Archival Mysteries: What is the University Motto?

At first glance, this seems a simple question.  When the Archives was asked by the University Senate to see if the our motto was the same as the state of Maryland’s, however, some interesting facts came to light.

Great Seal-small

The Great Seal of the State of Maryland. Click to enlarge.

For quite some time many people have assumed that the University and the State were using as a motto the phrase “Fatti Maschii, Parole Femine,” the motto of the Calvert family.  Part of Maryland’s Great Seal (shown above) the Calvert motto is translated per Maryland law as “Manly Deeds, Womanly Words,” a translation that has been subject of much controversy and debate.  But is this the official motto for either the university or the state?

As it turns out, the answer appears to be a rather definitive no.  The Archives uncovered no evidence to suggest that the University has ever formally adopted a motto of any kind, much less the phrase on the Great Seal.  The University Senate considered the issue of a motto in 2002-2003 but decided against adopting one.

As for the state of Maryland, the Annotated Code makes no mention of an official motto, and a 1993 Baltimore Sun articles makes mention of the fact that the state’s Attorney General issued an opinion in 1988 that the state does not have an official motto, and never has.

For more on the seal itself, you can visit the Maryland State Archives’website.


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