Scroll and Key

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Scroll and Key Tomb

The Scroll and Key Society is a secret society, founded in 1842 at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. It is the second oldest[1][2] Yale secret society and has many distinguished members. Each year, the society admits fifteen rising seniors to participate in its activities and carry on its traditions.


Facade displaying Moorish gate and patterned forecourt.

Scroll and Key was established by John Addison Porter, with aid from several members of the Class of 1842 and a member of the Class of 1843, William L. Kingsley, after disputes over elections to Skull and Bones Society. Porter, Kingsley, Enos Taft, Samuel Perkins, Homer Sprague, Lebbeus Chapin, George Jackson, Calvin Child, Charlton Lewis, and Josiah Harmer were among the society’s first members and managers.[3][4] Theodore Runyon, Issac Hiester and Leonard Case, Jr. were also early members. Kingsley is the namesake of the alumni organization, the Kinglsley Trust Association (KTA), incorporated years after the founding. The society is one of the reputed “Big Three” societies at Yale, along with Skull and Bones andWolf’s Head Society.[5]

Skull and Bones held a more prominent role in Yale social circles than Keys after the founding. Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg wrote that “up until as recent a date as 1860, Keys had great difficulty in making up its crowd, rarely being able to secure the full fifteen upon the night of giving out its elections.” However, the society was on the upswing: “the old order of things, however, has recently come to an end, and Keys is now in possession of a hall far superior…not only to Bones hall, but to any college-society hall in America.”[6]

Members of the Yale classes of ’55 and ’56 published the sophomoric “Inside Eli, or How to Get On at Yale,” a pamphlet that provided then current pontifications“about how Yale really worked”. In it, they joked that “Scroll and Key is probably the leading society in the eyes of the average Yale man. It always has many of the more distinguished class wheels. Its members are generally pleasant, civilized, and intelligent. They are the Yale ideal.”[7]

Gifts to Yale[edit]

In addition to financing its own activities, “Keys” has made significant donations to Yale over the years. The John Addison Porter Prize, awarded annually by Yale since 1872, and in 1917 the endowment for the founding of the Yale University Press, which has funded the publication of The Yale Shakespeare and sponsored theYale Younger Poets Series, are gifts from Keys. The society has also endowed a number of professorships and continues to fund multiple undergraduate prizes for students of Yale College.[8][9][10]


Society pin

  • At the close of Thursday and Sunday sessions, members are known to sing the “Troubadour” song on the front steps of the Society’s hall, a remnant of the tradition of public singing at Yale.[11][12]
  • In keeping with the practice of adopting secret letters or symbols such as Skull and Bones‘ “322,” Manuscript‘s “344,” and the Pundits’ “T.B.I.Y.T.B,” Scroll and Key is known to use the letters “C.S.P.,C.C.J.”.[13]
  • Members of the society sign letters to each other “yours in truth”, as opposed to Skull and Bones’ “yours in 322”.[13]
  • Outside of its tap-related activities, the society has been known to hold two major annual events called “Zanoni Session”[13]


Members of the 1866 delegation, Scroll and Key

Scroll and Key taps annually a delegation of fifteen, composed of men and women of the junior class, to serve the following year. Membership is offered to a diverse group of highly accomplished juniors, specifically those who have “achieved in any field, academic, extra-curricular, or personal.”[14] Delegations frequently include editors of the Yale Daily News and other publications, talented artists and musicians, social and political activists, athletes of distinction, entrepreneurs, and high achieving scholars.[15][16] Keys has long been the society of choice of Mayflower descendants among the undergraduate student body.[17] Keys has tapped women since 1989 and counts Mark Twain, since 1868, as an honorary member.


Secret Society Buildings New Haven, the original building is pictured at the bottom and has since been expanded.

The building in 1901 during its expansion

The society’s “building” was designed in the Moorish Revival style by Richard Morris Hunt and constructed in 1869. A later expansion was completed in 1901. Architectural historian Patrick Pinnell includes an in-depth discussion of Keys’ building in his 1999 history of Yale’s campus, relating the then-notable cost overruns associated with the Keys structure and its aesthetic significance within the campus landscape. Pinnell’s history shares the fact that the land was purchased from another Yale secret society,Berzelius (at that time, a Sheffield Scientific School society).

Regarding its distinctive appearance, Pinnell noted that “19th century artists’ studios commonly had exotic orientalia lying about to suggest that the painter was sophisticated, well traveled, and in touch with mysterious powers; Hunt’s Scroll and Key is one instance in which the trope got turned into a building.”[18] Later, undergraduates described the building as a “striped zebra Billiard Hall” in a supplement to a Yale Yearbook.[19] More recently, it has described by an undergraduate publication as being “the nicest building in all of New Haven.”.[20]

Notable members[edit]

Dean Acheson, former U.S. Secretary of State and member of the 1915 delegation.

Fareed Zakaria, a prominent writer and commentator about politics and foreign affairs, was a member of the delegation of 1986.

Sargent Shriver, the American statesman and activist, was a member of the delegation of 1938.

Famed American composer and songwriter Cole Porter was a member of the Society in 1913.

American journalist, humorist, food writer, poet, memoirist and novelistCalvin Trillin.

Harvey Cushing, the “father of modern neurosurgery” and member of the delegation of 1891.

Garry Trudeau, DoonesburyCartoonist, Scroll and Key class of 1970.

Name Yale Class Known for
Cord Meyer, Jr. 1943 Central Intelligence Agency; United World Federalists[21]
Frank Polk 1894 Davis Polk & Wardwell; (acting) Secretary of State, managed conclusion to World War I[21]
Dean Acheson 1915 51st Secretary of State[21]
Cyrus Vance 1939 57th Secretary of State; Secretary of the Army; Chairman, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.[21]
Theodore Runyon 1842 Envoy, then Ambassador, Germany; Battle of Bull Run[21]
Sargent Shriver 1938 Peace Corps; 1972 Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate, Presidential Medal of Freedom[21]
Allen Wardwell 1895 Russian War Relief, Davis Polk & Wardwell; Bank of New York; Vice-President, American-Russian Chamber of Commerce.[21]
John Enders 1919 shared 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine[21]
William C. Bullitt 1912 US Ambassador, France, ’36-’41, first US Ambassador, Soviet Russia, ’33-’36.[21]
Huntington D. Sheldon 1925 Central Intelligence Agency; Director of the Office of Current Intelligence; President, Petroleum Corporation of America.[21]
Warren Zimmermann 1956 US Ambassador, Yugoslavia, 1989–1992; author of book about the causes of Yugoslavia’s dissolution.[21]
Roscoe S. Suddarth 1956 President, Middle East Institute; US Ambassador to Jordan; American Iranian Council.[21]
Lewis Sheldon 1895 US Peace Commission, Paris Peace Conference, 1918; Olympic medalist, track and field.[21]
Raymond R. Guest 1931 US Ambassador, Ireland; Special Assistant to Secretary of Defense, 1945–47; horse breeder; poloHall of fame.[21]
Thomas Enders 1953 Ambassador, Spain ’83-’86, Assistant Sec. of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Ambassador to the European Union ’79-’81, Ambassador to Canada, ’76-’79; Salomon Brothers[21]
A. Bartlett Giamatti 1960 16th Yale University president; National League president, MLB Commissioner[22]
Paul Mellon 1929 philanthropist[22]
Robert R. McCormick 1903 Chicago Tribune; Kirkland & Ellis[21]
Henry deForest 1876 Southern Pacific Railroad[21]
Fareed Zakaria 1986 Editor, Newsweek International and host of CNN show, Former Yale Corporation Member (Resigned 2012)
J. Peter Grace 1936 W. R. Grace & Co.[23]
Cornelius Vanderbilt III 1895 Vanderbilt heir.[24]
James Stillman Rockefeller 1924 President and Chairman, The First National City Bank of New York; Olympic gold medal for crew[21]
Brewster Jennings 1920 Founder and President of the Socony Mobil Oil Company Standard Oil of New York; president, Memorial Center for Cancer and Allied Diseases and Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research[21]
Gilbert Colgate 1883 President and Chairman of Colgate & Co.[21]
Benjamin Brewster 1929 Director, Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey (later Exxon).[21]
Seymour H. Knox 1920 American retailer, F. W. Woolworth Company.[21]
Donald R. McLennan 1931 Founder and Chairman, insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan[21]
Stone Phillips 1977 Dateline NBC[21]
Peter H. Dominick 1937 US Senator 1962-1974 (Colorado); US Congressman, 1960–1962; US Ambassador, Switzerland.[21]
Gideon Rose 1985 Foreign Affairs[21]
Philip B. Heymann 1954 Watergate Special Prosecutor, Deputy US Attorney General; Professor, Harvard Law School.[21]
Joseph M. Patterson 1901 Founder, New York Daily News; manager, Chicago Tribune[24]
George Edgar Vincent 1885 President of the University of Minnesota; President of the Rockefeller Foundation[24]
Ethan A. H. Shepley 1918 Chancellor, Washington University in St. Louis.[21]
Robert D. Orr 1940 Governor of Indiana; US Ambassador, Singapore.[21]
Joseph Medill McCormick 1900 U.S. Senate ’19-’24, Publisher, Chicago Tribune.[21]
James C. Auchincloss, 1908 Representative, US Congress 1943-1965, Governor of the NYSE., US Military Intelligence WWI.[21]
Herbert Parsons 1890 US Congress ’04-’10; leading supporter of League of Nations.[21]
Fred Dubois 1872 First US Senator from Idaho 1891-1897, resigned, re-elected 1901-1907; Opponent of gold standard; Engineered statehood for Idaho.[21]
Richardson Dilworth 1921 Mayor of Philadelphia 1955-1962.[25]
John Hay Whitney 1926 U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune, major philanthropist to Yale University, and during his college years coined the phrase “crew cut“.[26]
Frederick B. Dent 1944 US Secretary of Commerce.[21]
John Dalzell 1865 US Congress[21]
Wayne Chatfield-Taylor 1916 President, Export-Import Bank; Undersecretary of Commerce; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.[22]
William Nelson Runyon 1892 acting Governor of New Jersey (May 1919 – Jan 1920)[21]
Newbold Morris 1925 New York lawyer and politician[21]
Randall L. Gibson 1853 US Senator 1883-1892 (Louisiana); US Representative, 1872–1882; Brigadier-General in the Confederate States Army; President, Tulane University.[21]
Mortimer R. Proctor 1912 Governor of Vermont, 1945–47.[21]
Frederic A. Potts 1926 Chairman, Philadelphia National Bank; New Jersey Senate; Republican candidate, New Jersey Governor[21]
Carter Henry Harrison 1845 Mayor of Chicago, five terms 1879-93; US Representative, 1875–79; cousin of President William Henry Harrison.[21]
George Shiras Jr. 1853 U.S. Supreme Court Justice[21]
Harvey Cushing 1891 Neurosurgeon considered father of brain surgery[24]
Dickinson W. Richards 1917 1956 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine[21]
Benjamin Spock 1925 Baby & Child Care[22]
Edward Salisbury Dana 1871 American mineralogist.[21]
George Roy Hill 1943 1974 Academy Award for Directing, The Sting[21]
Cole Porter 1913 entertainer, song writer[27]
James Gamble Rogers 1889 collegiate Gothic architecture, favored architect of Edward Harkness and designed many of Yale’s buildings[24]
Garry Trudeau 1970 Doonesbury Cartoonist[22]
Dahlia Lithwick 1990 Editor at Newsweek and Slate[28]
Ari Shapiro 2000 White House Correspondent for National Public Radio[28]
William Adams Delano 1895 Award-winning Architect; designed many of Yale buildings.[21]
Calvin Trillin 1957 American writer[29]
John Vliet Lindsay 1944 103rd Mayor of New York City 1966-1973
Congressman from New York City 1959-1965.[30]

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