A late 19th century camphor wood campaign chest, with two slim drawers to the bottom and three large drawers to the top. All drawers are furnished with flush brass handles and brass locks. The front corners are decoratively carved with foliage and scrollwork.
Campaign or Military furniture was popular in the 19th and 20th centuries, when military campaigns took place during the expansion of the British Empire. British officers of high social ranking would carry the pieces around with them for home comforts and storage, piecing them back together for use. Camphor wood was used in campaign furniture due to its durable density and insect repellent properties.
For centuries travelling armies have used campaign furniture that could easily be assembled and quickly folded and packed down for ease of transportation, however in the 1800’s British furniture manufacturers such as Sheraton, Hepplewhite, and Chippendale redesigned much of their line and engineered new pieces specifically for the British Army in response rise and expansion of the British Empire, during the Georgian and Victoria periods (1714 – 1901) and the demand by British officers in high social positions for high quality portable furniture.
Not only did the furniture need to be highly portable, lightweight, and exceptionally durable but it also needed to be comfortable and beautiful to ensure the British officers the luxuries of home whilst travelling to distant lands. The blending of timeless functionality and elegance led to an unmatched style of furniture that was impervious to weather, virtually indestructible, and visually stunning.
My favourite item of campaign furniture is the chest of drawers, often referred to as a military chest or campaign chest. Campaign chests' primary wood was often mahogany, teak, or camphor, although cedar, pine and other woods were also used. The dominant style of campaign chest breaks down into two sections and has removable feet. The brass corners and strapwork offer some protection and typify the distinctive "campaign look".
With its simple and masculine elegance, campaign furniture looks as modern and timeless within homes today as it did back in the 19th century.
If you would like to learn more, I suggest reading Nicolas A. Brawer's book, British Campaign Furniture: Elegance under Canvas 1740-1914. Published in 2001 with over 275 illustrations, including 140 plates in full colour, it is the most comprehensive compilation of historical information on the subject.
Late 19th Century Camphor Wood Campaign Chest