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Friday, January 12, 2018

Colonel Charles Mead

   Colonel Charles Mead (1815-1876, 61 years old) was born in New York and was one of the strongest players in New York during his day. He also served as President of the American Chess Association.
     Mead graduated from Columbia University in 1835 and then undertook the study of law and was eventually admitted to the New York Bar and looked to have a brilliant career ahead of him. However, being restless by nature, after ten years' practice he took off for Europe where he remained for several years. 
     His interest for chess was developed early and he was known to haunt the local chess clubs and around 1840 he began working with the prominent New York player, James Thompson. During his European travels Mead sought out and played all the strong masters he could find and while living in Paris he became a student of Lionel Kieseritzky at the Cafe de la Regence.  As a result he became one of the strongest players in Paris. Later in Florence he wasn't quite so successful as he met his match in von Heydebrand und der Lasa. Upon his return to New York the local players all welcomed him, but at that time he was only playing chess for amusement and didn't seek out any serious competition. Mead did however introduce several novelties in the Evans Gambit which was popular at the time. He often challenged friends to try out his discoveries, but wasn't interested in trying them out in serious play; it appears that his confidence had been shaken when he had met his match against his redoubtable opponent in Florence.
     When officers were chosen for the fledgling New York Chess Club in 1856 he was elected club president, a post he held until 1865 when ill health forced him to withdraw from all chess activity. He was suffering from a malady of his nervous system that had the doctors baffled.
     When the first ever national chess organization congress was held in October of 1857 Paul Morphy nominated Mead to be president. However, when Morphy returned from Europe in May of 1859 and was greeted with great enthusiasm in the chapel of the University of New York, the festivities were marred when Mead, President of the American Chess Association and Chairman of the Reception Committee, greeted Morphy and in his welcome address made allusions to chess being a profession and referred to Morphy as its most brilliant example. Morphy's reaction with resentment to being called a professional was so great that it stunned Mead to such an extent that he withdrew from any further participation in welcoming Morphy.
     Described as a modest and quiet man with an “ample fortune,” he occasionally tried his hand at politics.  Mead was also a Freemason. He died on September 24, 1876. The title “Colonel” was genuine as Mead served in the New York Militia. About all I could find out about his military career was that served as Judge Advocate and retired from the Militia in 1865 for health reasons.

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