Commons club

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A commons club is a type of social organization whose membership is "open" rather than selective based on personal introduction and invitation. It may also refer to the lodge or other meeting facility associated with such a club and used for its activities. Usually, commons club refers to a type of men's social organization which flourished at institutions of higher education in North America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Commons Clubs both emulated and differentiated themselves from fraternities and other competing social institutions. They provided a social network, but membership was usually open to anyone interested in joining. The resources of a large organization could be put to sponsoring events and activities, as well as providing dining and housing, beyond the means of an individual student. Commons Clubs over time came to identify their chief ideals as Democracy, Service, and Brotherhood, but did not enforce them through secret oaths or rituals.


Greek-letter literary and philosophical societies, starting with Phi Beta Kappa (est. 1779), rose at American universities as an outlet for students frustrated with the traditional curriculum centered on the classics. Some early organizations to use the phrase "commons club" were of this type, their name referring to the democracy and debates of the British House of Commons. In the mid-19th century, general or "social" fraternities supplanted the literary...
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