alternative text for graphic mssa exhibition

Overview  |  18th Century  |  19th Century  |  20th Century  |  Credits

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One evening on the Old Campus in 1819, over 100 years before the gothic imports arrived and when the brick row stood strong, a secession crisis held hostage one of Yale's two literary societies. On the top floor of the Georgian-Colonial brick Lyceum, the university's chapel and library on the Old Campus, a face-off began within the Linonia Society.

Two candidates, one northern, one southern, were being considered for president of the society. The northern candidate emerged victorious, and a southern party of 32 students within the Linonia Society walked out and formed the Calliopean Society. Whether the walkout was sectional or personal in origins remains unclear, but the Calliopean became the society of choice for southerners until its dissolution in 1853. Without the residential college system, the dormitories on the Old Campus, or the Political Union, these literary societies formed the major avenues of social and intellectual interaction. Only those who belonged to a society could use its books and attend its meetings and debates. In the same year the Calliopean was formed, the national debate over the admission of Missouri into the Union as either a free or slave state was on the minds of most Americans. The formation of the Calliopean Society foreshadowed the course that history was to take 40 years later.