A Brief History of TDX National History



The Founders & The Founding

In a plainly furnished back room of Union College (in the building then known as West College, a simple stone structure occupying the center of a square fronting Union Street, Schenectady, just south of the Central Railroad bridge over the Erie Canal) a party of six men met one May evening, and having quietly among themselves discussed friendship as a power, formed our fraternity, the ties of which now extend throughout all countries and climates

William Hyslop

Hyslop was born in 1829 and came from Rhineback, New York. He entered Union College in 1845, being a tall, thin fellow, proud in bearing, conscientious, chivalrous, and of fine manners. Upon graduation he entered the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, from which he graduated with honors. He was house physician at Bellevue Hospital for a year, going thence to the Asylum on Blackwell's Island for a year, as assistant physician. He finally engaged in private practice and died February 27, 1854, of typhoid fever. He is buried in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. Brother Green recalled, "Hyslop was the poet of the class. He was appointed valedictorian, and on the occasion I confess to you, gentlemen - and it is no impeachment of the character of Brother Hyslop - I was surprised. I did not know he was a poet, and, in fact, I think that was all the poetry he wrote during his college career. But he surprised me as much in the excellence of his production when it came out, for it drew great applause, and I never heard any unfavorable criticism."
Theodore B. Brown

Brown was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1828. Of a slender, delicate frame and medium height, with blue eyes and a fair complexion, he was described as a nervous, sensitive, and modest chap. He needed to be well known to be appreciated, but his friendship was heartfelt and embraced all with whom he was intimate. His first intention was to be a civil engineer, but in 1850 he accepted an offer to teach school in Goldsboro, North Carolina. In 1856 he entered his father's furniture business. At the breaking out of the War between the States his soul was listed in the Union cause, but his delicate constitution kept him out of the army. He gladly assumed the home duties of his brother that the family might have a representative in service. This extra effort to accomplish the work of two persons caused his death on August 13, 1864. He is buried in the beautiful Vale Cemetery in Schenectady, New York. Brother Green made the following remarks about Brother Brown at the Semi-Centennial Convention. "Brown was a fine mathematician, and a very excellent man, too, a warmhearted friend. He was exceedingly correct in his conduct. I really can remember him very well indeed."
William G. Akin

Akin was born on the 10th of February 1831 at Greenbush, New York, opposite Albany, where his father had a large farm. Broad shouldered and hazel-eyed, above average height, he entered Union in 1845 and while there sported a goatee. His gentlemanly manners and jolly disposition seemed to have made him a general favorite. He received an M.D. from New York Medical College in 1853. Going to Chicago in 1854, he encountered an outbreak of cholera. He immediately found himself pressed into service and worked very hard to alleviate the suffering. By the bedside of one of his patients, an old Albanian, he remained all night, and was much depressed over his failure to save his friend's life. Exhausted, he fancied premonitions of cholera and took an overdose of preventive medicine, which brought on an attack of malarious fever, causing death on November 7, 1854. He is buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery. Brother Green remembered Brother Akin as "a very genial, pleasant companion and a very careful man in his contact, so far as all the essentials go, but he had a little of the Falstaffian character and I used to fear that his rashness would sometimes get him into trouble. But it never did, so far as I have ever heard, and I know that on some trying occasions he manifested a strength of character that was unexpected."
Samuel F. Wile

Wile was born in 1829, at Pleasant Valley, New York. When in college he was spoken of as being small of stature, generous and kind, and a fair student. He studied medicine, but became tired of it and spent a year in business. Having a bent for adventure, he finally shipped on a whaling vessel. Later he moved to New Zealand, and for twelve years was owner and captain of a vessel, trading along the coasts of Australia. In 1867 he returned to America and, after having spent a year in New York, went to Pineville, South Carolina, where he opened a store. When Dr. Porteus C. Gilbert, 2nd PGL, wrote to him in 1871, he was grateful to hear again of Theta Delta Chi, his distant and eventful life having dulled his memory. But at the sight of the names sent him as founders, he said that the countenances of all those college comrades came vividly enough to draw their portraits. He was very proud of his share in the origin of our fraternity and, perhaps anticipating an early death, expressed a desire that if any history of Theta Delta Chi were printed, a copy should be sent to his father. He died suddenly September 9, 1872. His grave is at St. Stephen's Church near the railroad station of the same name. During the Semi-Centennial Convention, Brother Green made the following remarks about Brother Wile. "He was the only 'wild' one of the founders. I do not know how this can be accounted for, except perhaps that he was a clergyman's son, and we know that clergymen's sons are a little wild. He led an exciting life. I wish I could have sailed with him in the South Seas as he did for years. He died in South Carolina, and it was not until some years later that I heard of his death."

Theta Delta Chi's History of Growth

The Early Years
Theta Delta Chi, founded in 1847, is the eleventh oldest of college fraternities. The Founders decided early that the scope of the society should be greater than Union College, and they undertook expansion almost at once. In January, 1849, two of the Founders, Green and Akin, together with the first initiate, Francis E. Martindale, organized the Beta Charge (later to be called Beta Proteron) at the Ballston Law School in Ballston, New York. The venture aborted two years later when the school itself moved to another location. No attempt was made to pursue it, and the initiated members were placed upon the Alpha rolls.

The Fraternity had better luck in the next decade. Gamma at the University of Vermont (1852), Delta at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (1853), Epsilon at William and Mary (1853), and Zeta at Brown (1853) were quickly established. Eta followed at Bowdoin in 1854, and in the first move westward, Theta was chartered at Kenyon College in Gabier, Ohio that same year. Three charges appeared in 1856: Iota at Harvard, Kappa at Tufts, and Mu at the University of North Carolina. Iota endured one year and went under because the Harvard faculty, in a state of alarm, prohibited fraternities. Iota was revived in 1885 and lasted until 1916. Kappa enjoys the honor of being the oldest living charge in continuous existence.

Three charges were chartered in 1857: Nu at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Xi at Hobart College in Geneva, New York, and Omicron at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. The last charge to be established before the outbreak of the War between the States was Pi at Washington and Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania in 1858, unless we count the mysterious Rho Charge at the University of South Carolina. It may have been organized in 1859, but any records, if they ever existed, must have perished during the War.

Civil War

In 1860 the rolls of the Fraternity included Alpha and 17 new charges, of which six - Beta Proteron, Gamma, Iota, Lambda Graduate, Nu, and Rho (Proteron) - were defunct. The War severed the remaining southern charges from the north, and Epsilon and Mu quickly passed out of existence. Theta at Kenyon, of largely southern membership, disbanded as well, while Eta at Bowdoin, Omicron at Wesleyan, and Pi at Washington and Jefferson were unable to stand the stress of wartime and gave way. Many other charges were seriously weakened as undergraduates left college for the army, and Alpha took corrective action to strengthen the Fraternity, establishing three new charges: Sigma at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania (1861), Tau at Princeton (1863), and Upsilon at Bucknell in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (1865). Princeton's faculty soon banned fraternities, and Tau was disbanded. In 1867, Phi was chartered at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and Chi at the University of Rochester in New York State.

The dispute over the Lambda Graduate Charge did not settle the important question of who should have power in the national affairs of the Fraternity. In 1859 another attempt was made to curtail the powers of Alpha, which still retained supreme executive authority, but the dissidents were beaten off. In 1867 Alpha collapsed; her demise is attributed to the unfavorable conditions then existing at Union College. The Convention of 1868, representing only eight surviving charges, took action.

Reorganization and Growth: 1867-1889

The 1868 Convention established the Grand Lodge, which still remains the governing body of Theta Delta Chi. At its origin, the Grand Lodge consisted of two undergraduates and one graduate member. In 1909, the two positions of Graduate Treasurer and Graduate Secretary were added.

Theta Delta Chi enjoyed success during the next few years. Psi was established at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York in 1868. Omicron Deuteron (first of the Deuterons) at Dartmouth and Rho at Washington and Lee in Lexington, Virginia (the hypothetical South Carolina Rho has been known since as Rho Proteron) were founded in 1869. Beta was founded at Cornell in 1870, and in that and the subsequent three years Epsilon, Eta, Nu, and Theta were reorganized. Epsilon, Theta, and Nu failed again, in 1872, 1898, and 1881, respectively.

The success thus was not of long duration; between 1870 and 1877 no new charges were added, while five more - Rho, Sigma, Upsilon, Zeta, and Delta - went out of existence. An effort to produce a fraternity magazine yielded one issue in 1869. Inefficiency, carelessness, and apathy reached such a point throughout the Fraternity that in 1872 the President of the Grand Lodge resigned, claiming that his letters to charges brought no replies, and that he was unable to obtain either the Constitution or the Fraternity records from his predecessor.

Things did not significantly improve before the next decade, but between 1877 and 1890 nine new charges were established, and four defunct ones revived. Lambda at Boston University was active from 1877 to 1912, Upsilon Deuteron survived at Wabash from 1879 to 1882, Pi Deuteron was chartered at the College of the City of New York in 1880, and the 1881 Convention assumed responsibility for the strength of the Fraternity by requiring the President of the Grand Lodge to visit every Charge once a year at the general expense. In 1884 The Shield magazine was founded again. Rho Deuteron at Columbia (1883), Nu Deuteron at Lehigh (1884), Mu Deuteron at Amherst (1885), and Epsilon Deuteron at Yale's Sheffield Scientific School (1887) gained strength for Theta Delta Chi in the Northeast. There was opposition to expansion in more distant regions, and petitions were denied from such institutions as Colby, DePauw, South Carolina, and Ohio State.
Westward Expansion: 1889-1929

Before 1889 only the Theta Charge at Kenyon represented Theta Delta Chi west of the Allegheny Mountains. After that date the westward expansion comes to characterize the Fraternity. In some quarters there was strong opposition to this departure; it was argued that fraternity solidarity and efficient supervision could not be maintained with charges so far distant from the center of activity. But the western colleges, particularly the state universities, were rapidly becoming powerful and established institutions, and their claims were not to be denied. The founding of Gamma Deuteron at The University of Michigan in 1889 led to that of Tau Deuteron at Minnesota in 1892 and Sigma Deuteron at Wisconsin in 1895. During the same period, Theta Deuteron was chartered at MIT, Iota Deuteron at Williams College, and Chi Deuteron at George Washington University. In addition, the old Iota and Chi Charges were reestablished. Although Theta Deuteron failed almost immediately, it was revived in 1906.

At the time of the Fiftieth Annual Convention in 1898, 39 charges had been founded, and 21 were in active existence. In 1900 Theta Delta Chi reached the Pacific coast, establishing Delta Deuteron at Berkeley, followed in 1903 by Eta Deuteron at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. The Fraternity became international when Zeta Deuteron was chartered at McGill in Montreal, and Lambda Deuteron followed in 1912 at the University of Toronto. In the Midwest, Kappa Deuteron was established at the University of Illinois (1908); Xi Deuteron was installed at the University of Washington in Seattle (1913); Phi Deuteron came into being at the University of Pennsylvania in 1915; Beta Deuteron was chartered at Iowa State in 1919.

The rapid expansion of the Fraternity scarcely touched upon the South, including only the reestablishment of Noble Epsilon at William and Mary (1904) and Nu at the University of Virginia (1910). The charges at Yale and Harvard were disbanded in 1900 and 1916. The Alpha Charge, disbanded amidst so much ill will over a half century before, was revived in 1923; and the thirty charges of Theta Delta Chi were joined by Psi Deuteron (UCLA) in 1929.

Depression and Hard Times


War and economic depression are frequently catastrophic for fraternities. In 1929 the Columbia Charge, Rho Deuteron, was disbanded, soon followed by Pi Deuteron (C.C.N.Y.) in 1931 and Phi Deuteron (Pennsylvania) in 1934. The Fraternity remained with 28 charges in the United States and Canada as the War succeeding the depression halted expansion.

The Centennial of the Fraternity was celebrated in 1947 at the Sagamore Hotel on Lake George, and a pilgrimage was made to the campus of Union College. Over 400 Theta Delts took part in a Commemoration Service in the college chapel, and a bronze tablet was placed on the outside wall of old North Dormitory, the birthplace of our society.

Theta Delta Chi emerged from the depression/wartime doldrums and began a policy of steady expansion in the fifties. Kappa Triton (first of the Tritons) was established at Northwestern, outside Chicago, in 1951, and Sigma Phi Sigma, a local fraternity at Pennsylvania State University, affiliated with Theta Delta Chi in 1954 to become Sigma Triton. The affiliation of a local group as a Charge has since become an important method of expansion. Another, of perhaps greater importance, is the planned and organized colonization of a college at the expense of the National Fraternity. Epsilon Triton at Arizona State University was chartered in 1961 in this way; the administrative expenses of establishing the colony are covered by the Grand Lodge, while undergraduate Theta Delts transferring from their original colleges, are frequently the agents of the policy.

Omicron Triton was added at the University of Rhode Island in 1963; it had been a local on that campus for over thirty years. In 1964 Gamma Triton was chartered at Michigan State University.


A Time of Change: 1966 – 2000


The 119th Convention at Atlantic City in 1966 gave Theta Delta Chi new organizational character. A group of young alumni, led by Garret Schenck, Iota Deuteron '55 (Williams) won a hard-fought battle to gain the votes of the Convention and control of the Grand Lodge. Under the presidencies of Schenck (1966-68) and his successors, the Fraternity had completely reorganized its operation as a national entity, acquiring first new headquarters in New York's Biltmore Hotel, and since 1971, a brownstone at 135 Bay State Road in Boston which remained the CFO headquarters until 2000.

The late 1960's and 1970's were a time of both expansion and contraction. Two new Charges were chartered in Virginia in 1970, Rho Triton at VCU in Richmond and Nu Triton at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. These have survived and even thrived, but others also added--Psi Triton at UC Santa Barbara, Zeta Triton at Calgary, Alberta, Pi Triton at California State College in Pennsylvania, Beta Triton at Lake Forest, Illinois, and, so briefly that it was never chartered, Phi Proteron in Florida, all succumbed sooner or later. Upsilon, defunct since 1881, was reactivated in 1968 at Bucknell but again went inactive in 1977.

The most severely affected Charges were, in fact, in the Northeast, which suffered its greatest attrition since the Depression. These were troubled times on U.S. campuses, disturbed both by the draft for and by the protests against the Vietnam War and by the changes in undergraduate life and behavior among those remaining on campus. Perceptions that fraternity membership was inherently exclusivist and elitist led Williams College to move to end all fraternal housing and dining in 1965 and ultimately, in 1968, to prohibit its students from joining any fraternity (although the Grand Lodge did not recall Iota Deuteron's Charter until 1990). After a difficult period during which they were obliged to offer full membership to women, fraternities at Bowdoin eventually were eliminated altogether. For reasons particular to the changing cultural climate of Quebec, McGill's Zeta Deuteron went inactive in 1972.

Other Northeastern schools where Theta Delta Chi is not represented, such as Colby College, have acted similarly. The Williams administration's actions may have served as a partial model for Hamilton College to assume control of fraternity properties and to end self-selected group living for our Psi Charge and all other fraternities there. The cultural climate of the late ‘sixties and ‘seventies also led to the weakening in membership and even temporary demise of a number of other Northeastern Charges, among them Mu Deuteron at Amherst, inactive 1969-86 and Zeta at Brown, inactive 1971-75. Further west, and for various other reasons, Kappa Deuteron and the short-lived Zeta Triton succumbed in 1970, Pi Triton in 1979, Beta Triton in 1981, Tau Deuteron in 1984, and Kappa Triton in 1989.

The last two decades have seen similar patterns of initial chartering or revival and disappearance. Kappa Triton at Northwestern went inactive in 1989; Tau at Princeton, briefly active 1863-67, was revived in 1984 but again went inactive in 1990. Gamma at Vermont, one of our earliest Charges, having enjoyed a brief life in the nineteenth century (1852-57), was reactivated in 1987, only to fail, be reactivated, and succumb at last in 1995. Xi Triton, founded at the University of Albany in 1996, shortly went inactive. Delta Triton (1990-2005) and Eta Triton (1995-2005) enjoyed longer periods of activity. Revived in 1982, Kappa Deuteron again went inactive in the ‘nineties. Omicron Triton at Rhode Island and Xi at Hobart have both fallen victim in the past decade to various circumstances and are at present inactive although work has begun to revive the Xi Charge within the next year.

More fruitfully, Chi Deuteron at George Washington, inactive since 1956, was revived in 1987 and remains active. After an even longer period of inactivity, Upsilon Deuteron at Wabash has returned to the fold. Several other Charges have had brief periods of inactivity: e.g. Eta Deuteron at Stanford, which was inactive 1990-93. Although Epsilon Triton at Arizona State and Gamma Deuteron at Michigan both went inactive in the mid 90's, both have since been reactivated.



Historic Greek Firsts

Theta Delta Chi has been a pioneer in many fields. It was the first of all college societies to publish a fraternity magazine, The Shield. It was the first to adopt colors (blue, black, and white), and was the first to design and fly a characteristic flag. It was the first to adopt a precious stone (ruby) as well as the first to adopt a patron among the deities of mythology (Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, who has since been adopted as the patron goddess of all fraternities). Theta Delta Chi was the first fraternity to adopt the use of a pledge pin, and it was also the first to form an endowment fund.

Firsts of Theta Delta Chi : Flag, Colors, Magazine, Patron Goddess, Precious Stone, Fraternity Flower, Pledge Pin, Endowment Fund.

The Flag of Theta Delta Chi

Theta Delta Chi was the first Greek letter fraternity to have a flag. The flag was first flown from the Astor House in New York City, February, 1870, and had a blue field with three black letters edged in white. At the time, the New York Evening Telegram recorded: "The mysterious blue ensign of the Theta Delta Chi Fraternity which floated from the Astor House flagstaff yesterday, caused a group of old tars a great deal of annoyance. They could not tell what it meant. 'There's an eight (8) and a triangle and an X,' said one. 'I don't know what them things stand for.' The tars walked away shaking their heads ponderingly and dubiously.

To Theta Delts, the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. She is the Patron Goddess of Theta Delta Chi. The historians tell us that there is nothing trustworthy in Greek history prior to the first Olympiad; that before this time everything, and for a century or two later, almost everything, is vague and uncertain. Not withstanding this, the Greeks of the Classical period got a great deal of pleasure from their legendary history, or mythology. Their faith was molded by it and their lives were influenced by it. And so the traditions of a people or of an institution are certainly worthy of record.
Minerva has been the patron goddess of Theta Delta Chi - possibly from the beginning of things. The first printed mention of the fact that has come under the writer's observation is contained in the account of the 1873 Convention, when Franklin Burdge, Zeta 1856, delivered his famous "History of the Origin and Founders of Our Fraternity." In the closing paragraph he says: "The Theta Delta Chi, like its patron goddess, never passed through a weak and pulling infancy, but sprang into being with the strength of maturity."
There is no doubt as to the allusion, for while the accounts of Minerva's (Athena in Greek) birth do differ, the most common is that Zeus produced her from his head, which he had ordered Hephaestus to cleave open; that the great goddess of war, in full armor, with poised spear, then sprang forth, chanting a war song, while a mighty commotion, both on land and sea, announced the great event to the world.


Our brotherhood was the first to adopt an emblematic stone. It is an open secret that the fidelity of a "Ruby" to our fraternity caused this action to be taken. She is one of the leading society ladies of the city of New York, and her husband is one of our most prominent surgeons.

She was in her girlhood days the most brilliant star in the famous galaxy known as Chi Theta Delta sisterhood of the Troy Female Seminary, a sisterhood which was at its zenith in the year 1859.

(From the Shield, IV (1888), Carl Axel Harstrom, Zeta 1886)

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