Guide to the Sigma Delta Chi Northwestern University Chapter Records

Collection Title: Sigma Delta Chi Northwestern University Chapter Records
Dates: 1924-1953
Identification: 31/6/4
Creator: Sigma Delta Chi. Northwestern University Chapter
Extent: 4 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: This series consists of four boxes of records of the Northwestern University Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi Fraternity. The records, 1924-1953, include correspondence, financial records, membership listings, and four disassembled scrapbooks of materials pertaining to chapter activities.
Processing Information: K. Crews, August 1976
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

The Northwestern University Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi Fraternity, a professional fraternity for journalists and students of journalism, was founded in 1921. Although most of the fraternity's activities involved its undergraduate members, “professional members” and the chapter advisor played important roles.

The fraternity's constitution enumerates Sigma Delta Chi's purpose: to associate journalists of talent, truth and energy into a more intimately organized unit of good fellowship, and in order to assist the members in acquiring the noblest principles of journalism and to cooperate with them in this field, and in order to advance the standard of the press by fostering a higher ethical code, thus increasing its value as an uplifting social agency. . . .

Most Sigma Delta Chi activities were conceived with this purpose in mind. Typical fraternity activities included meetings with various journalists and other prominent individuals. In order to enhance relations between the students and journalists, the fraternity also included “professional members.” Notable among the professional members of the Northwestern University chapter was Colonel Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the Chicago Daily Tribune.

When the fraternity initiated McCormick in the mid-1940's, the Sigma Delta Chi chapter at the University of Colorado objected, claiming that “It is obvious that Robert R. McCormick does not subscribe to these principles [of the Sigma Delta Chi constitution] because in his paper he allows his own prejudice to distort the facts by selection, emphasis and coloration.” McCormick was also accused of not “confining his opinion to the editorial page” and of continuing “to uphold the ideas of destructive ultra-nationalism.” Apparently, however, the Northwestern University chapter did not respond to the Colorado chapter's charges.

Of special interest to Sigma Delta Chi members was Alberto Gainza Paz's visit to Northwestern University in the Fall of 1951. Dr. Gainza Paz was the editor of La Prensa, an Argentine newspaper that had been seized by the government. The self-exiled editor received an honorary degree from the University and became a Sigma Delta Chi Fellow during his visit. Many prominent publishers, including Hearst, Pulitzer, and Knight, attended a banquet in Gainza Paz's honor sponsored by Sigma Delta Chi and a number of other organizations.

Another important activity of the Northwestern University Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi was its annual joint sponsorship, with the Inland Daily Press Association, of a typography and photography competition. The winners were selected from newspapers throughout the United States.

The fraternity also sponsored less serious events. Its annual “Gridiron Show” was a series of satirical skits followed by a banquet and dance. Other activities included publishing a chapter newspaper and attending the annual national convention.

For many years, Professor Floyd Arpan served as the chapter's advisor. His duties included corresponding with professional members and with the national organization, as well as advising the chapter on its affairs. Professor Arpan also served as national Vice President for Undergraduate Chapter Affairs during the 1949-1950 academic year.

Scope and Content

This series consists of four boxes of records of the Northwestern University Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi Fraternity. The records, 1924-1953, include correspondence, financial records, membership listings, and four disassembled scrapbooks of materials pertaining to chapter activities.

Box 1 contains copies of the fraternity's constitutions and by-laws, including changes made between 1947 and 1952; and a folder of meeting minutes from October 5, 1952 to April 28, 1953, which record meetings with professional journalists as well as other chapter business. Also enclosed in Box 1 are meeting minutes from October 8, 1945, agenda for two meetings in 1947, and a folder of correspondence, 1937-1951. The correspondence, often between Sigma Delta Chi members, usually concerns forthcoming activities, but also includes exchanges between the chapter advisor, professional members, and the national organization of Sigma Delta Chi. Although most of the correspondence documents the chapter's functions, the file includes a copy of “The California Plan,” a 1937 proposal for reorganizing the national fraternity.

A folder of treasurer's reports includes the series' earliest dated document. These reports span the period April 1924 to October 1949 and record, in general categories, the fraternity's sources of income and nature of expenditures. They reflect a gradual increase in the fraternity's financial base during the years 1924-1949.

Also included in Box 1 are eighteen voucher books, 1937-1950, which record the fraternity's expenses in detail. Eleven receipt books, 1940-1950, which record primarily payments of pledging and initiation fees are also included.

Box 2 includes three ledger books recording income and expenses from 1934-1948. Although these ledgers are not as elaborate as the vouchers, they include more substantial information than the treasurer's reports. A folder of miscellany contains additional vouchers, 1937, 1946-1947, and deposit slips, 1943-1949.

Box 2 also contains six books and one folder of enrollment and remittance forms, 1936-1953, which record names, addresses, and birth dates of undergraduate and professional initiates. Another folder includes notices of chapter enrollment, 1933-1948, which the national fraternity office sent to the local chapter to acknowledge the membership applications of new initiates.

Box 3 includes additional membership lists of which one book records names of new initiates and amount of fees paid, 1930-1934. A “Chapter Secretary's Certificate” book records names, addresses, and birth dates of initiates, 1930-1934. “Pledge Certificates,” 1948 and 1952, record the same information about new pledges. Additional material includes lists of names and work experiences of individuals who appear to be candidates for Sigma Delta Chi membership; news releases concerning new members; a list of members and their respective occupations, 1944-1949; lists of students (one dated October 1952) eligible for Sigma Delta Chi membership which enumerate their journalistic experience; and ballots.

The folder entitled “Professional Members” contains undated forms for nominating candidates for professional membership; a twenty-five page report summarizing the qualifications of prospective member Richard J. Finnegan, executive vice president and editor of the Chicago Sun-Times; and data on other candidates and professional members.

Also included are “Reports of Condition” submitted semi-annually by the chapter to Sigma Delta Chi's national office, October 1930-October 1949. These reports list active and alumni members' names and chapter activities. “Chapter Efficiency Contest” entry blanks, 1948 and 1949, also list members and activities and provide information on the chapter's procedures record-keeping and budget.

The Northwestern University Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi produced at least three distinct publications of which this series includes copies of: Purple (November 12, 1939 and January 21, 1940); SDX-RAY (April 28, 1949); and Galley Proof (October 13, 1949, November 17, 1949, March 10, 1950, June 1, 1950, and January 30, 1951).

Material pertaining to the Sigma Delta Chi-sponsored Gridiron Shows, 1949-1952, includes programs, scripts, and related items.

Material relating to Alberto Gainza Paz's visit to Northwestern University include two news articles about his visit; the program for the convocation ceremony at which he received an honorary degree (October 1, 1951); Northwestern University Information (September 24, 1951); The Quill (July 1951); and Gainza Paz's address at Northwestern reprinted in The Quill (November 1951).

The folder of miscellany includes: “A Manual and Guide for Efficient Undergraduate Chapter Operation” (October 1948); a “Visitor's Report” (an observation of the Northwestern University Chapter, October 27, 1949); “Memorandum to Sigma Delta Chi Structure Committee” (n.d.); a “Summary of Sigma Delta Chi Chapter Activities, 1947”; a financial statement for the 1939 Medill Press Conference (June 1, 1939); copies of the Daily Northwestern (April 30, 1937 and April 29, 1938); and programs of the 1950 and 1951 Sigma Delta Chi National Conventions.

Box 4 contains four folders of disassembled scrapbooks documenting many activities held between 1933 and 1951. Scrapbook #1 includes many undated newspaper articles, ca. 1933-1937, which report various Sigma Delta Chi-sponsored social events including the annual “Press Conference” for high school students.

Scrapbook #2, “Northwestern Chapter Professional Program,” 1947-1948, includes material concerning the annual typography and photography competition, information on newly-initiated professional members, and correspondence with representatives of some of the newspapers receiving awards in the competition.

Scrapbook #3, “Chapter Activities for the Year 1949-1950,” includes a potpuorri of material pertaining to various campus publications; the Sigma Delta Chi annual convention; the typography and photography competition; the Gridiron Show; the intramural baseball team; and professional members, including, most notably, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times.

Scrapbook #4 contains material relating to the 1952 typography and photography competition and news articles written by Sigma Delta Chi members.


Corporate Name

Sigma Delta Chi. Northwestern University Chapter


Greek letter societies--Illinois--Evanston

Journalism--Societies, etc.

Container List / Contents

  • Addition: Secretary's Membership Books
      Acquisition information:  The Addition was transferred to the University Archives as Accession 87-45, on March 16, 1987, by Professor Richard Schwartzlose, of the Medill School of Journalism. Processor:  Patricia Cloud, March 18, 1987 Separated materials:  None. Restrictions:  None. Description of the addition:  This Addition to the Records of the Northwestern University Chapter of Sigma Delta Chi is comprised of four volumes of “Secretary's Membership Books,” for 1922-1941. Volume 1, 1922-1933, includes a full alphabetical index; Volumes 2, 1933-1940, and 3, 1940-1941, are not indexed. The information recorded in the fourth volume (which is mislabeled “Volume 1″) partially duplictes the information found in Volume 1, however most entries are less detailed than those in Volume 1; the order of entries toward the end of Volume 4 differs in several instances from the order of entries in Volume 1. The information in each volume is recorded in chronological order, apparently by date of initiation of members. Entries are listed alphabetically within this chronological sequence. The information on individual members in the volumes, which is handwritten on printed forms, includes the member's name, birthplace, birthdate, current address, family address, and “chapter number” and “member number.” The printed forms are designed also to accommodate extensive listings concerning the member's college and professional career, but they rarely contain more than the minimum data noted above. The information recorded in these four volumes repeats, with less detail, information which is recorded in the Chapter Secretary's book, 1933-34, in the original series (“Miscellaneous Enrollment Lists, 1930-1952, Box 3, Folder 1).
  • Constitutions and By-Laws, 1947-1952Box 1, Folder 1
  • Minutes, 1945, 1947, 1952-1953Box 1, Folder 2
  • Correspondence, 1937-1951Box 1, Folder 3
  • Treasurer's Reports, 1924-1949Box 1, Folder 4
  • Ledger Books, 1934-1948Box 2, Folder 1
  • Box 2, Folder 2
    • Voucher Forms, 1937, 1946-1947Box 2, Folder 2
    • Account Forms, 1943-1949Box 2, Folder 2
  • Enrollment and Remittance Forms, 1949-1953Box 2, Folder 3
  • Enrollment Notices, 1933-1948Box 2, Folder 4
  • Miscellaneous Enrollment Lists,, 1930-1952Box 3, Folder 1
  • Eligibility Lists and Ballots,, 1952Box 3, Folder 2
  • Professional Members, n.d.Box 3, Folder 3
  • Reports of Condition, 1930-1949Box 3, Folder 4
  • Efficiency Contest entry blanks,, 1948, 1949Box 3, Folder 5
  • Publications,, 1939-1951Box 3, Folder 6
  • 1949 Gridiron ShowBox 3, Folder 7
  • 1950 Gridiron ShowBox 3, Folder 8
  • 1951 Gridiron ShowBox 3, Folder 9
  • 1952 Gridiron ShowBox 3, Folder 10
  • Alberto Gainza Paz visit, 1951Box 3, Folder 11
  • MiscellaneousBox 3, Folder 12
  • Scrapbook #1, ca., 1933-1937Box 4, Folder 1
  • Scrapbook #2, “Professional Program,”, 1947-1948Box 4, Folder 2
  • Scrapbook #3, “Chapter Activities for the Year”, 1949-1950Box 4, Folder 3
  • Scrapbook #4, 1951-1952Box 4, Folder 4