Campaign furniture, as implied by its name, is portable furniture that was designed to be packed up and carried during military campaigns. Its origins can be traced back to the Romans, but it is most commonly associated with British Army officers during the Georgian and Victorian periods (1714-1901). There seemed no limit to the number of items an officer would take with him if he could afford to and how well one’s tent was kitted out was perhaps an indication of your social standing. The numerous items specifically made for travel include a variety of beds from four poster or tent beds to chairs that would extend for sleeping, large dining tables, dining chairs, easy chairs, sofas, chests of drawers, book cabinets, washstands, wardrobes, shelves, desks, mirrors, even lanterns and candlesticks, canteens of silver, cooking equipment, toiletry equipment and thunderboxes were all made to be portable.
Famous makers such as Chippendale, Sheraton and Gillows offered campaign pieces and the end of the 18th century saw the rise of specialist makers with the names of Thomas Butler and Morgan & Sanders. Their wares addressed not only military needs but also the increasing number of people who were moving to the colonies. In the 19th century, Indian cabinetmakers still grounded their work in the European tradition but added distinctly Indian touches. The emphasis was on decorative elaboration and much of the 19th-century Indian wood carving shows great technical skill.
Below from epoca in San Francisco: an Anglo-Indian traveling table originally used by the British colonial administrators for serving tea. Anglo Indian Furniture was crafted in India between 1858 and 1947.
The early 20th century saw a decrease in demand for campaign furniture: developments in transport and the rise of the motor car meant that travel was quicker so it was less of a necessity to equip oneself for a long journey. However, campaign pieces continue to be appreciated for their simple elegance, beauty and ingenuity. What was born of necessity was quickly adopted for its style, and these solid, classic pieces have retained much of their aesthetic allure so much so that campaign-style furniture continues to be designed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries.
Below from epoca in San Francisco: a good quality and chic brushed steel, bronze and leather campaign chair designed by Otto Parzinger for Maison Jansen in the 1960’s.