Reflections from the Dome
Early sketch of
story about Cartier Field is taken from the November, 1929 edition of The
Notre Dame Scholastic. It is entitled: "Cartier Field - The Old and
the New" by Alfred E. Gall. Many thanks to Joe Madonia of Chicago, for
sending me this article for the newsletter.
Back to Irish Reveries
When future Freshmen will be seated in the new stadium, perhaps watching a
second edition of the immortal Four Horsemen running the ball down the field
and plowing through the opposing line with the aid of another
Seven Mules- when another Elder, Rockne, Stuhldreher, Walsh, or Gipp will
save the day for the University - the past stadium, the history of old
Cartier field, will be but a passing memory in their minds.
Shakespeare said once that all the world was a stage on which we are merely
players. Experience, however, teaches that only a limited number of us are
football players. Notre Dame men who have trod the turf ever since the
incarnation of football at the University have immortalized the very turf on
which they made and broke records.
Back in 1886, when the University was still in her 'teens, her football
teams, unacquainted with the modern-day box office receipts played on an
open field. This old system of conducting all varsity sports on such a field
was soon found to be unsatisfactory. The burden of supporting the
teams rested chiefly on that portion of the student body then residing in
Brownson and Sorin halls. Generous sums from different faculty members,
however, were all that saved the Athletic Association from ruin.
In 1899, after a meeting of various University representatives, letters were
sent to the alumni for aid, but not a bit of help was extended the growing
University. Whether the men addressed had cracked ice in their shoes or wore
cold water bags around their necks is a matter of conjecture. Somehow it
seemed that college loyalty, which to the alumni then seemed only a matter
of rooting for the teams when they played, was frosted. The contributions
which were solicited did not even suffice to defray the expenses of mailing
Despite this setback, the University authorities in June, 1889, decided to
go ahead with the project of building an enclosed field. Those who attended
these games would then have to pay admission in order to share expenses. A
letter was sent to Warren A. Cartier, C. E., 1887, asking him if he could
lend any assistance toward purchasing some land and putting a fence around
it. Mr. Cartier, who resided in Ludington, Michigan, at the time, was a
member of the firm of Rath and Cartier, and also of the Cartier Lumber Co.
He was, to quote from files of the Scholastic of 1900,
"respected for his abilities and for his genial character."' At
the time of his donation he was acting as mayor of his home town. The
response to the request overwhelmed University officials. Father Morrissey,
who was the president of Notre Dame at that time, was much touched when he
read Mr. Cartier's reply. The loyal alumnus not only promised aid, but said
that he himself would buy the required lumber for the project, build the
necessary fence, and last of all, construct a Grandstand. A ten acre plot
across the street (at that time) to the east of Brownson campus was therfore
After careful consideration the athletic management decided to use a
kite-shaped track in laying out Cartier field, named after the generous
donor. A bicycle track-they had bicycle races in the gay
nineties-and a foot track circled the proposed football field and a baseball
diamond. A grandstand and a clubhouse were to be erected on the southwest
side of the field.
It was soon realized that such a proposed structure would soon be inadequate
for the needs of the teams, consequently a subsequent change which
resulted In the first Cartier field was therefore adopted.
This consisted of an enclosed field with entrances located at the north and
south-west sides, and two entrances on the west side of the field.
Specifications for the field called for a 220 yard straightaway running
almost diagonally across the field. On the north of this track was to be
situated one of the two football fields with an adjoining grandstand. South
of the runway was to be a quarter mile track, banked at the turns so as to
provide thrills for the bicyclists of that day, Inside this enclosure was to
be located another football field and baseball diamond. The grandstand
adjacent to this field was built to seat 500 people.
Special attention was given to developing the quater mile track. A Mr. E.W.
Moulton of Vanderbuilt Universary who was in charge of the work, has given
some interesting facts about the construction of the work. There were seven
layers of material on the track: (1) three inches of coarse cinders, (2) a
spreading of earth, (3) three inches of medium size cinders; (4) another
spreading of earth; (5) two-thirds of an inch of fine cinders and loam
mixed; (6) the same; (7) the same only with the cinders still finer. Each
layer was sprinkled and rolled and final hardening was obtained by using a
seven ton roller.
The University, recognizing the generosity of Mr. Warren Cartier, had a
beautifully mounted and embossed testimonial sent to him. It was etched in
blue and gold on white parchment. The decorating and subsequent painting was
done by the Art department of Saint Mary's Academy. An old Scholastic writer
says that the fact that the Academy was doing the work "is an
assurrance of the tastefulness with which it was done."
The scroll embraced the emblems of nearly every field sport played at that
time in the American colleges and universities. It read as follows:
WARREN A. CARTIER, C. E. '87
Greeting from the University Of Notre Dame. Grateful for the generosity
promted you to bestow to your Alma Mater an enclosed field to be used in
perpetuity for the athletic games and contests of the students, the
of Notre Dame offers you this assurance of thankfulness. The gift will be
forever as the Cartier Athletic Field, and your name will be inscribed in
of eminent benefactors of Notre Dame. By your generous gift you have earned
the gratefulness of the University, and of the students, present and future,
you have set a wholesome and conspicuous example by your loyalty to your
Mater and your solicitude for her welfare.
This spirited example of generosity was never to be forgotten. It was
perhaps this thought which prompted the teams to fight hardest when they had
their backs to their own goal line. It was this spirit, too, which spurred
on the team, for from 1905 to 1928, twenty-three years, they remained
undefeated on their home field.
Notre Dame's football history is a chronicle of brilliant achievement. Her
first game was played in 1887 with Michigan. The Michigan team gave Notre
Dame a few minutes of preliminary practice before the regular game. Such was
Notre Dame's initiation into the sport which in future years produced stars
like Gipp, Eichenlaub, Rockne, Dorais, Eggeman, Farley, Salmon, Miller, Luke
Kelley, Dinimic, Philbrooke, Cofall, Bachman, Walsh, the Four Horsemen,
Kiley and Hering.
Back in the "good old days," the flying wedge was the most popular
form of assault. It was a cross between a steam roller and a 42 centimeter
shell. The center was under no obligation to pass the ball. Whenever he felt
moved by a spirit he would tear through the line himself with the whole team
concentrating its weight in the small of his back, while the opposition
concentrated their weight in the pit of his stomach. Skill was never
permitted to enter into the limelight along with weight, blood-thirstiness
and the desire to trample the opposition into the sod. Those were the days
of moustached heroes. In the absence of the old cheer of "Holdemsonsofnotredameh-o-ol-d-dem,"
the atmosphere was rent by the dull crunch of breaking bones and the
occasional thud of a luckless player exploding between the impact of two
tons of beef.
Those days were soon over. Coming down through the years, we find Notre
Dame's teams winning countless victories on Cartier field. The terriffic
line-plunging of Salmon and Eichenlaub, the uncanny forward passing and drop
kicking of Charlie Dorais, the accuracy of "Big John" Eggeman,
center; Lou Salmon, captain, '02, '03, '04, the hardest-driving fullback who
ever ripped an opposing line to shreds; Rog Kiley's stellar performances,
"Pop" Farley's runs around ends-all these are still being
discussed in the smoke-filled rooms of the students.
In 1905, Notre Dame scored what was probably the largest score ever made on
any field in America. They played the American College of Medicine and
Surgery and beat them, 142-0. There were 33 minutes of play, or an average
of four and one-third points a minute. Yosts' "hurry-up" system in
comparison with that is a mere tortoise. It, is said that play was so fast
that the only time the spectators saw the players was before the game and
during the half. There was a period in which 10 touchdowns were scored in
eight minutes, or seven and one-quarter points a minute.
And then came Gipp-the wonder man and the most picturesque and outstanding
player of Notre Dame football history. His memorable feet still tread the
immortal turf on Cartier. The echoing thud of his cleats is still drumming
in the minds of present-day Notre Dame halfbacks. The team of that year,
1920, and the team of 1924, the year of the Four Horsemen and the consequent
national champions were hailed as the greatest teams to be turned loose on
Cartier field. Their bewildering aerial attack, brilliancy in offensive and
defensive play, and herculean line plunging stand out like searing words
burned on a human soul.
Through it all can be seen the misty spirit of Cartier hovering over the
teams. The blotching of her escutcheon last year by Carnegie Tech will never
be forgotten. [Editor's note: The first home field loss for Notre Dame in 23
The new Cartier field stands are being rapidly filled. A mass of humanity is
slowly filling its concrete seats. Banners, bunting, gay colored ribbons,
chrysanthemums, girls, an autumnal sky and another Notre Dame team are
providing an excellent setting for the first game. Thundered cheers are
echoing across the molten blue of an Indiana sky. Humanity, crowds,
footballs, tenseness, silence, line plunging, a touchdown, cheers,
pandemonium, another quarter, no score, end runs, blocking, an injury, a
steadfast fight at the goal line, two minutes to play, a penalty, a
beautiful punt-the final whistle and a new victory to dedicate a new Cartier.