Sometime during 1899, or possibly earlier, the idea of a "literary" society began to interest at least three students. Christian Gauss was thinking of an "Omar Khayyam Club." Harold M. Bowman argued for the "Skull and Bones" plan. Clarence B. Morrill wanted something that would bring together those of intellectual interests who might not otherwise find each other in the crowd. Gauss graduated in 1899, to become Instructor in French; the other two were seniors in 1900. Quite likely others were concerned.
An early spring day of 1900 found Gauss and Morrill on the grass in front of the old Library. The subject returned, and Morrill proposed that something be started. They hunted up Bowman in the Library. Forthwith, Quadrangle was born. A second meeting soon was arranged, and shortly Corwin, president of the Senior Class, Slaughter, Assistant in Philosophy, McInnis, Assistant in English, and possibly others, were added.
Before further action, Wenley was called in, and soon he was entertaining eight founders of Quadrangle in his home. He contributed a good deal to the organization. Before coming to Michigan in 1896 Wenley had already been a member of a club of this type at the University of Glasgow, where he had been "University medallist in Philosophy and Theology, Fellow, 1884. President of the Students' Representative Council, President Page 1939of the Union, President of the Liberal Club, President of the Philosophical Society, Glasgow."
Under the title "Academic Tensions" Wenley's contribution to "The Quadrangle Book" gives, in delightful style, what is perhaps the only record of his knowledge and experience of university clubs. He tells how a number of students at Oxford rather spontaneously organized Old Mortality about 1860, naming their club after Scott's eccentric tombstone-carving character. A little later, when Glasgow was rising to her heights, the Old Mortality idea was adopted, and Glasgow's Witenagemot club came into being.
The 1900 Michiganensian prints the first list of members of the Quadrangle Club: Dons — Robert M. Wenley, George Rebec, and Benjamin P. Bourland. Members — Benjamin P. Bourland, Harold M. Bowman, Ira A. Campbell, Edward S. Corwin, Arthur L. Cross, Frank D. Eaman, Christian F. Gauss, Evans Holbrook, Edward C. Marsh, Lewis W. McCandless, Norman K. McInnis, Clarence B. Morrill, Harlow S. Person, George Rebec, Thomas L. Robinson, William D. Russell, Frederick B. Shoaff, Frank S. Simons, John W. Slaughter, James S. Symons, Harry I. Weinstein, and Lafayette Young.
In his "Academic Tensions" Wenley, to "help Quadrangle to become more conscious of itself," quoted from something a member of the Old Mortality Club had written: "By some of the members of the society its meetings are remembered as the very salt of their university life. The free discussion of everything in heaven or earth, the fresh enjoyment of intellectual sympathy, the fearless intercommunication of spirits, the youthful faith that the key of truth lies very near to our hands, gave a unique zest and charm to those meetings of students with students, before the inevitable parting of the ways of manhood has come." Wenley conferred on Quadrangle the privilege of "free discussion of everything in heaven or earth." Such discussion he had enjoyed as a student. And the quotation he gives speaks of "students with students" — hence, a liberal club for students.
As Holbrook pointed out, two of the faculty founders, Wenley and Rebec, were in philosophy, one, Bourland, in Romance languages. This gives the clue to the club's principal interests in early years — literature and philosophy. But change is inevitable. Fred N. Scott put his stamp on the club's trend of interest during the early period. Scott's effect was literary, of course, and one imagines there was less philosophy and more literature while he was active. It is safe to guess that Charles H. Cooley opened the door to let a little sociology trickle in. One does not need to guess about David Friday; economics would have a fair share of attention after 1908, if he and Henry C. Adams were to be kept interested. And if political science had been neglected up to 1910, Jesse Reeves appeared about then to set matters straight. History probably had naturally been given a fair deal; at any rate, it never languished for want of support after Claude Van Tyne's or U. B. Phillips' advent.
If the preceding paragraph seems to indicate faculty domination to the exclusion of proper mention of student interests and activities, it probably stands for a true picture. The faculty stayed on year after year; they are known, they are remembered, they have left their imprint. The students came and were soon gone, unless they could get nothing else to do and had to join the faculty. Moreover, from the very beginning, faculty members were handed a large share of control, to make sure of the election of none but high-standing students. However, Page 1940Quadrangle was a students' club, following Skull and Bones to the extent of electing fifteen students each year. And now, quoting from a letter from a founder, Clarence Morrill:
Membership is perpetual.… Consequently, our meetings along about 1906-8, when I last saw Quadrangle, were attended by many members of the faculty. This, however, I do not think repressed the baker's dozen of undergraduates, because of the character of our meetings. After a desultory dropping-in period, order was called by the Provost and a paper or brief lecture was presented by some member, usually a youngster, most often a graduate student. Once in a while we had wonderful talks from men like Scott, Wenley, McLaughlin, Cooley. Rebec was also an unfailing fount of ideas in conversation.
After the supper a discussion followed which, at first, was general and followed the subject; but it inevitably wandered away and broke the meeting into little groups. It was in these group conversations that the wonderful intimacies between celebrated professors and callow undergraduates sprang up which gave Quadrangle its remarkable character, and which counteracted the tendency of mere numbers to swamp the individual in a university. Late in the evening a diversion occurred. Coffee, chocolate and buttered buns came up from Tuttle's — the real Tuttle's — and this broke up the little groups, which usually reassembled again. Then the older men went home to bed, while the youngsters wrangled over philosophical niceties into the wee hours.
Thus, even by 1908, Quadrangle was largely a faculty club, but the attendance was predominantly of undergraduates and instructors. Students have always been elected, with a minimum of perhaps ten in any one year; latterly, the number has exceeded fifteen a year. Also, the society began with philosophical and literary interests — so much so that each member, on contributing a paper, did his best to turn writer or philosopher at least for a night, no matter what his calling. But inevitably, the introduction of strong personalities has swung Quadrangle's attention through a wide range of human interests, even as "Old Mortality discussed everything in heaven or earth."
Early meetings were held in the Chi Psi house on Huron Street, also in a room over one of the State Street stores. For several years quarters were in the Groves Building at the corner of State and Liberty streets. About 1906 a move was made to the top floor of the Calkins Drug Store building on State Street, from which outlook Quadrangle frequently viewed the campus until 1920. The Union took care of matters for another two years. Thereafter, meetings were held at the homes of various faculty members until, in the 1930's, the club settled down in quarters assigned to it in the Michigan Union.
The Quadrangle Book mentioned above is a 1914 publication of contributions to "Q" — a private edition of 150 copies, one copy being kept in the University Library. "Q" occurred at the end of the evening, following refreshments, when contributions, which are anonymous, were read. In any one year there has been poetry of both kinds — good and bad — satire, wit, serious and hard thrusts at whatever may seem to the author to need bashing, humorous essays, and so on. Each year, on the average, the bound, typed manuscripts of "Q" have amounted to a fair-sized book. Many a now-famous personage has left his silliness at least partly behind by giving vent to it in "Q."
The conservative element on the campus in times past cast a wary eye at Quadrangle. At one time a Quadrangler incautiously recommended a man for a teaching position by saying he was a former provost of the club; it immediately developed that no good had been achieved, and there was considerable Page 1941defending to do. And how things — and men — can change! Wenley, the liberal who was a founding member, was met one day by a member on Wenley's return to the campus after World War I. The member wished to know if Wenley would be attending meetings. Not he. "That place," replied the philosopher, "is overrun with too many radicals."