1817 Temple of Wisdom Seal

On Friday the 12th of September in the year 1817, John Monteith, president of the University of Michigania, recorded the following in the Laws and Ordinances of the University of Michigania:

An act concerning the Seal of the University of Michigania.

Be it enacted by the University of Michigania that on the Seal of the University there shall be a device representing six pillars supporting a dome, with the motto "Epistemia" at their base, and the legend, "Seal of the University of Michigania" around the margin, and light shining on the dome from above; and until such seal shall be provided the President may use any temporary seal which may be convenient.

Passed at the city of Detroit on Friday the twelfth day of September, one thousand eight hundred and seventeen.

Attest J.L. Whiting


[Image of original of the Act]

Mystery No. 1: There is no proof that this seal was ever struck. However in the holdings of the Bentley Library there is a drawing -- unattributed -- of this description.

The Temple of Wisdom Seal and the first Mace of the University

The John Monteith description of the Temple of Wisdom Seal has lived on in several reincarnations. The six pillars and dome design was used to create the first Mace of the University in 1952, when Warner Rice, who was then marshall of the faculty, mentioned to Frank E. Robbins, assistant to the president, that there was no symbol of the office of marshall. They turned to Monteith's description of the seal of the University of Michigania, which Rice and Robbins characterized as a seal incorporating a temple of wisdom. The new mace used a temple for the head and was fashioned of Michigan walnut taken two years earlier from a stair case in University Hall before it was razed. The handle was of fifteen rods, each enameled in the color of one of the fifteen individual schools of the University and bound together by maize and blue ribbons. [Ann Arbor News 10/17/52, article on U of M mace]

The first Mace of the University of Michigan still exists and graces the office of the director of the Bentley Historical Library.

The Temple of Wisdom design is also used in the letterhead of the Bentley Historical Library and in the Bentley Historical Library Homepage heading.

The First Mace of the University