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Telegraph Chess
February 15, 2004

I was at forums and a regular contributor there who goes by XPLORXPLOR asked a trivia question about the first use of a telegraph to play chess. I thought it sufficiently interesting to repeat here:

Hugh Cossart Baker, Jr.

      source of information

"In Ontario, a notable figure in the history of the exploitation of the telephone was Hugh C. Baker. Temperamentally of the promoter type, he was the son of H.C. Baker who founded the Canada Life Assurance Company in 1847. At first a bank clerk, and then a private banker and broker, he was largely instrumental in forming the Hamilton Street Railway Company, the Hamilton Real Estate Association and the Canada Fire & Marine Insurance Co., before he was 30 years of age, and the Hamilton District Telegraph Co., which was incorporated June 28, 1878." (Wm. Patten)

"....Baker pursued a hobby that was to lead to very important events. He was one of a group of three enthusiastic young chess players, the other two being Mr. T.C. Mewburn, a customs officer, and Mr. C.D. Cory, an insurance company manager. Mr. Baker, the imaginative and inventive member of the trio, in 1875 conceived the idea of using a telegraph line between the three homes for the purpose of allowing each chess player to sit at home while he telegraphed his moves to his opponent a mile of more away. Without delay they organized the West Side Domestic Telegraph Company, with principal offices at their respective homes--148 Main Street West; 40 Maiden Lane West, now Jackson Street West; and 3 Herkimer Street. Telegraph linemen strung the single line from house to house across roofs and attached to trees and a few handily located telegraph poles. No other poles of any kind then adorned our city's streets. Over this wire the three telegraphed messages and chess moves to each other, and thoroughly enjoyed the novelty, little dreaming that their experiment would cause them to become telephone pioneers." (T.Roy Woodhouse)

"In an attempt to introduce the use of the telephone in Hamilton, the Rev. Thomas Henderson had chosen Mr. George Black, the Hamilton manager of the Montreal Telegraph Company, as his Hamilton representative; and it was Mr. Black who persuaded Mr. Baker to try telephones instead of telegraph instruments for transmitting his chess moves to his two friends. As a result, Mr. Melville Bell came to Hamilton and installed three telephones on Mr. Baker's private telegraph line. After several successful trials, a public demonstration of the installation was arranged, and it was reported in the Hamilton Spectator and the Hamilton Times on August 30, 1877". (T.Roy Woodhouse)

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