Society History

Timeline of Notable Events

1831 – The Association for Mutual Improvement in the Art of Oratory is founded at the University of Virginia.

1835 – The Association for Mutual Improvement in the Art of Oratory merges with the Academics Society to form the Washington Literary Society and Debating Union in honor of George Washington.

1861 – With the coming of the Civil War, theWashington Society agrees to adjourn indefinitely, marking the start of the First or Minor Interregnum on April 20th.


1865 – With the end of the Civil War, university students William M. Perkins, A. Frederick Flee, John H. Lewis, and John S. Harsberger reestablish the Washington Society, becoming the First Refounders.

1896 – James A. Harrison, a professor of “Romance and Teutonic Languages” at the University of Virginia, establishes the Harrison Trophy to be contested for between theWashington and Jefferson Society on April 13th, Founders Day.

1929 – The stock market crash drives the society to suspend meetings until called back to order. Thus began the Second or Major Interregnum. The University soon after took control of Washington Hall and has not yet given it back.


1979 – Three members of the Jefferson Society, J. Mitchell Aberman, Stephen L. Huntoon, and Josiah (Josh) Hensen, reestablish the Washington Society with the help of Richard Nichols Randolph, who is initiated into theWashington Society over the phone by R.E. Heischmen. Randolph then alters the constitution to allow members from the Jefferson Society to join; Randolph inducts the other three, who become the Second Refounders.

1980 – Leslie Eliason, the first female president and fifth member, establishes or reestablishes most of the traditions that continue today, including Thursday meetings in Jeff Hall, debates with the Jefferson Society, and Field Day.


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