In last weeks TBT livingat45north asked a good question in the comments, “whats the oldest piece of Gopher football history that we have?” Good question!
He specifies that he’s talking about physical items like jerseys. Which is good for me because I’ve already written about the oldest photograph. After talking to several people here I think I found the answer.
The Little Brown Jug. If you believe the current LBJ is the original from 1903 than it’s the oldest thing in Gopherdom. It would be easy to end the post here but technically we don’t have the jug (it’s in Ann Arbor). It also depends on whether you believe it is or isn’t the original. One of the better local sports conspiracy theories is that the present day jug is a replica. Or at least a replica from the 1920s. Mvictors really jumped down the rabbit hole on this one. If it’s indeed from the 1920s then several pieces of clothing are older...
From the same 1903 game that gave us the jug, the Minnesota Historical Society has a game worn jersey, er sweater. Egil a player in that famous 1903 game wore this on that famous October 31, 1903 and scored the game tying touchdown. He would later stitch the score onto the sweater and wear it to every future LBJ game he attended. If you want to see the sweater in real life it’s usually on display at the James J Hill house in St. Paul (Egil married into that family).
Unlike the jug, this is definitely from 1903.
I can hear you now. Isn’t there anything else that’s really old?
One Last (possible) Answer
In our MNHS collections there is a very intriguing sweater that used to be owned by Alf Pillsbury. The same Alf Pillsbury whom had been the team captain in 1887 and owned the football the team initially started playing with.
The date we give this sweater is 1919 (congrats to it on turning 100), but it’s always looked older than that to me.
The lettering, while more modern looking, resembles the style that photo from 1887, but without any documentation there isn’t a good way to prove that it’s older than the 1919 date Alf. Unless ya’ll want to crowd source the funds needed to get it scientifically dated.
It’s a little odd that Alf would have gotten a brand new Gopher sweater in 1919, he would have been 50 that year. Maybe he just need to get his fit off, who knows.
It’s possible there is a game football over at the U of M that’s older than these things, but I’m not certain any of them are pre 1903.