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Mercer Literary Society records

 Collection 0058-UA
The Mercer Literary Society, one of the Maryland Agricultural College's earliest student organizations, was founded in 1861 by Dr. William N. Mercer of Louisiana. Open to any individual in good standing with the college, students joined the society to pursue intellectual pursuits that were not addressed in the rigid course work of the nineteenth century. At the Mercer Literary Society meetings, members developed oratory skills and listed to speakers debate the major issues of the day. The society also maintained a library known to be superior to that of the Maryland Agricultural College itself. The original society was reconfigured several times during its existence, ultimately becoming the New Mercer Literary Society in 1896. The Mercer Literary Society records consist of minutes, membership lists, and a constitution for the New Mercer Literary Society. The bound volumes also include copies of the Journal of the New Mercer Literary Society.

Dates

  • 1864-1900

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research.

Duplication and Copyright Information

Photocopies of original materials may be provided for a fee and at the discretion of the curator. Please see our Duplication of Materials policy for more information. Queries regarding publication rights and copyright status of materials within this collection should be directed to the appropriate curator.

Extent

1.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The Mercer Literary Society records span the period 1864 to 1900 and document the activities and intellectual pursuits of one of the Maryland Agricultural College's earliest student organizations. The collection contains the minutes of the society, which chronicle the topics of debates, as well as the society's administrative business. The minutes also include membership listings and a copy of the New Mercer Literary Society constitution. Also included in the records are the copies of the "Journal of the New Mercer Literary Society."

Administrative History

The Mercer Literary Society, one of the Maryland Agricultural College's (MAC) earliest student organizations, was founded in 1861 by Dr. William N. Mercer of Louisiana; Mercer, an honorary member of the Board of Trustees, donated valuable books and financial resources to the society. Open to any individual in good standing with the college, students joined the society to pursue intellectual pursuits that were not addressed in the rigid course work of the nineteenth century. At the Mercer Literary Society meetings, members developed oratory skills and listened to speakers debate the major issues of the day. The library of the Mercer Society was well known and actually outnumbered in volume that of the college. The society took part in lively annual debates with the Calvert Fraternity, another early student group, and, subsequently, the Morrill Literary Society and the Poe Literary Society.

After initially enjoying a membership of nearly two-thirds of the student body, enrollment fell so low that, in 1888, the society disbanded. After a four-year hiatus, the society reorganized as the New Mercer Literary Society. In the same year, the group began publication of the Journal of the New Mercer Literary Society, to provide entertainment and intellectual stimulation. The society was reconfigured again between 1894 and 1896, first into the House of Commons, modeled after the British House of Commons, and then into the MAC Congress. In 1896, the society once again named itself the New Mercer Literary Society and resumed regular meetings. Members of the society often won an annual debate sponsored by the Alumni Association. The New Mercer Literary Society remained active into the 1930s.

Arrangement

The records of the Mercer Literary Society have been divided into two series.
Series 1
Minutes
Series 2
Publications

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Mercer Literary Society records were transferred to the University of Maryland Libraries from the Office of the Chancellor, University of Maryland System, in March 1994.

Related Material

Additional information related to the New Mercer Literary society can be found in student yearbooks. The Records of the Calvert Fraternity, a related student organization, are located within the William B. Sands papers.

Processing Information

The Mercer Literary Society records were placed in acid-free folders and boxes.
Title
Guide to the Mercer Literary Society records
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by James Fort.
Date
1998-04-01
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

Contact:
University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742
301-405-9212