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How fraternity pins came to be

Fascinating bit of trivia by columnist Mark Flanagan. Here is an excerpt.

Attleboro’s (Kentucky) Jewelry City fame was based on the manufacture of fraternal jewelry and Sigma Chi was the fraternity that pointed the way toward that status.

Go back 60 years and … well, college freshmen having a drink and a smoke, even way too much of either, would have been written off as boys being boys. If we can pretend that wasn’t the case and a suspension were imposed in 1958, it would have set off a buzz in the front offices of the L.G. Balfour Co. on County Street, where the Balfour Riverwalk is now located.

Sales of Sigma Chi fraternity pins probably wouldn’t have been affected much by a one-year suspension of one chapter with 100 members, but the bosses would have had a personal interest. Executive vice president C. Robert Yeager was a Pi Kappa Alpha man, but joined the frat at the University of Kentucky. Company president Lloyd G. Balfour, who would step down two years later, might have taken pause to look back on the arc of his career.

He was a Sigma Chi man, joining the fraternity in 1907 while a law student at the University of Indiana. After finishing work on his degree, he went to work for the Robbins Co. of Attleboro, representing the firm in dealing with fraternities. He developed a lot of ideas about how to improve the fraternal jewelry business and in 1913 established the company that proudly wore his name and issued paychecks to Attleboro area workers for decades to come.

By Hank Nuwer

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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