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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Campaign or Military Chests - Beginners Guide Part 2.

Campaign or Military  Chests - Beginners Guide Part 2.

Where was it made ?

This can sometimes be a little tricky to the un-trained eye as a lot of campaign chests can at first glance all look the same. On closer inspection, following a few guidelines you should be able get a reasonable idea where a campaign chest was made.

We have had military chests made in England, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, Australia, China, India and some from places in the East and the colonies that we have not as yet been able to pinpoint.



Secretaire Campaign Chest by W. Day & Son.


   
China Trade Secretaire Chest


So what should you look for to determine the place of origin of a campaign chest ? The following indicators will give you some clues though it should be stressed that these are not hard and fast rules and there will be cases where single indicators will not give a definitive answer and a combination of these will be needed to provide an answer.

     When evaluating a campaign chest consider the following and it should be possible to work out where a campaign chest was made. Maker's name, timber, construction techniques, and hardware.

      If on inspecting your campaign chest you see a maker's name there will be a good chance you will be able to find out where they were based. If their details are on a label or stencil there is also likey to be their address. So look out for paper labels, ivory, ivorine or brass plaques, stencils or stamps. If only a name, a little research should provide more information on where a company were based. You will still need to follow the other indicators as its is possible a maker may have made chests at home and abroad. Be also aware that sometimes maker's marks can be fraudulent and not original to the piece.



Label on Seagrove Chest


Seagrove Chest


Occasionally, you may come across a British made chest that doesn't have a maker's name but on closer examination you may see pencil inscriptions. These are likely to be on the secondary timbers on the carcase or drawer bases or backs and can include cabinet maker's name, date, or merely a number given to a drawer or if it is for the top right or left side.

Pencil inscription on A&N CSL teak chest shown below.
The timber which a chest is made from can be a great indicator as to where a chest was made though it should be remembered that in most British cabinet making a lot of the primary timber used was imported. A lot of British chests will have been made from mahogany, teak and camphorwood . Timbers that were imported. Some campaign chests were made from blonde oak or walnut and that would be a fairly strong indicator to the chest being made in Britain as it would be highly unlikely that these timbers would be used abroad. To get a more accurate pointer to origin rather than looking at the primary timber used it is the secondary timbers used for back boards and drawer linings that give a far stronger provenance. As a general rule these will be native timbers to the place of construction. In British chests the use of oak, ash and deal were commonly used for secondary timbers in drawer construction though on some you will find mahogany also used. A good knowledge of different types of timber is obviously essential here.



Teak A&N CSL Cavalry chest.


Teak Anglo-Indian Chest.


In the knowledge of the different construction techniques used in British cabinet work and those used abroad we find some strong indicators as to where a chest was made. This, like the knowledge of timbers, can take a while to fully understand. 18th and 19th century British cabinet work is second to none in quality so generally easily recognisable.  For the novice a good starting point will be to inspect the dovetail joints on the drawer construction. A finely cut dovetail joint is easily distinguishable from a larger and sometimes far cruder colonial equivalent. Be aware though that by the end of the 19th century some British cabinet makers had embraced modern technology and had started to use machine cut dovetail joints that like the colonial equivalent will be larger and cruder. For the more experienced collector closer inspection of campaign chests construction will show a marked difference in those made in Britain and the colonies.


Fine British Dovetail Joints.


                      
Machine cut Dovetail Joints.


A final great indicator to the whereabouts of where a chest may have been made is the metal hardware used by the maker on their chests. Though there are differences, both in style and manufacture in British made handles, corner pieces and brass strap-work and those made in the colonies this can be a difficult one to use as an indicator of construction origin. Apart from the lower quality sheet brass strap-work and lower grade skeletal handles found on some Anglo-Indian chests, differentiating between the British made and higher quality colonial brass work can be quite tricky. However locks can sometimes be an easier one to examine. A lot of British locks will provide a few clues that show they are British. There may be the maker's name which research can provide a whole host of information. They may have evidence of the reigning monarch with either a GR or VR indicating Georgian or Victorian period. You may also see "patent" or "4 lever" which are good signs they are British.   A note of caution though: it was quite common for British hardware to be exported to the colonies to be used in furniture made in that country.  Also, it is not unusual for locks to get replaced on chests. For this reason using just one of the above indicators should not be relied on to show where a campaign chest was made. However, using a combination of all of the above may help even the novice to get some idea of country of origin.


Original Lock on a Richard Millard Chest.



Main Lock to Secretaire drawer on the same chest.


         The study of origin of colonial chests is an area that still requires much research. Chinese Export chests may be easily distinguishable but it should be remembered that Chinese cabinet makers were working not only in China but right the way across to the west of Canton and into India. It can be possible to differentiate chests made by Chinese cabinet makers working in India through their quality, and the construction techniques used but the waters can get somewhat muddied. It is hoped in the future with more information coming to light that this should become easier and we will know which chests made in India were by local cabinet makers, Chinese cabinet makers or those made by English cabinet makers who had set up workshops in the country.

      Hopefully this will give you some help in tackling this somewhat complex issue and should enable you to at least determine if a chest is British made. As mentioned, moving on to the colonies may take a little more time and experience. You may also be able to use the above in considering other types of campaign furniture as most will be equally relevant to chairs, tables etc.


By Simon Clarke.




Saturday, 18 March 2017

Campaign or Military Chests - Beginners Guide Part 1.

To those who have not studied campaign furniture understanding military or campaign chests can appear quite confusing. When was it made? Where was it made ? Is it original ? What timber is it ?
     We often come across military chests and other pieces of campaign furniture online that have descriptions that bear no resemblance to the piece in the photograph at all. Even antique dealers with many years experience fall foul of wanting a piece to be something that it is not or believe it to be much older than it actually is.
      I hope that some of the information provided here may help you make a more informed judgement.

To start off with a few common mis-conceptions:

    If a chest or other piece of furniture has carrying handles it must be campaign. It could be but not always. A lot of Georgian library furniture had wonderful substantial carrying handles but would never have been taken travelling. Can you imagine anyone taking a large astragal glazed bureau book case which has carrying handles to both top and bottom section on the Peninsula Wars ? We have certainly seen the top sections being sold as campaign purely because of the carrying handles. And what's this all about? A set of three Victorian mahogany campaign bookcases, mid-19th century

  19th century two part brass bound campaign chests should have carrying handles. ( The maker must have forgotten with this one so we'd better put some on. )

Chest by Gregory Kane with later added on carrying handles. Swiftly removed after its purchase.
Most mid to late 19th century campaign chest will not have side carrying handles as the chest would come with a couple of painted pine packing cases to transport the two sections. There are exceptions to this rule such as smaller Naval chests or Colonial chests. With experience you can tell if later handles have been added.


This chest splits in two so it must be campaign, right ? I recently came across a chest described as campaign that split in two that clearly was not. The explanation is quite simple and logical if you think about it. A lot of small cottages had narrow winding staircases. The solution to getting a large chest upstairs was what I would call the cottage chest. They tend to be Georgian and the main clue as to why they are not campaign is constructional. A true campaign chest whether it be Georgian or Victorian will be cabinet made with both sections having both top and base boards dovetailed into the sides for strength. The construction of a cottage chest will be different. The base of the top section and the top of the base section will be open with the two section fixed together with tenons or dowels fixed to the sides of the base section. These will slot into mortices in the sides of the top section. The chest below demonstrates this and is not the one I saw mis-labelled.

photo credit: Heather Cook Antiques. https://heathercookantiques.com/product/18th-c-english-oak-cottage-chest


All campaign chests should have flush handles, brass corners and strapwork and have turned feet that should be removable. Not quite.The above description would be what most people think of as a military chest which will date to the middle of the 19th century. The campaign chest evolved through the Georgian period and on into the 19th century. In the Georgian period the main premise for the maker was to make a domestic chest or other piece of campaign furniture easier to transport and stronger to survive the rigors this involved. The look would strongly resemble the domestic equivalent which is why it is not immediately obvious they are campaign. There may be a moulding to the top, swan-neck handles, wooden knobs or bracket feet.

Georgian campaign chest.
Note side handles have incorrect swan neck handles
attached to the back plates.


Most people's conception of a military chest.
This one by Seagrove.
    
Campaign chests were used by officers in the military fighting battles across the Empire. Certainly, a lot were owned officers who were not prepared to compromise their living standards with the furniture and travel accouterments they took with them on their travels. We have had many examples where we have had the owners details noted on the chest that bear testimony to this. However, a lot of chests and other pieces of campaign furniture belonged to the multitude of other travellers who were either supporting the Empire or travelling to the colonies. It should be remembered that certainly pre-1900 and the Golden Age of the ocean liner, cabins on board ships were unfitted. The solution to this was the cabin fitter who could, at the shortest notice, provide all that a traveller may require on their long voyage ahead.

  I hope that gives you a small insight into what you should be looking at when considering a campaign chest. As with any other type of antique if thinking about buying you are better off dealing with an expert. They know their specialty and you will get a piece that has been researched and correctly dated and described. You will also be paying what something is worth rather than buying something with a dubious description at a price that may not bear any relation to its true value. Just because a dealer is a specialist it doesn't equate that they are the most expensive merely that they know what the price should be as opposed someone guessing a number out of thin air. Prices of antiques will always be subjective with different dealers being able to charge more than others. Look online and see how the prices compare then decide who you feel more comfortable buying from.

By Simon Clarke.






Saturday, 18 February 2017

The Cavalry Chest.



Why the Cavalry chest ? Though very likely this term was used prior to this we first came across the name in the Army & Navy Stores Catalogue of 1907.  It's name giving connotations of a superior model.
This teak example below matches the one pictured above in all aspects apart from size being a standard campaign chest size of 39 inches and has the A&N ivorine plaque to the top right drawer.



The listing notes a model that was available with a superstructure with mirror but this is not pictured on the page. We have had examples of this model and below is one that matched the description even down to the size of 3 ft. 9 inches.




One fact that isn't included in the description above and is worth noting is that timber that borders the leather adjustable writing area tends to be a veneer of an exotic timber. We have come across coramandel, rosewood and maple. This may have been an additional extra.

As with most pieces of standard campaign furniture from the mid 19th century onwards different makers made similar models to each other. Whether they called them Cavalry chests we cannot be sure until their trade catalogues come to light.

The following chest which sadly doesn't have a makers name on it is an interesting example that shows some unusual characteristics.

This chest has a number of small differences that set it aside from the A&N CSL model. It has inset brass carrying handles to the sides; the secretaire drawer is the first long drawer as opposed to the second; the writing section has a small campaign handle to lift it and is adjustable on a lectern foot instead of resting on the hinged stationery section and there isn't a secret compartment to the right of the secretaire but 3 inkwell sized divisions. However, perhaps the most important difference is that the fronts of the drawers are veneered in figured walnut, which is something we have not previously seen on this model of campaign chest.

By Simon Clarke.



Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Maynard & Co. A lesser known Campaign Furniture Maker.

 

Maynard & Co.

Military and General Outfitters and Agents.
27 , Poultry, Next to Mansion House.


Maynard & Co. are not one of the first names you would think of when considering makers of campaign furniture.  Though in business for almost 80 years , from 1814 to 1893, not many pieces by them have have surfaced. However, they were one of a number of companies who developed a business that could offer every assistance to the traveller to the East from booking their passage and selecting their cabin to supplying their portable furniture



We have come across a couple of chests by the maker both quite different which may back up the theory that they have bought in some of their stock and with the one below having features that are not seen in the other fairly standard types of construction found on chests made by other makers.



Mahogany campaign chest circa 1831.

The above chest has quite distinct handles and has an unusual bolt mechanism for holding the top and bottom in place. 

As time progresses I am sure more will come to light on this interesting company and will be recorded online on our makers file for Maynard & Co.



Simon Clarke.