Zelosophic Society

History | Debates | Publications | Member | Conclusion


Courtesy of the Penn Archives

The Zelosophic Society is a student literary society that was founded at the University of Pennsylvania in 1829. The files of the Zelosophic Society included information about their founders.

Penn student researchers used the Zelosophic Society files to explore the following questions: 

  • What was student life like in the early to mid-19th century?
  • What kind of discussions were students having around race and slavery? 
  • Who were these students?  


Knowledge and literary societies were some of the first student clubs on college campuses, and were integral to student life in the 19th century. The Philomathean Society (1813) and the Zelosophic Society (1829) were at the center of intellectual life at the University of Pennsylvania. At a time when classes were mostly lecture-based, these knowledge and debate societies gave students a space to share their own opinions and ideas. The skills and knowledge that these young men gained as members of the societies served them well in their later careers. Participating in these societies gave young men the tools they needed to pursue jobs in politics, law, business, and other prominent professions. Click on the student papers linked below to learn more about student life at Penn in the 19th century, and how students debated and thought about issues related to slavery.    

~ Hayle Meyerhoff