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Irving Literary Society (Purdue University)



  • Existence: 1875 - 1925

Historical Information

The Irving Literary Society was started at Purdue less than a year after the University’s inception (making it the first extracurricular activity at Purdue).  The first meeting was held January 29, 1875 by students interested in founding a society devoted to the intellectual pursuit of literature and debate.  At this first meeting, fifteen charter members adopted a constitution and bylaws, as well as nominated the first president (JB Harper).  The Irving Society was well known for its annual events, the first of which was held on December 15, 1875.  As the society continued to grow and gain prominence, the University allowed the society’s use of Irving Hall for its meetings (beginning in November 1878), so that it might have a dedicated space.  The Irving Literary Society was joined in 1878 by the first women’s society at Purdue, the Philalethian Literary society.  As the Irving continued to grow in numbers (peaking at over 70), dissonance amongst members became more common, resulting in the resignation of 26 members and subsequent founding of the Carlyle Literary society.  The Irving also played a role in the early days of the Exponent student newspaper- its early staff was comprised wholly of members of the University’s literary societies, a fact that was reflected by the paper’s focus on editorial commentary in its early years.  After the turn of the twentieth century, the University’s seven male literary societies were restructured and reduced to four.  As a result, the Irving Literary society was subsequently known as the Irving-Emersonian Society.  Later records indicate that as interest in literary and debating clubs decreased, the number of societies was reduced even further.  In the 1934 Debris, there is no mention of the Irving Emersonian or many of the other literary societies prominent in earlier years, and their function seems to have been replaced by the honorary literary fraternity Kappa Phi Sigma (founded at Purdue in 1922).  One prominent alumni of the Irving Literary society was George Ade.


Debris Yearbooks, Purdue University, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries


Irving Literary Society records, Karnes Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries

Found in 3 Collections and/or Records:

Collection of literary society constitutions

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 143
Scope and Contents The Collection of Literary Society constitutions documents the constitutions and amendments of three literary societies at Purdue University, as well as the Purdue Pharmaceutical Society.  The literary societies included are: Irving, Carlyle, and Philalethean.  This collection might be useful for researchers interested in information on any of these societies or literary societies in general, extracurricular activities of students, and Purdue history.  The collection is comprised of a ledger...
Dates: 1882

Irving Literary Society records

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 34
Overview The collection includes records ledgers documenting meetings of the society, event programs, handbooks, and other clippings relating to the activities of the Irving Literary Society.
Dates: 1875 - 1925

The Purdue student newspaper (1880s) collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 245
Scope and Contents Includes a complete run of The Purdue student newspaper of the 1880s, which ran from 1882-1888. A total of 54 issues appear in the collection, separated into six volumes. Volume 1 has eight issues, published monthly from November 1882 until June 1883. Volumes 2 through 6 have nine issues each, published monthly from October to June. There is also a Special Edition issue published in June 1888, in addition to the regularly published June issue for that year. Also present in the...
Dates: November 1882 - June 1888