Delta Sigma Phi: Wikis


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Delta Sigma Phi
Delta Sigma Phi Crest.jpg
Founded December 10, 1899 (1899-12-10) (110 years ago)
City College of New York
Type Social
Scope National
Motto "Better Men, Better Lives" (public)
Colors Nile Green and White
Symbol The Sphinx
Flower White Carnation
Chapters 106 Active Chapters, 10 Colonies
Founders Meyer Boskey, Charles A. Tonsor, Jr.
Headquarters 1331 N. Delaware Street
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Delta Sigma Phi (ΔΣΦ, also known as DSP or Delta Sigs or Delt Sigs or D-Sigs) is a fraternity established at the City College of New York in 1899 and is a charter member of the North-American Interfraternity Conference. The headquarters of the fraternity is the Taggart Mansion located in Indianapolis, Indiana. The mansion was once the home of former Indianapolis mayor and congressman Thomas Taggart and is on the National Register of Historic Places.



In addition to the Sphinx, the lamp, the lute (depicted as a lyre), the Gordian Knot, and the Egyptian Pyramids are symbols of Delta Sigma Phi. The White Carnation was chosen as the fraternity's official flower because it contains the fraternity's colors; nile green and white. The publications of the fraternity are often named after its symbols:

The Fraternity Flag
  • The Sphinx - an esoteric publication
  • The Gordian Knot - the pledge manual
    The Pledge Emblem
  • The Lute - the fraternity songbook
  • The Carnation - the fraternity magazine

The pledge emblem is a white circle with a green equilateral triangle set inside of it. Gold lines radiate from the center of the emblem to the three points of the triangle in addition to outlining the circle and triangle. The pledge emblem is very prevalent in the symbolism of the fraternity; not only is the emblem on the pledge pin, but the emblem also graces the flag, the membership badge and the basic design is also the basis of the fraternity's seal.



The Beginnings

Meyer Boskey

At the end of the nineteenth century, fraternities were exclusively Christian or Jewish, and barred membership to individuals on the basis of religion. When a group of friends at the City College of New York tried to join a fraternity, they were denied membership because the group was composed of Christians and Jews, in response they organized the first chapter of Delta Sigma Phi on December 10, 1899. The chapter was called Insula due to the chapter's location in Manhattan. In late 1902, with five members from Insula signing incorporation papers, Delta Sigma Phi was incorporated with the purpose to spread "the principles of friendship and brotherhood among college men, without respect to race or creed." By 1903 the fraternity had established chapters at Columbia University and New York University.

The Founders

Delta Sigma Phi considers Charles A. Tonsor, Jr. and Meyer Boskey was one of the founding members at Insula (later renamed Alpha) and Tonsor was a member at City College Chapter at NYU. The pair were instrumental in steering the fraternity through the early days starting with the events that occurred in 1905. Interestingly enough, Boskey belonged to Delta Sigma Pi, a business fraternity, but was kicked out during his junior year for getting into a fistfight with David Nathaniel Smith, a fellow brother.

In early 1905 the fraternity was growing rapidly, receiving petitions for membership from groups at MIT, Penn State and Washington and Lee University. A conference was called for the purpose of writing a constitution with a subsequent convention to elect national officers. At the 1905 Convention Tonsor was elected as National President and Boskey as National Secretary. It was also during this time that Boskey and Tonsor codified the ritual and symbols of the fraternity.

Early Troubles

The convention that laid much of the groundwork for the fraternity's growth almost proved to be its undoing. The convention was held at the lavish Park Avenue Hotel and the cost of the convention was to be defrayed by the selling of tickets to the attendees. However, few members outside of the New York City chapters bought tickets and the resulting deficit was large. It was through extraordinary fundraising efforts that the debt was paid but afterwards hard feelings would persist between members and chapters.

At this time many chapters were founded but many others closed or dis-affiliated and the fraternity changed from a New York fraternity to a fraternity with many chapters in the Midwest and South. Unfortunately, the feeling of good will between Christian and Jewish brothers had eroded despite the efforts of Boskey and Tonsor. Some chapters would blackball Jewish pledges before initiation, essentially going against the ideals of the founders. Those chapters would not get along with others and this led to a few chapters withdrawing their affiliation with Delta Sigma Phi.

The 1914 Convention

The 1914 Convention was held at the Iota Chapter house at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia with only half of the chapters sending delegates despite the efforts of John C. Harris, the National President at the time. At the convention, it was decided that it was in the best interests of the fraternity to become more like the other fraternities and restrict membership to men of Christian faith. This was done in hopes of restoring unity on a national level and to stem the tide of chapter defections.

A new constitution was soon drawn up to express that the belief in the triune Christian God as told in the New Testament was a prerequisite for membership and changes were made to the fraternity ritual. The changes were quickly ratified by the convention on the condition that the requirements were binding only to those who joined the fraternity after the adoption of the 1914 Constitution. Although their place in the fraternity was secure, many Jewish members left the organization and joined or started other fraternities; to this day there are few Jewish members. Meyer Boskey did not leave, although he withdrew from active participation in fraternity.

Upon Meyer Boskey's death in 1969, Tonsor commented that, "Meyer was not bitter. He understood and never gave up his loyalty to Delta Sigma Phi, knowing, as he told me, that time would prove the founders right."

In addition to the Christian clause, the 1914 Convention also saw the adoption of the current versions pledge pin, fraternity badge, coat of arms and ritual. It was also the first convention to end without a deficit, as many of the older members contributed generously to the fraternity's general fund.

Growth and World War I

In the two years after the 1914 Convention Delta Sigma Phi almost doubled in size with the addition of ten chapters. In 1915, the first West Coast chapter, Hilgard Chapter at UC Berkeley was installed. Hilgard Chapter was named after a Dean at University and is the only chapter in the fraternity without a Greek letter designation, taking the place of Xi Chapter.

As a testament to the geographic shift of the fraternity, the 1916 Convention was held in Chicago, Illinois. By this time, the fraternity had expanded the number of staff and a national headquarters was created at the Riebold Building at Dayton, Ohio.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917 Delta Sigma Phi had over one thousand initiates and nineteen active chapters. During the course of the war over three quarters of the fraternity's membership served the government in some capacity with half of that number in combat duty overseas. The publication of The Carnation, the fraternity's magazine, and the 1917 and 1918 Conventions were suspended for the duration of the war.

Even though the colleges and universities remained open during the war many chapters suspended their operations when most of their members were called to service. Some chapters never recovered from the disruptions of World War I.

The Roaring Twenties

Delta Sig went through continued expansion during the 1920s, at this time many local fraternities and other social clubs petitioned for fraternity membership. Among these local fraternities was Phi Nu fraternity at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada when Phi Nu was chartered as the Alpha Omicron chapter, Delta Sigma Phi became an international fraternity.

It was also during this time the fraternity published its first pledge manual, the Gordian Knot, it was based upon a manual previously published by the Epsilon Chapter at Penn State. The Gordian Knot is considered to be one of the first pledge manuals to be published on a fraternity-wide basis. Another tradition started at this time was the Sailors' Ball, first held at the Alpha Chi chapter at Stetson University. Today at many Delta Sig chapters, the Sailors' Ball is an annual event that is a semi-formal counterpart to the Carnation Ball, the fraternity's formal banquet.

Depression and World War II

A scant two months after the Wall Street Crash of 1929 the yearly convention was held in Richmond, Virginia. Despite the financial uncertainties of the time, a traveling secretary was added to the fraternity payroll. During the Great Depression the growth of the fraternity had ground to a halt; college enrollments declined and those who attended college were less likely to be able to afford joining a fraternity. Several chapters became dormant and lost their equity in chapter properties. Among them were Alpha and Gamma; the remaining chapters in New York City.

The only chapters that were founded during the years of the Great Depression were Beta Kappa at the University of Alabama and Beta Lambda at Wake Forest. It was also during this time that the Executive Director, A.W. Defenderfer, moved the headquarters of the fraternity to his insurance offices in Washington, DC. Delta Sigma Phi was re-incorporated in Washington, DC in 1929.

Although the fraternity was rebounding by the late 1930s, World War II caused a disruption within the fraternity. Many members had joined in on the war effort leaving the chapters weak. It was during this time that the fraternity's only Canadian chapter at McGill University became dormant, with many of its members joining to Commonwealth forces. By 1944 only twelve of the fraternity's forty-three chapters were active.

Return to the Founders' Vision

After the war, the GI Bill gave many veterans the chance to attend college. With an influx of new students, many of the dormant chapters of the fraternity were quickly re-activated. Another consequence of the GI Bill was the establishment of many new public universities. With more institutions that were open to fraternities, Delta Sigma Phi, along with many other Greek organizations, experienced their greatest period of growth in the Post-World War II era.

In the late 1940s college administrators across the country began to refuse expansion to fraternities which restrictive rules on membership. In response to the new rules the fraternity leadership amended the constitution of the national fraternity to remove all references to race or religion. However, the line "the belief in God is essential to our welfare" in the preamble was untouched and remains so to this day.

In a compromise to several southern chapters in the 1949 Convention, the amendments to the constitution were approved while language which barred the initiation of non-white and non-Christians were inserted into the fraternity ritual. Since the ritual was a private document and the constitution was a public one, this compromise appeased those who resisted integration of the fraternity while allowing it to expand to new universities.

The 1950s were a turbulent time for fraternities and sororities in general. While most of the national Greek organizations still had rules restricting membership, a few chapters bucked those rules and initiated Jews and African Americans. Some of those chapters were suspended by their national organization while others disaffiliated from their national organizations and "went local." In 1957 the California Legislature threatened to pass Assembly Bill 758 which prohibited state universities and colleges from recognizing any student organization that "restricts its membership on the basis of either race, color, religion or national origin." Two years later the regents of the University of California passed a regulation that required all fraternities and sororities to sign a certificate stating that the organization does not have any discriminatory policies or face the loss of recognition.

The fraternity faced these issues in the 1959 Convention. While the fraternity was interested in maintaining their California chapters, there was opposition to any plan to integrate the entire fraternity. Several southern chapters passed resolutions against and relaxation of racial and religious restrictions and threatened to withdraw from the fraternity. A compromise was again reached where the current rules were not to be changed but exemptions were granted to chapters in danger to losing their recognition due to fraternity policies. The California chapters were immediately given exemptions.

In 1962, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education joined the University of California by requiring the integration of its fraternities and sororities. Exemptions were given to the chapters in Pennsylvania. While exemptions were originally granted to chapters in danger of losing recognition with their universities, the Beta Iota Chapter at Wittenberg University proved otherwise. In order to avoid bad publicity by refusing initiation to an African American who was an All-American athlete in addition to being an outstanding scholar, the fraternity granted the chapter an exemption.

The process of integration was slow and awkward in the fraternity. As a result of numerous compromises the fraternity remained intact on a national level. Civil Rights legislation finished the job that started with the granting of exemptions to certain chapters. Delta Sigma Phi again was universal brotherhood of man, just as the founders had intended.

Written Ideals

Code of Conduct for Member of Delta Sigma Phi

In order to fulfill its solemn obligation to help its members reach the highest standards of educational attainment, moral values, and social responsibility, Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity has adopted the following Code of Conduct for the daily lives of each of our members.

  1. I will strive for academic excellence and encourage it in other members.
  2. I will support Delta Sigma Phi's policies against the illegal use and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
  3. I will respect the dignity of all persons and therefore I will not physically, psychologically, or sexually haze or abuse any person.
  4. I will respect the property rights of others. Therefore I will neither abuse nor tolerate the abuse of private, chapter, or public property.
  5. I acknowledge that a safe, clean, and attractive environment is essential to both physical and mental health. Therefore I will work with other members to properly maintain the chapter property.
  6. I will pay my Fraternity bills and other financial obligations when due and recognize the need for all other members to do the same.
  7. I will recommend for membership only those men of outstanding personal character, who join me in seeking to achieve excellence in all we do.
  8. I will exemplify and encourage self-discipline, responsibility, and leadership within my chapter.
  9. I will work to make my chapter the most respected on campus and within the community.
  10. I will encourage and support other members in pursuit of the ideals of this code of conduct.

The Preamble

The Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity in convention assembled declares and affirms the following principles:

That the belief in God is essential to our welfare.

That loyalty to the constituted authority of our nations and their subdivisions is a cardinal virtue of our brotherhood, the pledged faith of which shall never be broken; and that our brotherhood, receiving the blessings of liberty, education and fraternity, shall ever support, foster and defend our universities, colleges, and school systems, founded under the dispensation of our governments and constituting the bulwarks of democracy for us, for our posterity and for all men.

That the sanctity of the home and the sacredness of the family bond, the hearthstone of our enlightened civilization, and the chivalry of man toward woman, shall be maintained and protected by us, not only for ourselves and our posterity, but also for the good of all mankind.

That a symmetrical culture, a fraternal communion among the colleges of this country, and a brotherhood of men, whose ideals and beliefs are those of modern civilization, are essential to the welfare of our college men.

In furtherance of these aims, this Fraternity has recognized certain standards of attainment and gentlemanly conduct, expressed in the ideals symbolically represented by the three Greek letters, Delta, Sigma, Phi; and it shall be a constant endeavor of the brothers who may be called to preside over and govern the Fraternity, or its component chapters, to enforce the precepts of the Fraternity by every reasonable means within their power, and they, and each brother of the Fraternity shall exemplify those principles by conduct as well as enforcement in order that the Fraternity may grow and prosper with honor to itself and that the world may ever be convinced of the sincerity of our purpose.


In accordance to the Gordian Knot, the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity states that, "No chapter shall conduct hazing activities. Hazing activities are defined as any act or attempt to embarrass, humiliate, intimidate, ridicule, shame or endanger physically or mentally any person, or to compel physical activity or do physical or emotional harm to any person, or to require consumption or ingestion of liquids, food, or other materials."

Further, hazing does not promote the air of respect between brothers that Delta Sigma Phi seeks to elevate. Any man that would haze a brother is not fit for membership in Delta Sigma Phi. Also any man that permits himself to be hazed by a brother is also not fit for membership.

Active chapters and colonies

Notable alumni


  • Sanford, Charles (1995). Bonds of Brotherhood; The History of Delta Sigma Phi. Heritage Publishers, Inc.. ISBN 0-929690-27-3.  

External links


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