ND: A National University

Feb 03, 2017

As most of you know, I have been writing a book about early (1887-1917) Notre Dame Football.  While researching the lives of the 365 players from our first 30 years, I was struck by how many states they came from.  Notre Dame has been a “national school” ever since Fr. Sorin came to South Bend, in 1842.

One of the reasons ND has resisted joining a conference is the desire to play a national schedule and not be limited to a specific region, like conference schools are.

The Irish have alums and fans all over the country and want to recruit from all 50 states (OK, we’re a little weak on Alaska).

When did the Notre Dame football team first show signs of having a national recruiting base?  How about November of 1887, in our inaugural game, versus Michigan?

The Irish lineup for its first game was:

LE       Frank Fehr                  Louisville, KY

LT       Patrick Nelson            Otter Creek, IA

LG       Edward Sawkins         Toledo, OH

C         George Houck             Corvallis, OR

RG       Frank Springer            Columbus, GA

RT       Tom O’Regan             St. Paul, MN

RE       James Maloney           Kansas City, MO

QB       George Cartier            Ludington, MI

LH       Joe Cusack                  Fort Niobrara, NE

RH       Henry Luhn                 Spokane, WA

FB       Hal Jewett                   Chicago, IL

Although these were the only men to play in the first game, there were two additional states represented in our April, 1888 games, also against Michigan.

Joe Hepburn, from El Paso, TX, replaced Maloney at right end; and Ed Prudhomme, of Bermuda, LA, played fullback, moving Jewett over to LH.

In addition, I found the names of 23 additional men (scrubs) who practiced against the varsity.  Included in this group were Andrew Joyce (Washington, DC); Art Larkin (Ellsworth, KS); Ralph and William Silver (Denver, CO); John Wilson (Madison, WI); and Frank Barnhart (Attica, IN). 

Jewett scored ND’s first touchdown, and later owned an automobile company.  Prudhomme, who kicked ND’s first extra point, was a long-time member of the Louisiana Legislature.  Luhn, who would become a prominent Surgeon, captained the first ND team.  Prudhomme captained the April, 1888 teams.

Frank Fehr is the only man to play in ALL five Notre Dame Games from 1887-1889.  He never left the field.  He must have been fehrless.  

Here’s the mini-bio I created on Frank:

Fehr Jr., Frank 

b. 1/22/1870, Louisville, KY; d. 8/14/1962 (92), Louisville, KY.

At ND, 1881-1890.  Father born in Zinswiller, in the Alsace Region, currently part of France, but then part of Prussia.  Played on the 1886 Carroll Hall Baseball Team which defeated Brownson, in 1886.  Fr. Burns, later ND President, was the umpire for the game.  Elected as Commodore of the Boat Club (1887-1888).  Selected as Stage Manager for Washington Hall productions, a position which would prove ironic in 15 years.  On December 30, 1903, he survived the deadliest building fire in American history, when more than 600 people died at the recently opened Iroquois Theater, in Chicago.  Fehr was watching the matinee showing of Eddie Foy’s musical, “Mr. Bluebeard”.  After the fire, it was alleged that fire inspectors had been bribed with free tickets to overlook code violations.  The Oriental Theater now rests on the original site of the Iroquois Theater.  Carl Prinzler was supposed to attend the performance, but business appointments caused him to miss.  After hearing that locked exit doors contributed to many of the deaths, he worked with two friends to invent the Von Duprin “panic bar”.  Fehr spent 60 years in the brewery business, succeeding his father as President of the Frank Fehr Brewery.  By 1901, Fehr's was Louisville's biggest brewer.  Fehr's started using beer cans, in 1940.  By 1949, it was the largest selling beer in Kentucky and Indiana. 

From the ALUMNUS: “The dean of American brewers. Colonel Frank Fehr, '93, is now chairman of the board of directors of the Frank Fehr Brewing Co., Louisville, Ky. Colonel Fehr has the unique distinction of having played center on Notre Dame's first football team. He is very proud of a picture in his office of the 1887 Irish grid eleven and recalled that "our one substitute was absent when the photograph was taken." Although nearing his 84th birthday the Colonel remains active in business and in his many other interests. He has been in the brewing business for more than 60 years having learned the trade from German masters in Munich and Vienna. His father, Frank Fehr, Sr., started the company in 1872 and managed it until he died in 1891. The Colonel served as president of the brewery until being elevated to his new post as board chairman. Not only did he survive the rigors of football and more than a half-century in the brewing business but Colonel Fehr also was in the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago when it caught fire on December 30, 1903, and claimed 600 lives. The Colonel is married and he and Mrs. Fehr recently moved to 107 Travois Road, Louisville, Ky.”  

Frank was the final surviving member of Notre Dame’s first football team.  His son, Frank III, also attended ND.

Go Irish!

Cappy Gagnon, Gloucester, MA


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