Noraleen DuVall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

An 1872 Badge with a History

In some ways the headline for this blog post states the obvious: Of course all Theta badges have a history! Some badges, however, have a slightly longer history than others.

The archives recently received the badge of Katherine Graham Lamb, Beta/Indiana, initiated in 1872. It is wonderfully representative of Theta badges of those earlier days, and its story—with connections to several Thetas, including a former Fraternity president—makes it even more special.

The badge is larger than contemporary badges and was made from the original die that was used for the founders’ badges just two years earlier. It would have been purchased from the New York shop of John Newmann, who was, in those early years, the jeweler for the Fraternity. On the back, Katherine Graham, Richmond, Ind, Beta is engraved in flowing script.

Theta connections abound not only in Katherine’s immediate family but also in her extended family. Her sister, Martha Graham, was also a Theta at the Beta Chapter and married Charles D. Banta. Charles’s sister, Mabel Banta, was also a Theta at the Beta Chapter.

Charles and Mabel’s brother, George Riddle Banta, Sr., was a significant figure in the larger fraternity and sorority world. In 1901, he established the George Banta Printing Company to publish fraternity and sorority magazines (including Theta’s for many years) and other publications. His company published Baird’s Manual of American College Fraternities, a directory of Greek-letter organizations that, while no longer published, provides wonderful insights to the Greek-letter world of its time. George served as the first president of Phi Delta Theta and helped establish a chapter of Delta Gamma at Franklin College in Indiana. He was made a member of Delta Gamma in 1879, the only man to be initiated in that group.

George’s son, George Riddle Banta, Jr., married Margaret Killen, Alpha Psi/Lawrence. Margaret Killen Banta served as Theta’s Fraternity president from 1930-1936, leading the Fraternity through the years of the Great Depression. George, Jr., served as the president of Phi Delta Theta from 1932-1934, probably making them the only husband-wife team to serve as presidents of their respective fraternities at the same time. Their daughter, Margaret Banta Humleker, Alpha Psi/Lawrence, and granddaughter, Anne Humleker Heintz, Beta Tau/Denison, also wore this lovely badge.

We are appreciative of the recent donation by the family and are excited to be able to share its long history.