Civil War Seating – You Could do a Book


Campaign seating is one of my favorite furniture topics. Roorkee chairs, X-stools, Fenby-patent chairs etc. are all interesting because they are portable, mechanical and (duh) chairs.

Jeff Burks recently turned up a number of fascinating Civil War photographs by James F. Gibson in the Library of Congress that have convinced me that there could be a whole book on Civil War seating. It would sell four copies, and I would buy three of them (thanks in advance mom, for buying the fourth).

Still, take a look at these photos and tell me these wouldn’t be fun to build.

Look at the photo at the top of this entry. This photo is from a series by Gibson of men playing dominoes at a mess table in 1862. First off, love the leather bucket and the tree-trunk table. Now check out the two stools. They are so crude that they are basically dowels. If you get the super hi-res image you can see the grain run-out on the legs and the seat fasteners. These stool were from sawn stock, though the grain is quite straight.


Next is a bunch of stool and X-chairs being used by secret service men. This image is a bit blurry, but you can see a bunch of three-legged stools and some X-chairs, which are being used correctly. (I don’t know how many moderns I’ve seen sitting on these 90° and getting their buttocks rightly pinched.)

The legs to the three-legged stools look somewhat tapered, but that could be perspective.


This is an awesome photo. Three kinds (maybe four) of seating. On the left is somewhat of a folding director’s armchair with turned and detailed legs. I’ve seen these in British catalogs. There’s a folding sling chair that looks like it might have cowhide on it – another common sight in the Army & Navy Catalogs of the day. A three-legged stool. What could be an X-chair. And another sling chair.

Only the director’s chair looks like it has any finish on it.

Here are more in the series for those that are as obsessive as I am.

As always, thanks to Jeff Burks for turning up these photos. More pieces like this are in my book “Campaign Furniture,” but you probably knew that already.


— Christopher Schwarz

About Lost Art Press

Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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10 Responses to Civil War Seating – You Could do a Book

  1. marvthompson says:

    Very interesting. If you follow the link to the stereo of the secret service men it is a fascinating view. I use the cross eyed method on my smart phone and it works quite well.

  2. quiinc says:

    Fun pictures. Speaking of your campaign furniture book, do you have a recommended way of removing the rivets from the leather? Is drilling them out the best? I screwed up and cut a strap too short.

  3. Bob Snyder says:

    That sling chair on the right looks interesting. It looks like there is a gap between the legs and the front seat supports.

  4. dans7919 says:

    check out “Civil War Woodworking” by A.J. Hamler, it has a lot of information & plans for campaign furniture. It has a high back cloth chair, that actually looks pretty comfortable.


      • Love the Civil War pics Chris. But you’re right about the sales count. Don’t see myself buying a copy. However, a “Woodworking in photography” book may strike interest. You’ve posted pics of a French female woodworker which are fascinating. Perhaps a collection of 19th century pics accompanied by your woodworking-centric commentary? I think what strikes a chord in me is how woodworking was woven into the fabric of life in ages long past.

  5. I’d have seen a a bigger audience for such a book a few years ago, but now that the 150th events for Civil War reenacting are winding down you are probably right about not selling too many copies.Then again you might be surprised by how many Civil War reenactor woodworkers/suttlers there are out there.

  6. flatironjoe says:

    Cool stuff! I’d buy the 5th copy. I’ve been poking around at Civil War era furniture lately myself. Also interesting to see a then-Lieutenant George A. Custer in that first linked picture.

  7. jrrb2k says:

    I’d buy it in a heart beat. As a reenactor and very amateur woodworker, I own A.J. Hamler’s fine book and would be very interested in your further study in these. Thanks for this post

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