The University of Michigan, an encyclopedic survey ... Wilfred B. Shaw, editor.
University of Michigan.


THE colors of the University of Michigan are officially "maize and azure blue," and were so designated in a formal action of the Regents on March 22, 1912. These colors as emblematic of the University had been accepted, however, at least forty-five years earlier. In the University Chronicle for March 16, 1867, occurs the following note:

Sometime ago at a meeting of the students of the Literary Department, a committee was appointed to select colors for our University. This committee, at a meeting of the students in the College Chapel, February 12 [1867], made the following report: "Your committee, appointed to select emblematic colors for our university, unanimously agree in presenting as their choice, AZURE BLUE AND MAIZE, and recommended that the following resolution be adopted: Resolved, That Azure Blue and Maize be adopted as the emblematic colors of the University of Michigan."

  • M. Jackson '67
  • A. H. Pattengill '68
  • J. E. Jackson Lit '65-'68

This was apparently the first public action regarding the colors of the University.

Previous to this action the University had used a deep blue ribbon to represent the University, as shown on diplomas of Professor Elisha Jones, in 1859 and 1861, and Professor I. N. Demmon, in 1868. Evidently some uncertainty existed as to the exact hues represented by the terms "azure blue and maize," for, despite the University's use of a dark blue, an old dance program preserved in the Douglas family shows a piece of ribbon of a lighter, "sky" blue, color. Moreover, a number of the older graduates, when the question was officially considered in 1912, reported that this lighter shade was at one time regarded as the standard color.

Apparently the shades of both the yellow and the blue tended to become lighter and lighter, as is evidenced by the particolored ribbons used by the University prior to 1912, where the yellow was far from being "maize" and the Page  217pale blue very different from the deep color generally accepted as "azure blue." The azure blue is represented by the clear, intense blue of the unclouded sky, defined further in various dictionaries as the color of lapis lazuli, Prussian blue, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue. Maize is the color of Indian corn.

The colors in their later and lighter form proved unsatisfactory, particularly when used as decorations, and resulted in an unofficial adoption by the early Athletic Association of a deep blue and a bright yellow for athletic insignia and banners. Thus, Michigan for many years practically had two sets of official colors.

This anomalous situation led to the appointment in 1912 of a committee by the University Senate, composed of Professor Warren P. Lombard, Professor of Physiology, chairman; Professor S. Lawrence Bigelow, Department of Chemistry; Professor H. R. Cross, Department of Fine Arts; Mr. Theodore W. Koch, Librarian of the University; and Professor Emil Lorch, Head of the Department of Architecture, to "determine the exact shades of maize and azure blue which would be suitable for the official colors." This committee reported in favor of the deeper colors and reported their action directly to the Regents, since it was desirable to have the colors definitely fixed so that they could be used at the celebration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the University, held in June, 1912. Samples of the exact hues selected were prepared and placed in the University archives.


"Maize and Azure Blue."Mich. Alum., 18 (1912): 365-67.
MS, "Minutes of the University Senate," Mar. 12, 1912. Univ. Mich.
The University Chronicle, Mar. 16, 1867.