2. Secrets of the
The Order flourished from the very beginning in spite of
occasional squalls of controversy. There was dissension from some professors,
who didn't like its secrecy and exclusiveness. And there was backlash from
students, showing concern about the influence "Bones" was having over Yale
finances and the favoritism shown to "Bonesmen."
In October of 1873,
Volume 1, Number 1, of The Iconoclast was published in New Haven. It was
only published once and was one of very few openly published articles on the
Order of Skull and Bones.
From The Iconoclast:
through a new publication. because the college press is closed to those who dare
to openly mention 'Bones'....
"Out of every class Skull and Bones takes
its men. They have gone out into the world and have become, in many instances,
leaders in society. They have obtained control of Yale. Its business is
performed by them. Money paid to the college must pass into their hands, and be
subject to their will. No doubt they are worthy men in themselves, but the many,
whom they looked down upon while in college, cannot so far forget as to give
money freely into their hands. Men in Wall Street complain that the college
comes straight to them for help, instead of asking each graduate for his share.
The reason is found in a remark made by one of Yale's and America's first men:
'Few will give but Bones men and they care far more for their society than they
do for the college....'
"Year by year the deadly evil is growing. The
society was never as obnoxious to the college as it is today, and it is just
this ill-feeling that shuts the pockets of non-members. Never before has it
shown such arrogance and self-fancied superiority. It grasps the College Press
and endeavors to rule it all. It does not deign to show its credentials, but
clutches at power with the silence of conscious guilt.
"To tell the good
which Yale College has done would be well nigh impossible. To tell the good she
might do would be yet more difficult. The question, then, is reduced to this --
on the one hand lies a source of incalculable good -- on the other a society
guilty of serious and far-reaching crimes. It is Yale College against Skull and
Bones!! We ask all men, as a question of right, which should be allowed to
At first, the society held its meetings in hired halls. Then in
1856, the "tomb", a vine-covered, windowless, brown-stone hall was constructed,
where to this day the "Bonesmen" hold their "strange, occultish" initiation
rites and meet each Thursday and Sunday.
On September 29, 1876, a group
calling itself "The Order of File and Claw" broke into the Skull and Bones' holy
of holies. In the "tomb" they found lodge-room 324 "fitted up in black velvet,
even the walls being covered with the material." Upstairs was lodge-room 322,
"the 'sanctum sanctorium' of the temple... furnished in red velvet" with a
pentagram on the wall. In the hall are "pictures of the founders of Bones at
Yale, and of members of the Society in Germany, when the chapter was established
here in 1832." The raiding party found another interesting scene in the parlor
next to room 322.
From "The Fall Of Skull And Bones":
west wall, hung among other pictures, an old engraving representing an open
burial vault, in which, on a stone slab, rest four human skulls, grouped about a
fools cap and bells, an open book, several mathematical instruments, a beggar's
scrip, and a royal crown. On the arched wall above the vault are the explanatory
words, in Roman letters, 'We War Der Thor, Wer Weiser, Wer Bettler Oder,
Kaiser?' and below the vault is engraved, in German characters, the sentence;
'Ob Arm, Ob Beich, im Tode gleich.'
The picture is accompanied by a card
on which is written, 'From the German Chapter. Presented by D. C. Gilman of D.
Daniel Coit Gilman ('52), along with two other "Bonesmen," formed a
troika which still influences American life today. Soon after their initiation
in Skull and Bones, Daniel Gilman, Timothy Dwight ('49) and Andrew Dickinson
White ('53) went to study philosophy in Europe at the University of Berlin.
Gilman returned from Europe and incorporated Skull and Bones as Russell Trust,
in 1856, with himself as Treasurer and William H. Russell as President. He spent
the next fourteen years in New Haven consolidating the order's power.
Gilman was appointed Librarian at Yale in 1858. Through shrewd political
maneuvering, he acquired funding for Yale's science departments (Sheffield
Scientific School) and was able to get the Morrill Land Bill introduced in
Congress, passed and finally signed by President Lincoln, after being vetoed by
This bill, "donating public-lands for State College
for agriculture and sciences", is now known as the Land Grant College Act. Yale
was the first school in America to get the federal land scrip and quickly
grabbed all of Connecticut's share at the time. Pleased by the acquisitions,
Yale made Gilman a Professor of Physical Geography.
Daniel was the first
President of the University of California. He also helped found, and was the
first president of, John Hopkins.
Gilman was first president of the
Carnegie Institution and involved in the founding of the Peabody, Slater and
Russell Sage Foundations.
His buddy, Andrew D. White, was the first
president of Cornell University (which received all of New York's share of the
Land Grant College Act), U.S. Minister to Russia, U.S. Ambassador to Berlin and
first president of the American Historical Association. White was also Chairman
of the American delegation to the first Hague Conference in 1899, which
established an international judiciary.
Timothy Dwight, a professor at
Yale Divinity School, was installed as president of Yale in 1886. All presidents
since, have been either "Bonesmen" or directly tied to the Order and its
The Daniel/Gilman/White trio was also responsible for the
founding of the American Economic Association, the American Chemical Society and
the American Psychological Association. Through their influences on John Dewey
and Horace Mann, this trio continues to have an enormous impact on education
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