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Finding Aid for The University of Georgia Literary Societies Collections (1803 - )
(UGA 97-106 and Others )

RG 6-3 (Student Activities)
67 Linear Ft.: 67 Bankers Boxes


Classes had been offered in Athens for slightly more than a year when seven members of what would become the first graduating class of the University of came together to form a society “for the purpose of extemporizing or extemporary speaking”. This society was named for the Greek orator Demosthenes, and from its founding in February of 1803 to the present, the Demosthenian Society remains the oldest student organization at the University of Georgia.

By 1820, some of the zeal had gone out of the proceedings of the Demosthenians, and one of their number, Joseph Henry Lumpkin, felt that a rivalry was necessary. Thus it was that he founded the Phi Kappa Literary Society in February of that year, and thus was the die cast for a rivalry that would last (off and on) for over a century and a half.

The first sign of renewed interest in the Societies was the construction of the meeting halls, Demosthenian in 1824, and Phi Kappa in 1836. These halls became sacred precincts, and strict customs were established to preserve that sanctity and secrecy of the affairs of the respective societies. Treaties dealing with territorial imperatives and recruitment procedures were drawn up, and these formed the basis for intersocietal dealings. Society anniversaries were scrupulously observed, and speaking competitions arranged within strictly formal guidelines.

Once the school population had been divided among the societies, they reached beyond “ Franklin College” in recruitment of honorary members. Those men, usually prominent and/or prosperous, were looked upon as “patrons”, and were called upon more than once to aid the respective societies in their occasional “difficulties” with creditors. Much of what became the rather substantial libraries of the societies were also supplied by these benefactors.

Actual society meetings typically took place on Saturday mornings, and would often be coupled with an afternoon session as well. The practice of the evening meeting is relatively new, a convention of the 20th century.

The records of the societies form the most complete records extant of student activities at the University of Georgia. For some periods of history, their records are unique in affirming the presence of individuals at Athens. In the case of both societies, the record continues to grow, as minutes and correspondence are retired to the Archives on a regular basis. Close attention will also reveal the suggested presence of an antebellum student society, the Kruphians, whose secret nature crossed paths with the Demosthenians when the Kruphians sought use of Demosthenian Hall in the 1850s for their rituals.

Scope and Content / A Note on Organization:

The largest physical bulk of the literary society materials is found under the accession number 97-106.

This represents material which had accrued through donations to Special Collections/University Archives starting in the 1950s and lasting through the 1990s. This material was first organized in 1983, and encompassed the earliest materials of the Demosthenian and Phi Kappa Societies. This was housed in 12 boxes of Demosthenian records, and six boxes of Phi Kappa papers. These records would form the first dozen boxes of the 97-106 accession. Over the intervening 20+ years, accessions from both the Demosthenians and Phi Kappans were irregularly received, and those records received starting in 1998 received their own accession numbers (though it has occasionally been the case that small accessions have been folded into earlier like accessions to conserve storage space; such cases are noted in the finding aid).

Due to the age and fragility of many of these documents, microfilm or transcripts will be substituted as noted in the Content Inventory.

The records of the literary societies encompass the following series:

Journals: There are several subseries of historical journals which form the bulk of the pre-20 th century holdings in this collection, including:

  • Librarian’s Journals>:
  • Treasurer’s Journals: These books documented fiscal dealings of the societies, including dues payments and fines levied for inappropriate conduct as members (usually within the structure of the weekly meetings).
  • Constitutions/By-Laws: These journals were chronological compendia of the documents of governance for the literary societies. One such volume, UGA 97-106: 12, Demosthenian Constitution & By-Laws c. 1987, was declared a defunct number, and relocated to 97-106:11.
  • Minutes Books and Holographs: This subseries forms the backbone of the historical record for the two societies. The Demosthenian minutes series is largely intact from 1829 on, and the Phi Kappa minutes date from the inception of their society in 1820.
  • Letter Books and Correspondence: This subseries includes three 19th century Demosthenian letter books which were unbound for conservation purposes, and records the interaction of the societies with the outside world. Correspondence with honorary members was a primary concern in the earlier years, when the societies were ever alert to the possibility of outside financial support.

In addition to the journal series, the 20th century records reflected a broader range of societal concerns, as reflected in the following series:

Financial Papers: Both societies managed their fiscal affairs in different ways as their assets waxed and waned; these records chart these activities.

Hall Renovation: In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, both societies were involved with efforts to restore their halls to some semblance of their original state. These records document both a primarily private fundraising effort (for Demosthenian Hall) and a partnership with the University (for Phi Kappa Hall).

Thesis, Dissertation, and History: The collection houses copies of Robert Owen’s Demosthenian Society A Collage of Counterrevolution (1984); Richard Rose’s For Our Mutual Benefit: Antebellum Georgia College Student Organizations (1984); and J. Lamar Merk’s recent Phi Kappa Customs, History & Practices, 1820-2000 (2001).

Calvin Logue Critical Papers: Speech professor Calvin Logue was the faculty advisor for the Demosthenian Society from 1980-1988. In those years, he faithfully attended weekly meetings, and took detailed notes on the speaking content of those meetings; this chronicle provides a detailed examination of rhetorical technique at Demosthenian as the 20 th century drew to a close. (UGA 97-106:19-20)

In addition to the above series, there are a wealth of non-document inclusions in the collection, including several trophies and plaques, and a split gavel platform removed from Demosthenian’s presidential rostrum in the mid 1980s (UGA 97-106: 45). There are also programs from annual meetings, intersocietal debates, and banquets. There are audio media of some meetings and competitions, and an abundance of photographic material from the mid-20th century on.

This is a growing collection, and future accessions with be added as acquired by University Archives.

Content Inventory:

  • UGA 97-106a Demosthenian Society And Phi Kappa - Minutes, Journals, Subject Files, Correspondence, Media Recordings, Miscellenous Books, Scrapbooks, Estrays, Treasures Books, Calvin Logue Speech and Meeting Notes, Letterbooks, Roll Books, Stationary, Plaque and Trophies 1801 - 2007.
  • UGA 98-009 Demosthenian Society - Hugh Dorsey Photo, Hall Rededication, Fiscal Files, Promo 1918 - 1998.
  • UGA 99-004 Demosthenian Society - Artifacts And Hall Renovation 1919 - 1999.
  • UGA 01-024 Phi Kappa - Phi Kappa Customs, History And Practices, 1820 - 2000 - J. Lamar Merk.
  • UGA 02-001 Demosthenian Society - Files And Phi Kappa Treaties 1992 - 2001.
  • UGA 02-027 Demosthenian Society - Restoration Register And Dedication Plaque Text 1997 - 1998.
  • UGA 03-005 Phi Kappa - Minutes in Transcription 1992 - 2002.
  • UGA 03-008 Demosthenian Society - File 1969 - 1980.
  • UGA 03-042 Phi Kappa - Membership Certificate 2003
  • UGA 04-042 Phi Kappa - Phi Kappa Gavel/Certificate/Scrapbook Pages, 1968
  • UGA 05-001 Phi Kappa - Minutes And Estrays 2003 - 2005.
  • UGA 05-039 Demonsthenian Society - Minutes And Estrays 1846 - 2005.
  • UGA 05-044 Demonsthenian Society - The Robe 2005.
  • UGA 06-034 Phi Kappa - Estrays 1990 - 2006.
  • UGA 07-019 Phi Kappa - Abstracted Minutes and Estrays 1881 - 2006.
  • UGA 07-034 Demosthenian Society - Plaques And Memorabilia 1979 - 2003.

Processed/Prepared by: Gilbert Head and Jonathan Mayberry December 1985/ April 2005 Electronic Edition, November 2007