THE GREEK-LETTER FRATERNITIES: THEIR ORIGIN AND HISTORY
WHENEVER bodies of young men have been gathered together, more or less permanently, they have tended to separate into groups based upon kindred tastes, aims, interests or other causes. This was so even in the mediæval universities, where the students separated into the "nations," as they were called, drawn together by race or clan ties. In German universities it takes the form of various associations; in Oxford and Cambridge, of the fellowship of the Common Room. In this country it early developed through various kinds of societies, the most permanent of which have been the college secret societies or fraternities. The first one of these bearing a Greek-letter name was founded at the college of William and Mary at Williamsburg, Va., in 1776 and called Phi Beta Kappa. It was secret in its nature, but formed for social and literary purposes, and held regular and frequent meetings. In December, 1779, it authorized chapters at Yale and Harvard. The next year the parent chapter closed temporarily because of the fighting which then prevailed in the vicinity of Williamsburg.
Formation of first fraternity.
The chapter at Yale was actually established on November 13, 1780, and took the name of Alpha of Connecticut. Its membership was confined to the two upper classes, and thus probably founded the junior societies of Yale. The Harvard Alpha was started September 5, 1781, and the Dartmouth Alpha in 1787. After the formation of Phi Beta Kappa, the literary or debating societies, so called, were founded in the various colleges. They were directly encouraged by the faculties, the students joined them as a matter of course and their work was mainly educational. Their debates, reading and discussion of papers, and other literary exercises were part of the training then so important in public speaking and English composition. But their chief interest was in