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Alpha Society records

Identifier: CA-MS-00406

Scope and Contents

The collection includes materials from most decades of the existence of Alpha Society from the year of its founding in 1878, to its merger with Phi Kappa Psi in 1934 and subsequent transformation into an honor society, to its last year of record in 1968. The collection consists of copies of the Society's constitution, programs, song booklets, letters, dramatics and other student activities, photographs of members and officers, and publications. There are several items of note that highlight the evolution of the Society through the generations of its members and provide examples of the Society's contributions to the Smith College community.

Dates of Materials

  • 1878 - 1968


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

Smith College's first literary society, Alpha Society, was founded by the Class of 1881 in the winter of their freshman year. Mary Sophia Wilkie chaired its first meeting on January 19, 1878. The Society soon gained much respect and admiration for its frequent productions of popular plays and its publication of its own newspaper, The Alpha. Members met approximately once every three weeks. The meetings included entertainment such as plays, music, readings, recitations, and lectures on various topics of interest.

Alpha Society was such a success that in 1892 five members broke off to form a rival society, Phi Kappa Psi. Both societies flourished, selecting their members by careful consideration of artistic merit and creativity. By 1934 student interests had shifted away from the arts. The two societies elected to combine into the society known as Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi, thus allowing both to endure.

In 1938 Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi adopted a new constitution which limited its membership to thirty students who had distinguished themselves in one or more of the arts. This reflected an ideological shift over the years from "an amusement society", as it was described by a member in 1883, to "an honorary [sic] society which recognizes outstanding creative achievement", as it was described in 1938. Activities of Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi were last recorded in 1968.


2.833 linear feet (5 containers)

Language of Materials



Alpha Society was Smith College's first literary society, formed in 1878, shortly after the opening of the College itself in 1875. The collection contains copies of an evolving constitution, programs of meetings and plays, letters, invitations, administrative records, meeting minutes, publications, and photographs.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source unknown

Related Materials

Related materials found in Phi Kappa Psi records.

Processing Information

Processed by Abby Schlessinger, 2001. Revised by Mark Umstot, 2016.

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.

Finding aid to the Alpha Society records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Finding aid prepared by Abby Schlessinger. Revised by Mark Umstot.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2018-11-09: Updated to conform to DACS and added boxes

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Neilson Library
7 Neilson Drive
Northampton MA 01063