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:
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!