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Monday, November 14, 2016

Dubuque Chess Journal and Orestes A. Brownson

     This widely respected publication edited by Orestes A. Brownson was published in the offices of the Dubuque Herald from August, 1870 until it was sold in 1876. The publication was one of two internationally popular magazines which was exclusively dedicated to chess.
     The journal had eighteen volumes and 160 issues. Well known by chess problem composers and students around the world, the publication contained short stories with chess themes; chess poetry; chess news from chess clubs in the United States, Europe and Australia and obituaries of prominent chess players. 
     On January 5, 1858, an announcement in The Dubuque (Iowa) Daily Times read: 

Chess Club Officers Named. A Chess Club has been organized in this city with about thirty members. The following are the officers: Louis Paulsen, president; H.A. Littleton, vice president; F.W. Chislett, treasurer; and W.E. Edwards, secretary. 

     Most of the news about the Dubuque Chess Club in its early days concerned stories of Paulsen. It was not until 1972 that the Dubuque Chess Club became official when Jim Nigg and John Leitel affiliated the club with the United States Chess Federation.  The club met at different locations until the Carnegie-Stout Public Library offered the organization the use of its facilities for meetings. 
     Paulsen was born in Nassengrund, Germany on January 15, 1833 and died of diabetes on August 18, 1891 and was the number one player in America behind Paul Morphy. It was Paulsen who founded the Dubuque Chess Club in 1858. 
     William A. Shinkman (December 25, 1847 in Reichenberg (Bohemia) - May 25, 1933 in Grand Rapids, Michigan) was an important American chess composer. He also published under the pseudonym M. Ham Nawkins. At the age of six he arrived as an immigrant in Baltimore, Maryland under the name Tschinkman. He later lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked as an insurance and real estate broker. From 1893 he worked for the city administration. Along with his contemporary Samuel Loyd, he was the most famous chess composer of US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His work includes over 3,500 problems, making him one of the most productive composers ever. Shinkman's nephew, Otto Wurzburg , who was also a famous composer. Because of his wealth of ideas Shinkman was called "The wizard of Great Rapids." He also served as the problem editor of Lasker's Chess Magazine.
     Orestes Augustus Brownson, Jr. was born in Ithaca, New York, March 18, 1828 and passed away in Rockdale, Iowa on April 30, 1892. His father, Orestes Augustus Brownson, Sr., was for many years a prominent Unitarian minister and later gained a world-wide reputation as editor and founder of Brownson's Quarterly Review
     Junior was taught chess by his father and at the age of fourteen left his parent's home to live on a farm known as Brook Farm. The farm was owned by a group of Unitarians and described as a "transcendental paradise." There was no chess played there, but rather farm work, algebra and dancing were the order of the day. 
     The following year he left for the East Indies for an unspecified period of time followed by a return home, college and after graduation, a visit to South America. After his return from South America, Brownson ended up in 1861 on a farm in Missouri. But, the farm was destroyed during the Civil War and he escaped with two yoke of oxen to Iowa City, Iowa where he was offered a job as a school teacher. 
     One day while in the parlor awaiting the arrival of one of Iowa City's prominent citizens, a Mr. Hamilton, to discuss the sale of the oxen, Brownson was admiring a chess set. After the sale of the oxen a chess game was arranged and Brownson lost two games rather quickly.  Mr. Hamilton then offered him some advice and showed him where he had lost the game and made him promise to return. For months Brownson continued losing until all of a sudden he "got good." After winning 28 games in a row, Mr. Hamilton would play him no more. 
     Eventually Brownson moved to Dubuque, but to his dismay, discovered that the famous Louis Paulsen was no longer in the city. Shortly after arriving in Dubuque, Brownson won a tournament at the Dubuque Chess Club and soon became the editor of the chess column in the Iowa State Press
     In 1862 Brownson introduced the letter "S" for Springer (or the Knight). Oddly what symbol to use for the Knight had been a bone of contention that a number of players had been nitpicking over. His next chess job was editor of the chess column in the Dubuque Times and in 1870 he became the editor and owner of the Dubuque Chess Journal
     In 1872 Brownson wrote The Book of the Second American Chess Congress Held at Cleveland, Ohio. Brownson also played an important role in the life of Theophilus Augustus Thompson by publishing a book of Thompson's problems as well as those of other well known composers. Brownson also invented a 108-square four-handed chess game.
     Besides being known for his collection of chess problems by American composers, his Elementary exercises in the construction of Chess Problems was a popular book. Included in the advice he offered was "to learn chess quick and fast, play slowly and carefully several hours a day and study the best chess books you can get hold of very diligently and thoroughly: this will soon bring out what chess there is in you, if you are careful to play only with chess players stronger than yourself. As you live far from a large city, two or three hundred games by correspondence would be of assistance to you." 
     He sold his interest in the journal, including manuscripts and books, in 1876 to Russell and Hallock of Hannibal, Missouri who published the journal from there until June, 1892.
     It's hard to judge exactly how strong Brownson was because he lacked the opportunity to play strong masters, but he was described in the Maryland Chess Journal as a "master in chess literature and other chess work." Few of his games seem to have survived.  
     Many old, pre-1900 chess publications, including the Dubuque Chess Journal are available for viewing at Chess Archeology.

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