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Philanthropic Society. Records,

Identifier: RG12-002

Scope and Contents

The collection contains constitutions, minutes, president's manuals, treasurer's records, membership books, class and roll books, committee reports and minutes, credit books, officer reports and notebooks, papers, addresses, and library records. There are five versions of the constitution, ranging in date from 1837 to 1914. The 1837 constitution is written in the same book as the minutes from 1837, and this book is housed with the minutes. The minutes are from 1837-1928, 1933-1935, and 1969-present. The minutes from 1928-1933 have been lost, as have the minutes from 1935-1969. The minutes from 1876-1896 are oversized and are housed separately. The minutes book from 1992-present is kept in Phi Hall, but a photocopy of the minutes until 1994 are kept with the collection. The minutes are from both regular and called meetings and include information about regular and honorary members, debate topics, fines levied, commencement speakers, the organization of the library, the election of officers, theconstruction of the hall, oration and essay awards, and general activities within the society. The detail of the minutes depends largely upon the secretary of the period. The correspondence is from 1929-1938 and 1991-1992 and concerns the finances of the society, the creation of a Philanthropic key and the general condition of Phi Hall. The 2003-2004 correspondence is in e-mail format between the organization concerning topics for discussion and events. The president's manuals contain information from 1869-1898 about the order of meetings, roll listings, class groups, officers, and committee members. The treasurer's records are from 1847-1859 and 1866-1922 and include information such as the payment of dues, fees, and fines, as well as listing annual expenses. The treasurer's book from 1906-1913 is oversized and is housed separately. The membership books list both honorary and regular members of the Philanthropic Society from 1837-present. The pledge book is from 1868-1885 and has a written pledge signed by all new members of the society. The class and roll books are from 1903-1934 and list members and their debate groups. The roll books for 1920-1927 and 1932-1934 are in the same book as the minutes for 1933-1935, and are housed with the minutes. The absences committee notebooks, from 1913-1916, list excused and non-excused absences. The finances committee reports give extensions granted and exemptions given for payment of fines and dues. The judiciary committee minutes are from 1870-1925 and discuss recommendations to excuse members from fines and punishments as well as granting them awards. The library committee reports are from 1872-1890 and discuss the progress of the library. The Phi Hall repairs committee report, 1903, states the necessary actions for preserving Phi Hall. The credit books, from 1896-1900, 1904-1911, and 1916-1920 list members and their activities relating to the society, such as debates and essays. The agent's reports list expenses and incomes generated by the society for the year. The critic's reports review the officers and make recommendations to the society about how to make the society work better. The vice president's reports review the society as a whole and make suggestions. The supervisors notebooks contain information about the conduct of the members during meetings and fines imposed for poor behavior. The papers were written by society members and then presented at meetings. Prize papers won inter-societal awards. The inaugural addresses, from 1900-1985, are from the president's inauguration. The respondent's and valedictory addresses are year-end addresses given to the society and the student body. The commencement addresses, from 1837-1878, are the speeches given by outside speakers at Davidson's commencement. Both the Philanthropic and Eumenean Societies were responsible for bringing the speaker to the campus. The general file contains odd bits of information about the society's activities. The rare book symposium information includescorrespondence, speeches, and printed information about the 1983 rare book symposium sponsored by the Philanthropic Society. The library records include catalogues of the books in the library and the circulation records from 1853-1906. The circulation records from 1853-1856, as well as two catalogues, are oversized and are housed separately. In addition, there is a dictionary, c.1860, that was a gift to the Philanthropic Society. In addition to the books previously mentioned as being oversized, the oversize collection contains blueprints of Phi Hall, a blank diploma c.1970, two membership certificates c.1884 and 1917, and a copy of a sketch of Phi Hall by Teresa Beth Hough. There is a bound volume of addresses commissioned by both the Eumenean and Philanthropic Societies housed with the Eumenean Society collection. The Chandlier note was found by Physical Plant staff ini 2009 while renovating the space. It was left in 1973 by officers of the society.


  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1837 - 2024


Conditions Governing Access

Phi Hall Repairs Committee Report in fragile condition.

Biographical / Historical

The Philanthropic Society, founded in 1837, is one of the oldest student societies on the Davidson College campus. The first meetings were held in one of the dormitories on campus, then later in the Chapel. In 1842, the first steps were taken to raise the funds to build a meeting hall, and in 1850 the Philanthropic Hall was completed. The Philanthropic and Eumenean Societies served an important role in the college's history. They provided the opportunity for self-government and leadership within an organized structure, using mutually agreed upon rules and regulations. The societies also created libraries for use by the members. Oratorical skills were stressed and regular debates were held both between and within the societies. Medals were awarded for outstanding orations and essays. In addition, the societies invited speakers to the campus, arranged commencement activities, and helped to provide activity to an otherwise isolated campus. The motto for the Philanthropic Society is "verit? sans peur," meaning "truth without fear." The society's color is blue.


21.00 boxes_oversize (21 boxes plus oversize)




The collection is arranged in the following series: 1) Constitutions, 2) Minutes, 3) Correspondence, 4) President's Manuals, 5) Treasurer's Books, 6) Membership records, 7) Committee records, 8) Credit Books, 9) Officer reports, 10) Papers, 11) Addresses, 12)General, 13) Library records, 14) Oversize.

Physical Location

Range H Section 1-2

Range D Section 2 - OVERSIZE

Mapstand D-5 - OVERSIZE

D-Room Case III - not found June 2024

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Philanthropic Society|2015-070

Related Materials

Dean of students' Office


Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the College Archives Repository