Here is to the Mag Society,
The best in all the school.
May it always be blest with prosperity
And follow the Golden Rule.
Is there an Em who would not fight,
For higher things and all that's right,
And mind and hand always plight
To our beloved Society?

The Magnoperian and Emerson Literary Societies

The Magnoperian and Ralph Waldo Emerson Literary Societies were organized in the spring of 1903 by Cottey professor John Stockard.5 The 1904-05 Cottey catalogue described them as groups who participated in "readings, debates, original stories, and voice and piano selections."3 The societies eventually became school houses into which every student was randomly sorted at Formal Drawing in the fall (unless she was a legacy).

The societies quickly developed a staunch but playful rivalry within academics, community projects, sports, and pranks. The Mags and Ems often raised funds for the school, and by this method were able to furnish the parlors and begin the "Memorial Library."4 They also arranged many social activities, including sports tournaments, stunt shows, and parties. One such event took place on October 17, 1914, when the Ems entertained the Mags with a "Hard Times Party," which included "Doughnuts, races, costumes and cider."5 They also took turns hosting the traditional Sunday coffee hours in Main Hall and P.E.O. Hall.

Society events differed from year to year, though. In 1938 the Ems organized a Valentine's Day party, the Mags took charge of a St. Patrick's Day dinner, and both groups planned a Spring Formal.6 Nine years later, the Mags and Ems together hosted Thanksgiving dinner, George Washington dinner, Christmas Formal dinner, and a Spring Formal.8 Social affairs were further expanded with the addition of two more societies in 1951.

Formal Drawing, 1951
A student accepts her rose during Formal Drawing, 1951.11
Delphian pep rally, 1958
Delphians prepare for a pep rally before the Thanksgiving hockey game, 1958.9
Emerson soccer game, c. 1976
Emersons play in a society soccer match, c. 1976.12

Addition of the Alphians & Delphians

By 1951, Cottey's student body had grown enough to warrant the addition of two new societies: the Alphians and the Delphians. Having four groups allowed for more competition while keeping the societies small and personal. Cottey's intramural sports included tennis, basketball, baseball, volleyball, soccer, and swimming. Sunday coffee hours and certain holiday dinners continued to be society-hosted.

Society activities changed with the times. During the 1958-59 school year, the Mags and Alphs sponsored a Hawaiian Luau where everyone sat on the floor to eat traditional Polynesian food.9 In the spring, the Ems and Delphs organized a Style Show of clothes sewn and modeled by students. The final social event of the year was the Spring Formal, which was hosted by the juniors of each society.

There were far more society happenings in 1964-65. The first event after Formal Drawing was the society breakfast, which built up spirit and marked the beginning of the society games.2 This included "Open Season" during the week before Thanksgiving, when "Each society, while guarding its own property, takes that belonging to the others, not returning it until just before the hockey game."2

Today, the four societies compete throughout the year for the "Spirit Stick." At Formal Drawing, ribbons have replaced the traditional red rose, and a cheering contest is the first of the society games. Other activities include softball and capture-the-flag tournaments.

Coffee hour, c. 1959
"Barbara Paulsen, Magnoperian President, and Victorine Perkins, Delphian President, hostess over a Sunday coffee hour. Carol Tower serves coffee to Jane Fowler and Lynn Frady," 1959.9
A society activity, c. 1964
A society activity at BIL Lodge, c. 1964.13
Alphans at the society breakfast, 1964
"Mary Fulk, Ann Schalliol, and Bobbie Williams toast the Alphs at the society breakfast," 1964.2

The Big Thanksgiving Game

Almost since their inception, the societies have competed in sports tournaments. The most important of these tournaments was the annual Thanksgiving Day playoff. In the early years, this was the day of the big basketball game between the Mags and Ems. The 1915 Sphinx fervently describes how the students prepared for the event that year:

     Instead of the excitement beginning on the day of the game, preparations were being made by the Ems the night before―such small matters as painting the old barn red and white, getting the sign on the street car, etc. But the real excitement began about two in the morning when the Ems got up, slipped out, and with great difficult erected a rooters' stand. They got in about five, and alarms were heard all over the building. Those who were not fortunate enough to have alarm clocks were awakened by the yelling of the girls from both societies, each seeing if they could outdo the other.
     All became silent as Miss Boddie's melodious voice was heard in the hall commanding them not to take the roof off in their excitement.
     When the Ems came up from breakfast they were surprised to see that the Mags, instead of breakfasting, had occupied their time in substituting green paint for white and putting Mag signs were the Ems had worked the night before. The Ems were not slow in bringing their little can of white paint and were soon busy with the brushes.
     In the afternoon a great crowd was assembled on the ball field and shouts and cheers went up as the teams went out on the field. The game of the first team was very exciting, good work being done by both sides. The score of the first game was 18 to 13 in favor of the Magnoperians. The Emersons came out victorious in the second game, the score being 26 to 12.

By the 1930s, the basketball game was moved to Founder's Day, and Thanksgiving became the date of the field hockey tournament. In 1944 the Mags and Ems were up bright and early to compete for the hockey title.10 They began at 9:00am after the "pep squads" had finished decorating the goals in society colors. After an Emerson victory, "both teams gathered in Main Hall parlors to go to brunch together and to enjoy this Thanksgiving Day in the free American way."10 After the addition of the Alphs and Delphs in 1951, the four society teams played hockey throughout the fall, and the top two teams took part in the Thanksgiving championship.9

Thanksgiving field hockey game, 1951
"On Thanksgiving Day a hard game is fought to determine the new hockey champs," 1951.11
Thanksgiving field hockey game, 1958
"The climax of the 1958 hockey season came on Thanksgiving Day when the Magnoperian Society won the championship from the Alphian Society," 1958.9
Onlookers at a society game, c. 1964
Onlookers at a society game, c. 1964.13



  Established: 1902   Established: 1902
  Colors: Green and white   Colors: Red and white
  Mascots: Magnum the Kangaroo,
Pierre the Walrus
  Mascot: Drum,
Maudy the Monster
  Day: St. Patrick's Day   Day: Valentine's Day
The meaning of "Magnoperian" is somewhat disputed. The 1915 Sphinx stated it meant "great work," while the 1965 Sphinx defined it as stimulating and promoting literary interest.2



  Established: 1951   Established: 1951
  Colors: Purple and white   Colors: Yellow and brown
  Mascot: Alfalfa the Elf   Mascot: Delph Spirit,
  Day: May Day   Day: Thanksgiving Day
The original spelling of "Alphian" was changed to "Alphan" in 1961.2

More Photos

  Formal Drawing Magnoperians Emersons Alphans Delphians  
Formal Drawing
Formal Drawing, 1964
"Two juniors, Lorene Hyde and Paula Jelinek, rush forward excitedly to receive a welcome from their new society presidents," 1964.2
Juniors accept their roses, 1964
"Linda Starr receives the customary welcome, symbolized by the handshake and red rose, from her new society president," 1964.2
Formal drawing for societies, c. 1973
Luanne Meier welcomes Sarah Rich to the Mags at Formal Drawing, 1973.7
Magnoperian officers, 1964
Mag officers and cheerleaders with Magnum the Kangaroo, 1964.13
Magnoperian cheerleaders raise spirits at a game, c. 1964
Mag cheerleaders raise spirits at a game, c. 1964.13
Magnoperian officers, 1976
Mag officers with Pierre the Walrus, 1976.12
Emerson field hockey team, 1947
Emerson field hockey team, 1947.1
Beating the Emerson drum at society breakfast, 1964
"Joanne Applegarth beats the Em drum at the society breakfast," 1964.2
Emerson officers, 1976
Em officers with their monstrous mascot, Maudy,1976.12
Alphan officers, 1965
Alph officers with Alfalfa the Elf, 1965.2
World Alph Day, c. 1965
World Alph Day, 1965.2
Alph cheerleaders, 1966
Alph cheerleaders with Alfalfa the Elf, 1966.14
New Delphians watch Formal Drawing, 1964
New Delphs watch Formal Drawing continue, 1964.2
Delphs sign, c. 1964
Delphs sign, c. 1964.13
Delph Spirit, c. 1966
The Delph Spirit makes an appearance at a society game, c. 1966.14

Works Cited:

  1. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1947. Print.
  2. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1965. Print.
  3. Stockard, Orpha. Cottey College: The First 75 Years. Joplin, MO: Joplin Printing Co., 1961. Print.
  4. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  5. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1915. Print.
  6. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1938. Print.
  7. "Cottey Capsules." The P.E.O. Record. Apr. 1974: 8-9. Print.
  8. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1949. Print.
  9. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1959. Print.
  10. Shipley, Jean. "Mag-Em Hockey Game." Cottey College Bulletin. Mar. 1945. Print.
  11. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1952. Print.
  12. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1976. Print.
  13. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1964. Print.
  14. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1966. Print.
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