First Edition of The Scroll


The first mention of a publication devoted to Phi Delta Theta was in 1865 by R. A. D. Willbanks. He proposed a quarterly journal comprised of 150 pages of literary material. He also wanted to charge enough to cover their expenses, $1 per year. Unfortunately, because the Fraternity only had six chapters at that time, the resources weren’t available for such a monumental project.

Within a week, two brothers wrote to C. B. Gaskill, Oglethorpe 1872, in April 1875, proposing the need for a fraternity periodical. V. C. Stiers, Ohio 1872, suggested that the Fraternity should start a “monthly paper at headquarters, expressly for the good of the Fraternity, each issue to contain a report from every chapter.” C. T. Jamison, Hanover 1875, also wrote to Gaskill with the idea of a fraternity pamphlet. He said he wanted “our Fraternity to be the first to issue a magazine.”

In the twenty-fifth year of the Fraternity, at the 1873 Convention in Athens, Ohio, the delegates voted to form a publication committee to plan the editing and publication of a monthly journal, to be paid for with subscriptions, advertisements, and donations. Then, at the 1874 Convention in Crawfordsville, Indiana, the delegates voted in favor of a monthly magazine, and the work of the first issue fell to the editorial board. Comprised of three members, recent Butler graduates Allen B. Thrasher, Samuel J. Tomlinson, and William Oscar Bates. Even though the initial publication prospectus named the new magazine Quarterly, Thrasher and Bates didn’t care for the name, and Bates proposed The Scroll.

Each editor had their department: Bates, fraternity department; Tomlinson, literary department; and Thrasher, alumni. The magazine was run this way for the first year, then Thrasher and Tomlinson left it to Bates as the sole editor.

The first issue of The Scroll appeared in January 1875. Bates began with a greeting, “The Phi Delta Theta Scroll speaks its cheery ‘good morning’ to the members of the Fraternity and their friends.” Even though the initial issues were a resounding success, the magazine nearly died in its second year due to a lack of funding. Members and alumni subscription costs were based on the honor system, and many weren’t paying.

At the July 1876 Convention, the motion to make subscriptions compulsory passed, but they didn’t provide a means to collect the $1.25 assessment. Bates couldn’t publish the September edition because he ran out of funds, and he left the role of editor after that. The magazine went dormant until after the 1878 Convention, when they again passed legislation making the subscription price mandatory. Bates went on to a successful career as a playwright and reporter in New York. George Banta, Indiana 1876, and Marshall F. Parrish, Ohio 1876, brought out the magazine again in September 1878, and the publication has been continuously in production.