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Irving Literary Society records

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: MSP 34

Scope and Contents

The Irving Literary Society records document the meetings and events of the Irving Literary society before it was eventually merged with other literary societies at Purdue.  The collection includes records books that detail meeting minutes and financial information.  The record books also have various documents included in their pages, including correspondence and annual event programs.  The ephemera portion of the collection consists primarily of annual event programs (both formal and prototype copies), but also includes the 1875 constitution and bylaws of the society and the 1886 handbook. 

Unfortunately, the ephemera portion of the collection only goes to 1906, and no portion of the collection addresses the later incarnations of the society (Irving Emersonian Literary Society or Kappa Phi Sigma).  This collection may be useful to researchers interested in literary societies, extracurricular activities of students, Purdue University history, the student life of George Ade, and material culture of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.    Types of materials include: records ledgers, correspondence, event programs, receipts, and printed materials.


  • 1875 - 1925


Language of Materials

The collection is in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.

Copyright and Use Information

Copyright held by Purdue University.

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, and 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.


1.042 Cubic Feet (One cubic foot box)


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.


The collection is arranged chronologically by type into two series.
  1. Ephemera
  2. Ledgers

Acquisition Information

The collection was transferred from Purdue University Libraries.

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.  Metal clips and staples have been removed.  All materials have been housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.
Irving Literary Society records
Virginia Pleasant
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
First edition.

Revision Statements

  • 2020-04-27: Collection description updated by Adelle Rogers.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States