Alpha Sigma Phi Seal
A History of Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity
(adapted from To Better The Man, pledge manual of Alpha Sigma Phi)


 
Louis Manigault Horace S. Weiser
Two of the three founders of Alpha Sigma Phi: Louis Manigault (left)and Horace Spangler Weiser (right). As far as it is known, no photograph exists of Stephen Ormsby Rhea.


| The Founding of Alpha Sigma Phi | Early Days at Yale | Delta Beta Xi | Marietta Keeps the Fraternity Alive |
| Rebirth at Yale | The Second Founders | Expansion | Consolidation | The Fraternity Today |

THE FOUNDING OF ALPHA SIGMA PHI | Top | Home Page |

Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity was founded at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, on December 6, 1845 by three students: Louis Manigault (pronounced Man-e-go) (1828-1899) of Charleston, South Carolina, Stephen Ormsby Rhea (1825-1873) of Louisiana, and Horace Spangler Weiser (1827-1875) of York, Pennsylvania. Alpha Sigma Phi was originally founded as a sophomore class society for Yale students.

In 1845, the undergraduate atmosphere at Yale University was markedly different from colleges and universities today: the academics were strict, and the lectures of the professors and academics provided no opportunity for class discussion. Extracurricular activities were not fostered by the college, and student class societies provided the the outlet for student energies and interests.

Manigault was very much interested in the class society system at Yale and noted the class fraternities provided experience for their members and prepared them for competion in literary contests. At that time there was only one sophomore class society, known as Kappa Sigma Theta, which had a reputation for displaying an attitude of superiority towards non-fraternity members, even though they were their fellow classmates. Manigault revealed a plan to his friend Rhea a plan for founding another sophomore class society, in direct competition with Kappa Sigma Theta. Rhea felt at first that such an undertaking would be next to impossible, given Kappa Sigma Theta's prominence. Both finally agreed to help organize such a new society, and with Manigault's approval enlisted the help of Weiser and the three became the founders of a fraternity that now counts its members in the thousands.

The first official meeting was held in Manigault's room on Chapel Street on December 6, 1845. Between then and June 28, 1846, when the Fraternity was publicly announced, the three founders wrote the constitution and ritual, and designed the Fraternity's Badge. On June 24, 1846, the first pledge class was initiated into the Mystic Circle of Alpha Sigma Phi. The new society was welcomed by the junior class societies at Yale because it gave them a greater selection of candidates for membership. It was also cordially received by the members of the potential sophomore class, who now had a choice between two societies. But it also aroused anxiety and fear among the members of Kappa Sigma Theta.

EARLY DAYS AT YALE | Top | Home Page |

The rivalry between Alpha Sigma Phi and Kappa Sigma Theta was extremely competitive and bitter, extending even to their publications. Kappa Sigma Theta's The Yale Banger in its November, 1846 issue, attacked Alpha Sigma Phi. The Fraternity retaliated with the publication of The Yale Tomahawk the following year. This rivalry between the two papers continued until 1852, when the Yale faculty expelled the editor and the contributors of the Tomahawk for violating an order from the faculty to cease publication. The rivalry between Alpha Sigma Phi and Kappa Sigma Theta continued until 1858, when Kappa Sigma Theta was suppressed by the Yale faculty.

During the 1850's many fraternities began to expand their influence in establishing chapters at other colleges. A charter was granted to Amherst College in 1847 and a committee appointed to install the chapter, but conditions were not conducive to fraternities at Amherst, and the charter was returned. To this day, there still remains confusion about the naming of Alpha Sigma Phi's early chapters. Some records indicate that the Amherst chapter was named Beta, while a fragmentary document in the Yale University library indicated that Beta Chapter was chartered in 1850 at Harvard University (Alpha being the mother chapter at Yale) and that Gamma was chartered at Princeton in 1854. When the Amherst chapter was restored, it was designated Delta Chapter, though for some unknown reason the Delta designation was also given in 1860 to Marietta College in Marietta, Ohio. That same year, the Amherst Delta chapter folded.

DELTA BETA XI | Top | Home Page |

During the Civil War, the mother chapter at Yale was rent by internal dissension and then actually disappeared. Less attention was paid to the literary aspects of the society, and more to social activities, especially after Alpha Sigma Phi became the sole sophomore class society at Yale in 1858. In 1864, the Alpha Sigma Phi members pledged to Delta Kappa Epsilon, at the time a junior class society (it was the custom at Yale and many other colleges and universities at that time for men to belong to more than one fraternity) atempted to turn the control over to Alpha Sigma Phi over to Delta Kappa Epsilon. This was thwarted by the Alpha Sig members pledged to the two other junior class societies, Alpha Delta Phi and Psi Upsilon. A conflict ensued, and to prevent violence and end disorder, the faculty at Yale suppressed Alpha Sigma Phi and forbade the initiation of the 1864 pledge class.

The traditions of Alpha Sigma Phi, however, did not die there, as two new sophomore societies, Delta Beta Xi and Phi Theta Psi, each claiming to be the legitimate descendant of Alpha Sigma Phi, were founded. Of the two societies, Delta Beta Xi had clear title as the legitimate successor to Alpha Sigma Phi, changing almost nothing in the objectives of the Fraternity, preserving the motto, signs and insignia which it altered only by substituting the Greek letters Delta Beta Xi where Alpha Sigma Phi appeared. At the same time, Louis Manigault reestablished his ties to his brothers in Alpha Sigma Phi. He was aware of Delta Beta Xi and considered it to be the continuation of the Fraternity; he ws not aware that Delta Chapter at Marietta existed. Delta Beta Xi continued until 1875, when it was abolished by the Yale faculty for violating an 1864 agreement regarding alcoholic beverages. Delta Beta Xi continues today as the highest award for service to Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity.

MARIETTA KEEPS THE FRATERNITY ALIVE | Top | Home Page |

For all practical purposes Delta at Marietta College was a local fraternity after 1864, and it kept alive the traditions, customs, ideals and ritual of the Fraternity. It attempted to to charter chapters at several colleges universities, all without success. The chapter was kept alive by its emphasis on scholarship and by the support of its local alumni and the Cincinnati alumni chapter though at one time Delta considered petitioning a national fraternity since the mother chapter at Yale was inactive. In 1882, a "Sig Bust" by the Cincinnati alumni assured the perpetuation of Delta Chapter. The events that transpired during the Sig Bust so impressed the undergraduates that the petition to join another fraternity was withdrawn. To show their appreciation, the members of Delta formally recognized the Cincinatti alumni chapter with an engrossed charter. During the next several decades, the alumni chapter held meetings at various times and places and extended membership to Yale and Amherst members, and also assisted in pledging and initiating a class in 1901 when there were no active members in the Marietta campus.

REBIRTH AT YALE | Top | Home Page |

In December of 1906, four students, all members of the Yale Masonic Club, were playing cards in the room shared by Robert L. Ervin and Benjamin F. Crenshaw. Visiting them was Arthur S. Ely and Edwin Morey Waterbury. Talk turned to the old Yale fraternity system, which was unique in that there had been fraternities for the freshmen, sophomore junior and senior classes, so it was not unusual for one man to often belong to four fraternities (a practice unheard of today, as virtually all social fraternities, including Alpha Sigma Phi, prohibit membership in another social fraternity). In 1906, only the junior and senior societies were still in existence. The four men concluded that the Yale system over-emphasized class and department loyalty at the expense of developing a strong university spirit.

Waterbury suggested that the four give thought to establishing a new fraternity or petitioning a national fraternity for a chapter at Yale, one that would be an all-class society. He informed the four of finding in the Yale library records of the societies that once existed at Yale University and told them about one of the most active, interesting and famous of these dormant societies -- Alpha Sigma Phi. Waterbury was aware of the existence of Delta Chapter at Marietta. He then suggested that efforts be made to reestablishing Alpha Sigma Phi at Yale. Other men were recruited, including Frederick H. Waldron and Wayne Montgomery Musgrave. Ervin, who knew some of the alumni members of Delta in his home state of Ohio, was asked to send the frist letter to Marietta. While they waited for an answer, additional were added to the movement. Unknown to the members of the revived Alpha movement, Reverend Mr. Evans, a member of Delta then filling a pastorate in Connecticut, came to New Haven and made discreet inquiries about the proposed membership of the revived Alpha Chapter. Pleased with the information he obtained, he recommended to Delta Chapter that the new Alpha be welcomed into the Mystic Circle.

Through letters, arrangements were made for the New Haven group to send a delegation to Marietta to be initiated into Alpha Sigma Phi. The Yale group then voted to send the first six men who had been identified with the reorganization: Crenshaw, Ely, Ervin, Musgrave, Waldron and Waterbury. With the exception of Ervin, who was unable to go at the last moment, the five men, boarded a train for Marietta on March 27, 1907. Arriving at mid-day the next day, they were met by a delegation of Delta undergraduate and graduate brothers. The men were initiated into Alpha Sigma Phi, taught how to perform the rituals, and instructed on Chapter organization and management. Returning to New Haven, one of the first things the group did after obtaining the required equipment for performing the ritual was to welcome Ervin into the Mystic Circle, since he had missed out on the Marietta trip. This first initiation took place in Musgrave's suite at the New Haven YMCA. The new Alpha Chapter leased the Lenox Hall in York Square, the former meeting place of the Yale Masonic Club. It was there that the remaining men became members of the new Alpha Chapter.

THE SECOND FOUNDERS | Top | Home Page |

Edwin Morey Waterbury did much more than rediscover and help rekindle the spark of Alpha Sigma Phi; he played a major role in creating the creating the Fraternity organization that was to become the major force in the American Greek-letter fraternity system. Waterbury resurrected the Black Lantern Processional. On the night of March 27, 1908, Alpha Chapter at Yale signaled a new life with the traditional march. Waterbury became Grand Secretary and Grand Corresponding Secretary from 1907 to 1913. In the spring of 1909, he revived The Tomahawk which he continued to edit until 1913. His newspaper firm continued to print and publish each issue of the magazine for over 30 years. Waterbury died in December 1952, soon after writing: "I am afraid that I will have to be disappointed once more in my cherished desire to attend at least one more national convention before I shuffle off this mortal coil."

Wayne Montgomery Musgrave was an honors graduate of New York University, Yale and Harvard. He provided the organizational spark that fanned Alpha Sigma Phi into national prominence. He was twice HSP (President) of Alpha Chapter and served as Grand Junior President (GJP) of the Fraternity from 1907 until 1923. Realizing that fraternities had a poor image, he authored the Fraternity's Principles of Conduct. He also put together the Fraternity's expansion policy which said in part that the petitioners should have scholarship above the average in their institution. Under his leadership, he guided the Fraternity's expansion efforts -- twenty chapters were added to the Fraternity while he was Grand Junior President. In 1923, Musgrave was elected Grand Junior President Emeritus. He continued his interest in Alpha Sigma Phi, even writing a major history of the Fraternity. He entered Omega Chapter on July 22, 1941. His headstone is marked with the letters Alpha Sigma Phi.
 
 

Edwin M. Waterbury Wayne M. Musgrave
Edwin Morey Waterbury (left) 
Wayne Montgomery Musgrave (right)
 

EXPANSION | Top | Home Page |

By the end of 1908 there were three new chapters of Alpha Sigma Phi -- Zeta at Ohio State, Eta at the University of Illinois and Theta at the University of Michigan. Beta at Harvard was revived at Harvard through the efforts of Brother Musgrave while he was completing graduate studies there. In 1913, the designation of the chapter chartered at Massachusetts Agriculture College (now the University of Massachusetts) at Amherst became a problem as it was not a continuation of the pre-Civil War Amherst chapter, nor was it located on the same campus. But, on the basis that the former chapter at Amherst was designated Gamma, that chapter was given the designation. World War I, despite an immense mobilitation, did not interrupt the flow of college enrollments. Alpha Sigma Phi was able to add a few more chapters during this period.

In the 1920's Alpha Sigma Phi expanded further, adding a new chapter every year for the next ten years. The crash of the stock market in 1929, followed by the Great Depression halted the expansion process. In 1937, the Fraternity reorganized, creating a Grand Council of nine members elected by the convention. The Grand Council was vested with broad powers, including the power to establish new chapters and alumni councils. In 1939, Phi Pi Phi Fraternity, founded at Northwestern University in 1915 merged with Alpha Sigma Phi. All members of Phi Pi Phi were given full rights and privileges as members of the Fraternity.

CONSOLIDATION | Top | Home Page |

After World War II, Alpha Sigma Phi continued its growth. On December 6, 1845, the Fraternity celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of its founding with rallies in various cities and a national rally in New York presided by Grand Senior President Willbur Cramblet. On September 6, 1946 Alpha Kappa Pi Fraternity consolidated with Alpha Sigma Phi, adding the thirty-six chapters of Alpha Kappa Pi into the Mystic Circle of Alpha Sigma Phi.

Alpha Kappa Pi was founded in 1926 at Wagner College, Staten Island, New York (now Alpha Sigma Chapter), though its Alpha Chapter was established at Newark College of Engineering (now Alpha Rho Chapter at the New Jersey Institute of Technology). The Reverend Albert H. Wilson, a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity, was their fraternity advisor until the consolidation with Alpha Sigma Phi.

Unlike the merger with Phi Pi Phi in 1939, the consolidation with Alpha Kappa Pi brought about many changes to Alpha Sigma Phi. The constitution, bylaws and ritual were changed, and the Alpha Kappa Pi Badge became the Pledge Pin of the Fraternity  The Sister Pin of Alpha Kappa Pi was adopted as the official sister pin by replacing the Greek letters Alpha Kappa Pi with Alpha Sigma Phi.. All chapters of Alpha Kappa Pi were added, including a considerable number that were never reactivated after World War II.

Also in 1946, the Fraternity moved its headquarters from New York City to 24 West William Street in Delaware, Ohio, where it provided services to the membership for fifty years until the Fraternity moved its headquarters to Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1996.

In 1965, Alpha Gamma Upsilon Fraternity merged with Alpha Sigma Phi. Alpha Gamma Upsilon was founded at Anthony Wayne Institute in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1922, the merger adding five new chapters to The Old Gal.

THE FRATERNITY TODAY | Top | Home Page |

Alpha Sigma Phi continues to be one of America's premier college fraternities, and recently it celebrated its sesquicentennial (the one hundred fiftieth) anniversary of its founding. New chapters continue to be added to the rolls, and chapters that once were dormant are being reactivated. New growth has resulted for Alpha Sigma Phi. And she continues, through her members, to seek new directions, new achievements and to continue to pass down the timeless values, purposes and objectives that were first stated in 1845.


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