Craig Purcell

Craig Purcell

In the Nov. 19 edition of the Dyersville Commercial, I attempted to relate the more than 100-year history of Huberty Bottling Works and its unique place in local lore.

Since the article appeared, a reader has brought a few potential historical inaccuracies to my attention.

The challenge when doing research for historical pieces like the Huberty story or those I’ve done concerning Red Faber for the Cascade Pioneer, is identifying the quintessential source on a matter when so much of its history has long been buried. Sometimes it requires sorting through layers of sources and attributions. 

Some sources are irrefutable. For instance, Hubert Huberty’s headstone in the St. Boniface cemetery in New Vienna shows the date of his death as Sept. 29, 1925. You can say that some facts are etched in stone.

However, not everything etched in bronze can be taken at face value. A number of online sources list Red Faber’s career pitching record at 254-213, yet the bronze plaque honoring him at the National Baseball Hall of Fame reads “255-211.”

For media professionals, it reminds us of our role as part of the historical record. The danger is that an inaccuracy, or even a slight change of interpretation, can be cited as fact by future generations.

A newspaper needs to be factual in its reporting, and the Commercial and Pioneer continually strive to be so. In instances when several sources are available, we sometimes have to make judgment calls on which sources to use. 

I have no problem accepting and admitting when I am wrong, and it is plain for me to see that there was some incorrect information printed in the Huberty story.

I just can’t verify for 100 percent certainty where it first went wrong.

The sources I used had access to the family history, and much like my research, they also pulled their information from a variety of sources. It’s kind of like the kids’ game “Telephone.” The first person whispers a message to a second person, who repeats it to a third, and so on. When two or more teams of multiple players are relaying a message, it will most likely change the more times it is passed, and the final player on both teams will have received very different messages. The changes to the original message were miniscule each time they were made, and unintentional. 

When attempting to pinpoint exact dates and locations, the bigger picture can be easy to miss, and I think I did that justice: the Huberty story presented the company’s history the way most folks in Dyersville, New Vienna and Holy Cross remember it—as a taste from the past many would like to savor once more. 

As for Faber, the Hall of Fame representative I spoke with admitted there are inaccuracies in some of the plaques in Cooperstown. He said there is a disclaimer on the wall explaining that the statistics on the plaques were accurate for the information that was available at the time they were created.

He was not defensive in his response, and hopefully the tone of this column has not come across that way. I deeply appreciate anytime a reader points out an inaccuracy in anything I write.