Continuing the series on the Little Brown Jug in this, the 100th anniversary season of when Michigan and Minnesota first played for the trophy.  Previous posts: Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930sPart II: Spinning Myths
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Part of the research I conducted this summer involved trying to determine whether today’s trophy is indeed the same jug that Yost returned with back to Ann Arbor a century ago this November.  While the answer to that question is for another day, I can tell you that by staring at photos and at the Little Brown Jug itself, you naturally gain a certain familiarity.

I held it, shook it (gently), inspected the nicks and cuts and even measured it:

  • Height – 15 7/8”
  • Circumference of the base – 37 1/2”
  • Diameter of the base – 12”
  • Length of the handle piece – 8”
  • Diameter of the spout – 2” (the hole itself is 1 1/4”).
    Here’s a look at today’s Little Brown Jug:
    jugs

After this detailed inspection I started to notice instances when other photos or representations of the trophy got it wrong.  I’m guilty myself.  Over the years I’ve posted a few stories and used a photo of the jug that is clearly a replica.

Michigan has a replica today on display in Schembechler Hall that has a few distinctions from the real deal.  Beyond differences in the painting of the logos and the game scores, its handle has a much rounder pitch and its shoulder is more cone shaped. 

Back in Minneapolis, the Gophers had an official replica at one point.  I’ve seen a photo dating to the 1930s of Oscar Munson (the man who found the jug in 1903) with two jugs, and this 1977 Sports Illustrated article talks about Minnesota coach Cal Stoll breaking it out before their battle with the Wolverines that season:

It all started on Friday night when Stoll called a team meeting, put a replica of the Little Brown Jug—a trophy for this game dating back to 1903—before his players and called on Butch Nash, a hero from the Minnesota national champions of 1936 and an end coach at the school for the past 30 years.

Earlier this year I spoke to a few folks currently in the Gopher athletic department and asked them about the whereabouts of the replica.  No one knew anything about it but they directed me to someone who might: longtime equipment manager Dick Mattson.

Mattson, who started at Minnesota in 1963, recalled the existence of an “official” replica jug.  He believes it was lost sometime during the transition from Memorial Stadium to the (frickin’) Metrodome in 1982.  If anyone knows what happened to it or where it is, I’d love to hear about it.

1978 Program: Michigan’s replica has made onto a few prominent photographs, notably the program to the 1978 game (perhaps because the Gophers won the jug in 1977!).  That’s the Schembechler Hall copy on the left, note the more rounded handle and shoulder compared against the photos of the real jug above:

replicas 

LBJ Restaurant:  The beloved Little Brown Jug restaurant in Ann Arbor which of course is named after the famed trophy, took a few liberties with their logo.  The style of crock their emblem is completely different (which I forgive), but the handle is on the opposite side of the trophy (unless they intended for the ‘M’ logo to represent the Gophers).  And while a painting inside the restaurant does a much better job of representing the actual shape of the jug, once again the handle is on the wrong side:

res1 res2

In fairness, the sign above front door to the restaurant has two jugs, one with the handle on the right, the other on the left. 

Michigan Today:  This is probably the most egregious misrepresentation.  This piece in Michigan Today talks about the history of the jug, but inexplicably includes this photo of a “jug” with “1903” written on it.  We know what the original jug looks like, it’s not anything like this:

clip_image002

While these differences are pretty easy to spot, the question remains – did the jug that was handed back to Michigan in 1909 survive all these years? 

Related:
Part I: What Really Happened in the 1930s
Part II: Spinning Myths

7 Comments

  1. Loving this series, Greg. It’s right up your alley. Keep up the great work.

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  6. Wow, it's not as tall as I'd have guessed. I always thought it was like 2-3 feet high.

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  8. Great Job guys, sorry this series has been so lopsided in my life time, but I look forward to Nebraska joining the leauge it will force everyone to raise their game up, and I look forward to Brady Hoke and Jerry Kill facing off. So beat Iowa and Wisconsin and best of luck except when we play you guys

  9. I was at the game in 1977 and met Bo Shembechler football needs more men like Bo what a great man

  10. Where is the jug displayed now? My mom said it used to be kept at a place called the Pretzel Bell (i think thats the correct name).

    and to Mark…..football needs more men like Bo and the entire world needs more men like Bo! Amazing man on and off the field. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

  11. @Kim
    Kim, they might have had a replica in the Pretzel Bell (they had a bunch of memorabilia). The real jug is not displayed and it’s stowed away with the Michigan equipment managers. (There is a jug on display in Schembechler Hall but that’s not the real thing as discussed above).

  12. Thanks for the info!! Go Blue!

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