AMERICA'S SECRET ESTABLISHMENT -- AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ORDER OF SKULL AND BONES
Memorandum Number Two: The Organization of The Order
The Yale Senior society system is unique to Yale University. There is nothing like it elsewhere in the United States or for that matter in the entire world. According to Lyman Bagg in Four Years at Yale, "the senior societies are such peculiarly Yale institutions that it will be difficult for an outsider fully to appreciate their significance" (Bagg, p. 142, see page following for full context). Nothing like them exists elsewhere and according to Bagg, "Harvard is the only college where, under similar conditions they possibly could exist."
There are three senior societies, Skull & Bones, Scroll & Key and Wolf's Head. Each year 15 male Yale juniors are tapped for admission. They spend only one year in the society, an entirely different procedure to fraternal organizations found on other campuses.
Skull & Bones was founded in 1833 and has initiated 15 members each year since 1833 (except for 1945 when only 10 were tapped). Every year during commencement week 15 Yale juniors receive an invitation "Skull & Bones. Accept or reject?" Those who accept, presumably the greater number, are invited to attend the Bones Temple on campus to undergo an initiation ceremony. (See next page)
Tap day in modern times is a private, almost concealed operation; it was not always that way.
Before 1953 juniors were herded into a yard and representatives from senior societies would circulate among assembled students, selecting those wanted for initiation.
In those days rejection by a senior society was considered social suicide, so Yale ordered tapping a private affair, to avoid the traumatic wait and fear of rejection by the assembled juniors.
For the ambitious, "tapping" is the magic password to a future career. Wherever he turns, the success of the Yale senior society system is obvious. Yale University President, A. Bartlett Giamatti, was a member of Scroll & Key, while George Bush, Vice President of the United States was a member of Skull & Bones. The Yale campus student is well aware that the senior society system is geared to the affluent outside world, to the world after graduation. Money and connections flow from membership. Reportedly, Skull & Bones donates $15,000 and a grandfather clock to each initiate. Certainly alumni pay for everything associated with society meetings. In one case reported by New York Times (April 16, 1983), the alumni paid for a three-hour phone call from Colorado to Yale by two members of Scroll & Key unable to attend a meeting in the Scroll & Key tomb.
YALE UNIVERSITY COMMENCEMENT AND REUNION CALENDAR 1984
Although the John Birch Society, the long time conservative promoter of conspiracy theory, emphasizes that these senior societies are merely recruiting grounds, in effect the societies are the source of a vast establishment network, a formalized "old boy" network that effectively shuts out the newcomers and the non-Yale talented from the halls of power. Because these are senior societies, the emphasis is not on campus activities but on post graduation ambitions. That is the fundamental difference to all other campus societies in the U.S.
As Bagg points out:
"The statement is therefore again repeated that Bones and Keys are peculiarly Yale institutions, genuine outgrowths of a system that flourishes nowhere else, the only organizations of the kind existing in the country" (p. 183) and the senior society "is an association with no weak members whatever and the history of the matter shows that unless this ideal is adhered to with reasonable closeness, such a society cannot live long at Yale" (p. 144).
CLUBS OF THE ORDER
Each annual class of new initiates forms a club consisting of 15 members. Initiates are called Knights in the first year and thereafter Patriarchs.
The annual announcement of new initiates has not varied over the ears. We reproduce on page 194 the announcement of new members for 1917 and on pages 195-196 those for 1984 and 1985.
Each club has a number. This is located in the top right hand corner of the announcement sheet (i.e., D 115 for 1917 and D 183 for 1984). Further, one member is designated a "club chairman" or agent, with the function to act as liaison with the Secretary of the Russell Trust Association in New York.
THE SECRET CATALOGS
Each member of The Order receives an updated annual catalog of members. At one time it was a single volume bound in black leather.
The latest practice is to issue the catalog in two clothbound volumes: Volume One for Living Members and Volume Two for Deceased Members.
Preceding is the title page of the October 1983 catalog, the latest issued. Volume Two is the same with "Deceased Members" in place of Living Members."
Inside the title page is the address of the Secretary of the Russell Trust Association responsible for administration of the current affairs of The Order:
"Please send any corrections or changes of address to:
Then follows an alphabetical listing of members and brief information on the following:
Name and class year with awarded degrees.
A brief notation of occupation, i.e., law, education, finance, business.
Date of birth is followed by current business and private addresses.
Then follows a list of positions held starting with current position.
Military and civilian awards and honors follow, usually extensive because The Order "old boy" network can guarantee awards to each other -- an excellent means of mutual support to build up collective power and prestige.
The final item is a listing of wives and children.
ABERG, 1952; DONLAN VINCENT, JR. --
(Business) -- Born Nov. 18, 1928, Cleveland, O.; bus. Pres., Nutrition
Products of America, 8929 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Suite 312, Los Angeles,
Calif. 90045; res. 15843 Tobin Way, Sherman Oaks, Calif. 91403;
Republican Committeeman, N.Y. '64-'69; m. July 16, '55, Jean Helen
Brose; s. Donlan Vincent III, Peter Christopher ('81); d. Gretchen
DEER ILAND CLUB
The Order's retreat is the Deer Iland (spelled Iland after the request of Patriarch G.D. Miller) Alexandria Bay on the St. Lawrence River, New York. The island was donated in 1906 by Patriarch Miller and renovated over the years, but particularly in the 1950s and 1980s.
Here's an extract from the latest February 29, 1984, report to Patriarchs:
Deer Iland had another successful year in 1983, the 76th season of the Club since its establishment under the direction of George Douglas Miller, D. 68' in 1907. Was it the best year ever? Maybe. They're getting better and better. The results of the past five or six years have seen the Club become a much more viable enterprise from the years of the late '60s and early '70s when its future was much in doubt.
The positive response made by Patriarchs is seen in the following paragraph from the same annual report:
Increased use of the island is not the only factor in its present sound financial footing. Your generosity through your contributions to our annual fund drives has kept the Club going through lean times and supports it today. Most recently, the splendid response to the special capital fund drive in 1981-82, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Club, has enabled us to make major capital improvements to our facilities -- a process which is still underway. I should add that those special contributions are not being used to meet current operating expenses but are specially designated for capital improvements. Current income from all sources -- guest receipts, the G.D. Miller trust, and the annual appeal -- has met or exceeded our expenses for seven years, giving us both welcome security and the means to improve further the island's classic river-style structures. (I don't want to use the word "modernize" except perhaps in reference to the plumbing. You may so inform your wives.)
In brief: the organization of The Order both as Russell Trust Association and Deer Iland Corporation is essentially geared towards the post graduation world, the outside world. It is a senior society. Knights spend only one year as Knights. The rest of their lives are spent as Patriarchs in an active influential organization able to guarantee wealth and ambition.
* D. 68 - It is a practice for members to place their Club identification after their name in writing each other.