The idea of the Order of the Engineer, spawned from the Canadian "Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer". This was developed to instill a sense of high ethical standards in young engineers. The conditions these inductee's promise to follow, are the codes of ethics which were adopted by the Professional Societies of the time. The inductions were formal, personal events, during which the young engineer would take an oath, which has been compared to the Hippocratic Oath that young doctors take. However, the exact details of the Canadian ceremony are not known due to text copyrights, and the wish that the content is "neither for the public nor the press."
The first Iron Ring Ceremony was then held in 1925, at the University of Toronto, with the rumor that the rings were created from the remains of the Quebec Bridge. The Quebec Bridge, whose 1,800 foot cantilever structure collapsed in 1907, was a source of embarrassment to the design engineers. So, the rings purpose was to serve as a reminder that engineers are not infallible, and that there are consequences for their failures. Also, that they must always take care in their designs as well as persist in the pursuit of excellence.
With the same goals in mind, Homer Borton and Brooks Earnest began to formulate what would become Order of the Engineer. Several years later, a renewed desire to assert more positive values in young engineers, gave Borton and Earnest the push they needed. On June 4, 1970, the first American "steel" ring ceremony took place with some 170 students and faculty members participating.
With the Canadians blessing that the American's "steel ring" ceremony didn't infringe on their copyright's for "The Ritual of the Calling of the Engineer", the Order of the Engineer was born. Today the ceremony has taken place in more than 30 states, with tens of thousands of inductees.
Petrosky, Henry. 1995. "The Iron Ring," American Scientist Vol 83. May/June: 229-231.