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Alpha Society Records, 1878-1968
4 boxes (1.66 linear ft.)
Collection number: RG 80

Abstract:
Alpha Society was Smith College's first literary society, formed in 1878, shortly after the opening of the College itself in 1875. The collection contains copies of an evolving constitution, programs of meetings and plays, letters, invitations, administrative records, meeting minutes, publications, and photographs.

Terms of Access and Use:

Restrictions on access:

All of the files are open to the public according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. In order to publish any material contained in the records of Alpha Society, permission must be obtained from the Smith College Archives.

Smith College Archives
Northampton, MA

Historical Note

Smith College's first literary society, Alpha Society, was founded by the Class of 1881 in the winter of their freshman year. Mary Sophia Wilkie chaired its first meeting on January 19, 1878. The Society soon gained much respect and admiration for its frequent productions of popular plays and its publication of its own newspaper, The Alpha. Members met approximately once every three weeks. The meetings included entertainment such as plays, music, readings, recitations, and lectures on various topics of interest.

Alpha Society was such a success that in 1892 five members broke off to form a rival society, Phi Kappa Psi. Both societies flourished, selecting their members by careful consideration of artistic merit and creativity. By 1934 student interests had shifted away from the arts. The two societies elected to combine into the society known as Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi, thus allowing both to endure.

In 1938 Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi adopted a new constitution which limited its membership to thirty students who had distinguished themselves in one or more of the arts. This reflected an ideological shift over the years from "an amusement society", as it was described by a member in 1883, to "an honorary [sic] society which recognizes outstanding creative achievement", as it was described in 1938. Activities of Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi were last recorded in 1968.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection includes materials from most decades of the existence of Alpha Society from the year of its founding in 1878, to its merger with Phi Kappa Psi in 1934 and subsequent transformation into an honor society, to its last year of record in 1968. The collection consists of copies of the Society's constitution, programs, song booklets, letters, dramatics and other student activities, photographs of members and officers, and publications. There are several items of note that highlight the evolution of the Society through the generations of its members and provide examples of the Society's contributions to the Smith College community.


Information on Use
Terms of Access and Use
Restrictions on access:

All of the files are open to the public according to the regulations of the Smith College Archives.

Restrictions on use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. In order to publish any material contained in the records of Alpha Society, permission must be obtained from the Smith College Archives.

Preferred Citation

Please use the following format when citing materials from this collection:

Records of Alpha Society, Box #, Smith College Archives. Used by permission.

History of the Collection

Processing Information

Processed by Abby Schlessinger, 2001. Revised by Mark Umstot, 2016.


Additional Information
Contact Information
Smith College Special Collections
Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton, MA 01063

Phone: (413) 585-2970
Fax: (413) 585-2886

Email: specialcollections@smith.edu
URL: https://www.smith.edu/libraries/special-collections
Language
English

Series Descriptions
1878-1939


Records and documents including a brief history of the Society, copies of its constitution and subsequent revised versions throughout its first decades, and membership lists. Correspondence with College administration and songbooks of Society lyrics set to contemporary music give an overall sense of its activities.

1889-1952, n.d.


The bulk of the photographs are annual pictures of Society members. Some photographs are of a few members who were either officers or board members.

1878-1940 (Bulk 1878-1913)


Four ledgers of Society meeting minutes and notes, from the first meeting held on January 19, 1878, to 1913, make up the bulk of the series.

1878-1916


Programs of individual Society meetings customized on cardboard. Evolving through the first decades, they highlight artistic drawings that eventually gave way to a printed Alpha logo.

1879-1947 (Bulk 1879-1916)


Most plays in the series are identified by a single program or photograph. Of note is "A Modern Atalanta". Included are two handwritten drafts and two typewritten copies of the play, as well as three programs. As explained in the accompanying letter of February 7, 1947 by College Archivist Margaret Grierson, the play was written by Mary Mather '1883 about her roommate Elizabeth Lawrence '1883, who was the victor of the first tennis match played at the College. The play was not performed at the time it was written but was given as a birthday present after the two had graduated.

1879-1893


The earliest publications of the Society are included. Alpha Paper was the first. Its first volume began with The Chip Basket, papers originally read before the Society. The Alpha and the The Alpha Quarterly are represented as well, as are the words and music of the 1879 play "H.M.S. Pinafore".

1934-1968


The final series in the collection comprises three folders pertaining to Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi after the amalgamation of the two societies in 1934. Included is the constitution, membership lists, student activities, press board releases, correspondence, and photographs of the Society and its officers. Of particular note is the correspondence between the administration and faculty of the College and the Society in its later years in the 1950s and 1960s, as it struggled to maintain its viability as an honor society and made its final mark upon the historical record in 1968.

Contents List
Series I: General



Anniversaries
1888

Box 3005
Constitution
1879-1930

Box 3005
Executive Committee record of voting membership
1906-1908

Box 3005
Executive Committee record of "names vouched for"
1907-1916

Box 3005
Executive Committee record of "names on books"
1908-1922

Box 3005
History
1878-1939

Box 3005
Invitations
1881-1933

Box 3005
Membership List
1895-1933

Box 3005
Register
1898-1913

Box 3005
Songs
n.d.

Box 3005
Welcome Speech to New Members
1911

Box 3005
Series II: Photographs



Photographs
1889-1900

Box 3005
Photographs
1901-1903

Box 3005
Photographs
1911-1914

Box 3005
Photographs
1916-1952

Box 3005
Photographs
n.d.

Box 3005
Series III: Meeting Minutes and Notes



Minutes
1878-1891

Box 3006
Minutes
1891-1908

Box 3006
Agenda
1905-1906

Box 3006
Minutes
1907-1913

Box 3006
Pins and Awards
1940, n.d.

Box 3006
Series IV: Programs



Programs
1878-1879

Box 3007
Programs
1885-1886

Box 3007
Programs
1887

Box 3007
Programs
1888

Box 3007
Programs
1889

Box 3007
Programs
1890

Box 3007
Programs
1892-1893

Box 3007
Programs
1894-1897

Box 3007
Programs
1899-1900

Box 3007
Programs
1904

Box 3007
Programs
1907

Box 3007
Programs
1908-1909

Box 3007
Programs
1909-1910

Box 3007
Programs
1910-1911

Box 3007
Programs
1911-1912

Box 3007
Programs
1912-1913

Box 3007
Programs
1913-1914

Box 3007
Programs
1914-1915

Box 3007
Programs
1915-1916

Box 3007
Series V: Dramatics



"Nicholas Nickley"
March 15, 1879

Box 3007
"H.M.S. Pinafore"
May 10, 1879

Box 3007
Note:

See also Box 3008

"Ellen and the King"
May 10, 1879

Box 3007
"The Spanish Gypsy"
January 17, 1880

Box 3007
"King Rene's Daughter"
June 12, 1880

Box 3007
"The Fair Barbarian"
1881

Box 3007
"She Stoops to Conquer"
c1881

Box 3007
1882
1882

Box 3007
"A Modern Atalanta"
November 11, 1884

Box 3007
"School"
March 6, 1886

Box 3007
"A Plea for Amateurs"
February 28, 1891

Box 3007
"Mock Trial"
May 14, 1892

Box 3007
"Rip Van Wrinkle"
April 21, 1900

Box 3007
"The Foresters"
May 12, 1900

Box 3007
"At Twelve at Night"
June 9, 1900

Box 3007
"Nance Oldfield"
November 17, 1900

Box 3007
"A Box of Monkeys"
January 19, 1901

Box 3007
"The Bird's Christmas Carol"
January 23, 1901

Box 3007
"The Wheel of Progress"
February 9, 1901

Box 3007
"Masks and Faces"
March 23, 1901

Box 3007
"At the King's Head"
April 27, 1901

Box 3007
Scenes from "Ingomer"
May 18, 1901

Box 3007
"Grimm's Fairy Tales"
November 19, 1901

Box 3007
"A Scrap of Paper"
January 11, 1902

Box 3007
"Man Who Corrupted Hadley Burg"
February 22, 1902

Box 3007
"Under the Beach Tree"
February 23, 1907

Box 3007
"The Minet"
1916

Box 3007
Series VI: Publications



Alpha Paper
1881

Box 3008
The Alpha
1890-1891

Box 3008
The Alpha Quarterly (Bounded)
1892-1893

Box 3008
The Alpha Quarterly (Unbounded)
1892-1893

Box 3008
"H.M.S. Pinafore" Words and Music
1879

Box 3008
Series VII: Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi



General
1934-1968

Box 3008
Membership
1937-1968

Box 3008
Photographs
1937-1939

Box 3008

Questions about this collection? Contact the archives
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