November 11 – Flat Hat Club

When you think of a fraternity, what do you picture?  Maybe a group of immature, college-age guys who party hard?  However, Phi Delta Alpha is a very unique fraternity.  Originally called the Flat Hat Club, for the flat mortarboards they wore, the fraternity is recognized as the first fraternity to be created in the United States.  It was founded at the College of William and Mary in Virginia on November 11, 1750.  Ironically, the name Flat Hat Club was a nickname given to the secret society that went by the initials F.H.C.  The initials of the club stood for Latin words, but the exact words are unknown.  The most popular thought is that they stand for “Fraternitas, Humanitas, Cognitioque,” which means “brotherhood, humanity, and knowledge.”  Considering the club was known for gathering at a local tavern to discuss social issues, these words would fit.  As mentioned earlier, the fraternity was actually a secret society.  This secret society had many distinguished members such as Thomas Jefferson and St. George Tucker.  It also has two other distinctions.  Although it did disappear for several years during the Civil War, the fraternity still exists to this day.  In 1911, the fraternity created a newspaper, which still remains in print to this day.  The new generations have modified the format slightly from the original, but have preserved the feeling of the original newspaper.  The second distinction is the creation of Greek life.  It is hard to find a campus in the United States that does not have some sort of Greek life, whether sororities and fraternities or honor societies.  These were created thanks to the F.H.C. society.  When John Heath was repeatedly refused entrance to the exclusive society, he retaliated by creating his own fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1776.  Amazingly, the secrets of this society have stayed well hidden over the years.  Little is known about the purpose of the society.  They also kept what they talked about well hidden.  Today, little is known other than a secret society once existed and a fraternity now exists in its place.  Whatever its original purpose, it is safe to say that it was quite different than the fraternities that now rule college campuses.

Sources:

http://mentalfloss.com/article/18235/4-secret-societies-you-probably-dont-know-about

The Flat Hat Club

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