Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

1 min read

Sept. 9, 1766 — Disgruntled over the “bad and unwholesome Butter” served with meals, students launch the Great Butter Rebellion of 1766, the College’s earliest recorded uprising. “Behold our Butter stinketh!” declares a biblical-style satire by Asa Dunbar, Class of 1767 (grandfather of Henry David Thoreau).

Sept. 11, 1770 — With the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony temporarily convening in Harvard Hall, the spirit of public debate catches fire among students, and Samuel Phillips — future founder of the Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass. — forms the Speaking Club on this date. Around the same time, other students form the Mercurian Club (the two combine in 1773). In 1774, the Clitonian Club also forms to promote student public speaking. In each of these intensely secret societies, mere mention of the club name is grounds for expulsion.

Sept. 5, 1781 — Upon returning to Cambridge to receive his master’s degree, Elisha Parmele, Class of 1778, interests three juniors in forming Alpha of Massachusetts, the Harvard Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Parmele, a previous inductee of the first PBK (est. 1776 at the College of William and Mary), obtains a charter from its members (on Dec. 4, 1779) to form the Harvard Chapter.

From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower