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Adelphic Literary Society (Northwestern University)



The Adelphic Society was Northwestern's second oldest literary society. It was established circa 1860, disbanded in 1893, reestablished in 1897 and lasted until its final dissolution in 1911.

From the University's inception until the 1890s, literary societies were a major focal point of campus social life. In addition to regular meetings, the societies held receptions, inter-societal debates, guest lectures by the faculty, even a tug of war. A typical Adelphic evening program, as recorded in the minutes, would open with prayer followed by one or several orations, declamations, and readings. A critic was appointed to comment on the presentations. Musical recitals were often included in the evening's entertainment. A structured debate, with two debaters appointed to each side and two appointed judges, would be the main event, followed by an irregular debate on the same topic, open to the floor and decided by majority vote. A business meeting usually followed the literary program, and occasionally a reception would conclude the evening.

Women students were members of and participants in the societies from 1871 until 1874 – when, at the insistence of Dean of Women Ellen Soule, the faculty enforced segregation and the women formed their own society, Ossoli. In partnership with the Hinman Society, Adelphic helped to establish Northwestern's first student newspaper, the Tripod, in 1871. The societies received less publicity and interest as they lost control of the Tripod to fraternity members, coinciding with the rise of both the Greek fraternity system and special interest clubs. After 1890 the words "no quorum" appear repeatedly in the minutes, and many members are deleted from the rolls. The last pages record the decision to appoint a recruitment committee, followed by pasted-in letters of resignation from several members.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Adelphic Literary Society Minute Book

Identifier: 31/6/9

The Adelphic Society records are comprised of two volumes of secretary's minutes, one from January 19, 1877 to September 25, 1885, and the other from September 25, 1885 to March 17, 1893. Membership rolls can be found at the end of the first volume and the beginning of the second

Dates: 1877-1893