The Scroll and Key Society is a secret society, founded in 1842 at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut. It is the second oldest 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.
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. 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.
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.”
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.”
Gifts to Yale
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.
- 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.
- 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.”.
- Members of the society sign letters to each other “yours in truth”, as opposed to Skull and Bones’ “yours in 322”.
- Outside of its tap-related activities, the society has been known to hold two major annual events called “Zanoni Session”
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.” 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. Keys has long been the society of choice of Mayflower descendants among the undergraduate student body. Keys has tapped women since 1989 and counts Mark Twain, since 1868, as an honorary member.
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.” Later, undergraduates described the building as a “striped zebra Billiard Hall” in a supplement to a Yale Yearbook. More recently, it has described by an undergraduate publication as being “the nicest building in all of New Haven.”.
|Name||Yale Class||Known for|
|Cord Meyer, Jr.||1943||Central Intelligence Agency; United World Federalists|
|Frank Polk||1894||Davis Polk & Wardwell; (acting) Secretary of State, managed conclusion to World War I|
|Dean Acheson||1915||51st Secretary of State|
|Cyrus Vance||1939||57th Secretary of State; Secretary of the Army; Chairman, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.|
|Theodore Runyon||1842||Envoy, then Ambassador, Germany; Battle of Bull Run|
|Sargent Shriver||1938||Peace Corps; 1972 Democratic Vice-Presidential Candidate, Presidential Medal of Freedom|
|Allen Wardwell||1895||Russian War Relief, Davis Polk & Wardwell; Bank of New York; Vice-President, American-Russian Chamber of Commerce.|
|John Enders||1919||shared 1954 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine|
|William C. Bullitt||1912||US Ambassador, France, ’36-’41, first US Ambassador, Soviet Russia, ’33-’36.|
|Huntington D. Sheldon||1925||Central Intelligence Agency; Director of the Office of Current Intelligence; President, Petroleum Corporation of America.|
|Warren Zimmermann||1956||US Ambassador, Yugoslavia, 1989–1992; author of book about the causes of Yugoslavia’s dissolution.|
|Roscoe S. Suddarth||1956||President, Middle East Institute; US Ambassador to Jordan; American Iranian Council.|
|Lewis Sheldon||1895||US Peace Commission, Paris Peace Conference, 1918; Olympic medalist, track and field.|
|Raymond R. Guest||1931||US Ambassador, Ireland; Special Assistant to Secretary of Defense, 1945–47; horse breeder; poloHall of fame.|
|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|
|A. Bartlett Giamatti||1960||16th Yale University president; National League president, MLB Commissioner|
|Robert R. McCormick||1903||Chicago Tribune; Kirkland & Ellis|
|Henry deForest||1876||Southern Pacific Railroad|
|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.|
|Cornelius Vanderbilt III||1895||Vanderbilt heir.|
|James Stillman Rockefeller||1924||President and Chairman, The First National City Bank of New York; Olympic gold medal for crew|
|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|
|Gilbert Colgate||1883||President and Chairman of Colgate & Co.|
|Benjamin Brewster||1929||Director, Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey (later Exxon).|
|Seymour H. Knox||1920||American retailer, F. W. Woolworth Company.|
|Donald R. McLennan||1931||Founder and Chairman, insurance brokerage firm Marsh & McLennan|
|Stone Phillips||1977||Dateline NBC|
|Peter H. Dominick||1937||US Senator 1962-1974 (Colorado); US Congressman, 1960–1962; US Ambassador, Switzerland.|
|Gideon Rose||1985||Foreign Affairs|
|Philip B. Heymann||1954||Watergate Special Prosecutor, Deputy US Attorney General; Professor, Harvard Law School.|
|Joseph M. Patterson||1901||Founder, New York Daily News; manager, Chicago Tribune|
|George Edgar Vincent||1885||President of the University of Minnesota; President of the Rockefeller Foundation|
|Ethan A. H. Shepley||1918||Chancellor, Washington University in St. Louis.|
|Robert D. Orr||1940||Governor of Indiana; US Ambassador, Singapore.|
|Joseph Medill McCormick||1900||U.S. Senate ’19-’24, Publisher, Chicago Tribune.|
|James C. Auchincloss,||1908||Representative, US Congress 1943-1965, Governor of the NYSE., US Military Intelligence WWI.|
|Herbert Parsons||1890||US Congress ’04-’10; leading supporter of League of Nations.|
|Fred Dubois||1872||First US Senator from Idaho 1891-1897, resigned, re-elected 1901-1907; Opponent of gold standard; Engineered statehood for Idaho.|
|Richardson Dilworth||1921||Mayor of Philadelphia 1955-1962.|
|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“.|
|Frederick B. Dent||1944||US Secretary of Commerce.|
|John Dalzell||1865||US Congress|
|Wayne Chatfield-Taylor||1916||President, Export-Import Bank; Undersecretary of Commerce; Assistant Secretary of the Treasury.|
|William Nelson Runyon||1892||acting Governor of New Jersey (May 1919 – Jan 1920)|
|Newbold Morris||1925||New York lawyer and politician|
|Randall L. Gibson||1853||US Senator 1883-1892 (Louisiana); US Representative, 1872–1882; Brigadier-General in the Confederate States Army; President, Tulane University.|
|Mortimer R. Proctor||1912||Governor of Vermont, 1945–47.|
|Frederic A. Potts||1926||Chairman, Philadelphia National Bank; New Jersey Senate; Republican candidate, New Jersey Governor|
|Carter Henry Harrison||1845||Mayor of Chicago, five terms 1879-93; US Representative, 1875–79; cousin of President William Henry Harrison.|
|George Shiras Jr.||1853||U.S. Supreme Court Justice|
|Harvey Cushing||1891||Neurosurgeon considered father of brain surgery|
|Dickinson W. Richards||1917||1956 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine|
|Benjamin Spock||1925||Baby & Child Care|
|Edward Salisbury Dana||1871||American mineralogist.|
|George Roy Hill||1943||1974 Academy Award for Directing, The Sting|
|Cole Porter||1913||entertainer, song writer|
|James Gamble Rogers||1889||collegiate Gothic architecture, favored architect of Edward Harkness and designed many of Yale’s buildings|
|Garry Trudeau||1970||Doonesbury Cartoonist|
|Dahlia Lithwick||1990||Editor at Newsweek and Slate|
|Ari Shapiro||2000||White House Correspondent for National Public Radio|
|William Adams Delano||1895||Award-winning Architect; designed many of Yale buildings.|
|Calvin Trillin||1957||American writer|
|John Vliet Lindsay||1944||103rd Mayor of New York City 1966-1973
Congressman from New York City 1959-1965.