Thursday, April 1, 2010

More On Mase Graffen

I'm a little surprised that I've never written much about Mase Graffen before, especially given my focus on the 1876 Brown Stockings over the last six months or so. I guess I was saving it for when I got to his resignation. Regardless, I'm passing along some biographical information that I have.

Samuel Mason Graffen was born in 1845 in Philadelphia. It appears that he was an accountant by trade and was a member of the Olympic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia. Graffen was most likely hired by the Brown Stockings in 1875 upon the recommendation of Al Wright, who was originally reported to have been the Brown Stockings manager but backed out of the job.

In January of 1875, Graffen took the Brown Stockings into training at a gymnasium in St. Louis. It appears that Graffen was the first to introduce this kind of baseball training, which consisted of two hours of calisthenics and handball each day, in St. Louis.

I have a note that Graffen was the manager of the Brown Stockings in 1875 but it's unknown what his specific role was that season. Bad Dickey Pearce is listed as the manager of the club in 1875 and was likely running the club on the field. Graffen was most likely the business manager, arranging matches with other NA clubs and taking care of the travel arrangements, ticket sales, etc. Of course, Graffen was again the manager of the club in 1876 until his resignation in September.

Graffen was a sportsman in 19th century sense of the word. Besides baseball, he was a top-level cricket player, playing in both Philadelphia and St. Louis. After he left the Brown Stockings, he was involved in yachting in St. Louis and Keokuk, Iowa.

It appears that Graffen, after leaving St. Louis, was living in Sedalia, Missouri and was working as an accountant with a railroad company. He died on November 18, 1883 in Silver City, New Mexico.

As mention previously, Graffen was married to Sarah Matilda Barnes and had three sons, Charles, George and Paul.


Richard Hershberger said...

I had never made the connection that he was a member of the Olympics. My transcribed membership roster (which runs through 1866) has an "S. Mason Graffin" joining in 1866. Presumably that is the same person. What was his full name? Do you have any additional background on him or his family? I am always interested in social class issues in this period.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

The 1880 cenus lists his name as Samuel M. Graffen, while most newspaper accounts refer to him as S.M. Graffen and B-Ref has him as Samuel Mason Graffen.

Pretty much all the information I have about him I put in the post, although I have a bit more detail in my notes. If you want, I can put that together and send it to you.

The only information I have which may pertain to issues of class is some stuff about his wife. I found the record of his marriage and the DOB of his children in a book about descendents of the Pilgrams. Sarah Matilda Graffen (nee Barnes) was the daughter of Matilda Barnes (nee Hughes), who was the great, great, great, great granddaughter of "John Howland The Pilgram". So Graffen is related by marriage to, among others, both George Bushes, FDR, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Joseph Smith, and Winston Churchill. Interesting but not particularly relevant.

How he met the wife and what her social status was at the time of the marriage, I can't say.

David Ball said...

It's Samuel Mason Graffen. His wife was the Mayflower descendant, and the census shows Graffen's father Robert born in Ireland but his mother in Pennsylvania. The 1850 census has Robert as a real estate agent, and in tax records from the middle 1860's he is listed as a commercial broker and in real estate at 537 Pine St. Robert is still listed in the 1881 Philadelphia city directory, still in real estate, still at 537 Pine.

I can't find Mase in the 1860 census, and then in 1870 he's living with his wife (age 20) in Philadelphia but with no other information. But in an 1873 publication, Mr. and Mrs. S. Mason Graffen are among the list of contributord to the endowment fund of St. Andrews Church, an Episcopalian church in Philadelphia. So all in all, the family doesn't seem the stereotypical poor Irish Catholic immigrants.

Mason, Matila and all three children were in Sedalia, Missouri for the 1880 census, with Graffen an accountant for a railroad company, and the fact that he's buried in Keokuk suggests they were probably living there when he died in 1883.

What he would have been doing in New Mexico I don't know, but I happened across an obituary of him in a Cleveland paper that mentioned he had gone to work for a railroad after leaving the Browns, and I believe it referred to his working various places in the west but I didn't copy the specifics. So I can't rule out that he returned to Philadelphia for a while before going west again.

I'd like to rule it out, though, because that would let us rule out the humdrum family man explanation for his resignation and go back to more interesting theories.

David Ball said...

Sorry, I wrote my post while Jeff was putting his up and so included some repeated information. I wanted to add that my note from the Cleveland Herald obit is dated November 18, and if that's not a mistake on my part (which isn't impossible), then his death must have been at least a day or two earlier. At any rate, he seems to have died far from home, presumably leaving a young widow and three still pretty small children.

Also, the matter of Graffen's use of the gymnasium to trade his players is of some interest because Dan Devinney, the Louisville manager who accused Graffen's successor McManus of trying to bribe him in 1877, had worked in 1875 as the manager of the Mission Gymnasium in St. Louis, training the players. When he was accused of dishonesty, Devinney procured a letter from the Mission Gym (according to the Louisville Courier-Journal) attesting that he had not been fired for dishonesty, and the only complaint against him had been neglect of his duties to give excessive interest to baseball -- specifically, he had been fired for skipping work to go to a game.

Jeffrey Kittel said...

Thanks, David. I don't have much information about Graffen prior to his coming to StL so your stuff was helpful.

Graffen had to have been living in Keokuk in 1878. There's a report in the Globe that he had been elected as an officer in the Keokuk Rowing Club in July of that year.

I don't necessarily think that because he came West again with his family we have to rule out the humdrum family man explanation for his resignation in 1876. He may have moved his family out here in 1875 when he started working with the Brown Stockings but the wife and kids went back East with the immenent arrival of the new baby. Don't want the kid born out in the Wild West and it may have been better for Matilda to be with the extended family when Mase was travelling around with the club.

So regardless of where he ended up in 1876 (Philadelphia, back in StL, Keokuk), it's still plausable that the resignation was for family reasons. I view the family stuff as the straw that broke the camels back and don't dismiss all the other, more interesting stuff as being unimportant. The man probably just had enough of the nonsense in StL and had a new baby, a young wife and family, said to h*ll with it and went home.

But the more one learns about the guy, the more interesting he seems. I wish we had more information.