Skull and Bones is an undergraduate senior secret society at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. It is the oldest senior class landed society at Yale, the societys alumni organization, the Russell Trust Association, owns the societys real estate and oversees the organization. The society is known informally as Bones, and members are known as Bonesmen, Skull and Bones was founded in 1832 after a dispute among Yale debating societies Linonia, Brothers in Unity, and the Calliopean Society over that seasons Phi Beta Kappa awards. William Huntington Russell and Alphonso Taft co-founded the Order of the Scull, the societys assets are managed by the societys alumni organization, the Russell Trust Association, incorporated in 1856 and named after the Bones co-founder. The association was founded by Russell and Daniel Coit Gilman, a Skull, Skull and Bones selects new members among students every spring as part of Yale Universitys Tap Day, and has done so since 1879. Since the societys inclusion of women in the early 1990s, Skull, Skull and Bones taps those that it views as campus leaders and other notable figures for its membership. The Skull and Bones Hall is otherwise known as the Tomb, the building was built in three phases, the first wing was built in 1856, the second wing in 1903, and Davis-designed Neo-Gothic towers were added to the rear garden in 1912. The front and side facades are of Portland brownstone in an Egypto-Doric style, the 1912 tower additions created a small enclosed courtyard in the rear of the building, designed by Evarts Tracy and Edgerton Swartwout of Tracy and Swartwout, New York. Evarts Tracy was a 1890 Bonesman, and his grandmother, Martha Sherman Evarts, and maternal grandmother, Mary Evarts, were the sisters of William Maxwell Evarts. The architect was possibly Alexander Jackson Davis or Henry Austin, architectural historian Patrick Pinnell includes an in-depth discussion of the dispute over the identity of the original architect in his 1999 Yale campus history. Pinnell also discusses the Tombs aesthetic place in relation to its neighbors, in the late 1990s, New Hampshire landscape architects Saucier and Flynn designed the wrought iron fence that surrounds a portion of the complex. The society owns and manages Deer Island, a retreat on the St. Lawrence River. Alexandra Robbins, author of a book on Yale secret societies, wrote, The forty-acre retreat is intended to give Bonesmen an opportunity to get together, a century ago the island sported tennis courts and its softball fields were surrounded by rhubarb plants and gooseberry bushes. But although each new Skull and Bones member still visits Deer Island, now it is just a bunch of burned-out stone buildings, a patriarch sighs. Another Bonesman says that to call the island rustic would be to glorify it and its a dump, but its beautiful. Skull and Boness membership developed a reputation in association with the Power Elite, like other Yale senior societies, Skull and Bones membership was almost exclusively limited to white Protestant males for much of its history. While Yale itself had exclusionary policies directed at particular ethnic and religious groups, while some Catholics were able to join such groups, Jews were more often not. Some of these groups eventually entered Skull and Bones by means of sports
Image: Bones logo
The tomb before the addition of a second wing
A 2009 view of the tomb from across High Street
Yearbook listing of Skull and Bones membership for 1920. The 1920 delegation included co-founders of Time magazine, Briton Hadden and Henry Luce.