National Honor Society - 1921

 National Junior Honor Society - 1929

National Elementary Honor Society - 2008

This page is dedicated to my husband, Joe White, a National Honor Society member from Thomas Carr Howe High School, Indianapolis, IN, Class of 1976.

Developed as alternative to the heavily awarded atheletes at any given high school, the National Honor Society got started in 1921. It quickly grew and the program continues today. It drew some of it's program from Phi Beta Kappa for college level students, but included more than just scholarship.

The original name looks to have been the "National Torch Society", but clearly other minds prevailed.

The emblem - designed by high school National Honor Society member Penelope Schafer in 1923 - remains familiar but has recently been updated with a sleek, art deco look.

During the first years, students that had already graduated by 1922 but had graduated "honor" students were allow to join. Students who had joined a fraternity or sorority were barred from joining.

CSLS on the bottom of the emblem stand for Character, Scholarship, Leadership and Service




Although a charm was offered, this 1923 article doesn't make it clear if it was offered as an alternative to the pin, or simply in addition to membership pin.

How to spot an early National Honor Society Pin:

1) Torch fire does NOT reach into the lettering

2)18 rays of light; 9 on each side

3) Rays of light do NOT touch the torch

4) CSLS letters are thick, not in a box

5) Keystone border thick


Certainly pins were created, ordered and reordered as needed, so placing a certain date to a certain variation of the pin is nearly impossible. Upper left pin is thought to be the oldest one shown here. These pins were in use in the 1940s and faded out in the early 1950s.

Thought to be the oldest pin. Outer edge of larger rays rounded.

Outer edges of larger rays pointed

The "C" in CSLS doesn't go as far down as other pins.

Torch flame with odd blob on left side touching ray

There are subtle differences in each of these pins' designs. Color and hue are not considered here, due to different scanning methods of images.

An example of early National Honor Society constitution from Lebanon, IN.



The National Junior Honor Society emblem design appears to have not changed until very recently (see below).



Middle Era Pins:

Dated at 1971

Background texture variation

This odd variation has 48 rays of light, 4 of them are extra long rays and the flame tip leans to the left.

Dated at 1995

Middle Era National Honor Society Pins:

#1 - torch flame reaches up between wording, leaning right

#2 - 22 rays of light, 11 on each side

#3 - rays touching torch

#4 - CSLS lettering thin

#5 - keystone border thin

Later, newer pins came with a clutch backing instead of a safety catch.

A variety of National Honor Society Patches

A National Honor Society Charm


The Modern Era National Honor Society Emblems


Membership Pin


Chenille Sweater Style Emblem

National Junior Honor Society Gold Pin - Modern design

National Junior Honor Society Silver Pin

Emblem design for National Elementary Honor Society, started in 2008


In Memory of Miss Penelope Schafer

August 20, 1904 - October 27, 1930

a gifted young artist, writer and designer of the National Honor Society emblem

who died at just 26 years old.