The Eucleian Society apparently had its origins in the Adelphic Literary Sociey, one of two literary societies founded at the University of the City of New-York (New York University) in 1832, the year instruction began. The Eucleian Society seems to have succeeded the Adelphic in 1833 and is last mentioned in the University Heights Palisades handbook in 1942-43 and in the Violet yearbook in the 19th edition. It outlived the other literary society, the Philomathean, by some 50 years.
Literary societies were the major extracurricular activity of Jacksonian and mid-19th century colleges and universities. From its inception, the Eucleian Society was dedicated to furthering the literary arts. Every Friday afternoon, the members would assemble for one hour to hear debates between panels made up of members of the Society, who were assigned topics .* These debates were usually preceeded by readings of essays, orations, and poems. Annual and anniversary programs were also held. In addition to these intra-society activities, there were joint meetings with the Philomethean Society, with whom there was considerable rivalry. The first known joint meeting was held in 1835. Students were encouraged to join literary societies and participate in debating and oratory as part of their collegiate experience.
An early literary endeavor of the Eucleians was the establishment of their own library to supplement that of the University. Two lists of the Eucleian's library holdings are in this collection. The 177 item listing includes a copy of the Legacy of A. Ogden Butler for $2,500. The interest on this legacy appears to have been the financial base for the Society.
Shortly after its founding, the Society began printing orations and poems delivered by guest speakers at annual or anniversary meetings. The earliest known copy of such a publication is an 1835 address.
In the 20th century, the Eucleians sporadically published their own literary magazines. The Knickerbocker, described by its editors as "a small paper of a rather light character," appears only to have been issued twice, March 15, 1900 (vol. 1, no. 1) and Jan. 1901 (nos. 2 and 3). In 1913, the Eucleian Society launched The Medley, a humor magazine, at the University Heights campus. As of vol. 4 , no. 2 (Nov. 1916), reference to the Eucleian Society is dropped, publication apparently continued by the general student body. From 1926-28, the Eucleians sponsored The Geyser, another humor publication which seems to have lasted only for those few years. Copies of these publications and other Eucleian Society printed materials can be found in the New York University Archives (see attached list).
Sampling of Topics Discussed by the Eucleian Society, 1868 - 1872:
- Is the right of suffrage a natural one?
- Is total abstinence preferable to temperance? (Decision: Affirmative)
- Resolved that adultery is the only true way to cohabit.
- Resolved that marriage as a civil contract be abolished. (Decision: Negative)
- Resolved that the passage of the General Amnesty Bill would be beneficial
- to the American. people. (Decision: Affirmative)
- Should the United States render aid to Cuba in her present effort to attain independence? (Decision: Affirmative)
- Is poverty favorable to the development of literary men?
- Should the immigration of Chinese be encouraged? (Decision: Negative)
- Resolved that capital punishment should be abolished. (Decision: Negative)
- Resolved that humanity is naturally depraved. (Decision: Affirmative)
- Resolved that the spendthrift is more injurious to society than the miser.
- That the joining of New York and Brooklyn under one government be advantageous to both cities. (Decision: Affirmative)
- Should the capital of large moneyed corporations be limited by statute? (Decision: Negative)
- Ought "marks" and prizes to be abolished in our colleges? (Decision: Negative)
From Literary Appointments Book, 1868-73 (Box 9, 27v ), Records of the Eucleian Society.