Chaney, William Henry (1821–1903)
Pioneer nineteenth-century American astrologer W. H.
Chaney was born on January 13, 1821, in Chesterville, Maine.
He was but nine when his father died and he left Maine when
he was 16. He began a life of wandering that first led him to the
sea. Nine months in the Navy drained him of visions of being
a modern-day pirate, and he deserted and settled in Wheeling,
West Virginia, where he studied law and eventually, in 1847,
opened a legal practice. Little is known of his activity during
the Civil War (1861–65), but in 1866 he was living in New York
City and while there met Luke Broughton, the man largely responsible
for the building of the astrological community in the
United States.
Broughton introduced Chaney to astrology and led him in
an intense study of the stars. Unfortunately, his new career ran
into an immediate obstacle when in 1867 Chaney became a victim
of an antiastrology crusade led by the New York Herald. He
spent six months in jail and after his release, in 1869, he moved
to the West Coast, where he resided for the next 17 years. After
his move to California, his wife, who had remained in the East,
obtained a divorce. In 1874 he married for what would be the
fourth time, to Flora Wellman. As had his previous attempts at
married life, this one would prove short-lived, but would have
notable consequences. On January 12, 1876, his son Jack was
born. After Chaney and Flora divorced, and Flora remarried,
Jack would take the name of his stepfather and eventually grow
up to write novels as Jack London.
Chaney continued to move about from town to town teaching
astrology. By the end of the 1880s he had moved to St.
Louis, Missouri, where he wrote and published a set of astrological
texts including his most well-known, Chaney’s Primer of Astrology
and American Urania, published in 1890. He finally settled
in Chicago, Illinois, and in 1897 married for the sixth and
last time. He began a magazine which he named The DaisyChain,
after his new bride.
Though he fell out with Broughton in his mature years,
Chaney was his most famous and productive student and is remembered
for helping create the profession of astrology on the
West Coast and in the Midwest. He died in Chicago on January
6, 1903.
Chaney, W. H. The Astrologer’s Vade Macum. Baltimore Eureka
Publishing, [1902].
———. Chaney’s Annual with the Magic Circle Astrological Almanac.
St. Louis Magic Circle Publishing, 1890.
———. Chaney’s Primer of Astrology and American Urania. St.
Louis Magic Circle Publishing, 1890.
Holden, James H., and Robert A. Hughes. Astrological Pioneers
of America. Tempe, Ariz. American Federation of Astrologers,

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