7 hours ago
Monday, February 1, 2010
Over the weekend I picked up this catalog from Katonah (NY) Museum of Art's July 2001 exhibit "Britain's Portable Empire Campaign furniture of the Georgian,Victorian and Edwardian periods"
The opening quote "Do not make yourself uncomfortable for want of things to which you are accustomed. That is the secret of camp life" from The Complete Indian Housekeeper and Cook, 1898 pretty well sums up the attitude of the intrepid Brit on Safari, heading to Canada or managing the Empire where ever it may order you.
Until 1871 gentlemen purchased their military commissions, and as young, well to do, rakes on the make, they chose not to do without. Fashionable cabinet makers specialized in travel furniture. Many of their designs were ingenious.
Civilians needed their own furniture as well. Managers of the East India company had to equip, at their own expense, cabins for themselves and family while at sea. Later, the furniture had to do double duty in their new homes abroad.
As fashions changed at home, travel furniture changed as well. Choices of wood, leather, colour reflected the tastes at home.
By the time of the Boer War, British Military men began to see the light. Extravagant travel furniture was no longer practical for then modern military requirements. Furniture needed to become light, and quickly portable. Military men on the move put paid to the mahogany excesses of prior wars.
If you have camped lately, you can blame the Boers. Much of our modern camping gear is directly attributed to British needs in this war.
If campaign furniture is of any interest, you may want to look around for a copy of "British Campaign Furniture" by Nicholas Brawer. Beware it's expensive. If you find it cheap, get in touch.