Aug 19, 2019

Shedding Light on the University Mace, in Review

No Inauguration or Commencement would be complete without the presence of this symbol of the President's authority. But the company that created the Mace did significant other work for the University that we see every day on the River Campus.

The University Mace, was created in 1935 for the inauguration of Alan Valentine, our fourth president. It is carried by the University Marshal at important events, and graces the dais on a special pillow throughout the proceedings. Its history, height, and weight were the subject of the Summer 2019 Ask the Archivist column.

Professor Jesse Moore at the College Commencement (2013)








Professor Margaret Kearney at the School of Nursing Commencement (2016)






No detailed drawings of the mace apparently exist, but the Caldwell design books have been digitized, and our Mace can be seen on page 16 of the "Large Binder" series:The files in the Archives about the mace revealed correspondence with the company that fabricated it, Edward F. Caldwell & Company of New York City. Their papers are in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution (Cooper-Hewitt Museum), and you can learn more about the background and history of the company here and here.

Mace, Caldwell Company, Large Binder 135 (Smithsonian Libraries)

Tracing the Mace to Caldwell revealed that the company did significant other work for the University -- work that, unlike the Mace, we can see and appreciate every day. Perhaps 20 lighting fixtures were installed in Rush Rhees Library, Strong Auditorium, the Palestra, and the Eastman Quadrangle. These were not custom-made for the University, but part of Caldwell's portfolio. In some cases, the fixtures have been replaced in the years since installation in 1930, but the most significant examples are still on campus.

Look below (click on each image for a larger version) and see how many you can locate on campus--when you find one, take a photo and email it to me at

(Caldwell Company images courtesy of the Smithsonian Insitution, "Shedding Light on New York: Edward F. Caldwell & Company Collection" (


Post from Melissa Mead John M. and Barbara Keil University Archivist and Rochester Collections Librarian

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