Theophilus Thompson’s book recreated!

Theophilus Augustus Thompson

Theophilus Thompson has appeared on this website many, many times. He is a legend in the annals of chess history, not only as a pioneer in the worldwide Black community, but as one who blazed the trail in chess composition.

A couple of months ago I received good news out of California that an accurate reproduction of Thompson’s problem book was done. Keith Halonen of Hidden Valley Lake, California had taken the time and effort to retrieve the scan from a bound version. He noted that several pages were missing from the digital copy on The Chess Drum.

Both online versions are missing pages 9-12! Solutions are there but those 8 diagrams aren’t. I can guess how a 19th century 4-page “signature” could be accidentally omitted or later come undone from the binding.

The good news is that publisher O.A. Brownson also sold excerpts from his monthly Dubuque Chess Journal in bound form. I located a 439-page (1) copy of the 1873-1874 bouncd edition and found the missing pages. I have recreated the book in two PDF files.

Here is Halonen’s work…

Chess Problems: Either to Play and Mate

* * *


T. A. Thompson (Colored) was born in Frederick City, Maryland, on the 21st. day of April, 1855. At 13 years of age he left his native city and went to live with a family in Carroll County, in the capacity of house servant. In 1870, he returned to Frederick where he has been ever since.

He saw a chess board and men used for the first time in April 1872, when he witnessed a contest between Mr. S. of Ohio, and Mr. H. of Frederick City; although he could not understand the game and dared not ask questions for fear of annoying the players, he watched every move with the closest attention. The partie finished he went home fully (determined to learn the game.

Mr. H. having heard of this ardent desire loaned him a chess board and a set of chess men, gave him some instructions, and left him a few two -move problems to solve.

Thus thanks to the kind assistance of John K. Hanshew our hero became possessed of the OPEN SESAME to Caissa’s gardens of ever increasing intellectual delights.

Hearing last summer of the Dubuque CHESS JOURNAL, he soon became a subscriber a student and a contributor thereto, accumulating the following rich store of Chess Compositions that are offered for perusal to the general chess reader, with great-pleasure and much confidence by the proprietors of the

Dubuque, June 1st. 1873.


  1. Pingback: Daily Chess News Links April 21, 2014 |
  2. I’m much pleased to see my modest research effort made available here where it truly belongs. The actual book is rare and valuable in more than one sense. Google Books also amended their PDF, but I will point two minor differences between theirs and the one posted here. Firstly, I slightly restructured the introductory pages of this PDF so the digitized page numbers actually correspond to the original book’s page numbers. Google’s PDF includes scans of the Harvard University “preservation” covers and even some blank pages. Thus their digital PDF page numbers will not correspond to the actual book’s page numbers. All original material, however, is there in both versions. A second small liberty on page 54 explains (with the original editor’s quote) why the Dubuque Chess Journal used the letter S to symbolize the knight in its solutions. The usual 19th century practice would have been to use Kn. Again, thank you for allowing me to be… your servant under Caissa, the goddess of chess.

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