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Beta Theta Pi Fraternity. Records, 1858-1994

Identifier: RG12-12

Scope and Contents

The collection contains historical information, including a copy of the fraternity history from the 1897 Quips and Cranks and the manuscript "Milestones Backward Run," a detailed history of the fraternity to 1940. There are copies of the constitution, including a copy of the original constitution written by Robert Hall Morrison Jr. in 1858. This notebook also contains Morrison's notes for Dr. McPhail's "Lectures on Logic" course. There is also a notebook containing the ritual of initiation as well as the constitution and by-laws. The collection contains minutes from 1884-1965. The minutes from 1938-1948 are missing. The minutes include information about the merger of the Mystic Seven with Beta Theta Pi, committee reports, membership information, election results, and initiation procedures. There are copies of the annual questionnaires from 1925-1965, which contain information about the chapter, members, and statistics about the fraternity as reported to the national headquarters. There are annual reports from Conclaves for 1949-1950. There is general correspondence from 1885-1989, correspondence with members J.R. Cunningham, C.G. Davidson, A.T.G. Priest, and F.W. Shepardson, letters concerning the Mystic Seven altar, reminiscences of Beta Theta Pi, general newsletters, and letters to freshmen during rush. There is membership information including pledge forms and legacy information, as well as information about many of the more prominent members, including Davidson College presidents J.R. Cunningham, W.L. Lingle, and Dr. W.J. Martin, Rhodes Scholar R.F. Davidson, National Presidents S.R. Brooks, J.G. Martin, and F.W. Shepardson, founding member N.L. Anderson, and member J.C. Stuart. There is information about club activities including initiation, installation of officers, and the roles of house mothers. There is also information about the chapter house. There is printed material, including the publications "Mystic Messenger" from 1886-1889, "Beta Theta Pi Magazine" from 1890, 1948-1960, "Phi Alpha" from 1915-1964, and "Sword and Shield" from 1947-1968. There is also printed material about club activities and celebrations as well as prints of a chapter logo design and the print block for it. J. G. Marvin may be the designer. Memorabilia includes Christmas cards, certificates, and a Phi Alpha ribbon. There is also information from the Mystic Seven Fraternity, including minutes, by-laws, and correspondence from the late 1800s. The oversize material includes a scrapbook from the celebration of 50 continuous years in 1940 and a membership book from 1858-1940.


  • Creation: 1858


Biographical / Historical

In 1858 the Phi Chapter of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity was founded. It was the first fraternity at Davidson College, and it enjoyed several years of great success. When news of war broke out, the chapter's constitution was stored in one of the columns of Old Chambers and the chapter disbanded. After the war the documents were recovered, but the faculty refused to allow fraternities to be reestablished at Davidson. In 1880 the chapter's charter was formally revoked, and the Phi name was transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. In 1884 a group emerged known as the Sword and Shield Temple of the Mystic Seven Fraternity. In 1890, following a wave of anti-fraternity sentiment, the Mystic Seven Fraternity combined with Beta Theta Pi, forming the Phi Alpha Chapter of Beta Theta Pi at Davidson College. The group flourished for many years, until the installation of the self-selection policy at Davidson. The concept of allowing a freshman to enter the fraternity merely because he so desired contradicted one of the founding principles of Beta Theta Pi. The national charter was revoked, and the fraternity folded. [For additional information, see "Milestones Backward Run" by Robert Ramsey.]


6.00 boxes_oversize (6 boxes plus oversize)




The collection is organized into the following series: Historical Information; Constitutions; Minutes; Annual Reports; Correspondence; Membership Information; Activities; House Information; Printed Material; Memorabilia; Mystic Seven Fraternity.

Physical Location








D-Room Case III

Mapstand D-4

Immediate Source of Acquisition

2014-021 -Marvin

Related Materials

Dean of Students Office

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the College Archives Repository