Delta Beta Phi

Delta Beta Phi (ΔΒΦ) was a small national men's fraternity founded on 1878 at Cornell University, soon forming six chapters. The national disbanded in 1882, but may have been briefly restored through the 1920s.

Delta Beta Phi
Crest of Delta Beta Phi fraternity.jpg
Founded1878; 145 years ago (1878)
Cornell University
Colors  Garnet and   Black
Symbolcrossed keys, star
PublicationDelta Beta Phi Quarterly
Chapters6 (all dormant)
Later up to 25


Delta Beta Phi was formed in 1878 at Cornell University. Its four founders were:

  • J.D. Hamrick
  • I.W. Kelly
  • J.S. Monroe
  • Willard Olney

The original Cornell chapter was cheekily nicknamed the "Dead Bits" on campus on account of the first two letters of its name.[1] It expanded quickly to form six chapters in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, creating five in its first year. Two of its chapters, Psi and Delta came from earlier, local societies.

Dissolution occurred abruptly in 1882 when the entire society was broken up and appeared to be disbanded;[2] a 1905 history of Cornell gives the fraternity rather short shrift, and is aware only of the original chapter and five successors in its original existence, noting that "[f]rom this time [1876] until 1881 no new chapters appeared at Cornell, if we except Delta Beta Phi, which originated here in 1878, spread to five other institutions, and after four years ceased to exist."[3] An 1880 fraternal publication records that already at that time the fraternity was struggling, describing the Cornell chapter as "disbanded," with the chapter at the University of Pennsylvania seeking to gain recognition by Psi Upsilon, the CCNY chapter likewise petitioning Alpha Delta Phi, and the chapter at Lafayette having "languidly expired."[4] Meanwhile, Alpha Delta Phi sought to poach the nascent Johns Hopkins chapter by offering them commodious new quarters, with the result nearly assured: "no doubt Delta Beta Phi will be minus a chapter soon," comments the author.[5] Nonetheless, the national fraternity, such as it was, strove still to revive its fortunes, disseminating a circular seeking to recruit men for a chapter at Columbia University, albeit unsuccessfully—indeed, the same publication reported it was "hard at work in establishing new chapters," citing efforts in the South and specifically at the University of Virginia.[6] The languid desuetude of the Lafayette chapter proved short-lived, as it was soon reported to have survived with eight men.[7] The CCNY chapter, however, indeed collapsed and dispersed in roughly equal moieties to Alpha Delta Phi and Theta Delta Chi.[8]

Delta Beta Phi escutcheon and entry from the University of Pennsylvania archives, 1879

As for further developments, according to Baird's 12th edition, Delta chapter at CCNY continued on as a local society for two more years.[9] Later information from the Baird's Archive says this group left Delta Beta Phi in 1881 to join Theta Delta Chi. This information is consistent with the ΘΔΧ online charge[10] list. This chapter appears to have remained active until 1931.[11] The Baird's Archive further goes on to describe the fraternity's reappearance: "Some decades later bona fide yearbooks from Columbia and NYU during the 1920s show this fraternity, claiming up to as many as 25 chapters." The following 17, in an alphabetical list, have been identified:[11]

  • Alpha - Cornell University
  • Beta - University of Pennsylvania
  • Gamma or Pi - Columbia University 1921-193x
  • Delta - City University of New York
  • Epsilon - Harvard University
  • Iota - DePaul University 192x-193x
  • Kappa - New York University
  • Mu - Ohio State University
  • Nu - Northwestern University
  • Omicron - Columbia Dental College
  • Pi - Johns Hopkins University
  • Rho - University of Washington
  • Phi - Lehigh University
  • Chi - Crane College 1923-1933 [12]
  • Psi - University of Virginia
  • Psi Deuteron - Lafayette College
  • Omega - Stetson University September 1926[13]

Symbols and publicationsEdit

The official badge of the society was a diamond-shaped lozenge, displaying the letters Δ, Β and Φ, with these surmounting a pair of crossed keys. There was a star at each corner of the badge.

The crest was an etching that included an image of the badge at top, displaying other symbolism of the fraternity within a Grecian motif. The crest was in use by the Alpha chapter in the Cornell Cornellian yearbook for the several years it remained active.

The fraternity's colors were garnet and black.

The fraternity began a publication, the Delta Beta Phi Quarterly in 1880 or 1881, but this only existed for a single issue.[9][14]


Baird's Manual (12th edition) lists six chapters formed between 1878 and 1882. Dates given for disbanding of these six are from Baird's or collegiate yearbooks:[9]

Name Chartered Institution Location Status Notes Reference
Alpha 1878 Cornell University Ithaca, NY Disbanded 1882 [15]
Phi 1878 Lehigh University Bethlehem, PA Disbanded 1882 [11]
Sigma 1878 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA Disbanded 1882 [11]
Psi 1878 Lafayette College Easton, PA Disbanded 1882 Originally a local called Nu Phi Mu. [11]
Delta 1878 City College of New York New York, NY Disbanded 1881 Originally a local called Alpha Omega.
Became the Phi Deuteron charge[10] of ΘΔΧ in 1881.
Reverted into local in 1921. Closed in 1931
Pi 1881 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD Disbanded 1885 [11]

Additional chapters, as listed in yearbooks should be added once their years of activity have been clarified.


  1. ^ Acacia Fraternity (1906). The Triad vols. 1-5. Acacia Fraternity. p. 63.
  2. ^ Benjamin Foster Carlson. "Early Fraternities: Delta Beta Phi". University of Pennsylvania Archives. University of Pennsylvania. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
  3. ^ Waterman Thomas Hewett (1905). Cornell University: A History. University Publishing Society. p. 16.
  4. ^ Millard Francis Troxell, ed. (1880). The Scroll. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. p. 71,95,144.
  5. ^ Millard Francis Troxell, ed. (1880). The Scroll. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. p. 24.
  6. ^ Millard Francis Troxell, ed. (1880). The Scroll. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. pp. 23–24, 48, 176.
  7. ^ Millard Francis Troxell, ed. (1880). The Scroll. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. p. 119.
  8. ^ Millard Francis Troxell, ed. (1880). The Scroll. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. p. 144.
  9. ^ a b c William Raimond Baird (1912). Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities. G. Banta Company. p. 628.
  10. ^ a b The fraternity Theta Delta Chi names its collegiate groups as "charges," not "chapters."
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Predecessor local names and additional chapter information from Baird's Manual archive, accessed 13 Jan 2021. Baird's Manual is also available online here: The Baird's Manual Online Archive homepage.
  12. ^ Baird's notes the predecessor of this group at Crane was Beta Tau (local) formed earlier in 1923.
  13. ^ The Forty-Fifth Year Catalogue of John B. Stetson University DeLand, Florida
  14. ^ Millard Francis Troxell, ed. (1880). The Scroll. Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. p. 47.
  15. ^ Reported in the 1882/83 Cornellian yearbook to have ceased that year. None of the members appear to have joined a different society. The year prior, three graduated, leaving only two undergrad members.
  16. ^ Note, ΘΔΧ Wikipedia chapter list says this group went dormant in 1931.