Archie McFadyen — One of Milwaukee’s Forgotten Nice Guys

Here is a new article written by Dennis Pajot about one of the early pitchers in the Cream City Baseball club.

“A year or two ago I started a minor project to find what happened to the players on Milwaukee’s first major baseball team, the Cream City Club. Of the 9 regulars on this late 1860s club I could find information on most, but not enough to put together whatever I was trying to do. Then a few months ago Gary Rebholz and I were talking at the library and he told me he had found a death notice on an old ball player named Archie McFadyen. He asked if I was interested and I told him I certainly was. Gary was kind enough to send me (and translate from the German) the death notices he found. With this information I could find look for further information in the Milwaukee Journal and Milwaukee Sentinel and together with the information I had, put together something on the life of Mr. McFadyen.”

According to the Milwaukee Sentinel of February 11, 1900, “one of the most even-tempered and courteous men in the city” was the doorman to Milwaukee’s Chamber of Chambers, Archie McFadyen.

Archibald McFadyen was born in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1839. Archie’s father, Archibald Sr., brought his family to Milwaukee in June of 1842 on the high pressure steamer, James Madison, captained by Archie’s uncle John McFadyen. The senior Archie McFadyen was a sign painter by profession. It was said the signs he painted were done so well they lasted as long the buildings on which they stood. The McFadyen family took up residence on Van Buren Street.

While little is known of our Archie’s early years we do know he was in active service with the volunteer Liberty Hose Company No. 2 of the Milwaukee Fire Department. We also know in the late 1860s McFadyen was in the Merchants’ Zouaves and at some point became a member of the Knights of Pythias.

After the Civil War young men in Milwaukee became interested in the game of Base Ball that was becoming increasingly popular around the country. Archie was one of the young men enthused with this game. The Cream City Base Ball Club was formed in late 1865 and a match game between members was played at Camp Scott (on Prospect Avenue near today’s Royal Place) in early November. McFadyen was the pitcher in this first match game, giving up 30 runs. Fortunately his team scored 36 in the seven inning affair.

The Cream City Club took on a more formal aspect in 1866 and played a number of out of city clubs. One of these games was a Decoration Day game against the Capitol City Club of Madison at Camp Randall. The Cream City Club left for Madison in high spirits, perhaps fueled by the news that the young ladies of Madison were “preparing to crown the victors after the manner of the ancient Grecians.” Cream City won the game 48 to 15, McFadyen’s pitching “completely demoralizing” the Capitol City nine.

Play continued for the Cream Citys through the 1866 season, including tournaments in Illinois. The local club went on to win the Wisconsin State Championship. In the 1867 McFadyen was elected secretary of the club. Archie continued pitching until later in the season when the Cream Citys found a new pitcher. McFadyen changed to shortstop. For the second straight year Cream City held the state championship.

1868 found Archie at shortstop again. But baseball was changing. Members of the Cream City Club, as all baseball players in Milwaukee, were amateurs. But professionals were filling the ranks in other major cities, and some of these professional teams played the Cream Citys.

Archie continued to play shortstop for the Cream City Club, in addition to being the team captain in 1869. When the club’s regular catcher could not play, McFadyen took over behind the plate. He was in this position when the Cream Citys played the famous 1869 all-professional Cincinnati Red Stockings. Archie managed one hit and to score a run in the home team’s 85 to 7 loss to the famous Red Stockings. McFadyen continued to play with the club until 1870 when professionals took the front seat in baseball across the country.

In December 31, 1867, Archibald McFadyen had taken over the job he would be best remembered for: doorkeeper of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce. Archie’s job description at first was more than doorkeeper. It was also his duty to sweep out the chamber and performed duties later delegated to others. He was a bit of a utility man. McFadyen was at first doorman at the old Chamber of Commerce building at Michigan and Broadway. This building was torn down in 1879 and Archie stood guard at the temporary quarters occupied by the chamber in Munkwitz’s building up the street on Broadway. The new Chamber of Commerce building was opened in the fall of 1886 and still stands.

While at the door of the Chamber of Commerce McFadyen made the acquaintance of many financiers and speculators—both those extremely successful and those who lost all their money. It was said his “unfailing good nature and willingness to accommodate made him a favorite with every one.” He was just as skillful at introducing new members of the bulls and bears as he was at keeping non-members out.

Of the many he met, Archie had a few stories on some of the most famous. He though the most interesting character on the floor was Daniel Newhall. Not only was Newhall a smart speculator, but a fair and honest man, who was helpful to charities and passed money around freely. Other speculators and investors who stuck out in Archie’s memory were Edward Sanderson, Peter McGeoch, Alexander Mitchell and Phillip Armour. Archie had a funny story about Armour once giving him a cigar to smoke after dinner. McFadyen, who had never seen Armour smoke on the floor, marveled at Mr. Armour’s constitution, judging from the cigar. When Archie smoked the cigar, he said “It almost took my head off.”

Archie McFadyen had the desire to round off his service at the Chamber of Commerce at 50 years. But after more than 48 years his family persuaded him to retire his post after a serious operation. It was thought it was doubtful if any other man held the position at the door of a commercial organization in the United States as long as Arche McFayden had held his position as doorman in Milwaukee.

Archibald McFadyen passed away on October 8, 1921 at his home at 650 Van Buren (later address changed to 1232 North Van Buren). He was survived by his widow, Jennie Louise, and two sons and two daughters. One of his sons was Alexander McFadyen, a nationally known pianist and composer. Archie McFadyen was buried at Forest Home cemetery.

Dennis Pajot