Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Paddy Bauler - Alderman, Saloon Keeper, Pretend Irish, Big Fat Guy: Part 1

This is the first in a two part series on former Chicago alderman Mathias "Paddy" Bauler.

In his book "Chicago: The Second City" Abbott Joseph Liebling, of the New Yorker Fame, observed that That "...among politicians the rule is: when in doubt, be Irish".  Few, if any, in Chicago history exemplify this rule better than Mathias "Paddy" Bauler (1890-1977).  Paddy, whose father was a German immigrant and mother was a child of Germans living in America,  found it politically expedient and beneficial to his chosen profession, saloon keeper, to take on the persona of a jolly, drunken Irishman.  By all appearance, Bauler and all of his mash potato 300 pound body, succeeded grandly.  

Bauler owned a saloon, The De Luxe Gardens, at North Avenue and Sedgwick Street.  An excerpt from Liebling discusses the Garden as follows.
"A superb specimen of a Chicago alderman is Paddy Bauler, who represents the Forty-third Ward. Bauler's De Luxe Gardens, at north Avenue and Sedgwick, is as sedate a groggery as you will come upon in the city of Chicago. It occupies the former premises of the Immigrant State Bank, which went under in the crash, and the original lavatory solemnity of the interior's marble d├ęcor has never been altered. The high ceilings, the grilles barring the way to the vaults, and all the other accessories designed to nurture unfounded confidence remain to warn of the uncertainty of appearances, and the patrons conduct themselves as discreetly as men about to solicit a loan. It is here that the Alderman, who is also a member of the Cook County Democratic Committee, holds court, like Saint Louis of France under his tree of judgment, from nine to eleven each evening, when he is not traveling in Europe. Paddy travels often, and always in style; he says that trips to places like Rome and Palestine help him to understand the different kinds of people in his ward. The saloon's license is in his brother's name. Paddy has apparently done well at making his aldermanic salary of five thousand dollars a year stretch.
 There is no entertainment—not even a dice girl—in the De Luxe Gardens. North Avenue, which begins near lake Michigan and runs straight west through the dimness until it hits the city line, lies only a little over a mile and a half north of the Loop, but it is the axis of an autonomous dreariness. The eastern end of the avenue, which is in Paddy's ward, has a small night life, with a German-language movie house, one or two German restaurants with zither players, and some Hungarian saloons, through which wander, in the course of the evening, a few fiddlers, who say that they are gypsies but that they have forgotten the Old Country music, because they are never asked for it. The favorite request numbers of Chicago Hungarians are "Tennessee Waltz" and "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." Also, there are numerous bars that use low prices as their chief sales argument. These places seem purposely bare and flimsy, as if to assure the customers that nothing is being wasted on overhead. The liquor-license fee is low in Chicago, and the sheer number of saloons, even in backwash neighborhoods, is amazing. Curbstones are high, often consisting of two steps instead of one, and drunks sometimes take astonishing falls. These are seldom fatal."
Despite the bars purported lack of regular entertainment on at least one occasion, Bauler turned things up a notch.  From and more specifically LIFE Magazine we see that:
"Meanwhile, back in the trenches, LIFE followed the race for Alderman in Ward 43 which pitted long-time incumbent Mathias "Paddy" Bauler against reformer Rev. Alva Tompkins. Alas, the good Reverend lost by a margin of 8-1 when Bauler pulled out all the stops with free beer and an all-girl hillbilly band. Virtue is its own reward, particularly in the realm of municipal politics."
Sadly, Paddy Bauler's De Luxe Garden no longer exists, and worse, the site is now an empty lot, used for little more than the sale of Christmas trees around the holidays.   We can only hope future occupants will provide as much character to the neighborhood as the De Luxe Garden once did (who wouldn't want to hear the occasional all-girl hillbilly band playing "she'll be coming round the mountain when he comes"?)

Edit:  Please see the second part of this post here


  1. Isaac -
    That old man I just read about is my grandfather. I was in Chicago last week and I wish I would have known about your blog then. I'd love to meet you

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. Paddy was before my time, but he does seem to have been a real character. If you keep following, I will be posting another story on Paddy Bauler, focusing on parts of his political career. Take Care!


  3. Paddy was a distant cousin of mine. My dad grew up in Chicago. I've never been there. I'll have to go there some day. Thanks for the article. I have some old newspaper clipping about him if interested.
    Bill Bauler

  4. Thanks so much for posting this story. Paddy Bauler was my 4th cousin (according to my father). Learning about family history is so interesting, even if he is famous for being corrupt. There's plenty of us Baulers still in Chicago - can't wait to take a trip to Old Town and walk around a bit.

    Greg Bauler

  5. Bill and Greg,

    Thank you for reading my blog. I've honestly let this slip, but it seems people keep coming back to these two particular pieces on Patty Bauler, I believe they are by far my most popular posts. I'm glad you enjoyed reading.


  6. Alva Tompkins was my grandfather. A great man and a true reformer. Hard to compete with free beer and hillbilly bands though. Great stuff, thanks for the post.

  7. Mathias "Paddy" Bauler was my grandmother's uncle. He was my great-grandfather's brother. My grandmother and her sister were quite fond of him. I have a collection of photos and memorabilia dating back into the late 1800's. You are welcome to contact me if you would like to see any of it. I have several group photos taken in Cuba that I've never researched. I'm not sure why there were there. My great-grandfather is prominently positioned in almost all of the large group photographs. It looks like they had a lot of fun. He adopted the name "Paddy" while boxing. I have an old newspaper article about that too.

  8. In the famous photo, the man waving his hat was my grandfather, James Kane.

  9. Very cool to learn the history of Mathias Bauler.. He is my dad's uncle.