Chess in 1859

by Bill Wall



In 1859, the Philadelphia Chess Club was organized.  It dissolved in 1885.


In 1859, the Brooklyn Chess Club was the largest chess club in the United States, with 350 members (source: New York Times, March 12, 1859)


In 1859, the first chess book written by a woman, ABC of Chess by H. Cooke, was published.


In 1859, the first Russian magazine, SHAKHMATY LISTOK, was published.


In 1859, the Dayton Chess Club was formed in Dayton, Ohio.


In 1859, a Vienna tournament was held.   Hamppe 1st, Jenay 2nd, Steinitz 3rd.


In 1859, a Vicksburg paper said that card playing among steamboat travelers in the West had diminished by one-half within the last year, and its place had been supplied by chess. (source: Reading Times, April 19, 1859)


In 1859, the Morphy Chess Club of Wilmington, Delaware defeated the Philadelphia Amateur Chess Club by telegraph. (source: The Bloomington Pantagraph, Feb 11, 1859)


In 1859, Lowenthal became chess editor of the Illustrated News.  He was editor for 17 years.


In, 1859, Stanley published MORPHY'S MATCH GAMES.




In 1859, Stanley published THE CHESS PLAYER'S INSTRUCTOR.


In 1859, Louis Paulsen played 15 players blindfolded in Dubuque, Iowa.


In 1859, a chess problem was published that had 47 ways to mate in one - a record.


In 1859, a chess tournament was held during the California State Fair in Sacramento.



In 1859, Charles Moehle was born.  He operated Ajeeb in the United States.

In 1859, Jean Leon Gerome (1824-1904) painted “Arnauts Playing Chess.”  The painting is now located in the Wallace Collection in London, England.

In 1859, Alexandre Bida (1813-1895) sketched “Bashi Bazouls Playing at Chess” which appeared in the June 4, 1859 issue of the Illustrated London News

In 1859, George Allen revealed how The Turk operated, in the Book of 1st American Chess Congress.


In 1859, Professor George Allen of the University of Pennsylvania, had the largest chess library in America, with over 600 volumes.  (source: New York Times, Nov 23, 1859).


In 1859, Paul Morphy beat four of Philadelphia's strongest players in a blindfold simul.


In 1859, Samuel Morse was in Europe and watched Paul Morphy play chess.  When Paul Morphy returned to New York, the New York Chess Club had a testimonial dinner for Paul Morphy on his return.  Samuel Morse was invited to sit at the head table with Morphy, but Morse wrote back to the Testimonial Committee, regretting he had a previous engagement, but wished Morphy well.

On January 18, 1859, the Cosmopolitan Chess Club was formed in San Francisco on Montgomery Street.  Its President was Daniel S. Roberts.  Vice President was William Schleiden.  Secretary was Washington Bartlett.  Treasurer was Thomas Bull.    Directors included John S. Ellis, John Shaw, John H. Gardiner, Herman Siering, and Thomas D. Johns.  There were about 150 members and was at one time the largest chess club in the United States.

On February 3, 1859, Joseph Blake was born in Farnborough.  He was British champion in 1909. He was  British correspondence champion in 1922.


On February 5, 1859, Jackson Showalter was born in Minerva, Kentucky.  He was 5-time US chess champion.


On February 6, 1859, Wilhelm Cohn was born in Berlin.  He was a professional chess player.


On February 21, 1859, William Henry Krause Pollock was born in Cheltenham, England.  He was an English chess master.


On February 22, 1859, Edith Baird (Winter Wood) was born in Brixton, England.  She composed over 2,000 chess problems.


In March 1859, the Detroit Chess Club defeated the Cleveland Chess Club in a match by telegraph.


In April 1859, a Brooklyn baseball team was named after Paul Morphy.  The “Morphy Base Ball Club” was active in New York for several years.  Paul Morphy was an honorary member.


In April 1859, a huge hot air balloon named the “Paul Morphy” was launched from New Orleans and crash landed in Pike County, Mississippi, 130 miles away.  The two occupants were unhurt.


On April 20, 1859, Paul Morphy played 8 blindfold simul games at the St George's Chess Club, London.  He won 5, drew 3.


On April 26, 1859, Paul Morphy played 5 masters simultaneously at the St James Chess Club, London.

From May to July 1859, the Cosmopolitan Chess Club in San Francisco had a chess tournament. 

When Morphy returned to New York on May 11, 1859 aboard the steamship Persia, he was greeted by all the top New York chess players.  He was later greeted at a reception on May 30, 1859, at the Paul Revere House in Boston by Longfellow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse, Chief Justice of Massachusetts Supreme Court Lemuel Shaw, President Walker of Harvard College, Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, Louis Agassiz the creator of American science, the mayor of Boston, and John van Buren, the former President's son. Van Buren toasted Morphy as 'The Chess Champion of the World.' It was the first time that expression had been used. An episode during the reception in New York shows what a devastating blow it had been for Morphy that Staunton rejected to play him. Colonel Mead, the chairman of the reception committee, talked in his speech about chess, as a profession, and pointed Morphy out, as this profession's foremost representative. Morphy strongly opposed being described this way, and he was so angry, that Colonel Mead became overwhelmed by confusion, and felt so dishonored by his misfortune, that he decided no longer to participate in the Morphy celebration. Morphy's overreaction may be explained by the fact, that Staunton had labeled Morphy as a professional chess player, and thus refused to play him.  During the reception, a gold and silver chess set, valued at $1,000 and designed by Tiffany & Co., was given to him.  A similar chess set had been made for Queen Victoria.  A beautiful board, of equal elegance, was also provided.  He was also given a special chess watch from the American Watch Company of Waltham, Massachusetts.

Morphy was paid $3,000 to write America's first chess column for the NEW YORK LEDGER newspaper. Morphy barely did this for a year and quit.

Paul Morphy was the first sports figure to issue a commercial endorsement when he declared of a watch, "I have examined the contents of this watch and find it to be made of 100 percent genuine machinery."

On July 2, 1859, the 1st intercollegiate chess match, between Amherst and Williams College, was held.  They met at Pittsfield, Massachusetts and played their games at the Berkshire Life Insurance Building.   The chess game lasted 11 hours and Amherst won after 48 moves.  The day before, the 1st intercollegiate baseball match was played between the two colleges.  Amherst won the baseball game 73 to 32 in 25 innings. (source: The Berkshire County Eagle, July 8, 1859)  After the baseball game and chess match, the Boston Congregationalist had a sharp rebuke of the Amherst and Williams ball game and chess game.  They called it a wasted time, elevating ball players instead of scholars and men of chess above men of brain (source: The Berkshire County Eagle, Sep 8, 1859)


On July 2, 1859, Scientific American published an article that chess was rotting kids’ minds.  The article began by noting how Paul Morphy had recently trounced all his European competitors.


In July 1859, the Morphy Hat, a French soft hat, was being advertised for sale in North Carolina.  (source: The North-Carolinian, July 23, 1859)


On November 11, 1859, Paul Morphy visited the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, played 4 players blindfolded and won all 4.


In December 1859, CHESS PLAYER'S CHRONICLE reappears by Kolisch, Zytogorski, Kling.


In December 1859, a horse named Paul Morphy won a horse race in New Orleans.


In December 1859, Paul Morphy gave up serious chess.