The 13 most powerful members of ‘Skull and Bones’
Photo by Susan Watts-Pool/Getty Images
In 1832, Yale students — including future President William Howard Taft's father — founded one of America's most famous secret societies: Skull and Bones.
Since then, the group has come to signify all that both mesmerizes and repulses the public about the elite.
Each year, only 15 juniors are "tapped," or chosen, for lifetime membership in the club.
A windowless building on 64 High St., the "Tomb," serves as the club's headquarters. The roof is a landing pad for a private helicopter, according to Alexandra Robbins' book, "Secrets of the Tomb: Skull and Bones, the Ivy League, and the Hidden Paths of Power." For that perk and others, Bonesmen must swear total allegiance to the club.
New members reportedly divulge intimate personal details, including their full sexual histories, before they're inducted. They also agree to give part of their estates to the club. But, in return, they receive the promise of lifelong financial stability — so they won't feel tempted to sell the club's secrets, Robbins writes.
From among those business titans, poets, politicians, and three US presidents, we picked the honor roll.
Christina Sterbenz contributed to an earlier version of this list.
William Howard Taft — Class of 1878
Yale University Archives
As the only person to serve as both president and Supreme Court chief justice, Taft earned his spot on our list. The 27th president went by "Old Bill" during his Yale days but later earned the nickname "Big Lub."
Taft also received the honorary title of "magog," meaning he had the most sexual experience while in the secret club, according to Alexandra Robbins.
Young Taft probably found entrance into the club rather easily. His father, former Attorney General Alphonso Taft, cofounded Skull and Bones as a Yale student in 1832.
Walter Camp — Class of 1880
Known as the "father of American football," Camp, with other classmates, developed the game from the Brits' version of rugby. He played in the first rugby game at Yale against Harvard in 1876.
Camp created many of modern football's rules, such as assessment of points and limiting the field-team to 11 men per side. But most importantly, he brought organization and esteem to the game, serving on the rules committee until his death.
Camp also established the National College Athletic Association, still operating today. During World War I, most of the armed forces conditioned using his tactics.
Lyman Spitzer — Class of 1935
A noted astrophysicist, Spitzer dreamed up the idea behind the Hubble Space Telescope — the first method to observe space uninhibited by the Earth's atmosphere. He also lobbied NASA and Congress for the funds and oversaw production of the actual machine.
After 44 years, NASA launched the Hubble into space. The Hubble remains there today, providing stunning images of the universe and making new discoveries.
NASA named the Spitzer Space Telescope in his honor.