Among the oldest records of student organizations are those from the various literary societies, of which William & Mary had several. These societies, which were popular all over the country in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, sought to train their members in public speaking by sponsoring debates and dramatic readings. Some also assigned their members to write essays, which were then critiqued. While the Archives does not have a complete set of records from all of the literary societies, substantial quantities of these records do exist, including nineteenth and twentieth- century minute books, constitutions, by-laws, membership lists, and treasurer's books. Because they flourished at a time when college libraries were all but closed to undergraduate students, a number of literary societies had their own libraries. Archives has the library accession book for the Philomathean Literary Society. The Phoenix and Philomathean Societies, although not the oldest groups, were the longest lived and therefore more material exists for them.