On this day in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was founded.
On December 5, 1776, while fellow Patriots were held captive in British occupied New York, five students at the College of William and Mary gathered to start a new fraternity - Phi Beta Kappa. They intended to follow what they considered to be definitively American principles, such as “freedom of inquiry” and “liberty of thought and expression.” The Greek initials, ΦBK, actually stand for a motto that translates to “Love of learning is the guide of life.”
Now PBK is the nation’s oldest and most widely known academic honor society, with 280 chapters amongst the elite academic institutions in the nation. Their mission is to celebrate and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. They have been publishing The American Scholar since 1932.
Check out the History channel’s timely reflection here.
In developing knowledge men must collaborate with their ancestors. Otherwise they must begin, not where their ancestors arrived but where their ancestors began. If they exclude the tradition of the past from the curricula of the schools they make it necessary for each generation to repeat the errors rather than to benefit by the successes of its predecessors.
The American Scholar, Spring 1941.
We salute Joseph Epstein, our previous editor here at The American Scholar and a beloved essayist.
His new book “Essays in Biography” explores the lives of literary greats, influential politicians, as well as pop-culture icons. From George Washington to Joe DiMaggio to Susan Sontag, Epstein provides 40 piercing accounts of some of the most important individuals of our time.
Washington, D.C., circa 1925. “Panama Legation, New Hampshire Avenue and Q Street N.W.” 18th Street is on the left and New Hampshire Avenue on the right. This is one of the earliest examples of a stop sign (“Boulevard Stop”) in the archive.
Hey, there’s our office!
Someday, no doubt, we shall be spied upon from space platforms equipped with television cameras. And all this time the welfare state has been developing — in the main, of course, as a response to technology. It may be that a disrespect for privacy has been on the increase, too, but what is certain is that those of a trespassing inclination are infinitely better equipped today and have infinitely more excuses for their incursions.
I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful. Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the soliloquy in Hamlet commencing “O, my offence is rank” surpasses that commencing “To be, or not to be.” But pardon this small attempt at criticism. I should like to hear you pronounce the opening speech of Richard the Third. Will you not soon visit Washington again? If you do, please call and let me make your personal acquaintance.
Yours truly A. Lincoln.
In a personal letter to stage actor James H. Hackett, the President reveals a rare moment of praise for Hackett’s performance. Lincoln often was guarded and circumspect regarding his feelings, but here is a compliment from one notoriously stingy with superlatives.