Tau Chi Literary Society

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The Tau Chi Literary Society existed at the College of William and Mary from 1839 to 1850 with anywhere from 5 to 20 student members active at any one time. The society held weekly meetings where they read personal compositions, planned public speeches, and conducted debates. The organization’s motto, roughly translated, was "Any circle of brothers will make room for one another." (Provided by class, 4/9/2010)

Evidence of their activities remaining in the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library include their ceremonial smoking pot, orations, a program from their ceremony marking the anniversary of the granting of the College of William and Mary's charter on February 8, 1693, and other material. While the precise use of the smoking pot is uncertain, we know that it was used when the group met on ceremonial occasions. It has 12 fittings for pipe stems to be inserted into the pot and it is believed that was in keeping with the number of their members.

The original constitution of the Tau Chi Society required each member to wear a golden “badge.” The “TX” on the pin represented the name Tau Chi, the imagery of the book and sword represented scholarship, and the twenty stars represented the maximum number of members in the society.

The Special Collections Research Center's holdings include one box of records and a ceremonial smoking pot from Tau Chi. While nothing is known about the actual use of the pot, it is presumed that the society used it during their ceremonies. There are twelve outlets for pipe stems and the bowl itself is red unglazed earthenware made by slip casting. An October 31, 1844, record from the minute book of the Tau Chi Literary Society documents the acquisition of this object as a gift: “Under the head of Motion Mr. Wiley presented to the society, on behalf of a brother TX - Robert Ould Esq. of Georgetown, D.C. – a large and curious smoking pipe.”

Material in the Special Collections Research Center

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Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.