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Retro Sunday: Men Of The Royal Lancaster Regiment Making Their Own Campaign Furniture.

Pioneers of the King's Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment, with their campaign furniture, 1808

Excerpted from British Campaign Furniture. Elegance under Canvas, 1740-1914, Nicholas
A. Brawer
1

Photo: Pioneers of the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment, with their campaign furniture, 1898. Black and white photograph reproduced in The Army and Navy Illustrated, May 28, 1898, p. 237. 2

This fascinating image shows men of the Royal Lancaster Regiment making their own campaign furniture. Of particular interest are the two campaign chests on the far left and far right of the picture.

From the Georgian through the Edwardian periods, gentlemen-officers lavished time and money on both their full dress uniforms and their campaign furniture. In 1813, Charles James, author of The Regimental Companion, wrote, “It is expected from the soldier, that his arms and accoutrements [including furniture] are at all times in the highest order, that they be not only clean but highly polished.” Officers were expected to outfit themselves in style.

The vast majority of campaign furniture was purchased privately. Desks, chairs, beds, game tables, and other luxuries of travel were manufactured for any person of means-civilian, naval, or military-who had need of it while traveling. Few, if any, of these pieces were supplied by the British Board of Ordnance; these rarities would have been marked with the initials BO or (after 1856) WD, for War Department, and accompanied by the Broad Arrow stamp.

Occasionally the army recommended certain models and manufacturers of campaign furniture, as it did in The Report of the Kabul Committee on Equipment (Calcutta, 1882; p.22):

.. the committee now considers the question of camp furniture for officers. The majority of the committee consider it to be necessary for the comfort of an officer, that be should bave a bed, and they find that the pattern… made by Ro of Dublin is the most suitable. It weighs under 20 Ibs…. They also consider that each officer should have a chair, and they recommend the pattern shown in the sketch… which weighs 3 ls…. They also consider a table … for each officer is necessary. These for all officers should be of one uniform size and pattern, viz. 24″ x 18″ x 30″. Trestle legs, joined by a cross bar which is connected by a leather thong to a D riveted in centre of table. These tables being joined together make an excellent mess table….

Brass-bound military chests were among the most popular pieces of campaign furniture for both colonists and military officers in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These chests, which were often contained within their own wooden packing cases, split into two sections of equal size for ease of storage and transportation. For example, the two halves of a chest formed a balanced load when hung over a mule’s back . Campaign furniture strapped to a pack horse’s back. c. 1853-6They were used both on the outward sea voyage, forming a necessary part of the traveler’s cabin furniture, as well as on land upon arrival, where they served as a chest of drawers in a tent or bungalow.

Campaign furniture strapped to a pack horse's back. c. 1853-6

Examples of a mid-Victorian campaign chests at Garden Court Antiques.

Handsome Mahogany Campaign Chest On Chest, Circa 1850.
Handsome Mahogany Campaign Chest On Chest, Circa 1850.
  1. Handsome Mahogany Campaign Chest On Chest, Circa 1850
  2. Handsome Mahogany Campaign Chest On Chest, English Circa 1850.

^jh

Further readings and sources:

  1. British Campaign Furniture. Elegance under Canvas, 1740-1914, Nicholas
    A. Brawer,
    ©2001 P. 59-60 & P. 182 See: https://nicholasbrawer.com/british_campaign_furniture_book.html
    Amazon
  2. Navy and Army Illustrated: bound copies Date: Mar 1898 – Sep 1898 Reference: RAMC/2093/4 Part of: Royal Army Medical Corps Muniments Collection, May 28, 1898, P. 237.
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Retro Sunday: A Look Back at One of America’s Most Beautiful Rooms from 1958.

1958 : House on Long Island Locust Valley, New York Home of Mr. And Mrs. Renzo Olivieri The Living Room

House on Long Island Locust Valley, New York Home of Mr. And Mrs. Renzo Olivieri
The Living Room

Excerpted from “100 Most Beautiful Rooms in America” (1958 and 1965) By Helen Comstock p. 208
Photographs: Wendy Hilty

Thoroughly modern in feeling is the manner in which a large scale eighteenthcentury Bolognese painting of classic architecture is used as a wall decoration in this living room. The arts of eighteenth-century Italy predominate here, but French and modern pieces are used also. The manner of arrangement only seems casual; actually the relationship of each piece to the rest has been carefully considered so that from every angle the room shows good design. The Italian eighteenth-century sofa and armchairs, painted blue and gold, are upholstered in white linen, while the cushions on the sofa are covered in Florentine silk with a floral pattern after Botticelli. On either side are Neapolitan eighteenth-century console tables in silver, gray, and white. The old gilt tôle sconces above them are designed as tall urns of flowers and have candle arms in foral form. The walls of the room are pearl gray, and a gray Fortuny fabric covers the Louis XV chair which is drawn up at a low circular marble-topped table, as seen in the view on the opposite page. The large sofa, which stands in front of a handsome pair of torchères in the form of blackamoors, is covered in green damask. An Aubusson carpet has a pastel blue and rose flower design on a pale gold ground.

Helen Comstock (1893-1970), author and expert on Early American furniture, authored numerous articles on antiques, prints, and paintings. She served as a contributing editor to Antiques Magazine and was the American editor of Connoisseur magazine for 30 years, starting in 1931.

Oscar Wendellin Hilty (1913-1978), photographer, was born in Liechtenstein and trained as an architect in Zurich. He worked as an instructor at the Engelberg Ski School in Switzerland. In the 1950s, his photography was featured on numerous record albums for the RCA Living Stereo series and in advertisements and magazine covers, primarily based in Manhattan. In 1958, Hilty moved to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands, where he became a successful real estate developer.
^jh

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New Arrivals: A Closer Look with Jim Gallagher

Jim Gallagher, Garden Court Antiques

We sat down with Jim Gallagher, owner of Garden Court Antiques in San Francisco, for an overview of the new shipment, which just landed and is now in the gallery. Jim notes a shift in preference from larger, oversized items to smaller, distinctive pieces that blend into and enhance contemporary living spaces.


Interviewer: Jim, could you share some highlights from your recent shipment?

Jim Gallagher: Overall, I adopted a different approach this time. Generally, we aim to source pieces that are immediately striking and evoke a moment of awe. However, based on last year’s sales, I noticed a shift in how people use antiques. Larger items have become more challenging to sell, while there’s a growing preference for smaller pieces that add depth and ‘soul’ to a room. These work well with contemporary designs and light, airy spaces, which contrast the often darker Victorian interiors.

People seem to appreciate having unique pieces that enhance the character of their spaces—pieces that can’t be found just anywhere. It’s about the uniqueness and personal connection to the item. So, this time, I focused on acquiring smaller, versatile items like side tables from various periods and regions—Anglo-Indian, French, and Italian, spanning the 17th to 19th centuries. Their color, style, and exceptional construction are not just beautiful but captivating, offering that moment of awe. We still have larger pieces like farm tables, but these smaller items seem to really stand out.


Interviewer: Are there some specific pieces that caught your eye?

Jim Gallagher: Yes. Among the standout items is a late 19th-century English fireplace shield made of copper and steel. It was designed to sit in front of a small fireplace when not in use, so you’re not looking into an unsightly, empty hearth. But beyond its practical use, it’s a stunning art piece. The copper features a peacock design, making it a remarkable example of late 19th-century English folk art. It’s quite manageable in size, perfect for a tabletop display.

Interviewer: That’s great. What’s next?

Jim Gallagher: This is another unique piece. It’s an Edwardian stool, not particularly old or historically significant, but striking nonetheless. It features gorgeous aged green leather with brass nailhead trim and a touch of mahogany at the base— just a fun, wonderful piece you won’t find in anybody’s house. You can’t get leather to do that today. It takes 100 years.


Interviewer: What about the larger pieces in this collection?

Jim Gallagher: One of the magical aspects of sourcing antiques is the connections you make with people in Europe. A good friend, Peter Collingridge, who has a shop in Stow-on-the-Wold, called me about six months ago. He had a piece that wasn’t right for him, but he thought it might suit me. It turned out to be this spectacular Spanish trestle table, nearly 400 years old, previously in a private collection in England for the last 50 years. Its top is made from a single plank of walnut, about 7 feet long and 3 feet wide. It’s a rare find, especially in such original condition. This is certainly a more impressive piece and was a moment of awe.

Additionally, we have a pair of Italian walnut demilune tables that are as functional as they are beautiful. Originating most likely from a monastery, these tables can be used together as a center table or separately as console tables, adorned with baroque elements and harp-shaped bases.


Interviewer: Excellent, let’s continue.

Jim Gallagher: This piece here is a lovely small French occasional table made of beautiful fruitwood. It’s wonderfully shaped with a quirky shelf, and the drawer passes through to both sides—ideal for discreet transactions. It’s not something you’ll find at mainstream stores; it’s truly unique. And for a touch of whimsy, we have an Omersa leather bulldog footstool from the mid-20th century. This fun piece is a conversation starter and showcases bespoke British design.

Interviewer: That’s wonderful.

Jim Gallagher: And who does chic better than the French? We have French cocktail tables from the 1930s and 1940s, fabulous with brass and antique mirror shelves. They are truly one-of-a-kind, adding a touch of something elegant and old to your house.

Interviewer: That’s perfect, thank you.


We hope this collection is a source of inspiration for designers and collectors; each piece has a story to tell.

Visit us at Garden Court Antiques, 1700 16th Street, in the SOMA design neighborhood. We would love to show you around. ^jh

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Happy Earth Day 2024.

Earth day -- Antiques are green.

Happy Earth Day! We are all aware of and trying to lessen our impact on the climate. Today, of all days, it’s not inconsequential to note that buying and holding onto your antique furniture is better for the planet.

I mean, as if anyone needs any other reason to buy beautiful antique furniture, a 2010 study on greenhouse gas emissions commissioned by the antiques trade 1 2 was tasked with answering the question: “Are antiques greener than new furniture? And if so, what is the difference between their carbon footprints?” It compared two specific chests of drawers, one from 1830 and the other a contemporary piece.

Ultimately, it was determined that the antique chest of drawers had a lower greenhouse gas emissions impact compared to the new chest of drawers. The life cycle emissions of the antique chest of drawers were less than those of the new chest of drawers. The new chest of drawers had a greenhouse gas emissions impact 16 times higher than the antique. Additionally, they determined that the new chest of drawers had higher emissions in raw materials, production, distribution, and storage compared to the antique. The longer lifespan of the antique and the lower emissions throughout its life cycle contribute to its greener profile.

As we say, buy what you love and buy in good conscience. Happy Earth Day!

…AND.. some stats for the nerds!

^jh

Graph: The typical life cycle emissions of the antique and new chest of drawers between 1830 and 2025
Graph: The typical life cycle emissions of the antique and new chest of drawers between 1830 and 2025
Product Footprint Comparision: A breakdown of the emissions from each stage
Emissions per year of use. Antique compared to new.
Graph: Green House Gas emissions per year of life in use associated with a new chest of drawers are 16 times higher than those of the antique.

Further readings and sources:

  1. Product Footprint Comparison Produced For The Antiques Trade , August 23, 2010. https://sworders.blob.core.windows.net/sustainability/ProductFootprint.pdf
  2. The Antiques Trade, as represented by various organizations and websites such as Antiques Trade Gazette, Antiques are Green, International Antiques & Collectors Fairs, The British Antique Dealers’ Association, LAPADA – The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers, Society of Fine Art Auctioneers and Valuers, Online Galleries, and Antiques.co.uk. The study was conducted by Carbon Clear, an independent consultancy specializing in carbon management and carbon accounting.
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Happy Easter!

Vintage Easter Card. unknown (unknown cultural designation). A Joyful Easter. 1910.

The Victorians loved corresponding by mail and the advent of the uniform one penny postage rate in January 1840 made it a very economical way of staying in touch with loved ones, no matter where they lived in the country. During the latter half of the 19th century, publishers began designing writing stationery with festive images and Easter greetings. Before long, it was the fashion to exchange brightly coloured Easter cards. These could be bought quite cheaply but many preferred to make their own Victorian Easter cards with spiritual images such as lambs and crosses or bunnies and eggs on brightly colored paper all to emphasise the happy and lively nature of spring. 1

Today, Easter is the fourth most popular greeting card holiday, behind Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mothers’ Day.
^jh

Further readings and sources:

  1. Excerpted from “Victorian History: 10 Victorian Easter traditions you should try”, Victorian Homes, https://www.adrianflux.co.uk/victorian-homes/victorian-easter-celebrations/
    Easter Card images: Rhode Island School of Design.
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Campaign Furniture Comes Home From the Wars

Handsome Mahogany Campaign Chest On Chest, Circa 1850.

by Lisa Hammel, The New York Times, November 5, 1966

Nineteenth-century campaign furniture, is as square-shouldered and bristling with brass as a four-star general.

Campaign furniture refers to those normally austere pieces used by army officers in the field or naval officers at sea. The explanation for its popularity may lie in an offhand remark made by a furniture buyer, who recently referred to the style as “basically boxes.” Basically boxes is right, yet it is probably the simple rectangular lines of the pieces that make them work well in modern rooms, in many period settings or in a mixed decor. The austerity of shape is offset, however, by the warm gleam of brass hardware. Traditionally on these pieces, drawer pulls are recessed rectangles; corners are capped with metal, and sometimes a strip of metal edges the top of the chest or desk.

Although the idea of field furniture is as old as war, the pieces seen today date mainly from the Napoleonic era in style. Some authorities believe the chests were based on the much older portable oriental chests, the boxy frames of which were decorated with a similar metal trim. The military and naval chests of Napoleon’s day were made so they could be stacked, and many of today’s still can be. Handles on the sides facilitated carrying.

Almost all the old pieces are mahogany. Contemporary versions might be anything from rosewood to brightly colored lacquer.

While the pleces may no longer be used under the narrow panoplied tent, or inside the captain’s snug cabin, observers of today’s decorating scene point out that the add-and-subtract, semi-portable pieces have a peculiar usefulness for today’s space-cramped, on-the-move population.

Campaign Furniture Comes Home From the Wars, by Lisa Hammel, The New York Times, November 5, 1966, Section R, Page 36 – New York Times Archive.

Lisa Hammel (1928-2019) was a staff reporter with the New York Times covering women’s news and education. She later wrote about crafts, artists and exhibitions and interviewed figures such as Edward Albee in their homes. She won a major journalism award in 1969 for an interview with Dr. Spock. In 1978, she became founding editor of Antiques World magazine.

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Thanksgiving 1910

The Sunday Magazine of The St. Louis Republic, November 20, 1910

Creator: Paus, Herbert (creator); Date: November 20, 1910; Material: 4 color print

Three young boys are sitting or kneeling around pumpkins, carving them into jack-o-lanterns. The boys are wearing early 1900s attire. Behind them is a banner that reads: “Thanksgiving 1910,” with wishbones and two boys holding axes with turkeys behind them on a lead. 1

The St. Louis Republic was published daily by George Knapp and Co. between 1888 and 1919. Its weekday editions consistently featured reports on local, national, and international politics; local or statewide criminal investigations; society news; financial news (particularly reports on the price of grain and local markets); classifieds, marriages and deaths; and editorials. Its Saturday edition typically consisted of two news sections with longer articles, poetry or fiction. Sunday editions included three or more news sections, a comics section, and a magazine featuring society news and events, literature reviews and excerpts, and articles about travel and culture. 2

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Further readings and sources:

  1. Paus, Herbert. Thanksgiving 1910. November 20, 1910. 4 color print. Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University in St. Louis. https://jstor.org/stable/community.18968095
  2. Newspaper: The St. Louis Republic (St. Louis, Mo.) 1888-1919 Saint Louis Republic Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/item/sn84020274/ Provided By: State Historical Society of Missouri; Columbia, MO
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A Classic Upholstered English Wing Chair: Grounded In Comfort, Solidity And Surety Of Outline.

“The English wing chair, in which we sit protected and alone and enclosed, facing the warmth of the fire, embraced by wings as if those of a soft sheltering angel. The wing chair’s heaviness and solidity stipulate a different form of life, one of security, of solidity, of immobility, of peace. The wing chair goes with the bourgeois interior, the hearth, with an Englishman’s home being his castle. One is padded, buffered, cosseted, soothed. One’s chair is one’s signature.” 1

The wing chair is a high backed, upholstered easy chair with side wings, or ear pieces, on either side of the chair back. It was originally a mid 17th century design. Sometimes referred to as a library chair, grandfather chair, forty-winks chair, or saddle-back chair— the wing chair would often be situated alongside or in front of the hearth. The “wings” would shield it’s occupant from drafts, muffle unnecessary sounds and distractions, and perhaps best of all, trap the warmth from a fireplace into the area where you’d be sitting. 2

Here: A handsome mahogany frame upholstered wing chair with rams head carved legs, English, circa 1880. on Queen Anne legs and pad feet, a distinctive split double-scroll ram’s head motif on the two front legs.
height: 43 in. 109 cm., width: 34 in. 86 cm., depth: 32 in. 81 cm.
seat height: 18 in. 46 cm., arm height: 26 in. 66 cm.

Further readings and sources:

  1. Danto, Arthur C. “The Seat of the Soul: Three Chairs.” Grand Street 6, no. 4 (1987): 162–63. https://doi.org/10.2307/25007019.
  2. see The Fairchild Books Dictionary Of Interior Design, 4th Edition by Mark Hinchman https://www.fairchildbooks.com/shop/the-fairchild-books-dictionary-of-interior-design-1
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Berlin-born, New York–based designer Karl Springer,  1931-1991.

Berlin-born, New York–based designer Karl Springer,  1931-1991.
Karl Springer,  1931-1991.

Karl Springer’s signature styles were classical Chinese and Art Deco, the latter inspired by his predecessors Ruhlmann and Jean-Michel Frank. Other influences seen in his creations ranged from the Bauhaus of Germany, his native country, to the Ashanti of Africa. Craftsmen around the world implemented his designs and he traveled widely to oversee the workshops and to scout for new ideas, forms and materials. 1 2

“The pieces that attract me have detailing that you can contemplate for hours. Because I insist on the same standards, there could never be any mass production in my workshop—we make one piece at a time.”

Architectural digest, 1989 3

Mr. Springer was credited with reviving shagreen, the rough skin of an Asian shark, which had been popular as a fabric in the 1920’s but had fallen out of favor. He brought the use of lacquered parchment back into furniture manufacture as well and also worked with inlaid-wood veneers, rare woods, metals, faux finishes and granite.

Karl Springer managed to establish his first, tiny workshop in the early 1960’s and started concentrating on furniture design in 1965. His business flourished after the Duchess of Windsor came across his designs and praised them to her many acquaintances.

“Once I was discovered by the Duchess and her circle, I probably could have gone on making little leather phone tables forever,” he told an interviewer two years ago, laughing. “But you need a challenge.”

As part of our burgeoning contemporary offerings, Garden Court Antiques has recently acquired an exceptional vintage Karl Springer banker’s coffee table covered in a cream-colored shagreen from the 1980’s. ^jh

Further readings and sources:

  1. Excerpted from “Karl Springer, 60, a Designer Of Classic and Exotic Furniture” by Wolfgang Saxon, Dec. 6, 1991, Section D, Page 21 of the National edition The New York Times https://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/06/nyregion/karl-springer-60-a-designer-of-classic-and-exotic-furniture.html
  2. See also: The Man, https://karlspringerfurniture.com/the-man
  3. “Todd Merrill Reissues Karl Springer’s Iconic Furnishings” By Hannah Martin August 18, 2017, Architectural Digest. https://www.architecturaldigest.com/story/
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Giving Holiday Gifts To Friends Is Often Like ‘Bringing Owls to Athens’.

Often, buying holiday gifts for well-to-friends is like ‘bringing owls to Athens‘. We suggest a unique bronze owl inkwell from the late nineteenth century now mounted as a table – desk lamp with a painted metal shade .

The idiom, “to bring owls to Athens”, is an ancient Greek proverb ascribed to Plato by Diogenes Laërtius (d. 180 – d.240) biographer to the Greek philosophers. 1

It is said that an abundance of owls famously roosted in the rafters of the original Parthenon (before it was burnt down). The owls became a symbol of the city over the years and were sacred to Athena the goddess.

The silver coins of local Athenian currency featured an owl. The Athenians mined their own silver and from this they minted their own coins, so they had need of nothing more. The proverb is stating that to bring owls (either the birds or coins) to Athens would be a pointless exercise, because they have plenty of their own, anymore would be superfluous. 2

The owl symbolizes wisdom, intelligence, protection, and vigilance. During the Victorian period of the 19th century, owls found their way into nursery rhymes. Lamps and andirons were decorated with owls; the birds came to be associated with libraries and learning. The depiction of owls was just as prevalent during the Arts & Crafts movement.

Further readings and sources:

  1. Diogenes Laërtius, Lives of the Eminent Philosophers https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diogenes_Laertius/Lives_of_the_Eminent_Philosophers/3/Plato*.html
  2. The Idioms https://www.theidioms.com/bring-owls-to-athens/