Among the embellishments the Michigan's Capitol commissioners approved in the winter of 1876 were the carvings for the eastern tympanum, or the inner triangular section of the pediment that appeared on the highest part of the roof, just below the base of the dome.
A Detroit sculptor, Herman Wehner, had been employed to make a model in plaster for the board's approval, and this was presented to them on January 25, 1876. Wehner worked in a room in the capitol and here he prepared a half-scale model in plaster of what he proposed for the tympanum.
Wehner's initial plaster model for the capitol project featured a Native American woman, representing Michigan, standing in the center, with shield and dagger. To her left was the famous "boy governor," Stevens T. Mason, elected to Michigan's highest office in 1835 at the age of twenty-four; on her right, on a log from a fallen tree, the hardy pioneer, with his ox, symbolizing both the settler and the lumber industry. The composition incorporated a sheaf of wheat, symbolizing agriculture; a stack of books and a globe, for advanced education in the state; a pick and spade to show mining; and a schooner and locomotive for commerce. A reporter praised the "suggestive beauty and harmony" of this composition. Others, perhaps including the commissioners, felt differently.