October 2, 2017
Old school: U-M in History
The University of Michigan purchased the flagpole of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in 1898, and visitors can now find it on the Diag. In this 1918 photo, the flagpole is being raised to a standing position after it was moved from its former location near the old general library. (Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library)
The flagpole on the Diag can trace its roots back to one of the most historic celebrations of the 19th century. In 1898, at a cost of $375, the University of Michigan purchased the flagpole of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition and installed it on the Diag in July of that year. An item in The Michigan Alumnus reported: "A flagstaff recently purchased by the Regents of the University of Michigan has been set in place in the center of campus. It consists of a steel tube of 77 feet long, sunk ten feet in the ground, surmounted by a ship's mast 95 feet long." Originally, the flagpole sat south of its current position, closer to the old general library building. When the old library was demolished in 1918, the flagpole was moved to its current position.
— Compiled from the U-M bicentennial website, and the President's Advisory Committee on Public Art website