Ohio History Journal

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By Harlow Lindley


The recent appearance of a book published by the Ohio

Development and Publicity Commission entitled Ohio, an Empire

within an Empire offers an opportunity to make some comments

concerning a state motto. This title is purported to be taken from

the State's motto; the State of Ohio, however, has no official


In 1866 a law was passed providing for the inscription of a

motto on the State seal. The motto adopted was "Imperium in

Imperio"--an empire within an empire, or a government within

a government. This motto, however, did not meet with general

approval and the law was repealed in 1868. The law of 1868

provided for the seal without a motto, and there has been no

legislation since that time for a motto.

Evidently there had been some agitation about a motto for

the State. A letter which has recently been found is of interest

in this connection. It is written by William D. Henkle and ad-

dressed to William Henry Smith, of Cincinnati, who was then

Secretary of State, after having served as private secretary to

Governor John Brough, Ohio's war governor. Smith and Henkle

were personal friends. They were both Ohio born and had taught

together in Green Mount College, a Quaker institution located at

Richmond, Indiana. Henkle's mother was a Quaker, and in this

college Smith met his future wife, a Quaker student. Henkle's

life was devoted to education. At the time this letter was written,

he was superintendent of schools in Salem, Ohio, and later became

superintendent of schools for the State of Ohio.

This letter suggests that the State was taking the initiative in

finding a suitable motto and it reflects the attitude of the time