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A History of The Eclectic Society of Phi Nu Theta, 1837-1970

William B.B. Moody

Publication Year: 2011

The definitive record of the history, lore, and lost secrets of the Eclectic Society at Wesleyan University from its inception in 1837 through a great period of upheaval in the 1960s. The Society was founded in 1837 at Wesleyan, making it one of the oldest college fraternal organizations in the United States.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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To the Reader

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pp. vi-viii

As undergraduates at Wesleyan University in the late 1950s, many of us felt our primary loyalty to the fraternity to which we belonged. It was the center of our life outside the classroom.We ate there, socialized there, and became a part of a tradition that meant a lot to many, if not most of us who joined fraternities. That was particularly the case for those...


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pp. ix-xi

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1. The Founding of the Eclectic Society of Phi Nu Theta

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pp. 1-8

October 1837 was traditionally celebrated by Eclectics as the time of founding of the Eclectic Society of Phi Nu Theta, the first fraternity at Wesleyan University to maintain continuous existence as a four-year fraternity. Like many other historical events important to succeeding generations, the exact details of the founding are shrouded in uncertainty...

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2. The 1840s: The First Decade

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pp. 9-13

Much of the discussion of the founding of Eclectic in the previous chapter revolved around individuals who joined the Society and influenced its development. The same is true concerning the history of the following decade. Many Eclectics of these early years became legendary figures for succeeding generations. One of these was Judge George...

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3. Eclectic in the 1850s

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pp. 14-23

Just before commencement in 1849, a junior was initiated into the Eclectic Society of Phi Nu Theta who was to have great influence in the Fraternity and, still more, in the College. John Monroe Van Vleck (1850) was an undergraduate member for only one year, but during his long tenure as a professor at Wesleyan and loyal alumnus of the...

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4. The Crisis of the 1860s

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pp. 24-35

The decade of the Civil War was a decade of crisis for Wesleyan, as for other colleges. The fraternities were even more deeply affected by this war than by the two world wars that followed in the twentieth century. So many men enlisted and left college that the very existence of a few fraternities was imperiled. Indeed, the Wesleyan chapters of...

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5. Eclectic in the 1870s

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pp. 36-39

Eric North and Paul North Rice turned to Professor Morris Barker Crawford (1874) to draft the history of the 1870s. His is a more personal account, since he lived what he was writing. He contributed much to the writing of the history of the early years and was described by the joint authors as knowing more about the history of the fraternity than...

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6. The 1880s: A House of One's Own

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pp. 40-44

The minutes of September 17, 1880, indicate that about half the candidates proposed for election that year were rejected. There are clear indications that the "blackballing" (a term used in the minutes) was the result of a deep division in the House. The rejections are laid to the actions of one "party" against the other. Members evidently worked on at least a structural...

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7. Eclectic in the 1890s [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 45-47

This decade was a fairly quiet one for the Society. Minutes and other documents reflect few major issues or events.The relatively new clubhouse proved very popular, but inadequate to the number of members using the facility. Another significant problem was the lack of living quarters for upperclassmen, increasingly a feature of fraternity...

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8. The 1900s: A Temple Grander, Lovelier

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pp. 55-62

The Civil War had a great effect on Eclectic, as previously discussed; the Spanish-American War, just before the turn of the century, less so. There are a number of reasons for this. The war was much shorter (Secretary of State John M. Hay characterized it as "a splendid little war"); it caused far fewer casualties on both sides; and its results...

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9. The 1910s: The Great War

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pp. 63-69

The public phone in the new House continued to be a problem. Minutes of the September 30, 1910, meeting mention the Thesaurophylax's unenviable task of chasing down long distance calls for billing purposes. Eleven freshmen, a relatively large number, were initiated into the Fraternity on October 7, 1910. Literary exercises at initiation included...

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10. Eclectic in the 1920s: The Roaring Decade

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pp. 70-81

By 1920 the new clubhouse was thirteen years old; the wear and tear was beginning to show. Additionally, the expenses of operating such a large structure were greater than expected.The final mortgage payment had been made in time for a ceremonial burning of the last mortgage note for $20,000 at the Socrats' Annual Meeting on June 23...

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11. Eclectic in the 1930s

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pp. 82-89

The decade was one of more consistent and remarkably successful attention to the Society's scholastic status, as reflected in the Jackson Cup competition. For the first time in twelve years, Eclectic placed first in 1930, and then, after two years of falling to second and third place, regained first place for three successive years (1933, 1934, and...

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12. Eclectic in the 1940s: The Crisis of World War II

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pp. 90-102

Annual fraternity dues for 1939-40 were raised from $96 to $100.1 Although the effects of the Great Depression had faded, they had not disappeared completely. A brother was voted into inactive status, evidently at his own request, because of financial pressures. At a subsequent meeting, the Society voted to assume the cost of the dues of the...

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13. Eclectic in the 1950s

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pp. 103-123

Modernity imposed itself on Eclectic early in 1949-50. The first mention of the brothers' desire to acquire a television set (or, better, a combination radio/TV/phonograph) appears in the minutes of September 27, 1949.The type of phonograph desired is not specified. If the brothers were forward-thinking, they would have opted for a 45 rpm...

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14. Eclectic in the 1960s: The Coming of the Great Change

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pp. 124-139

The decade got off to a good start.The incoming slate of officers for the year 1959-60, headed by Epistoleus Alan Wulff (1960), continued the practice of using an Executive Committee to clarify issues and set an agenda for weekly meetings. Motions had to be vetted by the committee prior to presentation at meetings, although the rule could...

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Epilogue [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 141-146

The year 1970 marks the end of the old Eclectic for another reason. That is the year that the Socratic Literary Society sold the House at 200 High Street to the University. Discussion concerning the future of the physical plant had been going on among the undergraduates since at least 1968, as mentioned in the previous chapter. The first specific...

Appendix A: Six Selected "Songs of Phi Nu Theta"

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pp. 157-167

Appendix B: Founders' Prize Laureates

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pp. 168-169

Appendix C: Martin Prize Laureates

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pp. 170-171

Appendix D: Rice Prize Laureates

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pp. 172

Appendix E: List of Matrons

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pp. 173

Appendix F: Professor Burton H. Camp's Address, "Billy Rice"

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pp. 174-177

Appendix G: Professor Burton H. Camp's Address, "Uncle Johnny"

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pp. 178-182


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pp. 183-195


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pp. 197-198


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pp. 199-211

E-ISBN-13: 9780819572868
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819568403

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2011