Philomathean Furnishings

The President's chair (right) and the second Alpha Chapter chair (left) are currently on display in the Phi Mu Museum.

President’s Chair: Two pieces of furniture from Alpha Chapter are still known to exist. The most imposing is an armchair of dark, heavily carved mahogany. It has come to be known as the “Alpha chair.”

With its handsome carved back, the Alpha chair is an unforgettable piece of furniture, and the fact that for countless years presidents of the Philomathean Society and Alpha Chapter sat upon that chair to preside at meetings sets it apart as very special. Nellie Hart Prince, Delta, who was Phi Mu’s second National President, recalled a special thrill in seeing the Philomathean Hall and its impressive furniture on a visit to the chapter at Wesleyan. She wrote:

“Returning to Macon as National President, I had the truly exquisite pleasure and the unequaled high privilege of sitting in the president’s arm chair, behind the president’s table and wielding the silver gavel of authority.”

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President’s Chair

The Chi Chapter at the University of Missouri purchased the president’s chair and table when Alpha Chapter was closed in 1914. At Chi Chapter, it was traditional that no pledge ever sat in the Alpha chair. There was no sign on it saying “pledges beware” or “pledges do not sit here,” but the chair itself seemed to be a warning.

Wesleyan and the Philomatheans “Needless to say,” the chapter wrote in The Aglaia in the 1930s, “it is the desire of every pledge to sit in this chair, so that it has become almost a part of Initiation for the new actives to take their turn sitting in the Alpha chair.”

When the Chi Chapter was closed in 1943, the chair was shipped to Phi Mu’s Executive Office. The chair is currently on display in the Phi Mu Museum.

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Second Alpha Chair

A Second Alpha Chair: Iota Sigma Chapter’s shipment of Alpha’s furnishings also included at least one chair. It is an armless chair of dark wood with a fiddle-shaped back and claw-and-ball feet. The ornate carving on the back is of griffins.

When Iota Sigma closed, Jessie Taber, Iota Sigma, who had been National Secretary in 1923-25, took the chair for safekeeping. She later gave it to Eta Theta Chapter at San Jose State University. With the closing of Eta Theta, Claudia Mauzy Nemir, Eta Alpha, took the chair to Eta Alpha in Berkeley until 1971. It then found a safe haven in Claudia’s home, back to Eta Alpha and was eventually presented to Phi Mu Foundation for placement in the Heritage Room.

“Now the chair is close to its origins,” she observed.

The chair is currently on display in the Phi Mu Museum.

Alpha Gavel: Among the items offered to chapters were the gavels that had been used by Alpha Chapter presidents.  The best of the Alpha gavels was bequeathed to Beta Chapter. But in 1928, Beta Chapter was forced to leave the Hollins campus when fraternities there were banned. At the closing banquet of the following National Convention (1931), the prized gavel was presented to Delta Chapter. (Gamma, the third chapter in line, had been active only three years, 1906-09.)

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President’s Chair

Today, this Alpha gavel is carefully transported to each National Convention site for the use of the presiding National President. Thus a physical part of Alpha Chapter is present each time Phi Mus convene in their national assembly.

The gavel is currently on display in the Phi Mu Museum.

Source: Lamb, Annadell. C. The History of Phi Mu: The First 150 Years. The Grace Group, 2002. Print