The records of the Tau Beta Pi Illinois Gamma Chapter and its predecessor Tau Beta are housed in four boxes and two card files and span the years 1929 to 2003. While the bulk of the records relate to membership, the historical, correspondence, and projects records document the course and achievements of the organization.
Succinct histories of Tau Beta and Northwestern University are presented in the Petition of the Tau Beta Society for admission to the national Tau Beta Pi Association (Box 1, Folder 2). Detailed minutes of Tau Beta remain for the period 1929-1941 (Box 1, Folder1).
Records related to the Chapter's organizational governance include bylaws, procedures, and rituals. The President's Book and Chapter Operations Manual give a clear picture of the responsibilities of the Chapter president and day-to-day functioning. Events that were particularly important to the Chapter's history were the Election of the Chicago-based Executive Council (Folder 13) and the Convention in Chicago (Folder 15).
Correspondence files include exchanges with the Association and other chapters which mostly relate to policies and practices, conventions, elections, and reporting. Correspondence with the Association that specifically deals with war issues is found in Folder 18 (World War II references are also abundant in the Membership reports and correspondence for the war years). The issue of admitting a “Negro” is mentioned in correspondence with other chapters, in Folder 22.
Membership records from the 1950s have frequent mentions of awarding the Women's Badge, and more references to the status of women are found in Association correspondence, Box 1, Folders 19-20.
Financial records are sparse, consisting of a few financial statements, tax filings, and a written procedure. There is considerable evidence throughout the series that the Chapter was scrupulous in adhering to the Association's strict standards, and that reports were regularly sent to the organizational headquarters. The small amount of publicity documentation includes a few samples and guides; some of the material refers to World War II activities.
Projects and programs are organized by title and arranged by date.
Membership records comprise the largest proportion of the series, reflecting the fact that significant organizational effort went into recruiting and initiating members. Records are arranged to reflect the school calendar beginning with the autumn quarter, as in 1952/1953. Correspondence related to membership has been kept with membership lists and reports. Tau Beta membership records that predate incorporation into the national organization include an Honor Roll, on which society recruitment was presumably based, a 1941 membership list, and another 1941 list of graduate non-charter members. Records of the initiation of Tau Beta members into Tau Beta Pi are extensive and reflect the substantial work that went into establishing the new Illinois Gamma Chapter. (Box 2, Folders 4-6).
Membership reports and correspondence, organized by academic year, typically include lists of prospective members, reports of eligibility status, election reports, letters inviting electees to join, letters of acceptance, arrangements for initiation ceremonies, and reports to the national Association. The Association wrote authorizations for membership, and clarified issues of eligibility. There are inquiries to and from initiates about subscriptions to The Bent, replacements for lost insignia, and other mundane matters. Some folders include pledge essays and biographical sketches of working engineers who were nominated for membership based on merit. Examples of pledge exam books are available for the 1950/1951 and 1966/1967 school years. Records concerning the membership of Dr. B. W. Gamson span four years and have been kept together.
Computer-generated membership listings date from 1985 to 1987. The 1985 list includes all the initiates of the Illinois Gamma Chapter, a total of 1613 names; the 1987 list contains 4,779 records of Tau Beta Pi alumni (all chapters) living in the Chicago area, listed by zip code. Two ledgers of the Chapter Roll cover the years 1956-1991 and 1991-2003. Each new member signed his name next to his membership number in a ledger, or on a signature form that served as a surrogate for the ledger. Loss of the first membership roll ledger in 1955 is mentioned in 1959 correspondence with the Association (Box 1, Folder 19).
Two card-file boxes contain 3”x 5” membership cards. Several thousand cards represent the entire membership of Illinois Gamma Chapter from 1941 through 2003. They are filed alphabetically, except for about 80 recent cards that have been placed unsorted before the letter “A” in Box 5.
More information about the Society of Women Engineers and the Technological Institute's Engineering Societies Council, with whom Tau Beta Pi jointly conducted projects, can be found in the University Archives General Files.