Skull and Bones is a secret society at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. The society's alumni organization, which owns the society's real property and oversees the organization, is the Russell Trust Association, named for General William Huntington Russell, who co-founded Skull and Bones with classmate Alphonso Taft. The Russell Trust was founded by Russell and Daniel Coit Gilman, member of Skull and Bones and later a university president. The society is known informally as "Bones", and members are known as "Bonesmen".
During the senior year each Skull and Bones class meets every Thursday and Sunday night. The goal of the activities is to develop deep friendship and connections with your fellow members and to explore ideas that allow for personal and collective growth.
The emblem of Skull and Bones is a skull with crossed bones, over the number "322".
President George H. W. Bush, his son President George W. Bush, and the latter's 2004 Presidential opponent Senator John Kerry are members of Skull and Bones.
The first extended description of Skull and Bones, published in 1871 by Lyman Bagg in his book Four Years at Yale, noted that "the mystery now attending its existence forms the one great enigma which college gossip never tires of discussing".
The Skull and Bones Hall is otherwise known as the "Tomb". The architectural attribution of the original hall is in dispute. The architect was possibly Alexander Jackson Davis (1803–1892) or Henry Austin (1804–1891). Architectural historian Patrick Pinnell includes an in-depth discussion of the dispute over the identity of the original architect in his 1999 history of Yale's campus.
The building was built in three phases: in 1856 the first wing was built, in 1903 the second wing, and in 1911, Davis-designed Neo-Gothic towers from a previous building were added at the rear garden. The front and side facades are of Portland brownstone and in an Egypto-Doric style.
The 1911 additions of towers in the rear created a small enclosed courtyard in the rear of the building, designed by Evarts Tracy and Edgerton Swartwout, Tracy and Swartwout, New York.Evarts was not a Bonesman, but his paternal grandmother Martha Sherman Evarts and maternal grandmother Mary Evarts were the sisters of William Maxwell Evarts. Pinnell speculates whether the re-use of the Davis towers in 1911 was evidence suggesting that Davis did the original building; conversely, Austin was responsible for the architecturally similar brownstone Egyptian Revival gates, built 1845, of the Grove Street Cemetery, to the north of campus. Also discussed by Pinnell is the "tomb's" aesthetic place in relation to its neighbors, including the Yale University Art Gallery. New Hampshire landscape architects Saucier & Flynn designed the wrought-iron fence that currently surrounds a portion of the complex in the late 1990s.