Today, it is little known that for forty years at the height of the British Empire, Dummy Pawns were the scourge of tournament play, and even grandmasters ran scared. (Possible exaggeration here.)
The heresy raged from 1862-1904. See Eminent Victorian Chess Players: Ten Biographies by Tim Harding.
Timeline of known events
(+/- indicate events pro/con Dummy Pawns)
1860 - Staunton's Chess Praxis - "no one will consider [Dummy Pawns]
worthy of serious consideration"
1862 + International London Congress - provides rule for Dummy Pawns
1865 + Letter by a Mr Pavitt, UK - "an exquisite stroke of chess legislation"
1870 + Baden Congress - follows London Congress of 1862
1876 - New edition of Staunton's Chess Praxis - rules still say no Dummy Pawns
1879 - American Chess Journal - "a frivolous and undesirable innovation"
1883 - London International Chess Congress - Dummy Pawns banned
1889 + Steinitz - follows London 1862, and reports that so have many Congresses
1894 + "The Chess Pocket Manual" - "famous Dummy Pawn rule"
1898 + spectacular Sam Loyd #3 composition
1895 - the legendary Hastings congress - Dummy Pawns banned
1903 - unsupported statement that the reign of Dummy Pawns ended in this year
1904 - Founding of BCF, which according to Harding published the rules
that finally exiled the monstrous Dummy Pawns to history.
2018 + chess.stackexchange.com diagram editor still supports Dummy Pawns!
See Dummy Pawns in action in our own heretical diagram editor below! (Except for the Ponziani game which is even more bonkers, and cannot therefore be shown.)
1860: Staunton, bastion of orthodoxy
The "Dummy Pawn rule" was not part of the official rules up to 1860. See "Chess Praxis" by Howard Staunton 1860. Staunton was a very influential player and author, and in this book codified the Laws of Chess, in a way which is still recognizable in the style of the FIDE Laws today. On page xi, in the Introduction he lists chronologically the many antecedents of his work from Ruy Lopez in 1561, to the 1850s.
Page 6, Queening a Pawn
When a Pawn has reached the eighth or last square on its file, it
immediately assumes the name and power of any Piece its player may
select, except a King, whether such Piece have previously been lost or
not; and, if the player does not select a Piece, such Pawn is always
to be considered a Queen.
On page xii, he had defined "Piece" to explicitly exclude pawn. The real fun comes later:
Chapter 4, "A Queened Pawn"
On this subject great difference of opinion prevails, but the rule
laid down in the text is that universally observed in practice. In the
middle ages, as we have previously explained, the Queen could only
move one square at a time diagonally. She was, therefore, by far the
weakest piece on the Board. And the ancient law, which required that
every Pawn pushed on to the eighth square should become a Queen, was
really a restrictive enactment, since it gave the promoted Pawn as
little additional power as the conversion could offer. But the spirit
of the modern game is to regard the Queening of a Pawn as the highest
feat a player can accomplish, and to reward it with the greatest
possible advantage. So that a player in the present day is not only
allowed to select a second or third Queen with its enormously extended
power, but may choose any other Piece that would be more advantageous
in a particular position.
Various modifications of this law have existed in different places and
at different times. It has been held, for example, that the Pawn
should only acquire the power of the Piece on to whose square it had
been played, or of a Piece already lost. It has also been proposed to
limit the conversion to either a Knight or a Queen, as the latter
comprises the power of Rook and Bishop; and the Pawn has sometimes
been required to perform certain additional moves before becoming
entitled to the privileges of a Piece. The most plausible of the
regulations is that the Pawn should only supply the place of a Piece
already lost, so as to avoid, what Philidor so violently denounced,
plurality of pieces. But then comes the difficulty of providing for
the case where a Pawn has reached the eighth square before any Piece
has been lost. It has been proposed to leave such a Pawn, as it were,
dormant, until a capture should have made among the Pieces a vacancy
for it to supply. Ponziani, an advocate of this regulation, has given
the following little game as an example of it,
Example of non-standard castling & promotion
[title "White to move - Ponziani Scheme"]
[fen "Bn1qk1nr/p1p2ppp/8/8/4P3/5N1b/PPPP1b1P/RNBQ1rK1 w - - 0 1"]
- e4 e5
- f4 exf4
- Nf3 Be7
- Bc4 Bh4+
- g3 fxg3
- Kh1&Rf1 d5 Italian style castling!
- Bxd5 Bh3
- Bxb7 g2+
- Kg1 gxf1 without promoting
- Bxa8 Bf2# only now does pawn f1 promote to rook
In this game the black Pawn, which attained the eighth square on its
ninth move, neither gave mate nor check, because the player had lost
no Piece into which it could be converted, and it was not in a
situation to check as a Pawn. But as White chose to capture the Rook
on his tenth move, Black plays down the Bishop with one check, giving
another and mate, with the Pawn now become a Rook in place of that
captured. There is so much of the absurd about such a finale as this
that no one will consider it worthy of serious examination, and it is
only mentioned as a matter of curiosity.
1862: The Madness Begins
As described in the Edward Winter link in another answer, the dummy pawn rule was codified in the International Congress of London in 1862, despite Staunton's outrage. For a generation, the war raged between the two camps, echoing the chaos in the European political space at this time.
A typical data point from this dark time is the Baden Chess Congress of 1870, which adopted the 1862 rules (source). An article covering begins attractively:
Unmoved by the shrill notes of the war trumpets sounding in their
ears, the Chess players have commenced their mimic strife in Baden.
In the mean time, Staunton came out with another edition of his Praxis (source). He did not mention the 1862 rules, but he did give an example, by Petroff:
[title "White to move and draw - Petroff's Offense"]
[fen "rn6/pp2n3/2p5/P4k2/8/6p1/6Pp/7K w - - 0 1"]
1. a6 Nd7
2. axb7 Ne5
1883: London Congress
Another data point is the London International Congress of 1883, where the rules include:
- A Pawn reaching the eighth
square must be named as a Queen or Piece, at the option of player,
independent of the number of Pieces on the board. The created Queen or
Piece acts immediately in its new capacity. Until the Pawn has been so
named, the move is incomplete.
In almost all other cases in these rules, Pieces and Pawns are taken to be distinct, but this is the first occurrence I've ever seen of a usage of Piece to exclude the Queen! However, I think it is clear that Dummy Pawns are on the retreat.
1895: Hastings Congress
By the time of the famous Hastings Congress in 1895, Dummy Pawns are clearly gone from serious play. The Congress rules adopt exactly the same wording as London 1883.
1898: Sam Loyd #3
However, as a last hurrah, no discussion of the Dummy Pawn period would be complete without the following beautiful problem by the American composer Sam Loyd.
[title "White to move and mate in 3 - Sam Loyd - American Chess Magazine"]
[fen "N1Br4/2Pb1P2/3k4/1P2R3/1P2K3/B7/8/8 w - - 0 1"]
(1. cxd8=Q/R? stalemate)
(1. cxd8=B? Bf5+)
(1. cxd8=N? Bc6+)
threatening 2. f8=Q/B#
(1... Bf5+ 2. Rxf5 Ke7 3. f8=Q#)
(1... Bc6+ 2. bxc6 Kxc6 3. b5#)
(1... Bxc8 2. f8=Q+ Kd7 3. Qe7#)
(1... Bxb5? 2. Re6#)
1904: the Nightmare Ends
But it was only with the arrival of the British Chess Federation that the final nail in the coffin was driven home. There is still some lack of clarity as to the precise year, but around 1904.
2017: just for fun
Here is perhaps the minimal material where the Dummy Pawn draws.
[Title "White to move and draw - version of Ichai, matplus 13-Nov-2017"]
[fen "8/2P5/8/8/8/2r5/p1r5/K1k5 w - - 0 1"]
(1. c8=Q? Rb3
2. Qxc2+ Kxc2
3. Kxa2 Rc3/d3/e3/f3/g3/h3
4. Ka1 Ra3#)
Ref:problem composers at play.