The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society was founded on July 14, 1825, by sixteen disgruntled members of the now-defunct Patrick Henry Society in Room 7, West Lawn.

The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society requires its probationary members to memorize the statement above, referred to as “the History of the Hall.” The history of the Jefferson Society, in perpetual existence since 1825, is much more than a “one liner.” Please feel free to contact Mr. Kelly O’Meara, the Society’s current Historian for more information. Additionally, the Jefferson Society Archives are available for review and research online.

Below are more detailed accounts of the Society’s history:

A Summary of the History of the Hall

History of the Jefferson Society – 1825-1957 by Mr. John M. Moore (CLAS 1959) – (Word format)

A Rowdy Beginning, An Unusual History: The Jefferson Society From 1825 to 1865 by Mr. James M. Goode (GSAS 1966) – (Word format)

A History of the Jefferson Society of the University of Virginia by Mr. Michael E. Ranneberger (GSAS 1973) – (Word format)

An Historical Sketch of the Jefferson Society of the University of Virginia(a.k.a. Saur’s History) by Mr. Karl W. Saur (CLAS 1983) – (Word format)

Hotel C, West Range, University of Virginia (abridged) by Messrs. Jerry Carrier and Michael Stewart, under the direction of Prof. K. Edward Lay – (Word format – unabridged)

Selections from our Archives

  • Officers, Committee Chairs & Recognition Recipients List
    Officers By Name | Officers by Year | Award Recipients and Debaters by Year
    One of the ongoing projects of the Historical Committee is the collection of information regarding officers, committee chairs and recognition recipients. The online data will be updated as we continue our research.
  • Moomaw Oratorical Contest – Winners Since 1948
    Established in 1948 through the generosity of Mr. Benjamin C. Moomaw (MED 1899), the Society annually hosts the Oratorical Contest. Traditionally held in the Spring, the Contest recognizes the best speaker at the University and awards him or her a $600 scholarship. You can learn more here.
  • Medal from 1857 – Front | Back | Source
    Scans of a medal awarded by the society. Images come from Mr. John M. Sallay, a private collector of American medals. Medals were given on various occasions including at the annual contest for the “Best Debater at the University.” Mr. Sallay currently owns two such “award medals.” Another resides with the University of Virginia’s Special Collections Department in the library
  • Invitation from 1877- Press Release
    Scans of the invitation which marked a final celebration of The Jefferson Literary Society on Tuesday, June 26th 1877 at 8:30 P.M.
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