The Norman Shield

"It is not a shield of timid defense."
~W. Henry McLean, DEPAUW 1910
From My Badge

Introduction

Sigma Chi's reference manual, The Norman Shield, is distributed to undergraduates at the beginning of their pledgeship. It is also available for anyone who is interested in learning about the Fraternity. It contains history and information about Sigma Chi, and a new edition of the manual is published every two years.

Excerpt

Following is an excerpt from the opening chapter of The Norman Shield:

“The object of a college education is not to make us finished scholars, nor to complete our education. Education is a lifelong process. The purpose of a college education is to awaken the importance of developing the mind — to create an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

One of the ways this is accomplished is through interaction with professors and fellow students. As a result of this interaction, new friendships are developed, which in turn promote the sharing of new ideas and concepts. Friendships are thus an important aspect of the college experience. 

We arrive at college having left most, if not all, of our high school friends behind, forcing us to begin the process of finding new friends. Joining a fraternity can ease this transition by enhancing the opportunity for those friendships to develop and grow. Membership in a fraternity is not based on the possession of a particular athletic, academic or musical skill. It is based on friendship. Since the first fraternity was established in 1776, friendship was, and still is, the foundation of the fraternity experience. 

The primary purpose of Sigma Chi is to promote friendship, justice and learning. While friends can have a profound impact on your experiences in college, Sigma Chi aspires to develop brotherhood — a deeper and more enduring type of friendship — among its members.”

A History of The Norman Shield

The Sigma Chi Fraternity took a historic step in how its history was relayed to prospective members in 1929. It was apparent that measures needed to be taken to preserve the tradition and lofty ideals upon which the Fraternity was founded. The Fraternity had been in existence for 74 years and was growing at an unprecedented rate. The Sigma Chi directory published that year showed a total of 27,229 initiates, an increase of 7,238 since the directory of 1922 was issued. The production of an official manual that could be used to standardize pledge training was authorized at the 1925 Estes Park Grand Chapter by 24th Grand Consul Herbert C. Arms, ILLINOIS 1895. The Sigma Chi Pledge Manual — a 103-page compendium of history, information, procedures, etiquette and anecdotes — became available four years later, on Oct. 14, 1929.

It was largely based on a slim booklet entitled “Freshman Manual of the Beta Mu Chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity,” prepared by Significant Sig Arthur Vos Jr., COLORADO 1930, on the authority of then-Consul of the Beta Mu chapter, Harold T. King, COLORADO 1929. In addition to describing the government, publications, history and funds of the Fraternity, Vos included biographies of the Founders, a description of the insignia, Sigma Chi songs, a chapter roll, the Greek alphabet and even a section entitled “Timely Suggestions to Freshmen.” Though Vos credited the 1922 Manual and Directory for much of his material, his research and organization of the information was impressive enough to inspire an invitation from the General Fraternity to help compile the official manual for Fraternity-wide usage.

A note in the November 1943 issue of the Sigma Chi Bulletin is the only official announcement of a very significant change in the manual’s format. It reads, “Sigma Chi’s famed Pledge Manual is now known as The Norman Shield.” Presumably the name was chosen in deference to the pledge button, which is described, like the Coat of Arms, as “ … a Norman Shield of blue bearing a white Sigma Chi cross.”

From the first edition, the manual was perceived as a personal guide, which encompassed not only the history but also the changing times of the Fraternity. For this reason, each edition — while containing essential information — has varied somewhat in content. For example, the second edition was expanded to include a listing of distinguished Sigs, the third edition increased this section from six to 13 pages. The section was dropped in 1938, having presumably grown too large for inclusion, and was eventually replaced with the list of Significant Sigs, which first appeared in the 1943 edition. The 1995 (35th) edition has foregone a lengthy listing of Significant Sigs in favor of selected biographies culled from different periods of the Fraternity’s history.

The First Author

Though Arthur Vos Jr. credited the 1922 Manual and Directory for much of his material, his research and organization of the information at hand was impressive enough to inspire an invitation from the General Fraternity to help compile the official manual for fraternity-wide usage.

The 1936 (fourth) edition introduced color to the publication, reproducing the Sigma Chi Creed in the manner of an illuminated manuscript. This reproduction of The Creed continued unchanged until it was redone in 1963 in a modernized vertical page layout. With the technological advances of the 1960s and 1970s, the use of more color became feasible. The 1963 (22nd) edition boasted 24 pages of color.

No history of The Norman Shield would be complete without a reference to the illustrations provided by two of Sigma Chi’s illustrious members, Significant Sig John T. McCutcheon, PURDUE 1889, and Order of Constantine Sig and Significant Sig Milton Caniff, OHIO STATE 1930. The 1930 (second) edition featured McCutcheon’s Why Do So Many Rich Boys Fail in College? Many of his editorial cartoons, including his famous Indian Summer and his brilliant cartoon tributes to fraternity life, were published in nearly all subsequent editions.

Beginning with the now-famous painting of the founding of the Constantine Chapter, which appeared in the 1943 (ninth) edition, the drawings and cartoons of Caniff increasingly became a mainstay of The Norman Shield. His renditions of the Founding of Sigma Chi, scenes from the lives of the Founders, reflections on the meaning of brotherhood and the heroism of Sigs during wartime comprise an artistic legacy unparalleled in the Greek-letter world.

Caniff ’s illustrations capture the changing feel of the passing decades and perfectly serve the purpose of The Norman Shield, each edition of which is a reflection of the times. This ability to reflect the “campus attitude” set The Norman Shield apart from drier and less palatable manuals.

The Norman Shield had expanded to more than 300 pages by 1969. To keep pledges from feeling overwhelmed, The Norman Shield was cut to an 80-page paperback handbook. The following (27th) edition returned to the hard cover format and restored text to the count of 192 pages. In subsequent years, editing and creative space manipulation allowed for increased information to be included with a slight reduction in page count.