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National Honor Society - 1921

National Junior Honor Society - 1928

National Elementary Honor Society - 2008

Sponsor: National Education Association

Dedication: To my husband, Joe White,

National Honor Society Class of 1976

Developed as alternative to the heavily awarded athletes 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 stands for Character,


Leadership and Service


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.

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

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.

There are subtle differences in each of these older 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


A National Honor Society Charm

Middle Era 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.


Modern Era


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.

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