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Forensics Records

Identifier: AC 52

Scope and Contents

This collection is arranged into five series based on organization or program name, with one series of general information.

Series 1. General - Beloit College students were also members of other regional oratorical associations (Wisconsin State Oratorical Association, Interstate Oratorical Association) and participated in debates representing them. Many debate programs, which include the topic for discussion, lists of speakers for and against, and judges names. Orations events programs list speakers and their topics, as well as music programs and other highlights. The bound volumes from state and interstate oratorical contests contain published versions of orations given by participants, including Beloit College and non-Beloit speakers.

Series 2. Alethean Society - This series contains bound, handwritten record books with meeting minutes, some in a very fragile state.

Series 3. Archaean Union - This series contains a sizeable collection of public meeting notices and other announcements for debates and orations. They kept detailed record books in the 1800s that included their Constitution, Preamble, and By-Laws. Robert K. Richardson also transcribed relevant materials from Round Table articles, Senate minutes, and other publications as part of his research for his update of the Beloit College history book.

Series 4. Cliosophic Literary Society - This series contains bound, handwritten record books with meeting minutes, some in a very fragile state.

Series 5. Delian Society - This series contains bound, handwritten record books that include their constitution, by-laws, and meeting minutes.


  • 1848-1956, 1981-1982, bulk 1850-1916

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research; however, certain materials are very fragile and require Archives staff for handling, or use may be restricted altogether.

Biographical / Historical

Beloit College has had a long and successful history in the area of debate and oration. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, there were several oratory clubs, then called literary societies (not to be confused with literature-based organizations), many of which existed simultaneously. The most prominent of these groups was the Archaean Society, later known as the Archaean Union, which itself comprised of two separate clubs, the Alethean Society and the Delian Society. The Beloit Academy, also known as the Preparatory Department, also had a literary society called Junta.

"Public speaking was a major aspect of student life, from class recitations to festivals of oratory held before a 19th-century public conditioned to sit through lengthy speeches. The Annual Prize Declamations included, among others: "The Emancipation of the Irish Catholics" and "The Relations of Slavery to Our Nation's Future." Even more popular was the annual Junior Exhibition which featured Greek and Latin orations as well as many in English." [Fridays With Fred – Beloit College Register, a wartime publication, September 27, 2012]

...It was Prof. Blaisdell who persuaded a friend to provide the prizes for the Prize Declamations, which for 34 years has been a most powerful agency in starting in the Sophs and Frosh the ambition and the power to speak…this last having been maintained for the past 8 years by Rev. Walter Rice [class of 1862]. [Rice Prize-Extempore Speaking]

...1873, when the impulses of the civil war were spent, the movement for inter-collegiate contests in oratory began. The story of these summed up in the Round Table 3/11/1892, 5/10/1893."

[from Codex 1897, p. 41-45]

Other organizations:

Delta Sigma Rho is a national forensic fraternity, and Beloit College's chapter was granted a charter in 1909.

After the demise of the debate organizations and literary societies, Delta Sigma Rho carried on Beloit College's tradition in forensics until around 1956.

"On September 20, 1897, a woman's literary society held its first meeting—the Aristonian Literary Society, lasting into 1914—at which time it turned such balance as existed in its treasury into the endowment fund. A Delphic Literary Society was credited with a membership of 17 women in the 1913 Codex [1911]. Despite an able membership, in number practically that of the Aristonian, it can have enjoyed but a brief existence."

[from Robert K. Richardson's history book, p. 933-935]


7 Linear Feet (10 boxes)

Language of Materials



These records collect documents relating to Beloit College's involvement in forensics, oration, extemporaneous speaking, and debate, primarily in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The College once had several oratory clubs, then called literary societies (not to be confused with literature-based organizations), a few of whom are represented here: the Archaean Society, which later split into two groups, the Alethean Society and the Delian Society, who, when combined for joint events were called the Archaean Union; the Cliosophic Literary Society; and Delta Sigma Rho (the academic honorary society). Materials include debate and oration programs, prize declamation programs (including the Rice Prize), group record books, meeting minutes, public meeting notices, constitutions and by-laws, and extensive published versions of speeches given at various contests hosted by Beloit College, the Wisconsin State Oratorical Association, and the Interstate Oratorical Association.

Related Materials

Beloit College Academic Honor Societies records (AC 2)
Beloit College Junior Exhibition records (AC 70)
Irving Maurer papers (MC 4)


Codex 1890
Codex 1897
Codex 1901
Fridays With Fred – Beloit College Register, a wartime publication, September 27, 2012
Richardson, Robert K. History of Beloit College, 1844-1942 (unpublished manuscript)
Round Table, November 18, 1896
Round Table, November 20, 1896
Round Table, January 26, 1916
Forensics Records
Michelle Tom
June, 2012
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Beloit College Archives and Special Collections, Beloit, WI Repository

700 College St.
Beloit WI 53511 USA