Relevant categories: Cabinets and Chests,Desks
(Above photo - Antique campaign chest in satinwood )
Campaign chests, also known as, military, traveling, or patent furniture was used by British military men in expeditions across the globe. They were created to specifically help British soldiers travel easily and quickly on their way to conquer territories and turn them into colonies. While some of the furniture pieces were supplied by the military, others were acquired by the soldiers themselves, especially from the 19th century.
(Above photo - Mahogany campaign chest )
Nothing more than a chest of drawers, the campaign chest was one of the most popular pieces of military furniture. The chests mostly consisted of two pieces stacking on top of each other. There were several reasons for having a two-piece chest, especially The British Army General Order 131 (d) of 1871. The law specified the maximum size of a chest of drawers to be 40” by 26” by 24”, creating the need for stacking two pieces to reach the 40” height. Also, a chest in two parts was easier to stack on the back of a mule, creating a balanced load for the animal.
(Above photo - This campaign chest also houses a desk )
Campaign chests had different types of plinth or bases, with some having simple square feet to the bottom. Yet, there is quite a number that came with a turned foot in each corner. The turnings were made in such a way that you could remove them using the wooden screw. Also, some campaign chests have bracket feet like the traditional chest of drawers. Only that the bracket feet were added much later after the soldiers had returned from their campaigns. Finally, some chests combined several types of feet meaning square feet would go with a turned feet or bracket feet.
(Above photo - Campaign desk )
One of the main features of campaign chests is the type of graduation used on the drawers. It was not uncommon to find a campaign chest with their drawers appearing like that of the traditional chest of drawers. While the taller drawers would be at the bottom the shorter ones would be placed at the top of the chest.
Perhaps the most famouse of campaign chests - the Wellington chest (video):
Others have shorter drawers at the bottom and the taller ones at the top – in what appears as reverse design. The military attempted to reverse the traditional drawer design by coming up with something completely new.
The reason for the weird-looking design is that the chest also served as a secretary for the soldiers in the field. Thus, one of the drawers opened up to form a useful writing surface of at least 30” from the ground. With that in mind, the drawers had to be of certain sizes. Typically, designers created the drawer’s front to have the ability to fall off, locking flat into place.
(Above photo - Pair leather campaign bedside chests )
Sometimes, the second drawer was made so that it could pull out, revealing a useful surface for writing. That was usually one of the lids of the drawer. When lifted, the lid revealed writing supplies and when closed, it created a writing surface.
Campaign chests also have flush hardware in the form of brackets for reinforcing joints and protecting corners. Designers typically flush-mounted the hardware onto the chest to enable easy stacking on ships. Handles made it possible for tying down the chests since rope could easily pass through them.
In conclusion, campaign chests were hand military hardware that soldiers couldn’t live without.
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