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History of Delta Chi

The Founding of The Delta Chi Fraternity

Since at least 1929, Delta Chi has recognized the following eleven men as the Founders of The Delta Chi Fraternity: Albert Sullard Barnes, Myron McKee Crandall, John Milton Gorham, Peter Schermerhorn Johnson, Edward Richard O'Malley, Owen Lincoln Potter, Alphonse Derwin Stillman,Thomas A. J. Sullivan, Monroe Marsh Sweetland, Thomas David Watkins, Frederick Moore Whitney. This list has not always been the accepted one. Even those on the list had differing opinions as to who deserved such recognition. To more fully understand the confusion, let us go back to the school year of 1889-90 and "set the stage" for the inception of the second law fraternity at Cornell. The school year of 1889-90 began with conversations of starting a new law fraternity, but, as school work increased, the idea was put off until the spring semester. Two incidents have been credited with providing the impetus for renewed interest in the founding of what was to become Delta Chi. One was the election of a Phi Delta Phi as the Law School Editor of the Cornell Daily Sun (the student newspaper) and the second was the election of the law school junior class president. in the case of the class presidency, Alphonse Derwin Stillman had done some campaigning for a student named Irving G. Hubbard and was unaware of any effort being made in anyone else's behalf. When the voting results were in, Charles Frenkel, a Phi Delta Phi, was declared the winner. That caused Stillman to start "asking around." It appears that what he found was a law school which was dominated by one small, closely knit group -- Phi Delta Phi.

The question of who first conceived the idea of a new fraternity will probably never be answered. According to Frederick Moore Whitney there were probably two or three groups working on the idea that spring.

Monroe Marsh Sweetland (who was also a member of Delta Tau Delta from Cornell) claimed the idea was his alone; Myron McKee Crandall claimed the fraternity was started in his and Frank Edward Thomas' apartment at 126 E. Seneca Street; Stillman remembered being approached by "one of the boys" after the class election but couldn't remember who.

In any case, there were meetings held in Crandall's apartment as well as in Sweetland's law office on Wilgus Street. It is not clear how these two groups came together, or even in which month, though there seems to have been some individuals who had attended both groups. Crandall did remember approaching Sweetland about the concept of the new fraternity and how excited he was, and how he had joined right in. Sweetland said he always had considered the founding of Delta Chi to date back to when he had unfolded the whole idea to Crandall. While the class officer elections and the Law School Editorship incidents may have provided the initial incentives for organization, it soon became clear that those involved were looking for much more. Realizing a common desire for fellowship and intellectual association, they sought to enrich their college experiences by creating among themselves a common bond; a bond that would materially assist each in the acquisition of a sound education; a bond that would provide each enduring value. As with any important commitment, there must be time for contemplation and planning. Over the summer, many of the details of the organization were worked out by Crandall, who had stayed in Ithaca until after school opened. There was additional work accomplished by Sweetland, John Milton Gorham and Stillman. In regards to the adoption of the constitution, Albert Sullard Barnes wrote the following in his 1907 Quarterly article:

"As I recall it, after refreshing my recollection from the original minutes now in my possession, on the evening of October 13, 1890, six students in the Law School, brothers John M. Gorham, Thomas J. Sullivan, F. K. Stephens, A.D. Stillman and the writer, together with Myron Crandall and O. L. Potter, graduate students, and Monroe Sweetland, a former student in the Law School, met in a brother's room and adopted the constitution and by-laws, and organized the Delta Chi Fraternity."

The minutes from that meeting state "Charter granted to Cornell Chapter" (Note: While it is only supposition, it is believed that the Founders chose to name their chapter and, therefore, all chapters to follow, after the school in which they had so much pride in hopes that some of the prestige of the school would "rub off" on their fraternity. The naming of chapters varies from fraternity to fraternity with school names, Greek alphabet, Greek alphabet within state and Greek alphabet and numbers being the most common.) indicating from the beginning the intent to start a national fraternity. From the spring semester of 1890 until October 13, 1890, there existed, in effect, a fraternity which had no chapters. In the fall of 1890 the names of Fred Kingsbury Stephens, Martin Joseph Flannery and Frank Edward Thomas appeared on the agreement to share the cost of purchasing a sample badge for the fraternity, and the signatures of both Flannery and Stephens appeared on the pledge "... to form a Greek letter fraternity...." Since both Flannery and Stephens dropped out of the organization early, they have not been included as Founders.

The inclusion of Thomas' name as a Founder has been hotly debated since the beginning, and Carl Peterson, Union '22, who had researched the founding of Delta Chi during the 20s and was largely responsible for the recognition of Crandall as a Founder, maintained that Thomas was equally deserving. This was confirmed in conversations with Barnes, Crandall and Thomas, but met with opposition from some of the remaining Founders. The prime reason for denying his recognition seems to be the fact that the did not return to Ithaca in the fall of 1890, even though he was actively involved in the inception of the fraternity during the 1889-90 school year when it, at least on an informal basis, actually came into existence. The possible role he played in the birth of Delta Chi is re-counted in Peterson's article "New Version of Our Founding," in the September 1930 Quarterly. The authenticity of this role was strongly supported by Crandall. It is interesting to note that Crandall also did not return to school in the fall of 1890, although he did work in Ithaca until early in the fall semester when he left for Utica, N.Y. and Sweetland, having graduated the previous spring, was practicing law in Ithaca. Despite this, Crandall was listed as an active charter member of the Cornell Chapter on October 13, 1890. It was at his insistence, with it is assumed, the support of the majority of the members present, that Frank Thomas was listed as an honorary member. Sweetland was listed as an honorary charter member. Several of the Founders were working on their masters of Law degrees when the Fraternity was being organized.

Up until the publishing of the 1929 Directory the list of our Founders did not include the name of Crandall. The inclusion of his name at that time was largely due to a replica of the original historical work of Peterson, even though as early as August 14, 1924, Crandall's name was recommended by Whitney for such recognition.

In the same letter, Whitney recommended that Peter Schermerhorn Johnson not be recognized as a Founder since he wasn't initiated until December 1890 or March 1891. Johnson was, however, responsible for a large portion of the secrets of the Fraternity, writing "Foven's Mater" and drawing the first emblem for Delta Chi.

In the hearts and minds of every Delta Chi, October 13, 1890 is a date to be remembered.

The Name of the Fraternity and Badge

The choosing of the name for the new fraternity is difficult to credit to any one person. In a letter dated November 7, 1919, Crandall claimed remembering having a conference with Sweetland during the summer of 1890 concerning the naming of the fraternity. He also stated that Barnes may have "had something to do about it." In the same letter he recounted enlisting George Hoxie, a student in the University, but not a law student, to help make a drawing of the Delta Chi badge that same summer. Hoxie's involvement was confirmed by Whitney and Thomas. Sweetland claimed he, and he alone, picked the name of "Delta Chi" and that he liked the way the two words sounded together. Sweetland further said that he submitted the design and drawing for the first badge which was made by Heggie, an Ithaca jeweler. We do know that "Delta Tau Omega" was considered, and that they may have considered "Omega Chi."

There seems to be no doubt that Barnes obtained the first badge (which he lost at a class reunion 25 years later) and that the second badge was made for Whitney but purchased by Sweetland.

In an article published in Volume 5 Number 1 of the Quarterly, Barnes stated that he had in his possession at that time, 1907, "... no less than seventeen designs ..." for the badge. Barnes also claimed to be the chairman of a committee on designing the badge. The badge that Barnes owned had gold letters and a diamond in the center. This badge was worn by the Founders and frequently borrowed by the other members for special occasions, and while having their pictures taken.

The first departure from this, according to Johnson, came when Richard Lonergan, Cornell '92, had his made retaining the diamond in the center, but had the Delta mounted in black enamel. An early description of the badge stated that the Delta was jeweled or enameled to suit the owner with a diamond usually surmounting the center. The Chi was jeweled with one garnet on each arm.

The Ritual

The main work of composing the Ritual was done by Stillman, either during the summer or early fall of 1890. Supposedly the Ritual was read at a meeting when it was still incomplete and was submitted shortly thereafter at a meeting on October 20, 1890, where it was adopted. Since a committee on the Ritual composed of Stillman, Barnes, and Stephens was appointed on October 13, 1890, it seems probable that it was originally read at that meeting, and that Stillman was given some help in completing the Ritual. In Stillman's own words, "I looked upon that Ritual as temporary and that (it) would serve until some genius could devise something entirely original. The ritual contained many phrases that were not original and which, as I '(Stillman) remember, I did not take the trouble to mark as quotations. The principal ideas are almost as old as civilization, and it was my idea that an entirely new ritual would be prepared." The original Ritual was written on both sides of some sheets of old style legal cap, and was signed by each new initiate. A rehearsal was held on November 14, 1890, and on November 26, 1890, Albert T. Wilkinson (who later introduced Kimball to the Fraternity), Frank Bowman, and George Wilcox were initiated in short form. It was not until December 3, 1890, when Frederick Bagley was initiated, that the full initiation was used. At the November 14, 1890 meeting, Gorham, Stillman, and Sullivan presented the grip and passwords for adoption.

The structure of the Delta Chi's initiation ritual has remained virtually unchanged since it was used on November 26, 1890.

The Emblem

The emblem of the fraternity changed greatly in the early years. At one time it was a rock wall with ÆX on a scroll in the center, with the hand of humanity reaching for the key of knowledge above the wall. This was adopted prior to the N.Y.U. installation. Stillman was probably responsible for the battle axe and scimitar which were included in an early design. The rock wall design was submitted by Johnson.

In explanation, he wrote the following poem:

In the city of Grenada, In that quaint old Moorish town, Where Alhambras noble palace, From the lofty height looks down: O'er the portal to the courtyard, Where each passer by may see: Graved by subtile Mooreish sculpter, Are the mystic hand and key. On the symbol rests a legend, Brought from far Araby's sands, By the Saracenic warriors, When they conquered Gothic lands: And the meaning of that emblem, As has oft been told to me: Is that wisdom's rarest treasures, Fill the hand that grasps the key.

We have placed that ancient emblem on the banner that we love, Golden key of golden promise, with the open hand above: Aid our Masters strength, my brother, that our own fraternity: In the coming years yet distant, have the hand that grasps the key.

The earliest know emblem of the fraternity is now worn at official functions on a special medallion by past and present International officers as well as members of the Order of the White carnation.

The owl, interlocking Delta and Chi, and the oil lamp, which appears on some of the early charters, may have been the work of the committee on charters which was formed in the spring of 1891.

It wasn't until the Easter vacation of 1899 that Fraser Brown and Roy V. Rhodes decided to design a coat of arms for the young fraternity. The design they developed involved the "marriage" or union of two "families": that of Sir Edward Coke, one of the towering figures in the establishment of law as the instrument of justice, and that of the knight-errant, the feudal Delta Chi predecessor of law in enforcing justice, as symbolized by his weapons. In regards to the alterations made on their original design, Roy V. Rhodes had this to say:

"Some slight changes were made a few years later by whom I do not know. I had nothing to do with it and I don't think Fraser Brown had either. One of these changes was the addition of a lot of what appear to be rivets around the edges of the shield and which do not, in my opinion, improve the appearance. Another change was the placing of the martlets in profile instead of from a front view in flight. I believe we adopted the front view because that is the way they are shown on the arms of Sir Edward. For practical reasons we omitted the usual helmet and united the crest and helmet in one great insignia of the fraternity-the Greek letters, Delta and Chi, with the torso between the shield and the crest instead of in its usual position above the helmet."

Expansion

On October 13,1890, "Founders Crandall, Potter, and Sweetland were placed on the Supreme Council and authorized to proceed with expansion plans." At that same meeting, Barnes was appointed to work "Buffalo Law School" for possible expansion due to his association with a student there. The lack of enrollment at the school and the fact that the Phi Delta Phi Chapter there was doing poorly, delayed expansion to that school until later. Building Delta Chi into a true national fraternity began during the spring of 1891.

On April 14, 1891, John Francis Tucker, of New York University, went to Ithaca and earned the confidence and regard of the Cornell Chapter. He was initiated into Delta Chi that night and was sent back to prepare his associates for induction.

Although Stillman remembers Tucker (who was a member of Delta Upsilon) coming to find out about Delta Chi, Wilkinson tells the story with more confidence:

"At first the chapter and the fraternity were the same thing, and there were not separate officers. But in the spring of 1891, in the month of May, I think, we received a visit from John Francis Tucker of New York. We put up a big bluff, and treated him with great formality and instructed him to return to the place whence he came, and make formal application in writing for a charter from our ancient and honorable body. As soon as he departed, there was a hurry call for a meeting to organize a body to which he could apply and it was then that the first general officers of the fraternity, as distinct from the chapter, were elected. I cannot remember for the life of me who they were, except that I was Treasurer."

Wilkinson's contention that the general fraternity wasn't formed until later seems, at least in part, to be verified by the minutes of the April 15, and May 23, 1891, meetings. At the April 15, 1891 meeting, the constitution and ritual were adopted as read, the committee on charters was appointed, and the men traditionally considered the first set of officers ("AA" Owen Lincoln Potter, "BB" John Mil ton Gorham, "CC" George A. Nall, and "DD" Albert T. Wilkinson) were elected. It is interesting to note, in light of Wilkinson's statement about "a hurry call for a meeting to organize a body to which he (Tucker) could apply" is the fact that this April 15 meeting occurred the night after Tucker's initiation. At the May 23 meeting, the motto, grip, challenge, and the colors were adopted by the fraternity.

One solution to the confusion is the possibility that Delta Chi was originally founded as a national fraternity, but with the pressures of school work and the chapter at Cornell to keep them busy, the Founders allowed the national organization to take a back seat. When Tucker appeared the next spring, the national organization had to be reorganized in order to accommodate the applicant from N.Y.U.

As it turned out, Tucker played a significant role in the development of the Fraternity. In a letter to Johnson dated February 22, 1892, he stated:

"As to Dickinson Law School, I have been at work at that school since last August and I think I now have six more pledges, I have worked up a chapter of 25 men at the Albany Law School and another 12 men at the University of Minnesota."

The debt which Delta Chi owes Tucker would appear to be larger than previously recognized. In 1892 four more chapters were established, three of which exist today (the fourth -- Albany Law School -- had its charter transferred in 1901 to Union College; the Union Chapter existed until 1994). Twelve chapters were founded within the first decade and on February 13, 1897, Delta Chi became an international fraternity with the installation of the Osgoode Hall Chapter in Toronto, Canada. Delta Chi's first convention was held in 1894 at the Michigan Chapter. By the turn of the century, Delta Chi had grown to ten chapters. The initial years of the new century saw conservative growth and the 1902 Convention (where the White Carnation was selected as the fraternity's flower) authorized the Delta Chi Quarterly. The convention had misgivings. Everybody wanted it, some thought it was an unwarranted risk; no one had the slightest idea how to go about it. Harold White, Chicago-Kent '01 became the first editor and Edward Nettles, Chicago-Kent '00 was the first business manager. In an article in the May 1929 Quarterly, White had this to say:

"No doubt in our innocence, we felt the honor compensated for all the work. That's the marvel of being young and enthusiastic. There was no plan, no adequate appropriation for necessary expenses, no business or editorial policy .... There was not even a list of alumni members. We had to start from a point below zero and from the beginning the jobs of editor and business manager so interwove and over-lapped that it was difficult to say who did what. When it came to all the endless worries and sleepless nights that accompany the launching of a frail bark in unknown waters by two inexperienced mariners it was a joint enterprise and the punishment was inflicted equally."

The Delta Chi Headquarters office established in 1969 at: 314 Church Street Iowa City, Iowa 52244. It is the first permanent facility owned by the Fraternity. A wealth of history about Delta Chi is available and on display at the Delta Chi International Headquarters.