A few years back I asked if anyone had any of the original Michigan bonds, used to fund the construction of the stadium in the 1920s, stuffed in a mattress or in an attic somewhere.   I didn’t hear a peep and I know now, thanks to the records at the Bentley Library, that just about all of those original certificates are accounted for.

This is about as close as I think I’ll get to someone producing a bond.   Reader Dylan sent images of this over recently—it’s what appears to be an original print of the stadium design produced by Osborn Engineering of Cleveland OH, the firm that won the contract to design the stadium:


If you are scratching your head as to why Yost would let a Cleveland-based firm architect the Big House, fret not—Bernard Green, the chief architect, was a Michigan man. 

In frame, the dimensions are approximately 22” across and 26” high. The label at the bottom:


A better look at the stadium drawing:


It also reads “SAMPLE 1928” at the bottom left:

sample 1928 
So what does this have to do with the stadium bonds?   This is the same drawing that U-M included in the prospectus used to promote the sale of the bonds:

bondadAbove and below, via U-M Bentley Historical Library

These bonds were effectively the first seat licenses, or what we call today a preferred seat donation (PSD), and gave the owner the right to purchase premium seats in the freshly minted Big House.   Except PSL might be more appropriate as the bonds weren’t a donation—they were more like a loan to #1000SSS and an investment to the buyer as the bonds paid 3% (exempt from State of Michigan taxes) on top of the principal once they were redeemed.

How good were the seats?  As indicated in the diagram above and more specifically from the terms of the bond itself—“these seats to be located in a special, reserved section between the thirty yard lines on either side of the field.”

first PSD 

Dylan says he got the print from his grandmother, who in turn won it at a meeting years back.   He says he contacted Osborn Engineering (yes, they are still in existence) and they believe it is an original.  I assume by original they mean an original print of this drawing, probably used for a variety of purposes in the 1920s including of course the bond promotion.

Now—this original drawing was probably done in around 1926 (Osborn was officially selected in July 1926 but Yost had been in design discussions with Green as early as 1924) and of course the bonds were promoted ahead of the unveiling in 1927.   So…I’m not sure how the SAMPLE 1928 fits in.  Beyond the bond prospectus, I’m not sure how Osborn or U-M used this drawing.  Perhaps they used it to promote sale of tickets (in general) and/or produced the prints for sale after the stadium opened.  Dunno–perhaps the folks at Osborn know more.

Value?  If it’s in pretty crisp condition and you can get something from Osborn confirming this is an original print (and perhaps some documentation), I’m guessing you’re looking at a $500 bill—coincidentally the price of the original stadium bonds.  :)

Thanks to Dylan for sending this over and Ken Magee of Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia for having a look.

Got a unique piece of Michigan Lore in your attic or man cave?  Send it over.

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  1. Posts like this are why I love this site.

    Speaking of stadiums…
    I really love what the Packers have done with Lambeau. Hopefully we do something similar at the Big House. Would love to see us brick it all around and add more seats on top. Texas’ DKR seating capacity is expected to be between 120,000 and 125,000 once the south end zone is fully enclosed. http://img143.imageshack.us/img143/7706/29mc5.jpg

  2. Thanks again Greg for THE most interesting articles. History is wonderful but Michigan history is the difference. Your passion and time to bring this to all Michigan faithful is TrueBlue.

    • Crum, Teddy, Jil – Appreciate the kind words and Teddy, I’m with you on the enclosure. I’d like to see if they can create a general admission deck or area in the end zones a la Cowboys Stadium.