western country towns.”53

The senior societies and respect for their elections depended for continued existence on both the tolerance of the Yale administration, and the rough sufferance of the lower classes to shoulder the personal judgments of election day, mostly content that the individuals so chosen were indeed intellectual or social leaders. When both faculty consent and student satisfaction were withdrawn, as happened in 1871 with the Cochs—and as was to be threatened again in later years when men took pledges in groups not to entertain senior society election as juniors—an abrupt end to the entire system was suddenly possible. Whether the members of Bones or Keys were chosen for their intellectual or leadership prowess, or remarkable social gifts, if either group allowed their campus elevation to issue in superior attitudes, silly and obsessive demands for respect, self-aggrandizements, and overt acts of arrogance, the strains could become cumulative and explosive.

Even in this decade, the societies were well aware that the tolerance of the neutrals for their prominence and ceremonies was seriously strained. In 1853 there appeared the first signs of justifiable and specific resentment, as noted in a brief description of societies in general in the campus publication Gallinipper. “Senior societies are noted for little except their exclusiveness and mysterious humbuggery. Their members cut their old acquaintances as much as possible, and monitors who belong to them take off for their own Society men, and leave others to whistle. Treat them with contempt. As they never talk of themselves, never talk about them, but if you have any ambition to get in . . . tear down their notices, and you will get the reputation of men of spirit.”54

In 1856, the editors of the Lit., three of whom were Bonesmen, permitted an article to run by N. C. Perkins, “Secret Societies among Us,” published nine months after the first occupation of the Bones High Street tomb. Perkins, a neutral, wrote that he had not “the least intention of applying the pick ax and crow bar to anybody’s ‘Marvelous and Portentous Tower,’” as ancient Spanish legend said had been built by the Lybian Hercules near the city of Toledo, with which “he hid a mighty secret, and closed up the entrance by a great iron door, with a lock of steel.” Still, Perkins deplored the “five or six enterprising” Yale societies’ “political maneuvering, by which they manage to control the action of the Classes, and not unfrequently, of the whole College,” their “horribly mysterious way of doing everything,” their “convivial entertainments” leading to hangovers in chapel, their badge fetish, and their patronization of non-members.55

The short-lived Yale Review, in its first issue of February 1857, ran its own article under the same title. While seriously apprehending “the most injurious effect of secret societies” to “arise from the necessity of assuming an artificial character, on the part of the members . . . especially true of Senior Societies, where there is little else to do,” the essay, in macabre mockery, compared the Lit. piece’s author to the man murdered by the Masons for publishing their secrets, and also seemingly targeted both Keys and Bones. “While we unhesitatingly pronounce the author of the leader of the Lit. for December, a bold man; yet, with the fate of poor Morgan, at the hands of the sons of Hiram, before his eyes; we must say his courage savors more of rashness than reason. After such ‘disclosures,’ we need not be surprised, if, at the beginning of next term, like Paddie’s pig, he should ‘come back missin.’”56

This was followed in 1858 by another notice in the Gallinipper, which was both more insightful, and more detached in tone. “The members,” this journal noted, “never deign to communicate either by look, word, or action about these associations. Their great apparent desire to have their very existence ignored is only equaled by their intense wish to have that existence brought into view. . . . No reflection would strike a deeper pang into the hearts of members than the conviction that no one puzzled his brain at all about them. Of course, with all the care exercised, a secret will occasionally leak out, until now in the whole Senior class, at least, very accurate impressions of these institutions are always formed. They are designed principally to secure the formation of aristocratic cliques for the control of all college politics and the elevation of members to posts of honor. Holding in subjection the three lower classes by hopes of receiving elections, they wield a considerable influence. . . . The Societies are ‘codfishey,’ aristocratic in their tendencies, and consequently do not deserve sympathy from outsiders.”57

The charge of political intriguing is probably just, and surely the indiscriminate ragging of society members by neutrals, if it had effect at all, would tend to make the two senior societies even more taciturn and exacting in their external usages, as did, probably, their general consciousness of each other.58 “I am really very much concerned about this,” a recent graduate of Keys wrote the club of 1866. “[It] seems to me as if some of our friends [the Bones members] were endeavoring to establish a divine origin, as if they belonged to a better class of mortals. . . . Behave as your predecessors have done and you will always have the good will and respect of your fellows. There is a difference, you know, between modest dignity and obtrusive snobbishness. Don’t make C.S.P. stick out like a sore thumb, but if you do, don’t get angry if anybody sticks a knife into this sore thumb—at any rate, if they do, it will heal the sooner.”59

Counsel like this, or mere reflection on the toxic atmosphere, caused the Bones club of 1857, following an attack by a crowd on neutrals on the club’s posted notice of meeting on the college chapel door, to vote to abandon the custom of such notices: none appeared on the Thursday meeting date of October 16, 1856, or thereafter. In three years, the exercise of evening prayers in the college was to be abandoned.60 The students gathered for that daily occasion would no longer be compelled to see the society notices on their meeting days, but when Bones, before that time, took the lead in retiring what had become a severe provocation, the disappearance of the ritual notice reportedly caused a campus sensation as great as the posting of the first skull and crossbones–marked notice by George Wood back in 1832.


In the fifteen-year span from 1856 to 1871 that straddled the American Civil War, Skull and Bones and Scroll and Key continued to develop traditions which, for the incoming delegations, had the immediate patina of age. One was the custom of singing a society anthem while marching in a group back to the dormitories of the Old Brick Row after weekly meetings. Photographic records of the seniors was another: from 1861, the fifteen members of Bones were ranged standing (except for two who were seated) to the left and right of a small central table with their emblems of skull and crossed femurs atop, in front of a tall case clock with the hands pointed to the hour of eight, and from 1862, specially bound books with head shots of each member were produced.61 In due course, Keys followed suit.

Honorary and “silent” memberships were two other practices. There was on-campus society precedent: both Linonia and Brothers in Unity provided in their respective constitutions for honorary members. While Bones never engaged in the practice, the Keys constitution permitted their delegations to admit “distinguished artists” as honorary members. Under this rule, George Vandenhoff, a leading actor and elocutionist, was admitted in 1848, and Boston journalist E. P. Whipple was elected in 1853.62

The most famous of Keys’ honorary members was Samuel Langhorne Clemens, “Mark Twain,” elected in 1868 when he was thirty-two. He became an occasional visitor to graduate sessions of C.S.P. thereafter, escorted by his Hartford neighbor and sponsor, the Reverend Joseph Hopkins Twichell of the club of 1859, in his class the president of Brothers in Unity, a Coch, and on the first varsity crew to beat Harvard. Twichell was to serve as president of Keys’ corporate parent, the Kingsley Trust Association, from 1866 to 1872 and was the author’s pastor and best friend. Twain wrote to “Mr. President of the Scroll and Key” on November 18, 1869: “Allow me the privilege (in haste) of remembering myself most kindly to my esteemed and honored brethren of the S and K—whom God preserve! Fraternally, Mark Twain.”63

The famous humorist had, of course, only a partial and fragmentary view of “his” senior society’s character and purposes. In an article appearing in the Yale Courant for February 21, 1874, Twain publicly alluded to his honorary membership and attendance at several gatherings, “but as its meetings were confined chiefly to eating and drinking, he had not gained much experience except a pleasant time.” The custom became an object of campus satire, thus ensuring its demise: the Yale Literary Chronicle for 1873 stated that “[New York newspaper publisher Horace] Greeley denies that he is a member of Keys.” Such memberships fell out of favor after the era of Twain’s election, other than for wives of members, who held the like privilege and kept it until the 1890s.64

“Silent” members of Scroll and Key were also honorary, but differently originated: these were classmates elected by members of the current delegation in their senior year whom they simply wished to include but had not made the first fifteen. This had begun in 1845 when that year’s set elected before their graduation a senior who had spent his first three years at another college. Over time, such unofficial elections became common: one in 1849, two in 1850, six (one a law student) in 1851, five (one from the scientific school) in 1852, and a total of one or two in five other years, the last in 1861.65

Initiation traditions were fluid, to say the least. In Keys’ early years, the juniors elected were privately and individually notified to meet on a certain evening at a certain hour and place (never at the hall). Each member-elect was then conducted to the tomb and initiated in turn. Black wax seals were broken, locks were undone and chains noisily withdrawn, and stairs were mounted from a “dismal outer court” to “the brilliant light of the temple.” Here the bewildered and bedazzled neophytes were ranged silently around a coffin, to listen “to the history and regulations of the venerable institution,” after which “they were shown to the festive board, laden with the luxuries of every clime.” The evolutionary steps thereafter became both more precise and more complex, with initiates led from room to room, hearing interrogations with antipodal responses by members of the outgoing club, calling out from behind various shrouded doorways.66

In the fevered imagination of the neutrals, the images of initiation were more like those in a panel from the graphic narrative—possibly America’s very first comic book, published in 1850—of The College Experience of Ichabod Academicus, illustrated by William Thompson Peters and written by “H.F.P. and G.M.” (Hugh Florian Peters, member of Alpha Delta Phi and Keys for 1849, and Garrick Mallery), in which the panel captioned “He is initiated into a secret society” shows a grim-faced student atop a charging ram, gripping its horns and pursued by a skeleton thrusting a spear at his back.67

Before his initiation into Skull and Bones in spring 1869, William Welch, a member of the class of 1870 and later the founding dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine (in his lifetime hailed as “Dean of American Medicine”), wrote his father that “nearly all the members of the faculty are members of this society and keep up their interest in it. . . . It is understood to be very literary in its character and has in its possession a very fine library. . . . I have spoken thus at length for when I become a duly initiated member I shall have to adopt the strictest secrecy.” A letter to Welch from his clubmate, class valedictorian Dwight Whitney Learned, evidences that the management of the college was often a subject of discussion in their tomb: not only the matter of undergraduate offices, although that was important, but also faculty appointments, the nature of the curriculum, and the general policies of Yale.68

Over at Keys, the formal program of “familiar debate,” coupled with a Shakespearian essay and the oral reading of one of the Bard’s plays, was varied with a substitute plan of art study, calling for an appointed member’s essay on the Byzantine, Italian, Flemish, or French schools of painting, to be followed by remarks by each member of the crowd on “the prominent characteristics of some painter of the school.” To relieve the fatigue of the long play-reading evenings, the club of 1864 introduced a program of literary sessions, with an hour-long debating session at 8:30, followed by the social session (“music, dancing, cards, etc.,” which last seems to have included hard liquor), then a second session at 11:00 P.M., with the essay and play reading. The debating sessions were suffering in quality, as the oratorical and parliamentary skills formerly honed preceding senior society elections, in the glory years of Linonia and Brothers in Unity, waned with the fortunes of those ancient literary societies, and alcohol did not improve matters. The crowd of 1853 had abolished the demon from their rooms, but backsliding led to the custom between 1867 and 1869 of “drowning the Philaloo bird,” either in the hall or at a nearby local tavern.

Slotted somewhere among the formal exercises of Keys and the social hour was the joyous and ever more elaborate supper. For the dozen years after the founding in 1842, this consisted of an infrequent but treasured “bum” or feast of peanuts or molasses candy, with lemonade on hot summer nights, and perhaps a special treat of oysters when member contributions could fund the expense (society funds could not be so used). By Keys’ second decade, the regular valedictory meal started at eleven, at which hour “the drum sounded,” and the feast was begun with the raising of a silver goblet accompanied by the leader’s cry, “Quid tempus est?,” to which the group response was “Tempus est bibendi, et edendi, et ludendi,” after which all present sat down, “pounded the table for about a minute, then sang the table song, and proceeded with the meal.” The basic dish was still oysters, supplemented under a more prosperous membership with beef steak, or cold chicken sandwiches, or sardines “as plentiful as in the Mediterranean,” or ice cream, all washed down with “torrents” of “rich dark coffee.”69

Meanwhile, over on High Street, the installation of a kitchen in the cellar of the new Bones hall obviously gave the elder society a significant advantage in the culinary sweepstakes, allowing for improvements over the cold collations served in rented rooms. This also facilitated the entertainment of returning graduates, who were invited to “the annual convention of the Order” on the evening of commencement (which occurred six weeks after early summer’s Presentation Day, in August), and again in the following spring for a supper in connection with the Bones initiation ceremony, which was, “at least the outside part of it . . . conducted by graduates alone.”70

The “outside part” resulted, from 1856 onward, from the presence of the new Bones tomb. The inherent tension for candidates was increased because the seniors did not speak to those to be initiated (except to deliver the summons to initiation) from the date of their election to the evening of their initiation. “The initiation begins, after the close of the Wooden Spoon Exhibition, at midnight of the following Tuesday, and lasts till about daybreak,” Bagg reported. “The candidates for the ceremony are assembled in a room of the college Laboratory, which is guarded by Bones man, and are singly escorted thence, by two of the latter, to the hall. As the grim doors open for each new member, there are sounds as of a fish horn, as of many feet hurrying up an uncarpeted stairway, as of a muffled drum and tolling bell—all mingling in a sort of confused uproar, like that from a freshman initiation a good many miles away.”

“Perhaps,” he continues, “while being led to a hall, a candidate may pass between rows of neutral Juniors or other college men, some of whom may ‘bid him goodbye,’ with expressions of congratulation and good will, if they think his election deserved, or insult and revile him, if their belief goes in the contrary direction. There is usually some one to flash a dark lantern upon each approaching candidate, and, if he makes no other personal comments, to at least shout forth his name, for the edification of the rest. To all this the Bones men of course pay no attention. It perhaps takes an hour or more thus to initiate the fifteen candidates; and when the self-constituted leader of the outside hangers on announces that ‘the last man’s in,’ his followers agree that the fun is over, and sullenly disperse. If they stayed longer perhaps they might hear songs sung to strange old tunes, and the applause which follows it, and prolonged cheers for ‘the Skull and the Bones.’”71 The presence at the societies’ initiation ceremonies of these neutrals, who could become hostile bystanders, was to result in 1865 to a Yale faculty directive that each society was only to initiate in its own hall and in the presence of members alone.72

Of course there was intrusive interest by neutrals as well on election night itself: two bodies of fifteen solemn seniors parading in and out of college dormitories was an irresistible invitation to harassment. For example, in 1867 “there was,” according to the Yale Courant for June 26, 1867, “considerable disturbance. . . . Doors were fastened, and halls blocked up. One thing praiseworthy may be noted this year—that most [of the elections] were given out early in the evening.” By 1874, the Courant was reporting “the usual demonstrations, consisting mainly of hooting, laughing, cheering, and similar signs of interest. This, as the neutral blood began to rise a little higher, was followed by the imprisonment of a Bones man in a Durfee entry, from which he effected an escape by means of an underground passage.” A crowd followed two other Bonesmen back to the tomb, to block its entrance; when the iron doors opened, “an attempt to enter a pole into the door was frustrated by the muscle of an old-time member of the university crew.” Someone summoned a “gentle peeler” [policeman], and then a faculty member, who eventually convinced the crowd to disperse.73

To minimize this interference, both societies were compelled to change tapping customs. After 1867, they sent out only one man or two, and at earlier hours. The emissary in the candidate’s room asked all others to leave, confirmed by query that the candidate was then alone, inquired whether he was “under any obligations to any other organization,” and said, if he was a Keys man: “I have the honor to offer you an election to the so-called Scroll and Key Fraternity. Do you accept?” If the answer were in the affirmative, the society representative was instructed to “shake hands with the member elect, and . . . immediately thereafter leave the room without further remark.”74

The Bones approach was essentially the same. “[A]t an early hour of the appointed evening, a Bones Senior quietly calls at the room of a Junior, and having been assured that ‘we are alone,’ says: ‘I offer you an election to the so-called Skull and Bones. Do you accept?’ If the answer is affirmative the Senior—and perhaps the graduate member who sometimes accompanies him—shakes hands with the neophyte, and bidding him to keep to his room for the present, hurries back to the hall to report the result. If the election is refused, the result is likewise reported to headquarters, and influential members are sometimes sent back to argue the case; but as a rule, few men who refuse elections are offered a chance to repent. Bones will not be dictated to, and when a man says, ‘I accept, in case So-and-So is elected with me,’ or ‘in case Such-a-One is kept out,’ he is never allowed to carry his point; Yes or No is the only answer recognized.”75

With the process thus starting at about seven o’clock, the full complements of fifteen might be made up by nine P.M. in case there were no refusals; if there were refusals, it took longer, and Bones at least was said to choose nominally a half-dozen extra men, in case any of their first fifteen turned them down. This was necessitated by Keys’ strategy of preelection pledging, as exemplified in the elections for the class of 1867, where Bones received seven refusals from men who went together to Keys, although urged to reconsider by “certain resolute members of the Faculty, and of one Major-General [Russell] . . . called in to over-persuade the reluctant Juniors,” and again for the class of 1870, where, reported the College Courant, “some not over-trusty member had quietly let out the whole thing, including the pack, which, it if had duly been regarded by the Bones men, would have saved them some little embarrassment,” as of the six named by the paper as declining Bones, five went to its rival.

By going quietly and swiftly about their business, the societies thus managed to largely elude the attentions of the rabble-rousers ranging around the college yard on election night (the same issue of the Courant reported that, “as the darkness increased, the crowd of Neutrals also increased both in size and in the amount of its howling capacity, till a very respectable degree of proficiency was attained in this last respect”). The names of the chosen were known very quickly, of course—a member of the class of 1865 was to recollect an announcement of completed elections at midnight on June 16, 1864—and many in each society made lists for circulation at the breakfast table or division classroom for the following morning, where they formed “the sole topic of discussion throughout the college,” and saw print in the Courant of the Wednesday following, and indeed sometimes appeared in the enterprising New Haven city dailies in the next morning’s issue.76

For Skull and Bones, the most significant change of this era was the inception of Saturday evening meetings and the new custom of discussion there. The ability to gather informally in their newly secure hall, finding clubmates there more frequently, had increased. The clubs began to meet regularly, in addition to the Thursday debate meetings, on Saturday nights at the end of the school week. These Saturday nights had no rules or regulations other than a requirement not to leave the tomb until midnight: they simply wished to converse, three, ten, or even fifteen together, in the strengthening of bonds of trust and friendship, without the edges of argument or rivalry inherent in the Thursday evening debates.

Thus they elected to relate to one another, in the privacy and confidentiality of the tomb, the stories of their individual lives. Perhaps inevitably, they began to vary the diet of discussion with presentations on that subject of perennial fascination for young men, “woman.” At that date “there were no promenades or balls,” a member of the class of 1846 was to lament. “Dancing seems to have gone out of Connecticut about 1825, and not to have come in again until after the [Civil] war. . . . The Puritan theology regarded anything that was pleasant with more or less suspicion.” What eventually became known in Skull and Bones as “Connubial Bliss” (or “C.B.”) was at one and the same time a topic and an exercise on Saturday and then Sunday evenings in the spring where one member delivered his romantic history to his fourteen clubmates in a fireplace-lit room for several hours; ultimately by natural association in later years, “C.B.” became a noun describing a member’s girlfriend or spouse.

A longer-range perspective of the society’s views on marriage is to be found in the memoirs of Mrs. Burton Harrison on her wedding in Richmond, Virginia, in November 1867, just two years after the Civil War, in which her husband (class of 1859) had served as Jefferson Davis’s private secretary; she wrote about the “‘Bones men’ summoned by the bridegroom to stand by their loyal brother on his translation into married life.” This is echoed in a letter of William Howard Taft (class of 1878) to his fiancé, Nellie Herron, when planning to construct their home on land in Cincinnati gifted to them by her father: “I shall have the greatest pride in entertaining my classmates, Bonesmen, under our roof where you and they can know each other.” Still, secrecy was not sacrified: at the wedding of a senior society member, “the bride was inducted and made to promise that she would never divulge any society secrets her husband might let slip in pillow talk.”77

The tradition of the members telling their life histories seemingly began as a natural progression from the C.B.s. What might have seemed a small step was instead a major one. The challenges to the individual presenter were twofold: what degrees of self-assessment and personal honesty would be shown, and—as with the Thursday debates—what oral skills could best be employed to convey the results of introspection which the occasion demanded? For the listeners, the intimacy of the environment elicited revelations which compelled them to learn humility and exercise tolerance with classmates with whom they were bound to spend at least two nights a week throughout their senior year. It was all only possible on the mutual understanding that these sessions were completely private, not even to be discussed with alumni (forbidden to disturb the undergraduates then), let alone roommates who were neutrals.

The consequences of this program innovation were profound, both for the individuals participating and for the strength and perdurability of the Yale senior society system. Within the society one could take as natural and confident a place as one might find within his own family. Like family privacy, the institutional secrecy permitted the disclosure of thoughts and feelings without reserve; stormy emotions elsewhere bottled up could find expression. Here was a place where loyalty had claims prior to those of individual success, and a man was recognized not because he won prizes but because he was himself. Against the enemies of time and chance, the members were a phalanx more solid than one could find anywhere. And the strength of the phalanx was trust, extended unqualified one to another. In the Skull and Bones society’s first two decades, training in extemporaneous debate had been deemed fundamental to the society experience. By the third quarter of the nineteenth century and going forward, when its members spoke of their essential club life, they meant the experience of sharing the life histories.

For Henry Stimson, class of 1888 and future secretary of war (for Presidents Taft, Franklin Roosevelt, and Truman), governor-general of the Philippines (for President Coolidge), and secretary of state (for President Hoover), it was a great discovery. In later years he made use of it in the formation of policy in many different offices and in the conduct of negotiations with many different peoples. He proposed, in the last recommendation of his public service, that the country should share its knowledge and control of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes with Russia. He made this proposition, he told President Truman, because, “the chief lesson I have learned in a long life is that the only way you can make a man trustworthy is to trust him.” He had said the same thing often before, and usually when he said it he added that the had learned this thing first when he committed himself to membership in Skull and Bones.78

The emotional risks were patent, because, to vary the rhythm or to break some tension, members would ask questions or demand elaborations; candid analysis of the speaker’s account was not uncommon, even if made in a sympathetic spirit. In the early twentieth century, a member about to deliver his “Life History,” or “L.H.,” as this feature came to be known, received his clubmates’ critiques of his conduct and character before his delivery, presumably to allow response in his presentation to what they perceived as his flaws. The irreverent undergraduate paper Harkness Hootwas to describe it this way in 1933: “Skull and Bones, which leads the other three [senior societies] in cloying and fraternal fellowship, subjects its members to evenings of mutual character analysis.” The discomfort engendered in the process, as it developed, was real, but so too was the value in an enhanced, intensified version of an activity that occurs in everyday life.

It has been said that one reason secret societies endured at Yale during the turbulent 1960s was because they were, as an undergraduate of the era put it, “therapy groups with million-dollar buildings.” A late-twentieth-century Bonesman in his thirties explained, “It’s a human bonding experience. You can do it on a train with a stranger, you get something out of it. You can do it in a society with strangers, you get something out of it.” Today, writes a twenty-first-century observer, virtually all Yale senior societies (although not Keys), “revolve around the ‘autos’ [autobiographies], in their attempts to model themselves after the Bones.”79 Unforeseen by the founders and not required by any constitution, the tradition of oral delivery of life histories became the greatest invention—and, from its widespread imitation, worst-kept secret—of Skull and Bones.

The less earnest and more gregarious strain in Keys was exhibited in that group’s policy toward women. Near female relatives were allowed to enter the hall as early as 1848, and later permitted to enter the rooms on taking an oath of secrecy, “provided they do not reside in the city,” presumably a precaution against a suspected tendency to gossip. By 1855, wrote a graduate of that year, “The wives, sisters (and sometimes the sweethearts) of members were considered to have a right to be shown the Hall; this privilege, though rarely occurring, was highly prized by the young ladies and gave social importance and popularity to the [Keys] Society. In those days, when the prestige of Skull and Bones had been so long established, there was more need for winning social support for our society than probably any of the present members can comprehend as ever being desirable.”80

The criteria of election, as between Bones and Keys, had by this third decade of their parallel existences begun to be perceived as patterns by neutral observers, including the new elements of what became known as “legacies” (for Bones) and “packing” (for Keys). A newspaper article of July 2, 1870, titled “Secret Societies” purported to state those differences. “Skull and Bones claims to give elections to the first fifteen members of the class. The first is defined as excelling in literary ability, scholarship, etc., literary distinction being reckoned the highest. Thus the valedictorian, spoon man, commodore of the Navy, prominent Lit. editors and heavy politicians are considered ‘sure.’ Of late years a new element of fitness has asserted itself and with a high place in the category of essentials, viz.: birth. That is, he who in previous classes has had a near relative in the society, may begin to figure up his initiation fee, but a brother in a recent class is worth more than a father in a forgotten one, for even the name of Gen. Russell was not adequate to procure an election for his son.”

Scroll and Key,” this article continued, “cultivates the lighter weights. While she is willing to accept any of the scholars, writers, &c., who will refuse ‘Bones’—as her rival is sacrilegiously called—she dotes on broadcloth, sunny faces, nice moustaches, good fellowship, and port-monnaies [wallets]. Generally making a bid sufficient to get one or two literary gods as proper candidates for the class-day honors, she fills out her list with the members of the Spoon committee, and such other well-dressed and generally recognized good fellows as the catalogue [of class members] affords. While Bones listens submissively to the commands of elder brother, Scroll and Key allows herself to be talked to by her own candidates, who often get up a ‘Pack,’ as it is called—i.e., a certain number of desirable men club together and say, ‘Take all or none.’ In this way the members of the class of ’69 elected themselves.”81


Another tradition began in Keys in this decade which is unexampled and unmatched in the history of any other Yale senior society. On July 13, 1871, at the dedication dinner in the new hall, the first toast offered was to “Yale College and the President.” Even though the society had a 45 percent mortgage on its just-constructed hall and was otherwise burdened with debt, Scroll and Key determined to found a university-wide prize, offered for the best essay upon one of a group of prescribed subjects, to be “practical, worth of original research, and of interest to young men.” In honor of one of the senior class of 1842 founders of the society, it was named the John Addison Porter Prize. The first winning essay was submitted by a senior in the class of 1872, titled “Essay on the Morality of the Greeks, as Shown in Their Literature, Art and Life.” In the award’s early years, the society also funded the publication and sale of the winning submissions. Ultimately, the administration of the prize was transferred to the university in 1908.82

In the same generous spirit, Scroll and Key, its debts largely retired, established with a $2,000 gift in 1888 the Ten Eyck prizes, founded in memory of Henry James Ten Eyck of the club of 1879 and “given annually in the undergraduate Academical Department, either for scholarship, or for a literary essay, and awarded in such a manner and for such a purpose as shall, after consultation with the President and the Academical Faculty, be deemed most advisable.” Even the student body took respectful, if journalistically sarcastic, note: the Yale Illustrated Horoscope for May 1889, which favored Keys over Bones, spoke of these gifts as “right loyal acts. The establishment of the John A. Porter and the Henry Ten Eyck prizes, for example, are highly commendable investments out of the surplus of the wine fund, and its older rival, with its poppy-cock and self-sufficiency, would do well to copy.”83

A Bonesman in this decade, too, was laying down the foundation for generosity to Yale University, but that was not to be known for another half century, in 1918. On July 17 of that year, the New York Times ran a long article on the publication of the will of John William Sterling, Bones 1864, and on the date of his death at age seventy-four, the surviving, senior, and still working partner of the renowned New York City law firm of Shearman & Sterling. His pallbearers, most of whom had been his clients, included William Rockefeller (John D.’s brother, with a grandson named John Sterling Rockefeller, to be tapped for Keys in 1928), Yale president Arthur Hadley (twelve years Sterling’s junior, Bones 1876), and the chief executives of what were then or were to become Citibank (Sterling oversaw its amalgamation as National City Bank, the nation’s largest bank by 1900), the two utility predecessors (gas and electric) of Consolidated Edison of New York, and Anaconda Copper.84

Sterling was the valedictorian of the Columbia Law School in 1867, and in Yale College had been a member of Brothers and a respected lightweight boxer, elected to Phi Beta Kappa (with five other members of his Bones club) and to Alpha Delta Phi. He was president of Brothers in Unity, a Coch, a Junior Exhibition oration appointment, and one of the Townsend speakers. Sterling never married, never attended a class reunion after his triennial, accepted an LLD from Yale in 1893 only on condition that it be given in absentia, and never while living made any notable gift to any religious, charitable, or educational institution or fraternity. (President Hadley had said wryly that he was chiefly generous with his advice.)85 So his loyalty to his college, engendered by his strong friendships there, were patently the result of his membership in Skull and Bones in 1863–64, as his last will and testament makes clear.

Article 24 of his will, the first such article to be quoted in the Times, reads: “In grateful remembrance of the benefits resulting to me when a student in Yale University, from my connection with the so-called Russell Trust Association, and the advantages which I have since reaped in my professional life from the discipline and experience gained thereby, and as a testimony of such benefits, I hereby direct my said Trustees, out of the residue of the estate vested in them not hereinbefore effectively disposed of, to pay the Trustees of said association and their successors in the trust the sum of $10,000; and it is my wish, although I do not impose it as a condition or trust, that they will invest the said sum and hold it for the purpose of applying the income to defray the annual expenses of the members of the said association while they are in the senior class of the Academical Department of Yale University, or in some way to provide for their comfort.”86 A bequest of $10,000 made in 1918 would today be approximately $150,000. The amount is probably the now-obscured foundation of the persistent legend that Bones members are each to receive a graduation gift of $10,000 (or as the years passed, $15,000, then $20,000).87

The more stunning news, however, was contained in the Times headline for this article: “$15,000,000 Sterling Bequest to Yale.” A year later, it was determined that the lawyer’s residuary estate (earned primarily from canny real estate investments) actually amounted to $18,000,000, which was in 2016 equivalent to about $285 million. Sterling’s will required Yale to fund with his gift “at least one enduring, useful and architecturally beautiful building, which will constitute a fitting Memorial of my gratitude to and affection for my Alma Mater . . . and to the erection of other fine and enduring buildings for the use of students.” The main result was the Sterling Memorial Library, but the bequest also funded the construction of the Sterling Law Quadrangle, the Sterling Hall of Graduate Studies, the Divinity School Quadrangle, the Sterling Hall of Medicine, and Trumbull College. The architect who designed all these structures was James Gamble Rogers, a member of Keys in the club of 1889, having declined a Bones tap. To state it plainly, the major buildings on the modern Yale campus are the product of the financial munificence of a Bones man and the architectural brilliance of a Keys man. It is entirely fitting that their portraits should flank the main desk in the nave of the Sterling Memorial Library.88

This Sterling bequest, in all senses, was at the time the largest sum of money ever donated to an institution of higher learning. In 1999, by way of comparison, Paul Mellon, Keys 1929, at his death left $90 million to the university, together with hundreds of artworks now at the Yale Center for British Art, and after having funded the construction of Morse and Stiles residential colleges, while endowing their masterships and then the deanships of all twelve residential colleges. Stephen Adams, Bones 1959, donated $100 million in 2005 to the Yale School of Music, making it tuition-free for the foreseeable future, plus another $10 million in 2013 for the renovation of Hendrie Hall, renamed the Adams Center for Musical Arts; Stephen Schwarzman, Bones 1969, donated $150 million in 2015 for the improvement and conversion of the Bicentennial Buildings into a university cultural center. When Charles B. Johnson, class of 1954, donated $250 million to Yale in 2013 for the construction of two new residential colleges,89 it was Yale’s largest gift ever, as a sum, but still less than Sterling’s when adjusted for inflation.

Gifts from members of Bones or their heirs both preceded and followed the announcement of the Sterling bequest. The first example is Farnam Hall (1869–1870), the first building in what became the quadrangle of the Old Campus, built on the site of the Second President’s House and named after a New Haven railroad developer whose three sons, William Whitman Farnam, Charles Henry Farnam, and Henry Wolcott Farnam, were all Bonesmen (1866, 1868, and 1874, respectively) who continued their father’s pattern of gifts to Yale, which he had not attended. Lawrance Hall (1885–1886) was donated by his mother as a memorial to Thomas Garner Lawrance (Bones 1884), chairman of the junior prom committee (successors to the Cochs) who died in his senior year. Phelps Hall (1896), the gateway to the Old Campus, was donated by members of that family in memory of William Walter Phelps (Bones 1860). Wright Hall (1912, now Lanham-Wright Hall), the home of Yale’s post office built on the site of Alumni Hall, is named after Henry Parks Wright (Bones 1868), first dean of Yale College, and was funded by his society’s members and other alumni.90

In the history of the two senior societies’ gifts to Yale, once definitively established in the seven years beginning in Sterling’s senior year in 1864, with the “discipline and experience gained thereby” in the Bones tomb on High Street in the words of his bequest, the Bones way of donations was emphatically personal. Starting with the John Addison Porter Prize foundation in 1871, conceived in the Keys tomb on College Street, later supplemented by the Henry James Ten Eyck prize, the Keys style in philanthropy to the alma mater remained fraternally corporate.


The prestige and power of the two societies within the class, and their consequent control over significant college committees and organizations, allowed them to preen. The second toast at the Senior Dinner of June 18, 1864, after that to the Yale president, was titled in the printed program for the occasion:

The day we celebrate—the Societies of Yale

“You are bones, and what of that?

Every face, however full,

Padded round with flesh and fat

Is but modeled on a skull.”—Tennyson.

“He grasped the Key of knowledge and wrote his name

Boldly on the scroll of fame.”—Richter

Such self-congratulation was not to go unanswered. Star and Dart, rival to Bones and Keys in the 1840s, was long gone, but a new senior society was formed, called “Spade and Grave.” That name was taken from its golden badge, featuring a spade partly thrust into a grave, resting on the grave’s footstone, while a crown topped the headstone. At first it was called “Bed and Broom” by irreverent outsiders. As the formally titled “Society of 1864” gained some respect, it became simply “Graves,” on the pattern of “Bones” and “Keys,” and its members “Graves men,” although “Diggers” soon came to be the primary title by which the society and its members were popularly known in Yale College.91

It was birthed in a quarrel in the class of 1864, in which year’s set of five Lit. editors, three were members of Bones and two were neutrals, Samuel Carter Darling and Lewis Gregory. Bones had long dominated the Lit., having elected four of the five founders in 1836, and being represented on every board thereafter through decades of class-wide elections of the “best literary men,” understood to be “those who have taken the highest composition prizes and to have succeeded best in prize debate—without regard to those special editorial and business qualifications no less necessary to the proper publication of a magazine.” The Yale Review, in an article deploring the formation of society coalitions aimed at rigging the class election for editorships, was to contend in February 1857 that the literary magazine “is regarded by the community, in some degree at least, as the exponent of the first talent of our Alma Mater.” The Lit. has been called “the most successful periodical in American college literature” and also, more archly, the “favorite college vehicle for Yale undergraduates with literary pretensions.”92

Election to the magazine board was made by each junior class at a meeting called for the purpose. In the thirty-four classes from 1842 to 1871, of the 155 editors, ninety-four belonged to Bones, seventeen to Keys, and the rest were neutrals, excepting the three who were to become Diggers after the brawl of 1864. Each editor had veto power over his own number of the six published in an academic year. In theory, a majority of the board could suppress an article which a particular editor wished to publish in his number, but they could not by custom publish anything in it which he wished to suppress; in practice, each editor had nearly absolute control of his number, the galley proofs of which his associates rarely troubled to review without special request.93

There were also three Bonesmen on the editorial board of 1856–57, but there had been no suppression of neutral editor Norman Perkins when he wrote and published “Secret Societies among Us” in the December 1856 issue, the very first critical appraisal of the Yale society system to appear in any campus publication. Perkins was a man of parts (a Coch, a winner of a Townsend Premium, and upon graduation, a commencement orator)94 and did not stint in his indictment: “So long as the principal object of Secret Societies [never named, but including at this date two sophomore societies, as well as three junior fraternities, Bones, and Keys] is intellectual improvement without the admixture of narrow, clannish feelings or ungenerous rivalry, we apprehend very little [to] be argued against their utility or propriety.” Nevertheless, “the leading feature of our Secret Societies is their political maneuvering, by which they manage to control the action of Classes, and not unfrequently, of the whole College. . . . No office ‘in the gift of the people,’ whether important or trivial, can by any possibility be filled acceptably without a course of dabbling by five or six enterprising Societies.”

The self-satisfied celebration of their rituals, he argued, was offensive to class routine and order: “Secret Societies must of necessity have a horribly mysterious way of doing everything, so their ‘conclaves’ become wonderfully ‘nocturnal’ . . . interspersed with various gastronomic, potatory and fumigatory processes. We have seen a dignified company regularly straggling into Morning Prayers together, directly from their hebdomadal [weekly] gathering, looking dull and sleepy, and, as a matter of course, totally unfitted for the duties of the day.” Often, Perkins noted, many of those coming into chapel prayers as a society after intiation night were still not sober. On “one occasion, one of the ‘initiated,’ instead of giving his Latin exercise to his Tutor at recitation, very innocently handed out a Bill of Fare with the Wine List wonderfully underscored.”

Perkins ended his article not with a call for the societies’ abolition—that was not likely—but with an appeal for conscious improvement by secret society members. “Let not the humbug of mystery, nor the humbug of silence, nor any senseless mummery, take the place of that positive power for good which such organizations ought to possess. . . . If, in short, we are to have Secret Societies among us at all, as it seems destined we shall have, let us make them something more than mere machinery—something loftier than an embodiment of conceits and jealousies—something more real than mystery, and more efficient than dumbness; let us make them a living means of good, and a constant promoter of kindly feeling; let us fashion a system which shall be elevating and ennobling in its entire aim—not a dark index of our College life, but worthy of ourselves and of those who shall come after us.”95

Seven years after the appearance of Perkins’s unsuppressed article, aimed at all of the college’s societies, none of that Lit. board’s three Bonesmen troubled to review galley proofs of the February 1864 number, in which one of the board neutrals published a leading article called “Collegial Ingenuity,” by Samuel Darling. It contained subtle references to their society, mocking those who “shall travel over one hundred miles of wet, unmacadamized road for ten rods in a high street.” (High Street being the location of the Bones tomb.) The typical Yale College man, the author maintained, was willing to suffer indignities to gain election until “flesh and strength shall gradually fail its possessor, and bring him ultimately through anxious care to a mere skeleton! Gloriously shine the bones through the skin, eloquent witnesses of self-exhaustive toil for democratic work.” This article’s author was seen by some readers to suggest that men might “worm their way into Bones.” In the reminiscence of a member of the class of 1865, published eighty years later, he wrote that the Bonesmen claimed it was “derogatory to one of their members, on the meanness of toadying and bullying.”96 The apparently recognizable member of Bones was Henry Boyden, who allegedly failed to honor a promise to Darling that the contest in a Linonia Prize debate be decided by lot, to which Darling had alluded by an otherwise innocuous reference in his article to a “coin toss.”97

After voting to suppress the piece, the Bones editors seized all the printed copies from the distributors without explanation and stored them in their rooms, while demanding a replacement article from its author. The other neutral editor refused to be cowed and called on his class to support Darling: after a strong show of college support, the two neutrals insisted that the Bones editors surrender the sequestered copies or be expelled from the Lit. office. Since the Bonesmen defied this demand, the class, in a specially convened meeting on February 22, 1864, expelled them from their editorships and elected three other neutrals in their places, who with the two original neutrals duly produced a second issue of the February number, including the now notorious “Collegial Ingenuity.”98 The newly elected board then proceeded to edit and publish a further two numbers, stopping only with the end of the academic year and term limits. In their April issue appeared an article even more critical than Darling’s had been, titled “Secret Societies” and beginning, “Would it not be well for us to do away with Secret Societies?”99

The Bones rump board members at their personal expense then printed a new February number, substituting with explanation another “leader” for the one they had found so obnoxious; when it was advertised for sale, one of the large-framed boating men of the society strode up and down in front of the Brick Row dormitories to prevent the posters from being torn down from the trees. They duly published their own two remaining numbers, under a masthead bearing the original five names, as though nothing untoward had occurred. Since the Bones-dominated board had the legal right of the matter—the class had no precedent for holding a second election to effect a recall—the three magazines issued by the second board, through the balance of the term, also at the editors’ personal expense, are now known as the “second issues.”

The grave scene in Hamlet, where the cheeky gravedigger tosses up the skull and bones of the jester Yorick with his spade, is said to have been the inspiration for the symbolism of the new society’s badge, in an emblem typifying implacable hostility to, and the overthrow of, Skull and Bones. The Yale Courant for October 23, 1867, contained intriguing campus news. “Jolly mourning.—Last Saturday afternoon our attention was drawn to a newly erected mound in the rear of the Trumbull Gallery. A head board and foot stone had been appropriately erected at the ends. The handle of a shovel placed in the center of the mound leaned upon the head board, while the grass grew green at the other end. On approaching we reverently raised our hat, but were scandalized at the laughter and shouts of what we took to be the mourners. . . . We hurried away from this sad scene, but chancing to pass that way in an hour or two after, saw that vandal hands had desolated the mound. . . . We were surprised to see that the jolly mourners spoken of were juniors. Will any of them ever be more sedate and less communicative on the subject?”

The Diggers’ anthem, sung outside their rooms at the close of meetings, either while marching or on arriving at the college yard, was “How Can I Leave Thee,” the English version of a traditional German song of the era, “Ach, Wie Ist’s Moglich Dann.” The new society’s hall was in the Lyon Building, at 769 Chapel Street near the intersection with State Street, on a floor with the freshman fraternity Gamma Nu, and had iron doors at the entrance and a billiard table inside. They treasured their pins as fiercely as their rivals: “I took the badge,” remembered one Digger, “and vowed that we should never part, that in sickness and in health, she should always cling either to my vest or to my nightgown or to my bathing trunks when I wore one . . .”

Still, against the established powers of Bones and Keys, Spade and Grave struggled. Well-laid plans of electioneering and “packing” were not sufficient in some years to make up its fifteen, although their elected numbers included Cochs, and men on the varsity crew and baseball nine. Suffering seven refusals for 1866, they pledged fourteen in 1867 and again in 1869, with four refusals for 1868 (the New York Times reported in July 1868 that “the Spade and Grave Society is regarded as defunct”). There was no delegation at all in the 1869–70 class year: three men were elected, but when the rest of the 1868–69 delegation could not be secured, those elections were withdrawn. Psi U men used to boast that none of their number were members, until one accepted a Digger tap for 1869, and three classes between the first and the last in 1871 (1864, 1865, and 1867) were comprised exclusively of men from the junior fraternities Alpha Delta Phi and DKE.100

To stem the decline, they invented a new name, Crown and Sceptre, and created a new badge, “a crown within which a sword and fire-dog cross one another.” The initials “S.L.M.” (“Sceptrum Ligonibus Mors”—“Death makes the scepter equal to a mattocks,” a kind of pickaxe, or more freely translated, “In the dominion of death we are all equal”)101 replaced the old name on the society cut in publications. In the irreverent Yale College fashion to degrade, the abbreviation was quickly characterized by detractors as “Slim” or “Slimey,” and was not sufficient to reverse the fall of their reputation: Bagg writes that no man who thought he had a chance for Bones or Keys would accept a Graves offer of election, and by the class of 1870, no one would pledge. In its report on the senior society elections in the spring of 1869, the College Courant in its issue of July 3 noted that Space and Grave “for some cause best known to themselves, failed to appear, except ‘for consultation.’ We certainly hope, without any ill will to the society itself or its members, that they will have the good sense to give the thing up as an impossibility and as an utter waste of money.” The society soon gave up its hall.102

On November 2, 1870, eight members hailing from the Spade and Grave (now S.L.M.) clubs of 1864 through 1869 printed and signed a two-document appeal for funds to reestablish the society, and seeking to pledge members from the class of 1871.103 They succeeded in forming a new delegation of fourteen, including the musicians Gustave Stoeckel (son of the first Yale professor of music) and Harry Baldwin, along with the class poet, the class historian, the Yale Navy commodore, and nine other men delivering orations, colloquies, or dissertations at commencement, but this proved to be the last delegation in the nineteenth century. The society had not been formally incorporated and never printed a catalogue. Another contemporary rival had been seen off by Bones and Keys, although Spade and Grave was to be partly reborn in the founding of Wolf’s Head in 1883, and then revived under its original name in the mid-twentieth century, finally owning its own hall, with the help of alumni, in the twenty-first.104

Not so quickly disposed of was a mock society called “Bowl and Stones,” also aiming to denigrate the Bones by its name and antics. Formed in the class of 1861, it included anyone who wanted to annoy the men of High Street returning to their rooms after a Thursday night meeting (although sometimes the Keys members were ridiculed by a burlesque of their singing their home-going anthem “Troubadour,” and the college administration laid down a rule against the outside singing of all society songs, in an attempt to curb the Stones men). This collection of marauding neutrals prowled about the campus early in the morning, haranguing those in the tombs with catcalls, singing their own athem to the tune of “Bonnie Blue Flag”—“Haughty Bones is fallen, and we gwine down to occupy the skull”—and stealing ice cream and other food deliveries outside the Bones tomb in 1870 and again in 1873.

The theft from the grocer Radcliffe’s wagon was an expensive loss for the Bones and a memorable occasion for the neutrals. As reported years later in a Denver newspaper, “Once their initiation spread was stolen from the caterer’s cart as it stood before the hall. It was a $350 ‘smear,’ the toothsome articles of which were soon scattered in the dormitories among a reveling crowd. In one room a man was doling out ice cream with a tooth-mug from the can, and for lack of spoons, pocket knives, lead pencils and impromptu paper scraps were used. There was an abundance of sherry captured, and the one man who had got happy thereon was festooning a classmate’s cropped head with charlotte russe.”105

The Stones men offered bogus elections to gullible classmates, and even to underclassmen, who were sometimes convinced (the Yale Naught-ical Almanac for 1872 announced in its page for June that on the 16th “B—l and St—nes elections given out. ‘They dreamt they dwelt in marble halls’”). In 1867 they wantonly smashed bottles of ink upon the front of the Bones tomb and tore the chains from the fence posts. An 1866 article in the Hartford Press by a member of the class of 1865 reported three break-ins to the Bones hall, “twice through the skylight and once through the barred windows in the cellar”; valuables in the safe could not be got at, but “two or three ink bottles and other trifles were brought away as trophies of the exploit.”106

This “neutral” group’s name changed, in popular parlance, to “Bull and Stones” (corrupted for obvious reasons), and some members of the class of 1870 invented a badge, a small gilt representation of a bull standing upon stones, worn in public and regularly during the first term of their senior year. There were no meetings or program, and its membership was “few or many depending on the state of the weather,” to be joined by any ready for an uproar on a Thursday night, although a New Haven newspaper in November 1872 carried an announcement with fifteen names respecting a recent election to Stones.107 The meeting night presence of a policeman was of some aid to the harassed society. The majesty of the law was no help, however, when the Stones men stretched wires across the known path by which the Keys members returned to their rooms, to make them stumble and fall.108 The Bones’ protest at this treatment of their rivals at Keys earned them only an attack upon their own group’s initiation of the club of 1874.

It might indeed have been worse, had not fourteen men in the class of 1869, who had been neutrals since freshman year and were potential “Stones men,” effected a milder satire, appearing on Presentation Day with gilt coffin lids, about an inch long, on their shirt bosoms. These “Coffin men” or “E.T.L.s” (full meaning unknown) were printed in the annuals of the next term, under the senior society column heading beneath a woodcut of the badge, but no name. They seem to have met weekly on Thursday night in a rented room, but gave no election to the class of 1870, and so disappeared from history.109

The persistence of the hostility of Bull and Stones was an unveiled warning, in the late 1860s, of the provocation represented by the very existence of the two senior societies. When the new iron doors for the Bones tomb were being erected in the fall of 1864 behind a large canvas sail placed in front of the building, which resembled the screen to the tents of traveling menageries and circuses, a placard was printed and posted throughout the college early one Thursday evening:


Grand Menagerie!

No. 322 High Street.

The Proprietors of S.B.B. take pleasure in informing the Public that they will give a Performance

At the above place on Thursday Evening, Nov.10.

This collection of animals is wonderful and rare.

Tickets 25 cents

The proceeds will be applied to defraying the expense of recent improvements to the building. Don’t forget the number, 322.

This was harmless satire (and indeed is said to have come from Keys), but in 1866, even before the Stones defacement of the Bones property, the tomb was, in the words of the Yale Courant of November 7, “defaced with some black substance in a scandalous manner.”110

In a mocking poster posted six years later, just before election day in the early summer of 1869 for the delegations of 1870, Bull and Stones boldly identified itself as the publisher:


Will give out their Elections in the following order:


Will issue from their Cave at 12 Midnight, without underclothes, their right wing resting on North College.


Led by the New York Giant, will remain beneath the North steps of the State House until 2 P.M.


With strings of Billiard Balls around their necks and Cues in their hands, will sit in a pool under South Joseph, scratching their heads, until four o’clock.


(last, but ye Gods, not least) have kindly promised to furnish escorts to each of the crowds in order. The B. & S. men will be dressed in silks and broadcloth, with horns in their hands and melodies on their lips. The great Digger deacon will offer prayer at the Lyceum door, that heaven may grant them ability to find fifteen men willing to bury themselves in their grave.

KEYS will exhibit the new plan of their future Hall at the hands of the Massachusetts Shoemaker, and will discourse on the honor of the Zenome.

BONES will exhibit the mottoes on their dining room wall—such as AMOR IN OSSIBUS—and prove the difficulty of their being locked in their Hall.

DIGGERS will take up a collection to pay off their back rent.

All relics dropped on the line of march, such as dry bones, wooden keys, rusty spades, etc., will be given to the Orphan Asylum.

Neophytes will be in their rooms by 8 P.M.111

The toxic atmosphere of hostility to senior societies, largely directed at the Bones but, as these quotations from the publications of the neutrals show, also at Keys to a lesser extent and even at the relative newcomer Spade and Grave, was to find a spark and explode when Keys perpetrated a crook of the college’s boating flags in 1872.


Stephen Condit


supervisor of U.S. Census

Chauncey Mitchell Depew


president, chairman of the board, New York Central Railroad


U.S. senator (N.Y.)


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.

Benjamin Drake Magruder


chief justice, Ill.

Lewis Richard Packard


Yale professor of Greek


president, American Philological Association

Eli Whitney Blake


professor of Physics, Cornell, Brown

John Thomas Croxton


brigadier general, U.S. Army


U.S. minister, Bolivia

James Payne Green


president of faculty, Jefferson College

Joseph Cooke Jackson


brigadier general, U.S. Army

Cyrus G. Northrop


president, University of Minnesota

Moses Coit Tyler


professor of English, Michigan


professor of History, Cornell

Samuel Henry Lee


president, American International College

Addison Van Name


librarian, Yale University

Charles Franklin Robertson


Episcopal bishop, Mo.

Burton Norvell Harrison


private secretary to Jefferson Davis

Eugene Schuyler


U.S. minister, Greece, Romania, and Serbia


American translator of Turgenev

William Walter Phelps


U.S. Congress (N.J.)


U.S. minister to Austria, Germany


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.


Phelps Hall his family’s gift

William Thayer Smith


professor of Physiology, Dartmouth


dean of Medical School

Lowndes Henry Davis


U.S. Congress (Mo.)

Simeon E. Baldwin


chief justice, Conn.


governor, Conn.


Yale professor of Law


president, American Social Science Association


president, American Political Science Association


president, International Law Association


president, American Bar Association

Franklin P. Dexter


registrar, secretary, Yale University, Yale professor of History

Anthony Higgins


U.S. congressman (Del.)


U.S. senator (Del.)

Francis Kernochan


founder of University Club, NYC, first American city university club

Sanford Newell


U.S. minister to the Netherlands


delegate, Hague Peace Conference

Tracy Peak


Cornell/Yale professor of Latin

Edward Rowland Sill


professor of English, University of California


poet and literary critic

Daniel Henry Chamberlain


attorney general, governor (S.C.)

Edward Benton Coe


professor of Modern Languages, Yale

Sherburne B. Eaton


president, Edison Electric Light Co.

Henry Phelps Johnston


professor of History, City College of N.Y.

Cornelius L. Kitchell


secretary, bureau of appointments, Yale

Franklin MacVeagh


U.S. secretary of the treasury

William W. Seeley


professor of Opthamology, medical dean, University of Cincinnati

John B. Taylor


professor of Theology, Andover Seminary

Leander T. Chamberlain


president, U.S. Evangelical Alliance

Henry Farnam Dimock


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.

Joseph F. Kernochan


president, N.Y. Free Circulating Library

David Brainard Perry


president, Doane College

George C. S. Southworth


professor of English, Case Western

William Graham Sumner


Yale professor of political science


theorist of Social Darwinism

William Collins Whitney


U.S. secretary of the Navy

Charles Fraser MacLean


Police/Parks/Health Commissioner, New York City

William Henry Palmer


professor of Opthamology, Cleveland Medical College

John William Sterling


founder, Shearman & Sterling


Yale’s greatest single alumni benefactor

Francis Eben Woodruff


imperial commissioner of customs, China

John L. Ewell


professor of Latin, Washington University


professor of History, Howard University

Payson Merrill


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.


founder and chair, Yale Alumni Fund

Charles E. Smith


Yale professor of American History

Henry A. Stimson


minister, trustee of Mt. Holyoke, Carlton, Drury Colleges

Henry W. Warren


board chair, Alcorn University


speaker, Miss. House of Representatives

William W. Farnam


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.

John Manning Hall


speaker, Conn. Legislature

Edward Hincks


professor of Theology, Harvard

George Holt


U.S. district coourt judge, N.Y.

Frederick Judson


professor of Greek, Nashville University

Henry T. Sloane


donor, Sloane Physics Laboratory

Levi Wade


speaker, Mass. legislature

Thomas Hedge


U.S. Congress (Iowa)

James Merriam


professor of Mathematics, Gallaudet

George Peabody Wetmore


governor, R.I.


U.S. Senate (R.I.)

Chauncey Brewster


Episcopal bishop of Conn.

LeBaron Colt


U.S. Senate (R.I.)

Thomas Sloane


donor, Sloane Physics Laboratory

James Kingsley Thacher


Yale professor of Physiology

Henry Parks Wright


Yale professor of Latin


dean of Yale College


Wright Hall donated by clubmates and other alumni

Henry Augustin Beers


Yale professor of English

Wilson Shannon Bissell


postmaster general, U.S.


chancellor, University of Buffalo

Henry Varnum Freeman


chief justice, Ill.

Bernadotte Perrin


Yale professor of Greek

Henry Warren Raymond


director, American School of Classical Studies, Athens

John Wallingford Andrews Jr.


U.S. attorney, Mt.

William Carlos Gulliver


professor of Languages, Knox College

Dwight Whitney Learned


professor of Greek, Doshisha College, Kyoto, Japan

James Gore King McClure


president, Lake Forest University

William Henry Welch


professor of Pathology, first dean of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University


founder, doctors’ post-graduate training


founder first school of public health


president, American Medical Association


president, Association of American Physicians

Charles Hopkins Clark


editor, Hartford Courant

Howard Mansfield


Whistler etching scholar


Grolier Club president

Watson Robertson Sperry


U.S. minister to Persia

Thomas Thacher


Yale lecturer on corporate trusts


founding partner, Simpson, Thacher & Bartlett


founder, Yale University Alumni Fund

William Kneeland Townsend


Yale professor of Contracts


U.S. Circuit Court judge (Second Circuit)


John Monteith


president, University of Michigan

Sidney Edwards Morse


editor and proprietor, New York Observer

David Plunket Richardson


U.S. Congress (N.Y.)

John Wager Swayne


major general, CSA


military commission, Ala.


general counsel, Western Union

Ahab George Wilkinson


principal examiner, U.S. patents

Augustus Field Beard


successor trustee, Yale Corp.

George Pierce Andrews


corporation counsel, NYC

David Garrison Brinton


professor of American Archeology and Linguistics, University of Pennsylvania


president, American Association for the Advancement of Science

Channing Richards


U.S. district attorney, southern district, Ohio

Elisha Thomas Smith


Episcopal bishop of Kansas

Felix Ansart


president, Automobile Club of America

Charles Hodge Boardman


professor Med. Juris., University of Minnesota

Joseph Hopkins Twichell


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.

Francis Delafield


professor of Pathology, Columbia


first president, Association of American Physicians and Pathologists


founder, first U.S. pathology laboratory

Daniel Cady Eaton


Yale professor of History of Art

Mason Young


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.

James Nevins Hyde


professor of Dermatology, Chicago Medical College


president, American Dermatological Association

James Wood McClane


professor of Obstetrics, Columbia


president, Roosevelt Hospital

Joseph Lucien Shipley


editor and proprietor, Springfield Union

Frederick Irving Knight


professor, Throat Diseases, Harvard


president, American Laryngologists Association


president, American Climatology Association

Richard Cary Morse


general secretary, International Commission, YMCA

Buchanan Winthrop


Alumni Fellow, Yale Corp.

Samuel Shorty Hollingsworth


professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania

Edward Lawrence Keyes


professor of Genito-Urinary Surgery, Bellevue Hospital


founder, president, American Association of Genito-Urinary Surgeons

Lewis Atterbury Stimson


professor of Surgery, Cornell

Frederic Henry Betts


Yale lecturer on patent law

Charles Henry Burnett


professor, Diseases of Ear, Columbia


president, American Ontological Society

Olof Page


surgeon general, Chilean Army

John Dalzell


U.S. Congress (Penn.)

William Henry Sage


donor, Sage Hall

Maurice Dwight Collier


Yale lecturer on judgments

George Augustus Adee


Adee Boathouse memorial

David James Burrell


professor of Homiletics, Princeton


pastor, Marble Collegiate Church

William Henry Goodyear


curator, fine arts, Brooklyn Institute


discoverer, use of curves in Roman and Egyptian architecture

Boyd Vincent


Episcopal Bishop, south Ohio

Charles William Bingham


Bingham Hall family donation

Edwin Gustin Coy


first headmaster, Hotchkiss School

Eli Whitney Jr.


president, New Haven Water Co.


president, New Haven Hospital

Edward Salisbury Dana


Yale professor of Physics


editor, American Journal of Science

Robert Weeks de Forest


president, Metropolitan Museum of Art


organizer, Yale Club of N.Y.

Robert Wodrow Archbald


U.S. Circuit Court judge


David Brainerd Lyman


president, Chicago Title & Trust Co.

Charles Greene Rockwood Jr.


professor of Mathematics, Princeton

James Glynn Gregory


surgeon general of Connecticut

Charles Henry Smith


professor of Mathematics, Bowdoin

John Warren Hicks


supreme commander of America, Knights of Malta

Edward Alexis Caswell


founder, American crematoriums

John William Showalter


U.S. Circuit Court judge

Edgar Abel Turrell


dean of Law, Drake University

Edward Spencer Mead


partner, Dodd & Mead publishers

David McGregor Means


professor, Political Science, Middlebury College

Richard Austin Rice


professor of Languages, University of Vermont

Alwin Ethelstan Todd


Professor, Natural Sciences, Berea College

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