Location: Bowdoin / Library / Special Collections & Archives / archives / 4.78 Collection Guide

Phi Beta Kappa, 1825- .

1.5 linear feet.

Catalog Number: 4.78

Agency History /
Biographical Note:

The Alpha of Maine (Bowdoin College) chapter of Phi Beta Kappa received its charter on October 25, 1824, the sixth charter granted a college or university since the fraternity's establishment in 1776 at William and Mary. The first annual meeting of the fraternity was held on September 8, 1925. Forty members from different Alphas elected twenty-four members to the new Bowdoin chapter. These new members were selected from those who had graduated between the college's first class (1806) and the preceeding class of 1925.

Membership criteria was based upon "unanimous vote of all members present" and recognized the "talents, acquirements, character, and disposition of the candidate." Unique to Bowdoin's chapter was the provision that "no undergraduate shall become a member of this society." This radical departure from other chapters' election rules was largely due to the existence of two other literary societies-- Peucilnian and Atheanaean--on campus prior to the establishment of the Alpha of Maine chapter. This restriction continued until 1897. Currently, the faculty nominates candidates to Phi Beta Kappa and the percentage of membership for any class is restricted.

A membership book is part of the collection and contains most of the member's signatures, including Henry W. Longfellow (1825). Two members whose signatures do not appear are Franklin Pierce (1824) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (1825). Both were both elected in 1842 and neither had much interest in the fraternity.

For more information on the history of Phi Beta Kappa and the Alpha of Maine chapter, see History of Phi Beta Kappa.

Scope and Content:
This collection contains catalogues and membership lists, an index of members, meeting records (minutes), addresses to the members, and a signature book of members.

General Note: "Register v.2," and oak voting box are on deposit; property of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maine.

Cite as: Phi Beta Kappa. George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives. Bowdoin College Library.

Access Restrictions: Some restrictions apply.

George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives · Staff · Hours
Bowdoin College Library, 3000 College Station, Brunswick, Maine 04011-8421 · scaref@bowdoin.edu · (207) 725-3288