From Mug and Jug to ISWZA

This short history on the early history of the Iswza Society has been a frequent item in the Omicron Oracle.

Ithaca in the nineteen hundreds was quite different from the present seat of Cornell. There were few automobiles, no motion pictures, and co-eds were severely frowned upon. Perhaps as a result of these factors, college spirit was very strong; class rushes and banquets, football games, and every event of interest to the University in general, received most enthusiastic, and often boisterous support.

As might be expected, manifestations of joy knew no bounds on the evening of the Princeton game in 1907, incidentally the last for may years. Cornell had won the game by a considerable score. [1] The student body and alumni staged a combined parade through the town. Tiring of this they drifted into various tap rooms for refreshment….

One group composed of mostly seniors began talking… Two of them had been in the habit of rooming together. They recalled a fruitless attempt to evade the sophomores before their freshman banquet. [2] Several had taken part in a German play. [3] Several had occasionally met during the four years for a sociable stein of beer. Before the evening was over the group agreed to meet weekly; an informal organization and ritual grew up. Outsiders were quick to dub the new club such names as “Mug and Jug” or “Keg and Leg”… hardly suitable, so the name ISWZA was adopted, composed of the initial letters of the son decorating the master stein which held the evening supply of beer…. [4]

By spring a substantial organization existed and a badge had been designed. The pledge pin was a pentagon bearing the turtle design which adorned the lid of the master stein. The seven original members, Otto Brandt. Jr, L.M. Brockway, C.J. Hunn, F.K. Pearce, N.D. Preston, A.U. Wetherbee, and E.J.C. Fischer… found the associations of this club so enjoyable that they sought to perpetuate it. Accordingly the following men were admitted to membership: G.P. Brockway, F.J. Grant, B. Kelley, E.W. Nicholoy, and W.M. Sutton.

In the fall of 1908 the remaining members roomed near together to facilitate the activities of the society…. Rapid growth continued. In 1913 a house on Stewart Avenue was purchased…. [T]he ISWZA society had become a permanent and strong local fraternity. The advantages of membership in a national organization became apparent at this stage. Lambda Chi Alpha at the same time was seeking to establish a chapter at Cornell. Joseph A. Carr, later killed in action in the World War, was in communication with Albert Cross of Epsilon Zeta, Pennsylvania; soon negotiations were under way…

Notes

  1. The score of the October 1907 Cornell-Princeton game, the last until 1927, ended with the (now-) odd score of 6-5. It was the closeness of the game that was considerable. [back]
  2. See also “The Famous Freshman Melee”, from the Cross and Crescent. [back]
  3. Otto Brandt, Jr. and Ernst J.C. Fischer were both active in the popular German-language theatrical group Deutscher Verein. [back]
  4. The ISWZA engraved on the mug is an initialism of “Im schwarzen Walfisch zu Askalon,” a kniepe song set to the traditional tune “Es war einmal ein Zimmergesell” whose lyrics are attributed to Josef Viktor von Scheffel, 1854. The song is not currently sung by the fraternity. [back]