From Mug and Jug to ISWZA

Omicron Oracle
May 31, 1935

This short history of the formation of Mug and Jug and the early ISWZA Society was first published in the June 1935 issue of the Omicron Oracle and has been a popular item for reprinting since.

Ithaca in the nineteen hundreds was quite different from the present seat of Cornell. There were few automobiles, no motion pictures, and co-eds were severely frowned upon. Perhaps as a result of these factors, college spirit was very strong; class rushes and banquets, football games, and every event of interest to the University in general, received most enthusiastic, and often boisterous support.

As might be expected, manifestations of joy knew no bounds on the evening of the Princeton game in 1907, incidentally the last for many years. Cornell had won the game by a considerable score. [1] The student body and alumni staged a combined parade through the town. Tiring of this they drifted into various tap rooms for refreshment and conversation.

One group composed of mostly seniors began talking over undergraduate experiences. Two of them had been in the habit of rooming together. They recalled a fruitless attempt to evade the sophomores before their freshman banquet. [2] Several had taken part in a German play.[3] Several had occasionally met during the four years for a sociable stein of beer. Before the evening was over the group agreed to meet weekly; an informal organization and ritual grew up. Outsiders were quick to dub the new club such names as “Mug and Jug” or “Keg and Leg.” These titles seemed hardly suitable so the name ISWZA was adopted, composed of the initial letters of the song decorating the master stein which held the evening supply of beer: “Im Schwarzen Wallfisch Zu Ascalon.” The “Black Whale” on the road to Ascalon. [4]

By spring a substantial organization existed and a badge had been designed. The pledge pin was a pentagon bearing the turtle design which adorned the lid of the master stein. The seven original members, Otto Brandt. Jr, L.M. Brockway, C.J. Hunn, F.K. Pearce, N.D. Preston, A.U. Wetherbee, and E.J.C. Fischer, six of whom were to graduate in June, found the associations of this club so enjoyable that they sought to perpetuate it. Accordingly the following men were admitted to membership: G.P. Brockway, F.J. Grant, B. Kelley, E.W. Nicholoy, and W.M. Sutton.

In the fall of 1908 the remaining members roomed near together to facilitate the activities of the society. In 1909 a house was rented and more men were initiated into the traditions of the ISWZA. Rapid growth continued. In 1913 a house on Stewart Avenue was purchased. By this time the ISWZA society had become a permanent and strong local fraternity. The advantages of membership in a national organization became apparent at this stage. Lambda Chi Alpha at the same time was seeking to establish a chapter at Cornell. Joseph A. Carr, later killed in action in the World War, was in communication with Albert Cross of Epsilon Zeta, Pennsylvania; soon negotiations were under way which were concluded by the chartering of Omicron Zeta at Cornell on October 11, 1913. Initiation of ISWZA members and pledges took place at this date with the assistance of brothers from the previously established chapters at Amherst, Penn State. and M. I. T.

ISWZA, however, has not ceased to exist. Its traditions will always be a part of the traditions of Omicron Zeta. In a practical sense its serves as the alumni holding corporation. which owns the chapter house, thereby protecting the active members from unexpected losses should unforseen difficulties arise. The loyalty of the members of this organization can not be too greatly appreciated — their cooperation plays an important part in the success of Omicron. Their interest and aid in the growth of the academic chapter are invaluable. When Lambda Chi Alpha outgrew its first lodge in 1920, the present house at 125 Edgemoor Lane was purchased, and improvement and remodeling have been carried on since then with the help of the alumni. Let us hope that the splendid spirit shown by the ISWZA alumni will spread to all the other members of Omicron Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha.


  1. The October 1907 Cornell-Princeton game, the last until 1927, ended with the score of 6-5. It was the closeness of the game that was considerable. [back]
  2. See also “The Famous Freshman Melee”, from the Cross and Crescent. [back]
  3. Otto Brandt, Jr. and Ernst J.C. Fischer were both active in the popular German-language group Deutscher Verein. [back]
  4. The ISWZA engraved on the mug is an initialism of “Im schwarzen Walfisch zu Ascalon,” a kniepe song set to the traditional tune “Es war einmal ein Zimmergesell” whose lyrics are attributed to Josef Viktor von Scheffel, 1854. The song is not currently sung by the fraternity. [back]