3. The Origins of the Club System
A hybrid of fraternity, social club, and dining hall, the eating clubs were a logical response to the University's historic reluctance to provide sufficient dining facilities for its students, especially following the fire of 1855. By the 1870s, most of the undergraduates made their own dining arrangements in town, and an increasingly popular solution was for several classmates to join in establishing small, informal dining societies.
Because class loyalties were so strong in this period, most of these dining societies were composed of members of the same graduating class. The eating clubs arose when these associations became transformed into more permanent, self- perpetuating organizations, with underclassmen invited to take the places of members of the graduating class. Ivy Club , incorporated in 1879, was the first to adopt this practice.
Ivy Club circa 1890
Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds \& Buildings, Box 34
Cottage Club in 1895
Source: Bric-a-Brac, 1895, p.190
Tiger Inn after 1895
Source: Princeton University Archives, Mudd Library, Grounds & Buildings, Box 66