Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Phi Beta Kappa. New Jersey Beta (Princeton University).
Phi Beta Kappa Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
3 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-3


The Princeton University Phi Beta Kappa Records consist of correspondence, reports, minutes, and other materials relating to the administration, membership, and finances of this organization.

Collection Description & Creator Information

Scope and Contents

This collection contains reports, constitutions, by-laws, minutes, lists of members, and correspondence of the Princeton chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The correspondence relates mostly to administrative matters – replacement of lost keys, membership enquiries, and invitations to various organizational functions.

Collection Creator Biography:

Phi Beta Kappa. New Jersey Beta (Princeton University).

Originally founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776 as a social fraternity and forensic club, Phi Beta Kappa gradually evolved into national college honor society with 240 chapters. Princeton University was relatively late to apply for membership in Phi Beta Kappa as the Princeton faculty opposed fraternities of any kind. Finally in 1895 Princeton College responded to an invitation from Phi Beta Kappa to apply, and the Princeton Chapter was officially established in 1899. Occasional disagreements between Princeton and the national organization have occurred. For instance there were Princeton graduates listed as members in classes of 1896, 1897 and 1898, even though Princeton did not have a chapter until 1899. In 1927 there was a discrepancy between the College and the national organization over admission policies. By 1930 the Princeton chapter boasted that the town of Princeton had "the most intelligent population in the U.S." since it contained 238 Phi Beta Kappa members – a ratio of one member to every 42 inhabitants compared to 1 to 107 in Ithaca, New York and 1 to 327 to New Haven, Connecticut.

When Phi Beta Kappa reached its 175th anniversary in 1951, the national leadership shifted admissions requirements to emphasize liberal education over social requirements. At Princeton Phi Beta Kappa came under criticism during the 1960s, especially from faculty members who questioned its usefulness among undergraduates. The society survived, however, and continues to promote academic excellence.

Collection History


Photographs have been removed to the Historical Photograph Collection.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Ingrid G. McNamara in Winter 1995. Finding aid written by Ingrid G. McNamara in Winter 1995.

Access & Use

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research use, with the exception of one folder in Series 1, "Lists of Members and Officers" (Box 2, Folder 3), which contains student information that is restricted for 75 years from the date of creation.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. To cite or publish quotations that fall within Fair Use, as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. For instances beyond Fair Use, if copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers do not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with use of materials from the Princeton University Archives.

For instances beyond Fair Use where the copyright is not held by the University, while permission from the Library is not required, it is the responsibility of the researcher to determine whether any permissions related to copyright, privacy, publicity, or any other rights are necessary for their intended use of the Library's materials, and to obtain all required permissions from any existing rights holders, if they have not already done so. Princeton University Library's Special Collections does not charge any permission or use fees for the publication of images of materials from our collections, nor does it require researchers to obtain its permission for said use. The department does request that its collections be properly cited and images credited. More detailed information can be found on the Copyright, Credit and Citations Guidelines page on our website. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us through the Ask Us! form.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

For preservation reasons, original analog and digital media may not be read or played back in the reading room. Users may visually inspect physical media but may not remove it from its enclosure. All analog audiovisual media must be digitized to preservation-quality standards prior to use. Audiovisual digitization requests are processed by an approved third-party vendor. Please note, the transfer time required can be as little as several weeks to as long as several months and there may be financial costs associated with the process. Requests should be directed through the Ask Us Form.

Credit this material:

Phi Beta Kappa Records; Princeton University Archives, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library
65 Olden Street
Princeton, NJ 08540, USA
(609) 258-6345
Storage Note:
  • Mudd Manuscript Library (scamudd): Box 1-3