The Adelphic Society was the younger of the two literary societies that flourished on the Augustana College campus during the early decades of its existence. The Adelphic Society was organized by the students in the fall of 1882, with its first meeting taking place 14 October 1882. The society was recognized by the faculty 8 February 1884 and was officially incorporated under the laws of the state of Illinois 12 May 1884. Its sister organization on campus was the Phrenokosmian Society, which had been organized in 1860. In 1913, the Adelphic Society became of member of the Illinois Association of Literary Societies.
According to the 1884 articles of incorporation, the purpose of the Adelphic Society was to work for the "improvement in mental culture and in speaking and writing the English and Swedish languages, and the formation of a library." The society held weekly meetings in the evenings, during which essays, debates, orations, declamations, criticisms, and musical presentations were given. The first exercise of the Adelphic Society was a lecture in Swedish by Professor C. P. Rydholm entitled "The Manuscripts of the New Testament."
All Augustana students were eligible for membership in the society, and the meetings were open to all interested persons. Honorary memberships were also available for those outside of the college community. The offices of President, Vice President, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary, and Librarian were contested monthly. A new Treasurer was elected bi-monthly. All dues collected went toward the purchase of new books for the Adelphic library.
In 1887 the Adelphic Society began to edit the "Censor," a semi-monthly newspaper that contained articles of interest to the student body in both Swedish and English. From 1883 to 1905, the society conducted all meetings alternately in Swedish and English. The constitution changed in 1906, however, to make English the official language of the organization. In 1913, the Adelphic Orchestra was added to the society's activities.
The Phrenokosmian and Adelphic Societies occupied the Augustana campus as friendly rivals. The 1890-1891 school catalog states that "A wholesome rivalry exists between the two societies, and yet they work together in the greatest harmony and good will." At the beginning of each school term the two groups would get together to hold a reception for the new students, "to furnish an opportunity for new students to become acquainted with the rest of the school-family as soon as possible" (1917-18 Augustana Catalog). The Phrenokosmian and Adelphic Societies also joined with the Concordia, the literary society for the Theological Seminary students, to form the Lyceum, the culturally minded group that published the Augustana Observer and sponsored lectures and concerts for the campus.
The two literary societies were extremely popular on the campus during the early decades after their founding, but they began to suffer a decline after the turn of the century. As social fraternities and sororities began to emerge around 1915, the literary societies fell in popularity with the students, and membership sharply fell off. The Adelphic Society ceased listing itself in the school catalog in 1927, and the Phrenokosmian followed suit shortly thereafter.