Over the years people have asked me why I’m so interested in the history of The Little Brown Jug. While there are a few reasons, a biggie for me is that the jug itself is the ultimate piece of college football memorabilia. And college football fans love memorabilia. How many of you reading this have a shrine of some form another at home or work dedicated to your beloved Wolverines?
Of course ticket stubs have been a popular piece of of memorabilia for a long time (I have a shoebox somewhere with a bunch of gems). 111 years ago I don’t think people felt as compelled to hang onto stuff like ticket stubs but either way, one thing that always surprised me was that I’d never seen a stub to the 1903 Michigan-Minnesota 6-6 tie—the game that spawned the jug tradition. It was such a huge game especially for the folks in Minneapolis so it’s bugged me for a while that to my knowledge a stub had never surfaced (and I’ve mentioned it on these pages before):
So we know approximately 20,000 witnessed the famous clash and we do know that the gross receipts for the game were precisely $30,933.50 (with the Wolverines netting a $13K cut). Assuming the ducats, based on others from that year, were probably about two bucks, it’s fair to assume Doc Cooke’s athletic department produced somewhere between 12,000 and 15,000 tickets.
This leads to one missing piece of Jug Lore—I’ve never seen a ticket stub to the 1903 Minnesota-Michigan game.
I polled a couple of the most famous U-M memorabilia collectors. Jack Briegel, who owns a ticket to every game played in Michigan Stadium and many more emailed me confirming that he’s doesn’t have one and in fact, he’s “never seen a ticket from that game.”
Ken Magee, who runs Ann Arbor Sports Memorabilia and owns an extensive vintage U-M collection, hasn’t seen one either.
I reached out to the U-M Bentley Library (they do have a collection of tickets) but I don’t think they have one. Paul Rovnak of University of Minnesota media relations wrote to me and said they don’t have a ticket from the game either.
My guess? Someone out there has a ticket stub to this game. Reveal yourself(!)..and become a piece of Little Brown Jug lore.
Fast forward to last week when I got a text with the news and a pic. Yes indeed, local collector Ken Magee located someone selling an old scrapbook that included newspaper clippings from the 1903 game and inside the scrapbook was this:
While I don’t have a reference point to compare, it looks legit. Based on a peek at other tickets from 1903, it looks like the font and general style is the same (I assume schools often used the same printing companies). Check out stubs from U-M games against Wisconsin (played in Ann Arbor, via Jack Briegel) and against Chicago (played in Chicago – via the Bentley Library):
I say case closed. Nice find!
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