• Skull and Bones 1948 Yearbook

    Top Drawer | Culture | Music & Books  

    While browsing The Cary Collection last month, I discovered a most curious book in Cary’s voluminous inventory. Simple in appearance, bound in black Moroccan leather with four names stamped in silver leaf across the cover. It is a yearbook of sorts—Thomas William Ludlow Ashley’s Skull and Bones yearbook to be exact. Founded in 1832, the secret society at Yale university in New Haven, Connecticut is infamous for tapping campus leaders and other notable figures for its membership. The family names on the secret society’s roster read like an elite party list—Lord, Whitney, Taft, Jay, Bundy, Rockefeller, Goodyear, Kellogg, Pillsbury, Vanderbilt, Bush and so on. Though Ashley went on to enjoy a longstanding political career in Washington, it is another politician’s membership that shrouds this yearbook with bated breath—a one George Herbert Walker Bush.

    Bush men have been Yale men and Bonesmen for generations. Prescott Bush (’17), George H. W. Bush (’48), and George W. Bush (’68) are joined by a proud line stretching from great uncle George Herbert Walker Jr. to uncle Jonathan Bush to cousins George Herbert Walker III and Ray Walker. Upon initiation, Bonesmen are appointed secret names by which fellow members will forever know them. The club often pulls from literature, religion and myth for aliases such as “Thor”, “Baal”, “Hamlet” and “Odin”. “Long Devil” is reserved for the tallest member; “Boaz” for the varsity football captain. George H. W. Bush was given the moniker “Magog.”

    George Herbert Walker Bush, aka "Magog"

    Thomas William Ludlow Ashley

    As for the number 322 that peppers the book and the society’s stationary, it embodies mythical overtones. One legend has it that 322 stands for “founded in ’32, 2nd corps”, referring to the first Corps in an unknown German university. Others suggest that 322 refers to the death of Demosthenes and that documents in the society hall have purportedly been found dated to “Anno-Demostheni”.

    George H. W. Bush's Skull and Bones peer group from 1948. Bush is just to the left of the clock.

    Ashley’s annuary found it’s way into Cary’s hands through a channel of rare book dealers and Yale alum. Upon graduation from Yale in 1948, he went on to serve thirteen terms in Congress as a U.S. representative of Ohio (D) from 1955 to 1981. Several years ago Ashley’s son contacted Cary about his father’s yearbook, not in an attempt to recover it but more so out of curiosity. Lud Ashley (as he was commonly known) had retired to Leland, Michigan until his recent death this past June. As for his yearbook, it lives on in his memory and is currently available for purchase from The Cary Collection.

    Sep 10, 2010 | Permalink (23) Total Comments

    DR, MJL left a comment on 11/20/2014 at 4:26 AM:

    SKULL 49

    F.E. Castleberry left a comment on 10/7/2010 at 12:46 PM:

    @Spinario—Thank you for shedding light on Mr. Robinson’s office within the Skull and Bones.

    Spinario left a comment on 10/4/2010 at 1:29 PM:

    John Robinson was the houseman, not a member. He appears in a number of the yearbooks.

    Edward left a comment on 9/22/2010 at 12:25 AM:

    Its reported that Bush Sr. was given the name Magog because he was supposedly the Bonesman with the most sexual experience.

    emma g left a comment on 9/20/2010 at 10:13 PM:

    The only person who has ever claimed to have seen Bush’s plane get hit, and to have seen it hit the water, is Chester Mierzejewksi, who was the rear turret gunner in the aircraft flown by Squadron Commander Douglas Melvin. During 1987-88, Mierzejewksi became increasingly indignant as he watched Bush repeat his canonical account of how he was shot down. Shortly before the Republican National Convention in 1988, Mierzekewski, by then a 68 year old retired aircraft foreman living in Cheshire, Connecticut, decided to tell his story to Allan Wolper and Al Ellenberg of the New York Post, which printed it as a copyrighted article. [fn 8]

    “That guy is not telling the truth,” Mierzejewski said of Bush.

    G left a comment on 9/17/2010 at 6:26 PM:

    I’ve also heard about Bush/Nazi affiliation. It’s been well documented that inside of the Skull and Bones nest there is a room with swastikas/other Nazi related memorabilia. Scary.  Nonetheless, cool post.

    ~abi~ left a comment on 9/13/2010 at 2:58 PM:

    i thoroughly enjoyed this post!  great find, great writing!

    Johnny Slaw left a comment on 9/13/2010 at 11:32 AM:

    Re: Mr. Robinson:

    I believe I read that he was the caretaker of the Skull & Bones structure in New Haven and was tapped as a “member” so as to be necessarily privy to—and protective of—the “Order’s” secrets.  I could be mistaken, though.  I believe a similar arrangement was extended to someone who walked in on a meeting of UVA’s 7 Society back in the day….

    bunny left a comment on 9/11/2010 at 4:02 PM:

    magog stands out as the best dressed. your writing is nice. as good as these photos. thanks for sharing this american history gem.

    TSBosché left a comment on 9/11/2010 at 3:46 PM:

    FEC, LBT, G, & even LCdlN:  I really enjoyed this post and your comments.  Reminds me a lot of late-night and early-morning discussions/arguments in college and grad school.  Perhaps, Frederick and LBT, we should talk about a semi-annual UnabashedlyPrep/Admiral Cod retreat where readers and hosts can exchange ideas in person, enjoy excellent food and drink, and compare plaids ... Inn at Laguna Beach?  Wauwinet/White Elephant on Nantucket?  Ku or Cuisinart (Anguilla)? Ladera, Jade Mountain or The Landings (St. Lucia)?  Could be a real kick!

    Geronimo left a comment on 9/11/2010 at 2:22 PM:

    @FEC, LagunaBeachTrad - I think it’s only natural for men to affiliate with like-minded individuals, and I think our penchant for secret societies (collegiate & postgrad) and fraternities are a result of our lack of hereditary peerage, for better or worse. 

    I also think it’s a mistake to use “prep” as a catchall term; there are infinite gradiations and variations within this community and it makes for interesting anthropological study.  A Hotchkiss kid transported to St Marks or Woodberry (or Eton for that matter) would not feel at home.  And a major theme of Slim Aarons’ work was the differing lifestyles of the American UC vs that of the Continent. 

    Also FEC - I saw that in the text about Mr Ashley’s son contacting Mr Cary, but I dispute that there is a fair market value for such an item.  Mr Cary is asking $12k, and I would have to imagine that Mr Ashley rankles at the idea of having to pay that for a family heirloom.  At any rate, that is not a conversation we were privy to.

    Dave left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 11:05 PM:

    This is one of your best posts, congrats.

    TSBosché left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 9:35 PM:

    LBT & FEC: Routine breeds monotony.  Please continue posts on topics that interest you.  I am aware of the common instruction to keep all blogs on topic, otherwise your readers will wander. I disagree, and encourage both of you to continue your present courses.  You both display “Renaissance Man” characteristics in your reflections on what you see around you - we need more of this imagination and creativity, and less conformance to a particular set of rules or guidelines.  Please, let your intellect and passion flow - we are the better for it ...

    charles left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 3:45 PM:

    if you want to learn more about S&B:


    Your 322

    TSBosché left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 3:09 PM:

    FEC: Excellent post - way to mix it up.  Nice to see you get your dander up with the grammar police.  And K - can’t wait to see the “clean-cut”.

    Geronimo left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 2:50 PM:

    @Capital A - good point, I had forgotten that GHWB’s WWII service was prior to his time at Yale.  More life experience than your typical collegian, and it shows in his eyes.

    Luis Alcaraz left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 1:49 PM:

    WOW Amazing JOB, a real treasure. Everyone looks so well.

    Andy M. left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 1:47 PM:

    Fascinating pictures and an interesting bit of history.  Like Geronimo though, if this book holds any of the society’s ritual I hate to see it up for sale.

    Kiel James Patrick left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 12:36 PM:

    Men with secrets tend to be drawn to each other, not because they want to share what they know but because they need the company of the like-minded, the fellow afflicted.

    These hairstyles have inspired me to grab a “clean-cut” haircut today. 

    -Thank You

    Capitol A left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 12:21 PM:

    Of course GHWB looks fierce. Think about his career before becoming president…Shot down in his plane, CIA, etc. The guy has to be close to 100 years old and he still jumps out of an airplane every year on his birthday.

    Geronimo left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 12:03 PM:

    The photos remind me of the carpe diem scene in Dead Poets - George H.W. looks fierce and nothing like the milquetoast politician.  That said, peddling secret society artifacts is a more than a bit gauche, especially if there’s any ritual in the book. The proper thing to do would be to get it to Mr Ashley’s descendants.

    Alex Of lafreshness left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 11:19 AM:

    so a brother in skull bones, that really took me by surprise

    Rashidi left a comment on 9/10/2010 at 10:45 AM:

    John Robinson doesn’t look to be in the group shot. Any other details on him? Thanks