The Chi Phi (ΧΦ) Fraternity is an American College Social Fraternity that was established as the result of the merger of three separate organizations that were each known as Chi Phi. The earliest of these organizations was formed at Princeton University in 1824. Today, Chi Phi has over 47,000 living alumni members from over 100 active and inactive Chapters and un-chartered Colonies. Currently Chi Phi has 57 active Chapters and 5 Colonies.
On Christmas Eve in 1824, an association was formed to promote the circulation of correct opinions upon Religion, Morals, Education & excluding Sectarian Theology and party Politics. It was the duty of each member to publish at least once a month in any convenient way some article designed to answer the above object. When at length it disbanded, its religious feature was absorbed and perpetuated by what is known now as the 'Philadelphian Society' organized in February, 1825, and said to be an offspring of the Nassau Hall Tract Society. The old Chi Phi constitution was discovered in 1854 by some undergraduates who emphasizing the social and disregarding the religious purpose reorganized the society into the modern Greek letter fraternity of the same initials. The majority of the religious societies founded in Princeton were less general in their scope but more efficient in their work than the old Chi Phi.
- —from Princeton by Varnum Lansing Collins 1914
Records of the original Chi Phi Society were discovered in 1854 by John Maclean, Jr. of the class of 1858. Maclean found the records in his uncle's (also named John Maclean, Jr.) paperwork, who happened to be president of the college at that time. Maclean joined with students Charles Smith DeGraw and Gustavus W. Mayer to form a new Chi Phi Fraternity that was based on some records of the original society but also with many characteristics that differed from the original society. While the Chi Phi Fraternity of today was actually founded in 1854, the members place great emphasis on the 1824 date because of many aspects that were carried over from the original records discovered in 1854. The names of the founders of the original society of 1824 were not even known to the 1854 founders; however, they were later discovered and published in the book "Princeton" by V.L. Collins in 1914. The Chi Phi Fraternity founded by Maclean was also short-lived. The group existed sub rosa only until 1859 when it was abandoned completely. However, before the Princeton chapter died off, it was able to successfully establish a second chapter at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1854. The chapter at Franklin and Marshall in turn planted a chapter at Gettysburg College in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The second Chi Phi Fraternity was founded at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on August 21, 1858 by five undergraduate students. The Chi Phi Fraternity of the South was also the second exclusively southern Fraternity established prior to the Civil War and was very successful in planting six chapters prior to the outbreak of hostilities and nine afterwards, but prior to the merger with the Northern Order. All but the UNC chapter suspended operations as a result of the Civil War.
On November 14, 1860, the third independent fraternity to be named Chi Phi was founded at Hobart College, Geneva by twelve men who took the initiatory oath and received a badge. The twelve men later became known throughout Chi Phi as the "Twelve Apostles". The fraternity was officially known as the "Secret Order of Chi Phi" and the first chapter would be called the Upsilon chapter. The Secret Order of Chi Phi at Hobart planted four additional chapters, and then in 1865, negotiations began regarding a merger with the Princeton Order. Negotiations were completed on May 29, 1867, and chapters from both groups united as the Northern Order.
Following the end of the Civil War, on March 27, 1874, the North and South orders officially formed a united organization known as the Chi Phi Fraternity. At the meeting, three members from each order adopted a constitution and by-laws and established a date for the first convention, which was held in Washington, DC on July 23, 1874.
In June 1867, due to the disruption of the American Civil War, a group of Southern students led by Peter Mitchell Wilson, A-A '69 and other students from the States of Louisiana and South Carolina, chartered the Theta Chapter of the Southern Order at the University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland. This Chapter is thought to be the first international and only European Chapter of an American College Fraternity.
Except for a brief period in 1911, three Chi Phis (Joseph Mackey Brown, John Marshall Slaton and Nathaniel E. Harris) held the office of governor in the State of Georgia from 1909 to 1917. Brown was vehemently opposed to Slaton's pardon of Leo Frank in 1915 and since his death in 1932, Brown has been implicated as a conspirator in Frank's lynching.
Chi Phi's conservative expansion philosophy that only the old, well established schools were suitable for a Chapter led to the denial of a petition for a charter by a group of students at the University of Richmond in 1901. This group went on to found the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. During the subsequent fifty-three year period, Sigma Phi Epsilon chartered over 140 Chapters, while Chi Phi only chartered 14.
A man named Jerry Reid, who returned to college in a new major at the age of 68 and subsequently pledged Chi Phi, is possibly the oldest new member ever thus far to join a college fraternity.