Chess in Early America

In 1734, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) played the first reported chess game in America.

In December 1734, Reverend Lewis Rou (1680?-1750) of New York City may have been the first American to write about chess.  He wrote a manuscript on chess in response to  A Letter to the Craftsman on the Game of Chess, occasioned by his Paper on the Fifteenth of this Month pamphlet published in London.  His title was “Critical Remarks Upon the Letter to The Craftsman at the Game of Chess Occasioned by His Paper on the 15th of Sept. 1733, and dated from Slaughter’s Coffee-House, Sept, 21.”

In 1735, Lewis Rou wrote a poem in Latin about chess players in New York.

In 1786, Franklin published his essay, the ‘Morals of Chess’ in the December, 1786 issue of Columbian Magazine.

Around 1802, the first chess club in New York City appeared.  The club soon dissolved.

In 1802, the first chess book published in America, Chess Made Easy: new and comprehensive rules for playing the game of chess, was published by James Humphreys in Philadelphia.  This was just a reprint ofan earlier London edition of F.A.D. Philidor’s (1726-1795) book, Analyse du jeu des Echecs, first published in 1749.  It also included Franklin’s ‘Morals of Chess’ essay.

In 1805, the first original American chess book, The Elements of Chess, was published by William Pelham in Boston.  The editor of the book was William Blagrove, nephew of William Pelham.

In 1813, a chess club was established in Philadelphia.  They did not have their own club, but met at the Athenaeum to play chess.

In 1818, a chess club was organized by Major (later Colonel) Sylvanus Thayer (1785-1872) at West Point Military Academy.  Thayer was also known as “the Father of West Point.”  Later, chess was prohibited at West Point,

In 1826, Johann Maelzel’s (1772-1838)  automaton, the Turk, was being displayed in America for the first time.  The first exhibition occurred in New York in April.    It was then displayed in Boston and Philadelphia.

In 1827, the first chess club in Philadelphia was formed.  Over 100 members enrolled themselves in the chess club in the first week of formation.  A few years later, the club was disbanded.

In 1830, the first published chess game by an American woman was published in Philadelphia.

In December 1835, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) visited the City Museum in Richmond, Virginia to witness The Turk automaton.

In1836, Edgar Allan Poe wrote a 43-page essay, ‘Maelzel’s Chess Player,’ in the April 1836 issue of the Southern Literary Magazine on how the Turk operates.

In 1838, a regular chess club was organized in New Orleans.  It lasted for two years.

In 1839, the New York Chess Club was formed by James Thompson (1804-1870).  A chess club was also formed in Washington, D.C. and the two clubs played a correspondence match against each other.

In 1841, John William Schulten (1821-1875) defeated Eugene Rousseau (1810-1870) in a match with 11 wins, 10 losses, and no draws.  In their second match that year, Rousseau beat Schulten with 7 wins, 4 losses and no draws.  Both matches were held in New Orleans.  Eugene Rousseau was a distant relative of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher.

In 1842, Charles Henry Stanley (1819-1901) emigrated from London to New York to work in the British Consulate.  He soon became secretary of the New York Chess Club.

In 1843, the first documented chess tournament in America was played in New York.  It was a local event.

In 1843, Eugene Rousseau defeated John Schulten in a match, held in New York, with 13 wins, 8 losses, and no draws.

In 1844, the first telegraph chess in America was played between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

In 1844, Charles Stanley defeated John Schulten in New York with 11 wins, 5 losses, and no draws.  A second match was held that year with Stanley beating Schulten with 11 wins, 9 losses, and no draws.

In March 1845, Stanley began the first regular newspaper column devoted to chess, published in The Spirit of the Times in New York.  In April 1845, Stanley published the first chess problem in his newspaper column.  He ended his chess column in October 1848.

In 1845, Charles Stanley defeated John Schulten in a match in New York with 15 wins, 13 losses, and no draws.

In 1845, Charles Stanley beat Charles Vezin (1781-1853) of Phildadelphia in a match with 11 wins, 7 losses, and 3 draws.

In 1845, a chess club was set up in Boston with 20 members.  It disbanded in 1848 with only 10 members left as they tried to sell the club’s few pieces of furniture at auction.

In 1845, a chess club was formed at West Point Military Academy by Hyacinth Agnel.

In December 1845, Charles Henry Stanley defeated Eugene Rousseau in the first-ever U.S. chess championship (although the term “US Chess Champion” did not exist at the time).  The match was played for a stake of $1,000 (winner-take- all) and held at the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans.  Stanley won the match with 15 wins, 8 losses, and 8 draws.  Rousseau’s second in the match was Ernest Morphy, who took his 8-year-old nephew, Paul Morphy, to the match.  The match was held from December 1 through December 27, 1845.  Both players were foreign émigrés.

In 1846, Stanley published the first U.S. book on a chess match, Thirty-One Games at Chess, Comprising the Whole Number of Games Played in a Match Between Mr. Eugene Rousseau, of New Orleans, and Mr. C.H. Stanley, Secretary of the New York Chess Club.

In 1846, Schulten beat Stanley in a match in New York with 11 wins, 7 losses, and 4 draws.

In 1846, Charles Stanley beat George Hammond (1815-1881) of Boston in a match in New York with 11 wins, 3 losses, and 4 draws.  Stanley also played him in Boston and won with 5 wins, 2 losses, and 2 draws.

In 1846, Charles Vezin defeated U.S. champion Charles Stanley in a correspondence game.

In early October 1846, the first American chess monthly magazine, the Chess Palladium & Mathematical Sphinx, was published by Napoleon Marache (1818-1875) and J. Victor Wilson (who was responsible for the mathematical portion on the front cover).  Only three issues of this magazine were published (October, November, December 1846).

In late October 1846, Stanley started the second U.S. chess journal, the American Chess Magazine.  By September 1847, it was forced out of business.

In 1847, the Philadelphia Chess Club beat the Boston Chess Club in a correspondence match with one win and one draw.

In November 1848, Stanley edited a chess column in the Albion in Albion, New York.   He ended his column in March 1856.

On June 22, 1849, Paul Morphy, on his 12th birthday, beat his uncle Ernest in his first blindfold game, played in New Orleans.

In October 1849, Paul Morphy defeated Eugene Rousseau in a chess game.

In 1849, Ernest Morphy sent a chess game of his nephew, Paul Morphy to Lionel  Kieseritzky (1806-1853) in Paris, editor of the chess magazine La Regence.  The game was published in the magazine in January 1851.

In December 1849, Johann Jacob Loewenthal (1810-1876) , a Hungarian who had been compelled to flee the Austro-Hungarian Empire, arrived in New York as a political refugee.

In 1850, Loewenthal drew Stanley in a match in New York with 3 wins, 3 losses, and no draws.

In February 1850, Stanley defeated John Spencer Turner (1829-1905) in Washington, D.C. with 11 wins, 5 losses, and 1 draw.  It was considered the 2nd l U.S. chess championship match.  The match took place from February 11 through February 14, 1850.  They played for a stake of $1000 and played 17 games in four days.

In April 1850, Loewenthal defeated Colonel F.H. Dudley in a match in Lexington, Kentucky with 11 wins, 5 losses, and 4 draws.  Dudley was considered the strongest player in the West.

In May 1850, Johann Lowenthal visited New Orleans and beat Eugene Rousseau (1810-1876)  five games straight.

In May 1850, Paul Morphy played chess against Loewenthal.   They played on two separate occasions, losing a total of three games straight.

In June 1850, Loewenthal established a cigar divan for chess players in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In 1851, he travelled to London and never returned to the USA.

In 1852, Pierre Charles Fournier de Saint Amant (1800-1872) drew a match with Charles Stanley in New York, with 4 wins, 4 losses, and no draws.  Saint Amant was passing through New York.

From February through April 1853, an 8-player knockout tournament was held at the New York Chess Club.  The winner was Thompson.

In July 1854, a fire in the Chinese Museum in Philadelphia destroyed the automaton Turk.

In 1854, Charles Amedee Maurian (1838-1912) defeated Paul Morphy in a match in New Orleans with 6 wins, 5 losses, and 1 draw, but at various piece odds.

In December 1854, the first chess meeting of the Mechanics’ Institute Chess Club was held in San Francisco.  It is the oldest chess club in the United States.

In 1855, Stanley organized the first World Problem Tournament.

In April 1855, the Mechanics’ Chess Club in San Francisco was incorporated.

In 1856, the Brooklyn Chess Club was formed by Thomas Frere (1820-1900).

In February 1856, the first correspondence match (two games) between the chess club in Philadelphia and the New York Chess Club began.  Philadelphia won both games.

In 1856, Marache won the championship of the New York Chess Club.

In December 1856, the first regularly organized college chess club began at Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut.

In January 1857, Daniel Fiske (1831-1904) and Hardman Philips Montgomery (1834-1870) proposed a National Chess Congress.

In 1857, the Milwaukee Chess Club in Wisconsin was formed.  It disbanded in 1883.

In 1857, James Thompson drew a match with Charles Dillingham Mead (1815-1876) in New York with 1 win, 1 loss, and 1 draw.

From October 5, 1857 to November 10, 1857, the 1st American Chess Congress was held in New York.  Paul Morphy won the event, followed by Louis Paulsen, Theodor Lichtenhein, and Benjamin Raphael.  The minor tournament was won by William Horner, followed by Moses Solomons, William Seebach,and Martin Mantin.

In November 1857, Paul Morphy defeated Charles Stanley in New York with 4 wins, no losses, and one draw.  Morphy played with one pawn odds and one move.  Morphy won the $100 stake and gave the money to Stanley’s pregnant wife (Charles Stanley had a drinking problem and would have spent the money on booze).  Stanley’s wife was so grateful, she named her daughter Pauline.

In 1857, Paul Morphy defeated Schulten in a match in New York with 23 wins, 1 loss, and no draws.

In 1857, Fiske began editing the Chess Monthly, co-edited by Paul Morphy.   The magazine lasted until 1860.