The maximum size of British campaign chests is pretty standard. You’re unlikely to find ones that are wider than 40” and taller than 42”. Outliers are out there, of course, but 40” x 40” is pretty typical. And the chests are almost always made with two stacked drawer units.
Well, there are several generally accepted reasons. The British Army General Order 131 (d) from 1871 states that the maximum size for a chest of drawers was 40” wide x 26” x 24”. This guideline seems to be pretty standard in earlier chests as well. So two pieces would create a typical chest of 40” to 42” high. Also, according to Nicholas Brawer, the author of the best book on this style of furniture, the two halves of a single chest could be strapped over a mule’s back to create a balanced load on the animal.
So this morning I was surprised to see the above image in my inbox.
This gargantuan chest, owned by the British National Army Museum, has an undisputed provenance to a brigadier general. You can read all about the chest at the National Army Museum’s excellent site here.
The chest looks like it obeys all the basic rules of having a chest of drawers that knocks down into mule-sized components. But three components? Wow.
There are a couple other over-the-top details on this chest, including the separate top and bottom pieces, which added significant weight.
I feel sorry for the mule that had to carry the third component. I hope they balanced the beast’s burden with something else. Otherwise, the poor thing would just trot in circles.
Hat tip to Burbidge for the link.
— Christopher Schwarz