A Delightful 19thC English Oak Campaign Type Gentleman’s Travelling Shaving Box c.1830-40

Origin: English
Period: William IV / Early Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1830-40
Height: 3”
Width: 10”
Depth: 7.25”
When Open: 8.25” high

Of rectangular form, the English oak travelling campaign shaving box of rich colour, the lid opening to reveal a folding hinged panel holding the original mercury glassed mirror plate, now clouded with age, the easel ratchet folding mechanism then resting upon the front, for the purpose of shaving, the lower section vacant for the storage of shaving brushes and blades, the whole surviving from the second quarter of the nineteenth century in original condition.

The condition is fair to good considering the age and the nature of the box which would have travelled with its owner some distance. The dovetail jointed oak has a good patina and a deep rich colour, making for a piece rich in history. There are two shrinkage cracks present, one to the base, and one to the folding panel; that particular one has had some fibrous tape applied to it to make it stronger. The mechanism still works as it should though when one closed the lid the mirror sometimes falls a little loose into the box cavity.

By the mid eighteenth century, facial hair fell dramatically from favour as the face of the polite gentleman was increasingly clean-shaven. The arrival of the newly-invented cast steel enabled razor-makers to produce ever sharper (and indeed blemish-free) blades, rendering shaving more comfortable, and razors more durable and capable of re-sharpening. Shaving the face evinced neatness and elegance, and notionally separated the gentleman from the unkempt yokel whilst shaving the head prepared it for the wearing of a wig – an expression of gentlemanliness, masculinity and taste. At the time this shaving mirror was crafted there was also a boom in the world of shaving related cosmetics as many perfumers and chemists began to manufacture soaps and creams specifically designed to aid in the shaving process. Published in 1833, The Young Man’s Guide offered advice for men coming of age on various facets of life and recommended the use of cold, not hot water, for shaving.

Campaign-style furniture goes by many names, such as “military furniture” and “traveling furniture.” But its most curious name is “patent furniture.” It gets this name because many pieces fold up or transform into another form, and the designs were many times patented. The most famous example of patent furniture is the chair that converts to library steps. This box was more than likely used by a military man, designed to be packed away and carried on the march.

A very sweet little box with a super colour and wonderfully evocative plate.