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Last football season I got a call from #1000SSS asking me to inspect a few photos of a certain piece of crockery that turned up in Ohio.   Based on the pics it appeared to be an early, somewhat haggard replica of the Little Brown Jug.  The photos were pretty interesting but I needed to get a closer look to make any proclamations about what we were dealing with. 

Fast forward to this spring.  The owners put the piece up for sale and it was purchased by Ken Magee, a local collector and the owner of Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia.  A few weeks ago I got that closer look:

1 - Jug Minn M 1 - Jug

Diane Diller, the ex-wife of the man who has held the jug for over 40 years, says that her husband Steve came into possession of the jug in 1969 when he attended high school in Pandora, Ohio, a small town 15 miles west of Findlay.  In her words:

The late John Michaels, who was the custodian at Pandora Gilboa High School at the time, was cleaning the auditorium.  Mr. Michaels found the jug behind the auditorium curtain.  Steve Diller, who was a junior, happened to be in the area at the time and was asked if he wanted to take the jug home.  He did, and has had it ever since.  Over the years, Steve has asked around Pandora to see if anyone knew its origin.  No one had any idea where it came from or how it found its way to Pandora High School.

So what is this thing?  Is it an uber fan of the jug rivalry who, like those in the Jug Brotherhood, wanted a replica jug of his own?   Here’s Magee at his downtown store flashing his pipes and his new prize:

1 - Ken with Jug My hunch is that this was indeed created by a fan—a serious fan–at some point in the early 1940s.  A few data points:

  • The last year and score on the jug is 1941, right near the end of the Minnesota dynasty from 1934 to 1942.  That period was certainly a Golden (Gopher) Age for Minnesota fans.  While we tend to view the love of the jug rivalry through maize and blue goggles, I wonder if this was actually created by a Gopher backer.
  • You’ll notice this jug has two score columns, one on either side of the jug, which was the formation right up until around 1941 (I believe it was in ‘42 when it was repainted with the current configuration of 4 columns).  Here’s a shot that I believe dates to 1941:

1941 Jug - One Column

  • They knew what they were doing…save for one major issue.  A key reason I believe this was solely a replica created by a fan (and not something that could have been used a copy by the teams or one of the jugs in play during the missing jug incident in the early 1930s): The Ms on the jug are on the wrong “sides” of the jug.  I’ve never seen a photo, replica or otherwise, where the handle was positioned this way.  On Pandora jug (left below) you can see the crock handle directly above the Minnesota M.  On the real jug (right) and on any other copy I’ve seen, the handle sits between the sides with the Ms:

Sides of the Little Brown Jug

  • One more little clue.  The bottom of the jug has these markings:  250 K.C.F.   No idea what that means.

1 - Jug bottom

All that said, for its apparent age (dating likely to the early 1940s) this is an incredibly cool and unique piece of Gopher-Wolverine memorabilia.  

If you know anything about this jug, by all means, shoot me a note!   Want to see the jug for yourself?  Visit Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia downtown.

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The Brotherhood of Jugsmen—those who have built replicas of the coveted Little Brown Jug– is becoming long and distinguished.  By my count we’re at 7.  And as an aside I know someone else sent me some photos last year but I lost track. If you feel worthy of membership by all means, send me your story and some photos.  I know there are a few Minnesota fans out that that are rocking replicas in their boat houses—let’s see ‘em.  Here’s the current list:

One of the earliest members of Local 1903 is Mark Foster and over the years he’s gradually stepped up his game.   Since creating a replica in 2010, Foster built a custom case for the jug and went onto to create subsequent replica jugs.   That brings us to reason for this post: Over the past year he decided to take this passion to the next level—building a replica of the chest that has encased the crock since the mid-1930s:

1935 Little Brown Jug Case

Here is Foster’s story in his words and photos:
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This project all started after I painted my second Little Brown Jug and I was going to make another wooden case to keep it in and my dad said, “No, this time you have to do it right.”  So we embarked on a LONG journey to completion and it couldn’t have turned out any better.

I scheduled a visit to Schembechler Hall on July 18, 2012, as Jon Falk was kind enough to let us come in and take photos of the real trunk that holds the Little Brown Jug, which was more than a treat in itself.  I sent him photos of the one I had just painted and told him we were interested in creating a replica trunk, so I assumed he knew we meant business! 

In the meantime, my dad went to Steinke-Fenton Fabricators in Jackson, MI to search out someone who would be knowledgeable in working with metal. They said there’s only one guy, Dave Freese of Jackson, MI.  He’s a master working with metal.  After the work he did for us with this product, he’s by far in my mind a “Magician of Metal” and he joined us in the visit with Falk.  My brother’s father-in-law, Brian Meredith, a highly skilled wood worker, also joined us as he would play a large part in the project as well.  My dad, Dave Freese, Brian Meredith and myself all went to Schembechler Hall for research/photos before starting the project.

Little Brown Jug Chest The official Brown Jug case at Schembechler Hall

Once the photos were taken and the research was done, Dave set off to construct the sheet metal for the sides, top and bottom of the box while Brian created the wooden box for the interior along with the interior velvet pillow/padding for the jug to rest in securely.  While that was being done, my dad and I began our search for the hardware.  Finding these pieces was next to impossible, even to the point of Dave stepping up and creating some identical replica pieces to the ones on the real trunk. Like I said, a magician of metal.  Others were found at various online stores and also Caslers Hardware in Jackson, MI came through big time for us.  One huge issue is that we could not find much of the hardware in brass. My dad called around to at least 15 shops across the US and only one would do brass plating for us, Acme Brass in Kansas City, MO.  Crazy right?

Once the hardware was all accounted for, the metal was complete and the wooden box finished, I set out to find a professional to paint the metal for us.  I was confident in my abilities to paint the jug, but painting something like this is well above my skill level.  I wanted to keep it local, so I checked around a few places in Chelsea, MI and came across Chelsea Restoration. I emailed them some photos of the box from our visit to Schembechler Hall and they accepted the project. I helped them pick out the colors and left them to it.

1 - pieces Fantastic job they did.  Once they were finished, we took the box and metal sides back to Dave’s house to put it all together.

1 - assemblingThese guys clearly mean business.  Guessing that tape measure only leaves his side at weddings and funerals.  Love that they have the photos of the original handy to cross check as they move along.

What a great project, we couldn’t be more excited to bring this to the Minnesota tailgates with us. In the meantime of the year it took us to make this project, I painted yet another brown jug and that’s going to be the one I house in the trunk, lucky number 3 I guess.  I can’t thank everyone enough for the hard work they put into this project.  Everything on the trunk is as identical as we could make it to the real thing, down to the number of brass round tacks bordering the sides. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Mark Foster - Little Brown Jug Case That’s Foster on the right in his epic man cave and the fresh 2003 Ohio State game jersey.  Love the authentic Schembechler Hall locker in the back, and the Yost signage.  True fan.

 

[Ed. Thanks Mark and congrats.  We’ll have to do Minnesota “radio row” next year with the full LBJ replica package.]

Get all of your Little Brown Jug Lore here and check out GBW Mag next month for some more Lore.

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Just in time for Minnesota week, I’m happy to welcome the latest member of The Little Brown Jug Club—Mr. T.C. Thorton.   He joins these fine gents in the Brotherhood of Jugsmen, Local 1903:

Check out Thorton’s handiwork:

image

Here’s a few words T.C. shared on this life changing experience:

Didn’t take long at all, and once you get started, you really look forward to working on it.  I had trouble finding an original Red Wing jug that wasn’t the $600+ that antique collectors were asking for it. I ended up have my uncle who is an artist, make a replica out of clay. I ended up speaking to an old high school friend who works with Mark Foster, one of the original jug makers from your site. After emailing him and getting some pointers, I went to town on it.

Took me awhile to decide on the perfect colors, probably dwelled on it longer than I should. Biggest trouble came with the Minnesota M. Their M is shorter and more spread out than our Block M. I quickly realized that enlarging it to the same size as the Michigan M, caused the Minnesota M’s legs/feet to stretch into my score columns. Ended up making the Minnesota M myself and as true to the original as possible. Looking forward to displaying it in my Michigan Man Cave, as well as the upcoming game watching parties we’re having at the house.

A great project I encourage anyone to undertake, and most of all – FUN!

Well done sir!  Now watch the women swoon.

Tip:  Want to do your own?  Read the experience of the other guys listed above for tips.

Need More?  Get your Little Brown Jug Lore here.

 

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