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Fiske, Daniel Willard

Daniel Willard Fiske was born in New York in 1831.  From 1852 to 1859, he was the librarian to the Astor Library in Manhattan.  In 1857, he was the champion of the New York Chess Club.  He organized the First American Congress in 1857 and published the first American chess magazine Chess Monthly (co-edited by Paul Morphy).   The magazine began in January, 1857, and ended in May, 1861.  In 1861 he was appointed as an Attaché to the American Embassy in Vienna.    In 1859, he was elected General Secretary of the American Geographical Society.  He had a fascination with Iceland and donated his 1,200 chess books to the National Library of Reykjavik.  He wrote The Book of the First American Chess Congress (1859) and Chess in Iceland (1905).  In 1868, he became the first librarian of Cornell University and was also professor of North European Languages (he taught Old Icelandic, German, Swedish, and Danish).  In 1880, he married Jennie McGraw, daughter of multi-millionaire John McGraw, lumber merchant.  She died a year later from tuberculosis.  In her will, she gave Daniel Fiske $300,000, her brother $550,000, and much of the rest of the money (several million dollars) to Cornell University.  Due to University by-laws, Cornell could not accept the full amount of McGraw’s gift.  When Fiske realized that the University had failed to inform him of this restriction, he launched a legal assault to reacqire the money, known as The Great Will Case.  In 1883, he severed all connections with Cornell University and moved to Florence, Italy. He became a book collector and dealer.   He first visited Iceland in 1885.  In 1900, he founded the Reykjavik Chess Club.  He was the editor of the first Icelandic chess magazine in 1901.  It was published in Venice, Italy.  On September 17, 1904, he died at Frankfort-on-theMain, Germany.

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