The Eli Banana Ribbon Society is the oldest secret society at the University of Virginia. Founded in 1878 as a way to encourage the fraternities to engage more directly in the life of the University, the aim of the society was to bring its members to leadership in the University community and to "create an association of congenial spirits among the students." 
While initially successful in dominating various student organizations, including the Jefferson Society, the Football Board, and the social scene, the organization took on a more lax tone over the succeeding years and became most famous for its "bacchanalian" Easter parades with which the elections of new members were marked. The early period of the society was ultimately marked with its censure by the faculty in 1894, when the faculty demanded that the members sever their ties with the organization in writing and pledge not to rejoin, or forfeit their diplomas. The group went underground for a few years, going by the name "Peter Magill" in Corks and Curls and listing its members on a page showing a ribbon without a name. While the group was later reconstituted on direct appeal to the Board of Visitors, it never reclaimed the hold it had over the University's student life; as it waned, several other student societies, including T.I.L.K.A. and the Zeta Society (later the Z Society), took a more prominent role in University life.
Eli Banana has remained active since its reconstitution in 1897, most recently establishing the Eli Banana Fund, which has donated to various restoration and new building projects around the University since its inception in 2003.
The anthem of Eli Banana, "Eli Banana, That Starry Banner," was recorded by the Virginia Glee Club on the Songs of the University of Virginia album and featured the Eli drum (visible in historic photos of the group).
Members[edit | edit source]
Notable members of the society included University mathematics professor William "Reddy" Echols and University Rector and Board of Visitors member Armistead C. Gordon. Glee Club members who were Elis included John Koch, George Latham Fletcher, and John Lawrence Vick Bonney.
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References[edit | edit source]
- Jacob, Katie (January 2004). "Looking back at years of Elis, Ravens". A&S Online. http://aands.virginia.edu/x13494.xml. Retrieved 2010-09-24
- Bruce, Philip Alexander (1921). History of the University of Virginia. IV. New York: Macmillan. pp. 97–99, 338. http://books.google.com/?id=ns0zAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA97&lpg=PA97&dq=%22eli+banana. Retrieved 2008-01-27.
- Special to the Post (1897-06-15). "Eli Banana Restored: Famous Society of the University of Virginia". Washington Post: pp. 3.
- "Eli Banana Fund". http://elibanana.org/_wsn/page2.html. Retrieved 2008-03-31.
- "William Holding Echols (1859-1934)". http://www.math.virginia.edu/MathHistory/echols.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-20.