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Phi Beta Kappa: records

Identifier: A04.78

  • Staff Only
  • Please use the Collection Organization section below to place requests.

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.


  • Creation: 1825-ongoing


Access Restrictions

Some restrictions apply.

Biogrpahical/Historical 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 preceding 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--Peucinian and Athenaean--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.


1.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Related Materials

For address list of the Bowdoin Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa see the Bowdoin College Bulletin no. 216, 1934 Feb

General Note

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

Guide to Phi Beta Kappa Records
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine 04011 Repository

3000 College Station
Brunswick Maine 04011 USA
(207) 725-3288