A preliminary meeting chaired to organize the Society was held Room No. Behringer as President when the society's name was discussed with members equally between the John Bright Brotherhood, honoring the English orator John Bright and others favoring the Irving Literary Association after Washington Irving. A compromise was struck in which the society was named after Irving, while Bright and the American orator, Charles Sumner , were admitted as the first honorary members.
Each of the early sessions was opened with prayer. What I was thinking of most at that time was founding a fraternity and a literary society. I was Phi Kappa Psi, and wanted Foraker and Buchwalter to come on and join me in founding the New York Alpha, which we did, and we had a great bunch of boys. The literary society was first in time. Williams of our class agitated for the organization of a society under the name "Philanthea". I was appointed on the committee to report on the name for the second society.
We did not want a Latin or Greek name, for this was a new institution, one that had never existed before. After much discussion, we went to Mr. White [ Andrew Dickson White ] and told him we were starting a society and he suggested we use the name of "Irving", after the founder of American literature. The committee accepted it and reported it to the boys and so it was called the Irving Literary Society. I have no record of the demise of the Irving.
There were no other activities than those of the fraternity and the literary society. That was all we knew anything about; no athletics the first year. The literary society had public exhibitions with essays, orations, and debates. They were held downtown. Beginning in February , the Irving and the Philaletheian held their annual contest against each other. That event has been noted as one reason the quality of debate was so high between and Later it shared Society Hall with the other literary societies at Cornell.
The Irving was initially a male-only society, but following the lead of Cornell's Curtis Literary Society founded in , membership in the Irving became open to women students and remained so throughout its existence. Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White both attended. Then came an oration on "Our National Tendency", namely the tendency of emerging nations to undergo an income a widening gap between rich and poor, and social violence that followed that widening.
The delivery was described by the Society's secretaries in The Cornell Era as "forcible, the orator receiving vigorous applause". His speech on extremes in moral and religious sentiment and action drew an analogy with new developments in physics, comparing the extremes to particles of matter vibrating between the poles of a magnet.
In their description of Buchwalter's speech, the Society's secretaries wrote: The orator noted that some favored the gloomy side of human nature, believing man totally depraved. Others, he said, dwell in the sunshine, seeing nothing but loveliness and purity. The truth lies somewhere between these extremes.
The easy grace of the speaker, the melody of his voice, and the sparkling thought of the oration, captivated the audience. Society members gathered with guests again at the Cornell Public Library in downtown Ithaca.
Theodore Tilton spoke on "the human mind, and how to use it. President White in the presentation of the diplomas used these words, "Let your course be true.
Festus Walters gave a well-received oration, followed by a scholarly essay. The number of visitors was unusually large, and manifested great interest in the discussion. The topic for discussion for next Friday evening, is: The last event of AY — was a debate on the Protective Tariff.
It enrolled 26 members during the Fall Term The Cornell Daily Sun noted the benefit of the training provided by the experience, the pleasant rooms assigned by University administrators, and the hearty support provided by the Cornell Faculty. Despite these benefits, the Irving and its peers were losing the interest of the Cornell Student body.
That only fourteen percent of Cornell students were active in the societies was seen as an intellectual weakness. With insufficient numbers, society members were required to present or compete every three weeks.
The resulting literary activity was thought to be accordingly weak, further impacting on the quality and subsequent attendance of the meetings. Williams of New York City read before the Irving the same season. The grade of exercises is, if anything, lower than in those just mentioned.
Extemporaneous addresses began to resemble those by toastmasters , with topics such as "How to Run A Sailboat". Readings came from current fiction, and poetry. Arguing in the affirmative was Elias Leavenworth Elliot, future inventor. Around the time of the Curtis' demise in , an address by President White attributed the general decline in student interest for these societies to the growth of fraternities and sororities , decreasing importance placed on the power of oratory, and the development of the seminar system in the University.
The Irving literary society met last evening, but was poorly attended. This institution should be one of the most prosperous student societies in the college, but strange to say, it has deteriorated in point of numbers, and its management has fallen into the hands of technical instead of literary students.
The quickened pace of Irving exercises during the academic years , and coincided with public expression of these concerns, one of which was an editorial in The Cornell Era of October 1, The character and quality of the literary work done by Cornell students is inferior, in many respects, to that done by students of other colleges.
The reason of this is two-fold and arises from a lack of opportunity and a want of interest, on the part of the students, in that direction. Who is there among us that does not realize the value of being able to address the people on questions of public moment! Our classes in Elocution and Oratory go a great ways, but the work of the literary society ought to begin here and supplement the work of the class room.
Irving Society and the Mock Congress are steps in the right direction, but their influence does not reach far enough. Either the character of their work is not such as to merit the attention of the students, or there is a disability arising from the lack of numbers. In other colleges there are societies that have large circulating libraries and that hold annual society contests. In addition to this, there are inter-collegiate contests and the matter goes so far even, that contestants meet from different states to determine where is the 'prince of college orators'.
During the Fall Term, , the society hosted Professor Spenser Baird Newberry and his stereopticon entertainments, most notably show featuring vistas of Athens, Constantinople and Egypt. By the winter of , the members settled on a two-part presentation. The first part would include exercises in parliamentary practice, a paper reading, and perhaps a recitation or debate.
Part two would include a social hour with music. Its status as a recognized student organization was pending as of May Harry Falkenau , an early defender of Walt Whitman 's poetry and one of Cornell's Chimes Masters , went on to a career as a music critic for the Chicago Herald and later as the owner of an antiquarian book shop in Chicago.
Francis Whiting Halsey , was a prolific journalist and author who wrote for The New York Times from to and served as its literary editor from On his return to Iowa, he served as editor of the Midland Monthly prior to taking the position of State Librarian.
Among his works of literature were The Youth of Old Age , awarded outstanding contribution by an Iowa author in At Cornell he was elected president of his class in his junior year and was a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.
In Laurence moved to Kansas City where he worked as the commercial editor, vice-president, and managing editor of the Kansas City Journal. Knapp worked for the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger for over 55 years, between and eventually becoming its city editor.
He also served for four years served as the night editor of the Baltimore Sun. Prior to returning to Cornell for his first reunion in sixty years , Knapp noted to a reporter: We played rugby, which is something like soccer.
Drilling was the principal exercise. We had literary societies. Boys then were much the same as now as regards mischief, but the pranks were different. Ours would probably seem too tame today. William Henry French became a type founder. Born in Griggsville, Illinois , French studied at Cornell between and and then at the University of Leipzig.
On his return to the United States, he became agent and assistant general manager for the Associated Press in Chicago and New York City between and After a stint with the Oak Ranch Company, he became secretary and director of the type founders Barnhart Bros. The position at Barnhart established French in the industry, and he was soon a president and director of St. Louis Printer's Supply Company and director and vice president of Fundicion Mexicana de Tipos in Mexico City as well as director of several other American type foundries.
So too, did Edward L. He entered the law office of his father, Perry Greene Parker, a trial lawyer. The younger Parker practiced law for thirty years and was a lecturer in the Buffalo Law School. He later served as deputy tax collector for Middletown, New York , owned a cigar factory, and became president of the Orange County Trust Company. In later years he was a trustee of Cornell.
After leaving Cornell he practiced law in New York and later in Seattle.