Salvatore Russo (class of 1929), an ex-Catholic-turned-atheist who wrote occasional articles for the national freethought newspaper The Truth Seeker, founded the group in March 1926. Its original membership comprised eleven men and two women. Russo appears to have invented the group’s name when speaking to a reporter from a local Hearst newspaper, the Rochester Journal. A media frenzy resulted. The Associated Press distributed the story nationwide; the New York Times published a story of its own; and the Society of Damned Souls secured mention in two successive issues of Time magazine. The story even made the Paris edition of the New York Herald. For better or worse, the Damned Souls were off and running.
Anderson Hall (erected 1861) was the earliest building on the University of Rochester's original Prince Street campus, where the Damned Souls affair unfolded. It is seen here from the original campus's quad; College Avenue runs behind the building, not seen from this position. The building was divested by the university in 1955.
Anderson Hall today houses the headquarters of the Rochester-area United Way. The rear of the building, facing College Avenue, has become the front of the building, positioning the entrance closer to parking. The original front face of the building, facing the old quad, is now the rear.