Philadelphian Chess Players

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Gustavus Charles Reichhelm lived from Nov. 6, 1839 until Nov. 30, 1905. He was a Philadelphian chess player, but more important a Philadelphian chess writer who edited some chess columns in both the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and the Philadelphia Times. (sometimes writing under the name Garibaldi.)

On December 1, 1905, the New York Times gave this obituary:
          PHILADELPHIA, Nov. 30 -- Gustavus C. Reichhelm, chess player 
          and writer, died of heart disease to-day in the Pennslyvania 
          Hospital.  He was born in 1839, and before he was twenty years 
          old was an expert at chess.  In 1866 he defeated Capt. Mackenzie. 
          After that he turned his attention to the literature of the game. 
          In 1880 he became editor of a chess column in the Philadelphia
          Times.  Many of the chess masters of the world frequently 
          submitted intricate positions for his opinion or called upon him 
          to adjudicate unfinished games.  He won  first prize for the 
          solution of problems in a Chicago tournament in 1885, with a 
          clean score of 134 points.

Of course, Reichhelm never beat Mackenzie, but rather lost two matches to him:

                                      Mackenzie  Reichhelm
                                            5½     -      ½         in 1866
                                            8.0     -     1.0        in 1867

In 1898, with the assistance of Walter Penn Shipley, Reichhelm published an important book concerned with chess in Philadelphia up to 1898



The portion of the book that this posting is concern with is that of the biographical sketches.

There are also several photos worth showing. Besides a familiar one of Morphy and one of Morphy playing Lewis Elkin, the book contains:

a photo of Lasker - Reichhelm, Dec. 27, 1892

Members of Philadelphia Chess Club, 1882

L. to R.
J. Elson, C.J. Newman,  Dion M. Martinez,  R. Frank,   G. C. Reichhelm,
J. Roberts, L.D.Barbour, W.Steinitz, D.S.Thompson, Dominquez-Cowan.


and most relevant here, a collage of the Men of the Athenaeum

Philip P. Randolph, Dr. S. Lewis, Prof. George Allen, H.P. Montgomery,
Prof. Henry Vethake, Benjamin C. Tilghman,  B.M. Neill, W.G. Thomas, 
M. Davidson, Charles Vezin.


                                          BIOGRAPHICAL  SKETCHES.

                                                  CHARLES VEZIN.

     Mr. Charles Vezin, the founder and father of Philadelphia chess, was born at Osnabruech, Hanover, 1781. The spelling and pronunciation of his name, as well as his physiognomy, appear to indicate that he was descended from some refugee Huguenot family.   In 1802, at the age of twenty-one, he fixed himself at Bordeaux, France.   Here he clerked ten years. Having by the strictest economy saved up fifteen hundred francs, he resolved to come to America.   It was now 1812, the first year of the war with Great Britain, and the sea swarmed with hostile cruisers.  Mr. Vezin took passage in an American vessel, was made prisoner at sea and suifered three weeks' confinement in an English dungeon.   He was then exchanged and finally landed in Baltimore, penniless.  He came to Philadelphia to make a new start in life, and gradually accumulated
enough money to enable him to engage in the importation of German, Belgian and  French goods, and continued in this business until the time of his death, April 8, 1853.
     Mr. Vezin's arrival in Philadelphia was of the utmost importance to the cause of chess. He found here players of about his own strength — one in particular, who had been looked up to as invincible. There was a good deal of playing done, with but little improvement, when the arrival of Maelzel's Automaton gave a vast impulse to chess, and by his practice with Schlumberger, the director of the Automaton, Mr. Vezin's play soon reached the first rank, and from this time until his death his numerous matches and games will be found recorded in other portions of the book.
     Mr. Vezin was a player of great native talent, combined with cool, steady nerve and judgment. He was equally excellent in all departments of the game. Naturally a conservative and cautious player, he could, when occasion required, launch out into brilliant sacrificing combinations of the first order, and carry out in style every move until the final stroke was delivered.
     Mr. Vezin died at his home in Philadelphia, the 8th of April, 1853.

                                            HENRY  VETHAKE.

     Prof. Henry Vethake, of German parentage, was the grandson of the officer who directed the artillery of the Allies at the battle of Minden. He commenced his career as a chess player at nine years old, by beating his father, and during his boyhood he played frequently in New York society as a chess prodigy.   While at college he dropped chess ; but as a law student he resumed it, and was recognized as the strongest player in New York.
     While on a North River steamboat, he accepted an invitation ol a stranger to play chess. Mr. Vethake played as a strong player is wont to when he discovers that he could give half his pieces to his adversary.   He had not observed that the game had  been keenly overlooked by Mr. John R. Livingston, the well-known associate of Robert Fulton.   Mr. Livingston discovered in Mr. Vethake, despite some unaccountably bad moves, the germ of superior talent.   This he expressed to the young player in courteous terms, and assured him, moreover, that in fact all he needed was some lessons from some one like himself, who really knew the game, to become a good player.   Mr. Vethake, in return, begged that the instruction might begin at once. Mr. Livingston complied ; but, after a few moves with illustrative remarks, found his own game so completely pulled to pieces that he was forced to utter a good-humored  "Aut Erasmus aut Diabolus !"
     From the completion of his law studies until his arrival in Philadelphia in 1836, he paid but little attention to the game ; but, under the genial leadership of Mr. Vezin, his love for Caissa flamed anew, and it is a matter of deep regret that his matches with Mr. Vezin were not recorded. The character of the Professor's play was careful and deliberate without being unpleasantly slow. Mr. Wells writes : "When we first remember the play of Mr. Vethake, about 1847, he stood in the very front of the numerous band of strong players of which Philadelphia at that time could boast, and there were but few to whom he was not accustomed to give odds.   In fact, it was a subject of  some complaint that the Professor clung with too much tenacity to this mark of superiority, and failed to yield it after his superiority became doubtful.   A large portion of Professor Vethake's life was spent as professor of mathematics in various institutions.   He was, during the latter part of his life, Provost of the University of Pennsylvania.  


                                 PHILIP  PHYSICK RANDOLPH.*
 *From the Evening Bulletin of May 7, 1868.

     We are called on to-day to record the unlooked-for death of one of the most distinguished of American chess players, Mr. Philip Physick Randolph.
     It was in the year 1846 that we first saw the chess playing of Mr. Randolph, then a very young man, and having but recently finished his collegiate studies.
     Notwithstanding his youth he had already placed himself in the front rank of the masters of chess.
     At that time he was an almost daily antagonist of Mr. Vezin, and in the following year, in conjunction with Mr. Tilghman, he conducted and brought to a successful issue the match by correspondence with the Boston Club. Previous to the play by correspondence he had played in Philadelphia with Mr. Hammond (who conducted the Boston side) a number of the most brilliant games, of which he won by far the greater part.
     We well remember being in the old hall of the Athenaeum when Mr. Hammond made his first appearance there, and inquired of the writer of these words the names of the gentlemen seated at the chess table (Mr. Vezin and Mr. Randolph), and his saying in reply that he had not heard of Mr. Randolph, whose name thereafter became as familiar in Boston as Philadelphia.
     The more serious matters of life gradually drew Mr. Randolph away from chess, but he willingly united in 1856 with his associates of the Athenaeum in conducting the games by correspondence with New York, and materially contributed, by his unrivaled powers of invention and analytic patience, to the victory of the Philadelphians.
     In the fall of 1858 Mr. Randolph took an active part in the famous telegraphic contest with New York. In connection with Montgomery, Elkin, Thomas and Dr. Lewis, Mr. Randolph engaged in the match with much quiet enthusiasm, and by his peculiar quality of steady, patient, thorough analysis, supplied the precise element which the more dashing impetuosity of the brilliant Montgomery often needed.
     After this Mr. Randolph entirely abandoned the game as a player, but always took an interest in any important contest that might be pending.
     Many of those who remain will readily call to mind the gentleness of manner and modesty which characterized our departed friend, who has been taken from us in the best years of life, and when we might have hoped for his long continued presence.
     Mr. Randolph's diffidence interfered greatly with the publicity of his games, and we believe that the whole of his splendid play with Mr. Hammond in Philadelphia is lost.
     Mr. Randolph was born October 28, 1824, and died May 5, 1869.

                                       SAMUEL  SMYTH.
From the Evening Bulletin, December 3, 1869.

     Since our last issue, we have been called upon to record the death of another of the old Athenaeum players, Mr. Samuel Smyth, who died on Thursday of last week.
     Mr. Smyth, at the time of his death, was probably the oldest chess habitue of the Athenaeum, where he was a constant player of a strength by no means to be despised.  Mr. Smyth is recorded among the antagonists of the Maelzel's Automaton and was one of the four players in Morphy's blindfold match at the Academy of Music. He played chess purely "pour passer le temps"  and for many years has been a daily attendant in the little chess room of the Athenaeum from which so many illustrious champions of the chequered field have passed away : Vezin, Vethake, Randolph,  Bird,  Clement, and others, are all gone, and many more, still living, have abandoned the field.   Mr. Smyth is now added to the obituary record, and his death will create a vacancy in the thinned  ranks of the Athenaeum players, which is not likely to be soon filled.

                              HARDMAN  PHILIPS  MONTGOMERY.
from the Evening Bulletin, January 20, 1870

     "Phil" Montgomery is dead !
     Far away from home and old friends, and the scenes of old triumphs and defeats, at Marysville, in distant California, brilliant, handsome, graceful, accomplished "Phil" Montgomery died last Saturday, stricken down by a stroke of paralysis, while yet in the young manhood of thirty-six years.
     It has been our sad duty, time and again, to record, one after another, the deaths  of those who have adorned the lists of American and European chess, but there is something peculiarly sad in the early termination of the career ot one who made friends wherever he went ; who was fitted by nature and education for so much influence in the world ; who had achieved such brilliant successes in the noble game to which our column is devoted, as Hardman Philips Montgomery had done.
     It was in the latter part of that glorious period, in which Vezin and Vethake, and their illustrious pupils, Randolph, Tilghman, Thomas and Elkin had established the supremacy of the Athenaeum, that young Montgomery came upon the field ; and Mr. Vezin, venerable master of Philadelphia chess, died with a peaceful Nunc Dimittis over the first important victory of the future champion, upon whom his mantle had fallen. Mr. Montgomery had sent the veteran Thompson back to New York, a game minus in a long score, only a day or two before Mr. Vezin's death.
     Mr. Montgomery entered the University of Pennsylvania as a Sophomore in 1851, and soon attracted Professor Vethake's notice by his strength in mathematics. It was not long, however, before Mr. Vethake discovered that his pupil possessed unusual chess talent. "He had found him," says Professor Allen, "overlooking a game at the Athenaeum, and, at the close of it, the youth had pointed out an admirable line of play, which had escaped the parties themselves ; in short, it was such a remark as Mr. Vezin or Mr. Vethake himself might have made." It was in 1852 that "Phil " Montgomery began to rate as a rising Athenaeum player ; and he rose rapidly to a first position among the magnates of that high court of Caissa. Four years later, he took a prominent part in the famous correspondence match with the New York Chess Club, in conjunction with Messrs. Randolph, Thomas, Elkin, Dougherty and Dr. Lewis. The victory achieved in that match was largely owing to the force which Montgomery contributed to the quintette of Philadelphia players.
     The year 1857 was the "annus mirabilis " of American chess, the year of Morphy and of the Chess Congress. In the Congress, Montgomery was the sole Philadelphia representative, bearing himself stoutly and well in the Grand Tournament, beating Allison, of Minnesota, three to one, and then crossing swords with Louis Paulsen, before whose powerful blows he had sustained a partial defeat when an unexpected summons recalled him to Philadelphia. Out of the Morphy furore the Philadelphia Chess Club sprang into existence, and Mr. Montgomery, now the confessed leader among our players, was its first President, adding greatly not only to its renown abroad, but to the enjoyment and improvement of its members at home.
     It was in the winter of 1858-59 that the exciting and beautiful telegraph match was played between Philadelphia and New York, and this contest was the last occasion in which the old comrades of the Athenaeum donned their arms for a united struggle for the maintenance of the ancient supremacy of Philadelphia chess. Philadelphia has won victories since, but they have been gained by the Young Guard that came later upon the field. Montgomery, the brilliant ; Randolph, the profound ; Thomas, the studious ; Elkin, the cool and wary ; Lewis, the steady and experienced, — what a band of chess giants there was in those days ! It was our privilege to watch the progress of that splendid match, over the board, and its memories are vividly recalled by the announcement of the death of the second in number, but first in mastership, of the comrades who won that brilliant victory. We well remember the adjournment on a certain Saturday evening, when the Philadelphia game had reached its critical point, and the eager, excited discussion that ran late into that night over the move with which Philadelphia was to reopen the play on the next Monday evening. The evening came, and with it Montgomery, flushed with the assurance of a certain victory. He produced eight or ten closely-figured pages of manuscript analyses of the position, the results of an exhaustive study during the recess, and out of this mass of possibilities he declared the move which was to achieve success. With his characteristic nervous, impetuous enthusiasm he ran rapidly over the processes by which he had reached his conclusion, demonstrating to the satisfaction of his colleagues its perfect soundness. The result proved the thoroughness of his analysis, and before that evening's session closed, Superintendent, now Governor Bullock, burst into the sanctum of the Philadelphia champions with the good news, flashed across the wires, "Black surrenders !"
     "Phil" Montgomery's name is thus prominently connected with the two great matches between Philadelphia and New York, and with two of the finest specimens of play to be found in the annals of chess literature.
     During the following two years Montgomery continued to play, principally at the Philadelphia Chess Club, until he found his Waterloo, in January, 1861, at the hands of that magnificent match-player, Theodore Lichtenhein. This match, the last that Montgomery ever played, attracted great attention. It was a challenge to single combat between the individual champions of Philadelphia and New York, but the players of both cities took it up with intense interest, on the one side hoping to add another to the laurels of former victories, on the other, anxious to win compensation for former defeats. The match, as all chess players know, resulted in a signal victory for Mr. Lichtenhein, by a score of 7 to 2, with a drawn game. Mr. Lichtenhein was strongest just where Mr. Montgomery was weakest. His cool, steady poise opposed itself like a granite rock against the dash of his antagonist's most brilliant charges.
     Victory did not flush and defeat did not discourage Lichtenhein. He was a model of firm nerve, cool brain and impassive temper. Montgomery was the opposite of all this. He could ride on the whirlwind of a cavalry charge, and command the admiration of friend and foe with his splendid horsemanship and the flash of his keen sabre-cuts ; but he could not endure continued defeat. He could not withstand the cool, remorseless pressure of Lichtenhein's passionless advances, and the Teutonic stolidness of the New York champion proved itself far more than a match for the almost Gallic impetuosity of Montgomery. Philadelphia afterwards won back whatever she may have lost in this eventful contest, by her second telegraphic victory, but Montgomery had laid down his arms for the last time. He never played another match, and, with the exception of an occasional desultory skirmish, his chess career may be said to have terminated with this contest.
     Since that time he has resided in Philadelphia and New York, practising law for a time in the oil region of Pennsylvania, and finally seeking his fortune in the far West, and dying in Marysville, California. He was stricken on Christmas Day last with paralysis, a second attack of which has proved fatal. He was the youngest son of the late John C. Montgomery, Esq., formerly Postmaster of Philadelphia, and leaves several brothers to mourn his loss, among whom are the Rev. Henry E. Montgomery, D.D., of New York, John P. and Oswald Montgomery, Esq., of this city.
     As we have already indicated, Mr. Montgomery's distinguishing characteristic as a chess player was his daring brilliancy. In his ordinary games he delighted in giving full sway to his vivid imagination, and his combinations were then astonishing for their originality and audacity. His style of play was nervous and rapid, almost always accompanied by a running fire of merry and always good-natured badinage, which made his chess-table a most lively and entertaining one. There has been no player who has surpassed, and very few who have equalled him in the peculiar chess qualities which characterized him. We have pointed out the weak side of his play, which was a constitutional defect which no amount of chess knowledge, experience or ability could overcome.
     But his force and his faults as the champion of Philadelphia chess have become things of the past. Poor Phil ! His end-game is finished, and there will be few chess circles in the United States that will not share the regret of his death. Here, where his brilliant chess career was run, where there are still hosts of kind friends to remember his many good and generous qualities, and gladly to forget every defect, his name will be cherished as long as the annals of Philadelphia chess are preserved.



                                  PROF.  GEORGE  ALLEN,  LL.D.

Abridged from an article by E. B. Cook, in The American Chess Journal of December, 1878.      George Allen, Esq. , LL. D., of Philadelphia, was the son of the Honorable Heman Allen, Esq., of Burlington, Vermont, "a lawyer of the very highest ability, but standing still higher for his personal qualities," and a member of Congress during the time of Presidents Jackson and Van Buren. He was born in Milton Township, in the County of Chittenden, in the State of Vermont, on the 17th of December, 1808.
     In August, 1823, he was matriculated at the University of Vermont, where he was graduated, and in August, 1828, was appointed to supply the place of the Professor of Languages in that institution of learning, during the temporary absence of the incumbent of the chair in Europe, a position which he occupied for eighteen months.
     In 1845 he was elected "Professor of Languages" in the University of Pennsylvania, and in September of this year took up his residence in Philadelphia and entered upon the duties of that highly honorable post. " The field of his labors was limited in 1854 to instruction in Greek, his favorite tongue, a knowledge of which he continued to impart to devoted classes of enthusiastic students for the rest of his life. Originally with view to the better comprehension of the ancient historians, afterwards, however, for its own sake, he made himself acquainted with the science of war, and collected and mastered the contents of quite a library of military authors, and ranked as one of our best writers on that subject during the late civil contest with the South. Another art which possessed the greatest attractions for his singularly cultivated taste was that of music, with which he was both theoretically and practically conversant.
     In 1868 he received from the University, in recognition of his eminent ability, the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.
     Professor Allen's interest in chess was incidentally developed through his desire to entertain a member of his family who was temporarily indisposed and obliged to keep the house. He never became a remarkable player, although he appreciated and enjoyed fine points of the game. His contributions to the literature of chess constitute his chief claim to celebrity in this regard. These were both graceful and useful. He wrote the Dedication and Advertisement of  "The Games of the Match at Chess, played by the Chess Players of the Athenaeum, Philadelphia, and New York Chess Club, between the years 1856 and 1857,"  reprinted from The Chess Monthly. He was chairman of the Committee on the Chess Code appointed by the Committee of Management of the First National Chess Congress of America in 1857, and supplied the Book of the Congress with the valuable and interesting articles on "Chess in Philadelphia" and "The History of the Automaton Chess Player in America."  And in 1858 he wrote "The Life of Philidor"  for The Chess Monthly, printed also separately, in a very limited edition, the same year — a work which he afterwards expanded into the exquisitely beautiful biography published in 1863. 
     His library of chess books, referred to in the October number of the American Chess Journal, is the finest ever formed by an American bibliophile, and is surpassed by none, or scarcely one, in Europe.
     Professor Allen died on the 28th of May, 1876, at Worcester, Massachusetts, and was buried in Philadelphia with the solemn rites of the Catholic Church, into which communion he had been received shortly after his appointment in the University, and of which he had been for thirty years a devoted lay member. It may, perhaps, be well to add that his merits were appreciated at Rome and received the recognition of the great Head of his Church in the appointment conferred upon him, several years before his death, of Consul at Philadelphia for the Pontifical States.
     It is the heartfelt wish of the writer that Philadelphia — which has given us the first Chess Book printed in America, and the many luminaries of the Athenœum (Vezin, Vethake, Randolph, Tilghman, Montgomery, Thomas, Elkin, Douherty and Dr. Lewis, and, in more recent times, Reichhelm, Neill, Elson and Davidson), and is the birthplace of Loyd, the noted problemist — will eagerly secure for its Public Library the very valuable chess collection of Professor Allen, which may become a perpetual monument of remembrance of the Professor and of the chess renown of the City of Brotherly Love.
     The chess brotherhood in every part of our land ought to be eager to be also numbered  among the preservers of such a memento.*
  *The chess library of Prof. Allen at the time of Its sale comprised 873
   volumes, together with a number of autographs, letters, portraits, etc.
   It is now the property of the Library Company of Philadelphia, and will
   be found at the Bidgway Branch, South Broad Street.


                                         WILLIAM  C. WILSON.

     William Cheever Wilson came from sturdy New England stock, and was born at Rutland, Mass., September11, 1842. After graduating with honors at the Spencer High School he clerked for some time in a book store at Worcester, Mass., and at this period learned the game of chess, and soon distinguished himself by his remarkable ability in playing. His defeats of the champions of two colleges and his remarkable blindfold play at that time are still vividly remembered by people of that section.
     At the breaking out of the Civil War young Wilson was fitting himself out for college, but the call of patriotic duty being paramount within his breast he recruited a company which was joined with the 104th New York Infantry, he being first lieutenant.
     On the first day of Gettysburg he was made prisoner by the Confederates. He refused to be paroled, and as a consequence spent twenty months in Libby Prison and Charlottesville, N.C., and while there pursued his favorite pastime. While at the latter place he found an opportunity to escape, and after walking about three hundred miles on foot and encountering many adventures on the way, he finally made his way to the Northern lines. He emerged from the war with the rank of Major.
     Major Wilson had a remarkable faculty for all kinds of calculation, and this was of great assistance to him in playing the game of chess. Notwithstanding the fact that he never played any match games, his playing strength was of a very high order, and in serious games he presented a strong opposition even to such masters as Steinitz, Lasker, Walbrodt and others.  In fact, had the Major cultivated the games more, he would have been second to none.
     As a consultation player he was invaluable, and his thorough analysis helped to beat New York in the correspondence match of 1886. In the team matches of the Franklin Chess Club the Major also always had a prominent place.
     Major Wilson came to Philadelphia about the year 1875, and started a circulating library, which at the time of his death was one of the largest of its kind in this country. For several years prior to his death the Major was Vice-President of the Franklin Chess Club. On the evening of August 16, 1897, shortly after seven, while at work on his books in the front room, first floor, not more than thirty feet from the street, of his library, No. 1117 Walnut Street, in full health and strength, and when his many friends at the Franklin Chess Club were awaiting his appearance, he was foully murdered at his desk. He was killed by blows from a hammer or other blunt instrument, the perpetrator of the inhuman deed remaining to this day unknown. The motive of the murder was evidently robbery, as the desk, cash drawer and closets were broken open and ransacked. The Major's watch and money were taken.

 also see: Chess in Philadelphia