Held at: Princeton University Library: University Archives [Contact Us]
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Princeton University Library: University Archives. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Originally founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776 as a social fraternity and forensic club, Phi Beta Kappa gradually evolved into national college honor society with 240 chapters. Princeton University was relatively late to apply for membership in Phi Beta Kappa as the Princeton faculty opposed fraternities of any kind. Finally in 1895 Princeton College responded to an invitation from Phi Beta Kappa to apply, and the Princeton Chapter was officially established in 1899. Occasional disagreements between Princeton and the national organization have occurred. For instance there were Princeton graduates listed as members in classes of 1896, 1897 and 1898, even though Princeton did not have a chapter until 1899. In 1927 there was a discrepancy between the College and the national organization over admission policies. By 1930 the Princeton chapter boasted that the town of Princeton had "the most intelligent population in the U.S." since it contained 238 Phi Beta Kappa members – a ratio of one member to every 42 inhabitants compared to 1 to 107 in Ithaca, New York and 1 to 327 to New Haven, Connecticut.
When Phi Beta Kappa reached its 175th anniversary in 1951, the national leadership shifted admissions requirements to emphasize liberal education over social requirements. At Princeton Phi Beta Kappa came under criticism during the 1960s, especially from faculty members who questioned its usefulness among undergraduates. The society survived, however, and continues to promote academic excellence.
This collection contains reports, constitutions, by-laws, minutes, lists of members, and correspondence of the Princeton chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The correspondence relates mostly to administrative matters – replacement of lost keys, membership enquiries, and invitations to various organizational functions.
For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.
This collection was processed by Ingrid G. McNamara in Winter 1995. Finding aid written by Ingrid G. McNamara in Winter 1995.
Photographs have been removed to the Historical Photograph Collection.
- University Archives
- Finding Aid Author
- Ingrid G. McNamara
- Finding Aid Date
- Access Restrictions
Collection is open for research use, with the exception of one folder in Series 1, "Lists of Members and Officers" (Box 2, Folder 3), which contains student information that is restricted for 75 years from the date of creation.
- Use Restrictions
Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.
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Series 1, Organizations, 1896-1965, contains constitutions, by-laws, a ritual book, the formal charter, accounts of dinner meetings, and induction ceremonies, records of meetings (1897-1962), lists of members and officers, agendas, business meetings, annual and financial reports, minute books, form letters, and newspaper clippings which document the Princeton chapter's activities.
Arranged by form type and chronologically therein.Physical Description
Series 2, Correspondence, 1928-1969, contains correspondence dealing with subjects such as membership enquiries and requirements, dates of meetings, replacement of lost keys, and other administrative matters. Most letters are addressed to Dean Christian Gauss and Secretaries Glenn Jepsen, Foreman Acton, T. J. Luce, Douglas Brown, and William Shimer. Some of the highlights of the correspondence are letters concerning graduate students' eligibility for membership (which ceased after 1925), tax exemption status, and statements on athletics. The series further contains invitations to prominent scholars (including Robert Oppenheimer) to speak at the annual meetings.
Arranged chronologically.Physical Description