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Purdue University Fraternities and Sororities album

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 26

Scope and Contents

The Purdue University Fraternities and Sororities Album contains the original petition letters for terms of recognition submitted by Purdue University fraternities, sororities and other student organizations. The album is believed to have been assembled by President James Smart during his tenure as President of Purdue University. The first recognition documents are from Sigma Chi, the first Purdue University fraternity. It is followed by the petition letter for Sigma Nu. The following documents are in the order they were submitted.


  • 1886 - 1921

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Historical Information

Purdue opened in the fall of 1874, and by spring 1875 the first fraternity, Sigma Chi, had formed. Through the late 1870's and early 1880's, the Purdue administration tried to abolish the fraternity culture at Purdue by requiring all incoming students to sign an anti-fraternity pledge–a promise not to join a fraternity. By using a matriculation pledge as a condition for admission, the administration's strategy was to let the current Sigma Chi members simply graduate in due time and the student organization would eventually close. Purdue was anti-fraternity at the time because President Emerson White believed that the college fraternity was an element of the "classical college" and allowing any classical influences at Purdue would shift its curriculum away from the land-grant focus of mechanic arts (engineering) and agriculture. After a lengthy legal and political battle, Purdue failed in its attempt to ban fraternities and Emerson White resigned in 1883. His successor, James H. Smart, proceeded to formalize a recognition process for fraternities.

President Smart formed a committee of faculty and students sometime in 1883-1885 to formulate terms of recognition for Sigma Chi. One of Purdue's most famous graduates, George Ade, was a student member of Sigma Chi at the time and signed the original agreement with others from the fraternity.

Subsequent fraternities and sororities were recognized using the same procedure developed for Sigma Chi. Purdue's second fraternity, Kappa Sigma, formed in 1885. The first step in the recognition process was for the proposed student group to submit a petition letter to the President. A sample petition letter for Sigma Nu is online, dated 1893 (although the official founding date for Beta Zeta chapter of Sigma Nu is 1891 - the group may have operated in secret prior to 1893). Purdue has possession of similar documents for most fraternities, sororities, and student organizations founded between 1883-1924.

Some of the original recognition points developed by James H. Smart and George Ade are still in use today for all student organizations, although the authority for working with student organizations has long since been delegated from the Office of the President to the Office of the Dean of Students. Researching sororities through old yearbooks, it appears the first local sorority was formed in 1905 and the first national affiliated sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, formed in 1915.


0.552 Cubic Feet (One legal-size full-width manuscript box)

Language of Materials



Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.

Physical Access Information

Pages from the album are in fragile condition. Extra care should be used when viewing this item.

Custodial History

The album was originally donated to the Dean of Student's Office by Diane F. Blackwelder, May 19, 2009.

Acquisition Information

Transfer from Dean of Students Office.

Related Materials

MSP 159, Purdue University Fraternities and Sororities collection, Purdue University Archives and Special Collections, Purdue University Libraries.

Processing Information

All of the materials have been placed in acid free folders within an acid free box. Where warranted, materials were placed in polyester sleeves. The page numbers noted in the file titles are the album page numbers and were listed to aid researchers.
Purdue University Fraternities and Sororities album
Under Review
Mary Sego and Sammie Morris, 2009; Nolan Eller 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Third edition. Collection description first completed 2009-12-16. Second edition updates made by Nolan Eller, 2013-04-03.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States