When Adam Sorensen ’01 began researching past traditions for the Alumni Council’s Committee on Reunions (COR), he hoped to find a link to the deep history and customs of Princeton that he so admired.
An example of the original gold-mounted tiger claw, left, and the new Society of the Claw pin. (Photos courtesy Adam Sorensen ’01)
Sorensen, who has chaired the COR since fall 2008, was reading William Selden ’34’s book Going Back: The Uniqueness of Reunions and P-rades at Princeton University when he found just what he had in mind: the Society of the Claw, an organization tied to Reunions but lost over time.
Founded by the Class of 1894 around 1912, the Society of the Claw had a short but notable life. Members, who pledged to attend Reunions for one year, five years, or for their lifetimes, received a gold-mounted tiger’s claw (1,000 genuine tiger claws were imported from India) and certificate. Some high-profile honoraries (including Andrew Carnegie and Woodrow Wilson 1879) also were elected to the society for “rendering exceptional service to Princeton.”
Andrew Carnegie’s Society of the Claw certificate, dated April 2, 1912. (Courtesy Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)
But by 1926, the society apparently was forgotten. An article in the April 12, 1926, Daily Princetonian described University librarians as being “baffled” by the donation of a claw membership certificate. “All efforts to learn why and what is the Society of the Claw have so far been fruitless,” the article said.
Fast-forward to 2009 when the COR, to honor high-performing Reunions leaders and volunteers as well as other individuals who have contributed to Princeton in a significant way, revived the Society of the Claw. A society pin was designed (tiger claws no longer being cool) and a new membership certificate was created. During Reunions 2009 and 2010, 47 men and women — including all the members of the COR and President Tilghman — were inducted into the society.
On Reunions weekend the society will welcome its 2011 members at class dinners and other functions. Presidents of major-reunion classes from the 50th to 65th and the APGA helped the COR identify potential inductees.
Sorensen hopes the Society of the Claw will grow and someday have a Reunions event of its own.