Little Bits of History

Fun at School

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 11, 2014
F.H.C. Society

F.H.C. Society

November 11, 1750: The Flat Hat Club forms. The F.H.C. Society was the first recorded collegiate society within the territory of what is today the United States. The initials stand for a secret Latin phrase which is likely either “Fraternitas, Humanitas, et Cognitio” or “Fraternitas Humanitas Cognitioque” which both mean brotherhood, humaneness, and knowledge. The Flat Hat Club is a backronym and probably refers to mortarboard caps worn by college students at the time. These are the same types of caps worn today only at graduation ceremonies.

The young men were students at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The most famous member of the fraternity was Thomas Jefferson, third US President. George Wythe was also a member of the society and at the time of his membership, there were only six participants and the group served “no useful object”. By March of 1773, there was a second William and Mary Latin-letter fraternity – the P.D.A. Society, publically called Please Don’t Ask. This was a copy of the F.H.C. group. John Heath wanted to become a member of the P.D.A. group and was denied admission and so he began his own fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa Society.

By 1781, the Flat Hat Club was disbanded and ceased to exist. After 1909, old documents were found containing references to the Society. Interest was once again piqued and the Society had a brief revival in the twentieth century – twice. The first time it was revived, it lasted until 1943 when world events caused the university population to dwindle and the society went dormant. The current iteration of the F.H.C. was begun in 1972 and it remains an all-male fraternity and most of the activities are secret within the university.

Fraternities have existed since ancient Greek times. Originally they were brotherhoods of men involved in similar activities. Trades guilds were the logical outcome of many fraternities and these guilds replaced prior groupings. Fraternities and sororities or sisterhoods have been part of college life since this date. They became far more established in the early 1800s. The oldest active US social fraternity is the Kappa Alpha Society founded in 1825 at Union College. Sigma Phi Society and Delta Phi Fraternity were both established in 1827 at the same school. While fraternities have been historical male members only, in September 2014, Wesleyan University in Connecticut ordered all fraternities on campus to become company-educational within the next three years.

Being part of a fraternity has given me the foundation for everything I do in my career from the loyalty to the determination; it laid the foundation for everything I’ve been able to enjoy. – Terrence J

I think that when people join clubs as simple as a sorority or a fraternity, a football team, a baseball team, it’s just – you want to be in a group. You want to be around people, you want to be with people. – Theo Rossi

For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? – Tim Matheson

I would say my fraternity was nothing but a bunch of farm boys; we weren’t really in the whole fraternity scene, but yeah, that’s a safe assessment of who I am. I’ve lived that life, growing up in agriculture and then going off to college and joining a fraternity, livin’ that life. – Luke Bryan

Also on this day: The War to End All Wars – In 1918, World War I ended.
This Isn’t the Hudson – In 1620, the Mayflower Compact was signed.
Mum’s the Word – In 1790, Chrysanthemums were introduced into England.
Cold – In 1930, Einstein’s refrigerator was patented.