Theta Tau, originally the Society of Hammer and Tongs, was founded on October 15, 1904. The founders Erich J. Schrader, Elwin L. Vinal, William M. Lewis, and Isaac B. Hanks, were all mining engineering students at the University of Minnesota. These four founders based Theta Tau upon three main principles: community service, brotherhood, and professional development.
"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;..."
- Ecclesiastes 9:10
The Fraternity fulfilled the dream of its principal founder, Erich
Schrader, that there be established in engineering a fraternity similar
to those already existing in law, medicine, and dentistry. Schrader
established a record of service unequaled in the fraternity’s history.
He served as its first grand regent until 1919, and then for thirty-five
years as the grand scribe. At its Founders’ Golden Anniversary
Convention (1954), Theta Tau established the position of counselor to be
held only by him. His unselfish service continued until his death in
1962, at the age of 81. The other founders also maintained their
interest in the Fraternity throughout their lives. The last, Brother
Vinal, died in 1971.
Brother Schrader was mainly responsible for the ritual,
constitution, and the bylaws adopted by the founders. The first badge
consisted of a gold skull with the letters Θ and T on its forehead and a
crossed hammer and tongs beneath the skull. The constitution provided
for the establishment of additional chapters at other leading
engineering schools, and the fraternity soon began to take on its
national character. Brother Hanks spoke of Theta Tau to his friend
Robert Downing, a member of the Rhombohedron Club at Michigan College of
Mines. After correspondence and an inspection trip by Brother Hanks,
the club was installed as Beta Chapter in 1906.
The oldest symbol of the fraternity that is still in use is the coat
of arms adopted in 1906. It may only be worn by members. Founder Lewis
transferred to the Colorado School of Mines and there made contact with
the Square Set Club which became Gamma Chapter in 1907. The Southwestern
Alumni Association, the fraternity’s first, was established in Douglas
Arizona in 1908. In 1911, representatives of the three chapters and the
alumni association met at the University of Minnesota for the first
national convention, the name was changed to Theta Tau, a revised ritual
was approved, and the present badge was adopted. Perhaps most important
for its future expansion, it was decided that Theta Tau would include
all branches of engineering.
At the 1976 National Convention, the fraternity adopted a plan that
opened up membership to women, with Delta Chapter at Case Western
Reverse University being one of the first Theta Tau chapters to
implement the plan in 1977. My chapter initiated its first female
members in 1985.
Since the turn of the millennium, the fraternity been experiencing
record growth nationwide. In 2004, Theta Tau celebrated its centennial;
at that point in time, more than thirty-thousand members had been
initiated. Since 2010 alone, the fraternity has installed more than
twenty chapters, and many additional colonies have been certified.
Active Theta Tau Chapters
Founding date of Theta Tau