Contents and Arrangement Expanded View

Collection Overview

Phi Beta Kappa. New Jersey Beta (Princeton University).
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Phi Beta Kappa Records
Princeton University Archives
Permanent URL:
3 boxes and 1 folder
Storage Note:

Mudd Library collections are unavailable until further notice due to a renovation. See our webpage for the most current information.



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


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:

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

Archival Appraisal Information:

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

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use. Folder "Lists of Members and Officers" Box 2 Folder 3 contains student information that is restricted for 75 years.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. For quotations that are fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. The Trustees of Princeton University hold copyright to all materials generated by Princeton University employees in the course of their work. If copyright is held by Princeton University, researchers will not need to obtain permission, complete any forms, or receive a letter to move forward with non-commercial use of materials from the Mudd Library. For materials where the copyright is not held by the University, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold the copyright and obtaining approval from them. If you have a question about who owns the copyright for an item, you may request clarification by contacting us 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