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In this post on the memorabilia collection of Ann Arbor’s Jack Briegel, I mentioned one the coolest items in his den is a menu signed by the 1901 football team (and others) prior to their trip to the first Rose Bowl.

A while back Briegel, along with Greg Kinney of the Bentley Historical Library (Update: and autograph collector extraordinaire, Dennis Dail), went through each signature and felt they’d identified all of them except one. 

With the publicity around the FBI’s public plea for help deciphering a cryptic code related to a murder case, I thought I’d give this a shot.  Here’s the signature on the 1901 menu that remains a mystery:

missing_signature

Arm chair agents and/or pharmacists, we need your help!

Update April 14, 2011:  Mystery solved!  Author and historian John Kryk emailed me with this info early this morning:

That is very clearly the signature of one James O. Murfin.

At the time he was, I believe, an alumni member of the Board in Control of Athletics. He was a huge fan of the football team, but also a prominent alumnus as well as a big wheel in the Southeastern Michigan legal community. He was either then, or would become, a prominent judge in Southeastern Michigan — a circuit court judge I believe — and might have become a regent in the ’20s, IIRC.

Yes, I believe Kryk is correct on all fronts and Murfin did indeed become a regent.  In fact accordingly to the Bentley Library, Murfin in his role as regent, pushed to get African American track star Willis Ward on the football squad. 

Well done Kryk!

8 Comments

  1. The umlaut is definitely the periods from the above signature, which looks like J.C. Rolfe.. Looks to me like Jouwrfiu or Jocwurfiu.

    Maybe look at the Ensians for that era?

  2. As the Michigan Autograph expert (with approx 25,000 M Fball auto’s in my collection back to Ferbert/Baird) who spend about 4 weeks identifying these autographs and studying the unsolved autograph, i researched every person associated with the UofM Athletic Dept, Athletic Board, Board of Control, Editors, Managers, Doctors, Players, Ensian, Bentley from 1900-05 and every source known and cannot come up with a name that fits with the obvious “J” and “f”. FYI – below are my results from all other autographs on the Menu….it is by far the rarest and nicest piece of memorabilia from that era of Michigan Football and the great 1901 Yost team…

    Page 1 – Top-To-Bottom
    Southworth(written at top) Player – Benjamin H. Southworth – original owner of this book – 5-9 187 lbs. Reading, MI

    Curtis G. Redden Player – End – 6-1 166 lbs. Rossville, IL 1903 Captain
    Harold H. Baker Player -6-0, 185 lbs. Hometown: Rochester, NY High School: N.Y. Military Academy
    Neil W. Snow Player – 1898-1901 – FB – 6-2 185 lbs. Detroit, MI 1900 Football Captian
    Willie Heston Player – 1901-04 – HB – 5-10 175 lbs. Grants Pass, OR – 1904 Football Captain
    Arthur Redner Player – HB – 5-9, 156 lbs. Bessemer, MI
    Herbert Graver Player – End – 5-9, 157 lbs. Chicago, IL
    Eben “Trig” Wilson Player – Guard – 5-6, 185 lbs. LaPeer, MI
    George W. “Pa” Gregory Player – Center – 6-2, 188 lbs. Seattle, WA
    Glenn R. C. Faling Player – Kalamazoo, MI
    Harris P. Ralston Athletic Board
    Joseph C. Horgan Player – 5-1, 175 lbs. Victor, CO
    Bottom left – Walter Shaw Player – 5-9 156 lbs. Kansas City, MO
    Bottom right – Arthur Browne Board Of Control

    Page 2 – Top-To-Bottom
    Albert Pruessman Player – 5-8, 158 lbs Hometown: Chicago, IL
    Stuart Utley Athletic Board
    William Lloyd Athletic Board
    John F. Hincks Player – 5-11 167 lbs. Manistee MI
    Thomas Robinson Board Of Control
    Charles Baird Athletic Board &1900 Graduate Director
    John Rolfe Board Of Control
    The Unknown Name – ????
    Victor Lane Board Of Control
    Melville Hoff Board Of Control
    Albert Pattengill Toastmaster & Board Of Control
    Fielding H. Yost Head Football Coach
    Harrison “Boss” Weeks Player – QB – 5-7 150 lbs. Allegan, MI – 1902 Captain
    Albert E. Herrnstein Player – 5-11 168 lbs. Chillicothe, OH

    Page 3 – Top-To-Bottom
    Everett M. Sweeley Player – 1899-02 – End – 6-0 167 lbs. Sioux City, IA
    Bruce C. Shorts Player – 1900-01 – Tackle – 6-1 190lbs. Mt. Pleasant, MI
    Charles Elliott Athletic Board
    Claude C. Frazer Player – 1901 – Flint, MI
    Moses Johnson Player – 1901-02 – Wichita, KS
    David Beardsley Player – 1901,1903 – Kalamazoo, MI
    Samuel Sackett Player – 1899-1902 – Ann Arbor, MI
    Clifford G Roe Financial Manager of Student Athletic Assoc.
    Frank M. Wagner Editor of “Michigan Daily” – 1904 Michigan Law School Graduate
    Norman S. Sterry Player – 1900-02 – Left End – 5-9 160 lbs. Los Angeles, CA
    Hugh White Player – 1898-1901 – Tackle – 5-11 180 lbs. Lapeer, MI 1901 Football Captain
    Keene Fitzpatrick Player –
    Thomas S. Burr Team Doctor – 1898 Michigan Medical Degree graduate
    James Forrest Player – 1901 – Ann Arbor, MI
    Arthur Urquhart Player – 1901 – 5-5 167 lbs. Ironwood, MI

    Page 3 – Top-To-Bottom
    Paul Jones Player – 1901 – Youngstown, OH
    Daniel McGugin Player – LG – 1901-02 – 5-11 175 lbs. Tingley, IA – Fielding Yost’s Borther-In-Law
    James Prentiss Editor In Chief of “Michigan Alumni” Magazine – 1896 Mich Graduate – Former member of Board of Control

  3. This list is fascinating, but not for autograph reasons. Look at the size of the players – anyone over two hundred pounds? Amazing.

  4. The other thing to notice about the players is that they came from all over the country. Apparently we recruited nationwide even then.

  5. I don’t think it was athletic recruiting–I think the country-wide hometowns are more indicative of the academic allure of U of M even back then. The athletic teams back then were made up of students who decided to try out rather than by athletes who were recruited specifically to play one sport at a school. You can read old Daily articles at the Bentley where Yost implores male students to come and try out for football. I think I recall one where he had a second tryout because not enough students showed up for the first one.

  6. Thanks to author/historian John Kryk — case closed – post updated

  7. THANKS TO: GREG KENNEY, DENNIS DAIL, GREG DOOLEY AND FINALLY JOHN KRYK.
    THIS BEAUTIFUL PIECE OF MICHIGAN FOOTBALL HISTORY WAS PASSED TO ME BY MARION SOUTHWORTH FOSTER, THE DAUGHTER OF 1901 PLAYER BENJAMIN SOUTHWORTH.
    SHE ALSO PASSED ON SEVERAL PHOTOS OF THE 1902 ROSE PARADE.
    NOW THAT ALL 46 AUTOGRAPHS HAVE BEEN IDENIFIED WE MAY REST IN PEACE.