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The Tau Chi Literary Society existed at William & Mary from 1839 to 1850 with anywhere from 5 to 20 student members active at any one time. The society held weekly meetings where they read personal compositions, planned public speeches, and conducted debates. The organization's motto, roughly translated, was "Any circle of brothers will make room for one another." (Provided by class, 4/9/2010)

Evidence of their activities remaining in the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library include their ceremonial smoking pot, orations, a program from their ceremony marking the anniversary of the granting of the College of William & Mary's charter on February 8, 1693, along with other material. While the precise use of the smoking pot is uncertain, we know that it was used when the group met on ceremonial occasions. It has 12 fittings for pipe stems to be inserted into the pot, believed to be keeping with the number of their members, and the bowl itself is red unglazed earthenware made by slip casting.

An October 31, 1844, record from the minute book of the Tau Chi Literary Society documents the acquisition of this object as a gift: "Under the head of Motion Mr. Wiley presented to the society, on behalf of a brother TX - Robert Ould Esq. of Georgetown, D.C. - a large and curious smoking pipe."

The original constitution of the Tau Chi Society required each member to wear a golden "badge." The "TX" on the pin represented the name Tau Chi, the imagery of the book and sword represented scholarship, and the twenty stars represented the maximum number of members in the society.

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.