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March 14, 2019 Happy Birthday Anniversary Virgil Tupper

Posted on March 13, 2019 by Barry Gallagher

Today is a good day to send out Happy Birthday wishes for a Wolverine named Virgil Tupper. According to the Wikipedia article linked below, Virgil Langstaff Tupper was born on this day in 1869 in Oil City, Pennsylvania. However, for unknown reasons, he grew up in the home of his uncle, Dr. Horace Tupper, who practiced medicine in Bay City, Michigan. Tupper attended the University of Michigan from 1891 until 1893 which is where his Wolverine football story starts.

(Note-Virgil Tupper is shown here with the 1892 Michigan Football team. He is standing in the back row – second man from the left with arms folded. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)

Part I. Wolverine of the Day: Virgil Tupper

A Pennsylvania Boy Arrives in Ann Arbor in 1891

Virgil Tupper is listed as a “Guard weighing 184 pounds” on the 1891 Michigan varsity football squad. He was not listed as a starter on the 1891 team, but he is pictured with the letter winners in the team photo for that year. He was listed as one of the starting guards for the 1892 team along with Charles L. Thomas. Once again, it appears that Tupper won a second varsity letter since he also appeared in the 1892 team photo.

Virgil Tupper 1892 | bigbluefootballhistory.com

Virgil Tupper played on two record-setting Michigan teams in 1891 and 1892. He went on to become a doctor who practiced in Bay City, Michigan for over forty-years. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

There are not a lot of details available about Tupper’s play, but he was part of some interesting teams in his two years at Michigan. He played on the first team to have coaches (Frank Crawford and Mike Murphy) in charge of the program in 1891.  When both men left the next season, Tupper played for Frank Barbour in his first season at Michigan.

In those two seasons, Tupper was part of two interesting “firsts” at Michigan. In 1891, the Wolverines lost five games for the first time in their twelve-year history. The previous high was three losses in the winless season of 1881. Michigan lost five more games in 1892, but also won five, then six and finally seven games in one season. So, in two consecutive seasons, the Wolverines set records for losses and wins.

Tupper and His Teammates Achieved Many Michigan Football “Firsts”

Virgil Tupper was also associated with many more Wolverine football “firsts.” Here are the ones that associate Tupper and the record-setting teams from 1891 and 1892.

  • First Michigan team to win by a margin of 74 points with a 74-0 victory over the Michigan Athletic Association (MAA) on October 8, 1892. It was also the first game against MAA. They played another game on October 12, 1892 as well.
  • Played in the first games in program history against the following teams: Wisconsin (won 10-6 on 10/15/1892), Minnesota (lost 6-14 on 10/17/1892), DePauw (won 18-0 on 10/22/1892), Northwestern (lost 8-10 on 10/29/1892) and Chicago (won 18-12 on 11/12/1892).
  • First Michigan team to embark on a five game, four state “road trip” against the teams listed above. This trip had three Saturday games as well as two that were played on Monday from October 15th to October 29th.
  • First documented home crowd of 600 fans against Oberlin at Burns Park on November 19, 1892. Michigan won that contest by a score of 26-24.
  • Played on the first Michigan team to play seven games in the month of October 1892.
  • First Michigan team to play five games in the month of November 1892.
  • First Michigan team to play twelve games in one season (1892).
  • Played on the first Michigan team with an African-American player – halfback George Jewett.

The Wolverine Legacy of a True “Pigskin Pioneer”

Virgil Tupper was definitely a “Pigskin Pioneer” in the days when Michigan football really started to become a powerhouse team in the Midwest. After he left Michigan, Virgil Tupper went on to earn a medical degree and returned to Bay City, Michigan to take over his uncle’s medical practice. Dr. Virgil L. Tupper died on April 13, 1951 at the age of eighty-two.

So, today is a good day to honor the memory of Dr. Virgil L. Tupper and appreciate his contributions to Michigan football. Tupper was part of two special teams in Michigan football history. The 1892 team was the first team to play twelve games in one season. It was truly a band of “Road Warriors” who played more “away” games (9) in one season than any other Michigan team in history. Also, the 1892 Wolverines were the first M-team to play five consecutive road games against the best teams in the Midwest. Even before the fight song, Michigan strived to be the “leaders and the best!”

Thanks to the efforts of men like Dr. Tupper, Michigan Wolverine football is still going STRONG in 2017! Take a moment to remember a true Michigan Football pioneer named Dr. Virgil L. Tupper. May he always rest in peace. Go Blue!



Part II. March 14, 2019 National Day Calendar Update  

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