Colony Exports

There was a time when Britannia accidentally ruled the world through commerce…

Flag of the British East India Company. this flag briefly served as the Grand Union Flag of the United States in 1775.

Other European nations partook of the colonization of vulnerable lands with massive resources as well, tying the world together, for good or ill, and shaping the modern world as we know it. It was common for young men to begin their careers by heading to the colonies and other exotic places far from home, so understandably merchants popped up to respond to the needs of this class of colonial gentlemen. Massive catalogues were available to outfit one with everything one would need, and many things one did not, to ease the transition to foreign climes.

A sample of goods for sale for the newly minted campaigner.

These young men hardly knew how to live away from home in their own country much less in lands known to them as virtual fables. You could not only provide the comforts of home and more, one could completely reinvent themselves and set up the ideal of a truly self-made man. We won’t look at the scruples of era at this time but marvel at the awesome array of cutting-edge camp and expedition equipment available.

Pleasant to Behold

“And, pray, what can be pleasanter to behold? Talk, indeed, of your pantomimes and gaudy shows; your processions and installations and coronations! Give me, for a beautiful sight, a neat and smart woman, heating her oven and setting in her bread! And, if the bustle does make the sign of labour glisten on her brow, where is the man that would not kiss that off, rather than lick the plaster from the cheek of a duchess.”

William Cobbett – Cottage Economy 1833

Why Woodcraft?

Northern England in the age of coal.

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd—
But he shuns the shadow of oak and pine.

—Nessmuk (George Washington Sears)

Preface to Woodcraft

Present Mood, Introspective

I have always liked this image.  It speaks to me…

Arab Mendicant in Meditation Painter, Charles Camino, French b.1824 – d.1888, watercolor over traces of graphite on cream, slightly textured wove paper .

From the description of the Walters Art Museum:

“In this work, the artist depicts the figure in such a way that most of his face is obscured, creating a sense of mystery. Everything we know about the character of this man is expressed though his posture, clothes, and objects, like his bowl containing a few coins. Very little is known about Camino’s training; he visited Algeria in the early 1850s, which inspired the art he made in the decades that followed.”

The past couple years have been a time of transition.  Those can be tough on a soul.

“The Travelling Tinker” by John Burr

The Travelling Tinker

The Travelling Tinker

A painting by the Scottish artist John Burr (1831-1893).  Tinkers were originally tinsmiths or “tinners”.  One of many itinerant jobs pursued by a class of casual laborers.  These were mostly skilled and specialized crafts like basket making, shoe repair, leather work, and metal work but many poorer workers were migrant farm labor picking hops and tending the market gardens during the peak harvest.  The fellow in the image above appears to be a fairly well-off repairman mending a seam in a pot.  This from a time when new items were a rare purchase.

I love deciphering images like this for the details of domestic life.  Unlike most photos, there is real intention in what the artist chose to include or not in the painting.  The house is clearly a poor one but a freshly killed chicken hangs from a nail on the wall by some dry roots.  A handmade broom leans against the wall next to a basket that has the tradesman’s coat lying across it.  The oldest daughter tends the infant while the mother stands by the laundry basin with a toddler behind.  All the children look on while the novel worker plies his trade in a waistcoat and hobnail walking shoes.

A Powerful and Simple Philosophy for a Good Life

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Romani in Switzerland ca. 1890?

As usual with internet information, captions and data are suspect at best.  However, this is a great image of Romani on the road so let’s just go with it.  At first glance, it looks almost like a scene from the American west in the 19th century.  It reminds me of early sheep camp images from New Mexico.  I like the stove set up.


Romani in Switzerland ca. 1890?

Another Look

Here’s another look at an image I posted quite a while ago.  I really like this photo.  These Scottish Travellers give a glimpse of some less-than-stereotypical living waggons (sic).  Very few wanderers could afford the classic Dunton Reading wagon but made do with more affordable accommodations; possibly even owner-built.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Click image for link.

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Click HERE for the source.

All three of the caravans pictured have mollycrofts for light and air but are of a pretty simple variety.  I am struck by the one on the right mostly by how plain it is (plank siding without exposed ribs) and it’s very small proportions.  I suspect there were many more of this variety than the elite, custom-built wagons on the roads in Britain in the heyday.

More Classic Camp Gear from the American West

tumblr_mevzdvFqOL1r6083to1_500I have no information about this image as it was one of those random internet finds.  The gear looks to be from about the turn of the 19th-20th Century and supplies the basics for an American or Canadian outdoorsman.  This would all apply to Mexico as well but as it’s not written in Spanish I think that rules out our southern neighbor as the source.

1, Sleeping Pocket; 2, Compass and pin; 3, Camping mattress; 4, 5, 6, Folding camp furniture; 7, Sleeping bag; 8, Folding baker; 9, Folding canvas cupboard; 10, Vacuum bottle; 11, Waterproof matchbox 12, 13, 14, 15, Canvas water pails; 16, Army (mess) kit; 17, Axe with folding guard;  18, First aid kit; 19, Metal tent peg; 20, Folding lantern; 21, Kerosene stove; 22, Folding grate; 23, Cook kit; 24, Folding baker, canvas case.

Have a Look at the Racy “Waverley Belle” Velocipede

Are you aware, gentle reader, that the bicycle is closely associated with women’s liberation, the suffragettes, and other forms of late 19th century promiscuity and other offensive behaviors among the fair sex?  Or that a truly rideable modern velocipede machine post-dates practical flying machines?  Warning – a little tasteful nudity ahead.


Oh! Those suffragettes.  They appear to be incorrigible once they have unbridled transport.

Bicycling was the final straw, so to speak, giving women the excuse to wear (godforbid) trousers, freedom to travel, shop, and generally sever the ties that kept them at home in a modern world.  I am digressing and that will require and entirely separate post, but to the wonderful Waverley Belle…

The following immensely popular sales announcement (to judge by the frequency with which it is displayed) is from a different era of madmen advertisers.  I suspect this titillating placard was intended for a gentleman’s magazine; to be perused at the club or in the office, out of sight from young, impressionable eyes.  I mean, who wants their kid lusting after a seductive beauty at this price?  This ad is clearly appealing to those who are looking get a well-built machine under them with the intent to while away a glorious afternoon.

Go away kids, get your own toys.waverlyBelle She is certainly a superbly constructed beauty comprised of artistic lines and I suspect, is a wonderful ride indeed.  The Victorians clearly appreciated a larger, sturdy frame.  Of course, this one is mostly obscured by the lovely lady acting as a prop (these high-wheelers often had no kickstand you see).

waverleyWaverly (of the Indiana Bicycle Company) seems to have been a high-end and innovative company venturing into automobiles in the heady days of innovation before the Great War in Europe.

Waverley1895-8-9MMThese Indiana boys were not just catering to the men.  In fact, it seems they seem to be early schemers in the arena of target marketing; catering to the tastes of ladies and gentlemen alike from Indianapolis, Indiana to Medford, Oregon and beyond (e.g., France).  These high-end beauties are a bit on the light-heavyweight side compared to our current tastes but are remarkably robust machines offering sturdiness and a joyful ride for a new and modern age.


Innovation was the by-word in Industrialized America and Waverley was in the game.  Here’s a couple other, family oriented offerings they produced; not bicycles though.

Anyway, I needed to get some of this curated artwork out into the world and my love of cycling has grown inversely to the amount that my current living situation allows it to actually happen without misery, pain, or more likely death.

Below are some gratuitous images of the state of the world once women gain their mobility, trousers, and the right to vote.  Bicycles have been associate with modern thinking, fun, liberation, and even sexual freedom for a long time now.  Enjoy these immodest pictures.

And finally, while doing a bit of late-night image research to establish a firm date for the ad above, I came across the original image used for the Waverley Poster:

waverlyBelle2It doesn’t appear to be a particularly practical outfit for cycling.  Must be French.  I hope to get a load of other images from the era posted in the near future.

Interesting submissions are always welcome

I am pining for the day soon ahead when the freedom of cycling will be back in my life.

Zenana Carriages, a minor mystery solved

Zenana– def. The place where the ladies reside. Origin: Urdu.

Any thoughts on this one? Please pass it on. I am curious to know.

Yesterday I posted this cabinet card image found on Tumblr and asked for help in identifying the style.  Crowd-sourcing research on the blog certainly works.  “KB” responded with enough key words that a quick image search revealed the nature of this carriage.  Often called a Zenana Carriage, this one is extremely well-decorated and may be going to a wedding.  The practice is from the Urdu-speaking Hindustani but can be applied in several ways. This appears to be from British Raj period of India (the good ol’ days to the Brits but the Indians may beg to differ on this).

Really, I’m just in it for the vehicles.

The term seems to be applied rather broadly from sedan chairs to carts and wagons of various quality.  The key being a covered transport for the modesty of the lady enclosed.

It’s more of a concept than a carriage, except among the wealthy.  Zenana carriages for royals may even be made in silver and gold.  It reminds me of the old pilgrim woman in Rudyard Kipling’s Kim.  She was so old and beyond modesty, she would often even ride with the curtain partially open.


The Carriage of a Hindoo Lady.


Zenana Cart.

Silver zenana carriage Baroda, 1895.

Sacred bullocks before state carriage - Baroda.

Sacred bullocks before state carriage – Baroda.

I suspect some of the design elements were influenced by British carriage building but overall, this is very much a regional phenomenon.  Perhaps there are some motifs and textures found in this genre to spice up a modern caravan.

And finally, an interesting little cart I found while combing images in the wee hours.

Use whatever you can tame?

Use whatever you can tame?

Ode to the “Wanderer”

The Wanderer, on the road.

The Wanderer, on the road.

“About going where he likes, for instance? Are there not certain laws of the road that forbid the tarrying by the way of caravan folks, for a longer period than that necessary to water and feed a horse or look at his feet? By night, again, he may spy a delightfully retired common, with nothing thereon, perhaps, except a flock of gabbling geese and a superannuated cart-horse, and be tempted to draw up and on it, but may not some duty-bound police man stroll quietly up, and order him to put-to and “move on?”

Gordon Stables 1886.

The RV and traveling community owes a debt of gratitude to this fine rolling home.  The Wanderer was the first true luxury Land Yacht, having been given that moniker by it’s owner, Dr W. Gordan Stables.  There were some Romany-style and showman’s wagons in use on the roads, and the Salvation Army “barrows” (see Caravans for Christ)but Stables’ design expanded upon the basic plan as a luxurious moving home that well-to-do Victorians could understand.

A retired Royal Navy doctor, Stables commissioned the Wanderer to be built to the tune of £75 and began a 1300 mile tour in 1885.  Prior to this, living wagons were mostly pragmatic affairs with few creature comforts, primarily employed for housing work crews.  The base specifications for the Wanderer are 30 feet long (9.15 meters) and she weighed approximately 4000 pounds (1815 kilos).  Two years on the road led Stables to conclude that “one about twelve feet long would serve every purpose, and be easily moved with one good horse. It would also be more easily drawn into meadows at night.”

The Wanderer. Image after Nerissa Wilson, Gypsies and Gentlemen 1986, pg 53.

The Wanderer. Image after Nerissa Wilson, Gypsies and Gentlemen 1986, pg 53.

Fortunately, the Wanderer was owned and loved by an avid writer so there is a lot of information about life in this beast.  Dr Stables described in his writings several important amenities which we can benefit from today:

“Under the rear door the broad steps are shipped, and at each side is a little mahogany flap table to let down. These the valet finds very handy when washing up. Beneath each of these flaps and under the carriage is a drawer to contain tools, dusters, blacking-brushes, and many a little article, without which comfort on the road could hardly be secured.

Under the caravan are fastened by chain and padlock a light long ladder, a framework used in holding out our after-awning or tent, a spade, and the buckets. But there is also space enough here in which to hang a hammock.”

Gordon Stables. “The Cruise of the Land-Yacht “Wanderer”; or, Thirteen Hundred Miles in my Caravan.”

If I could only employ a valet to do the washing up!

Line drawing of the Wanderer's floor plan.

Line drawing of the Wanderer’s floor plan.

As a career Naval officer, Dr Stables was clearly familiar with living in small spaces and understood that neatness and a place for everything was key to comfort.  To explain the layout, Stables continues with a more detailed description of his little home:

“Entering from behind you may pass through A, the pantry or kitchen, into B, the saloon. Folding doors with nice curtains divide the caravan at pleasure into two compartments. C is the sofa, upholstered in strong blue railway repp. It is a sofa only by day. At night it forms the owner’s bed. There are lockers under, which contain the bedclothes, etc, when not in use, as well as my wardrobe. D is the table, over which is a dainty little bookcase, with at each side a beautiful lamp on brackets. E is the cupboard, or rather the cheffonière, both elegant and ornamental, with large looking-glass over and behind it. It will be noticed that it juts out and on to the coupé, and thus not only takes up no room in the saloon, but gives me an additional recess on top for glove-boxes, hanging baskets for handkerchiefs, and nicknacks.”

Illustration from Stable's book about his 1300 mile journey in the Wanderer.

Illustration from Stable’s book about his 1300 mile journey in the Wanderer.

In this era of slow-moving traffic, regular furniture was used with few “built-in” units used, more like a normal Victorian parlour.  I love the fact that music seems to have been very important to the good Doctor.  He describes his “furniture” as:

“a piano-stool and tiny camp-chair, music-rack, footstool, dressing-case, a few artful cushions, pretty mirrors on the walls, with gilt brackets for coloured candles, a corner bracket with a clock, a guitar, a small harmonium, a violin, a navy sword, and a good revolver.”

The list seems very sound and familiar to me and shows preparedness for most contingencies on the road, from raucous music parties to a quiet evening in the saloon, with the ability to hold off highwaymen and marauders as necessary.  I think he is definitely a kindred spirit.  I guess I need to add a sword to my traveling accessories now.

Artist's rendering of the Wanderer's interior after Wilson 1986.

Artist’s rendering of the Wanderer’s interior, valet hard at work, after Wilson 1986.  Note the under seat/bed storage visible here. I became very curious about the tricycle and found that the good Doctor not only loved caravanning but promoted the new past time of cycling as an excellent and healthy way to tour Europe.  Thinking like a Navy man, he thought of the bike as a “tender” to the caravan; a land dinghy of sorts.

The Wanderer’s floor choice was a practical one.  Linoleum was a relatively new product but had shown itself to wear well under difficult conditions and remain flexible (perfect for a rolling home). To further beautify the main room, Stables chose a Persian rug to overlay the Linoleum.

A filter much like that described in the Wanderer.

A filter much like that described in the Wanderer may be seen in the lower right of this advertisement.

On a practical note, the Wanderer was fitted with a carbon-silicated water filter as the general supply was still very poor in much of Britain.  Hygene was attended to in the after cabin at the marble washstand with a small gravity-fed water system.  The after cabin (really the domain of the valet) also contained a Rippingille cooking-range, a truly modern convenience in portable stoves of the time.

The Rippingille cook stove.

The Rippingille cook stove.

1910s UK Rippingilles Stoves Magazine Advert

Rippingilles Stoves Magazine Advert ca. 1910.  Don’t they look happy?

“The Rippingille cooking-range is a great comfort. On cool days it can be used in the pantry, on hot days—or, at pleasure, on any day—it can be placed under our after-tent, and the chef’s work got through expeditiously with cleanliness and nicety. ” Stables 1886.

-Note to self: get a chef.


A brief stop for a meal. As with most caravans, the Wanderer carried tentage and awnings to extend the living space. The little Rippingille cooking-range can be seen next to the cook in the A-frame tent.

Dr Stables traveled in style, apparently employing a cook, coachman, and valet (it’s not clear to me if they are one-and-the-same) and had little monetary concern along the way between his pension and some success as a writer.  He did, however, pave the way for the “gentleman caravanner” and helped start a trend that many of us are still emulating in our own way today.  For those of us making the plunge, this style of off-beat living eschews the tin-can clones of the RV park and brings a level of style and class to living on the road, whether it be for a week or a year.

A couple of well dressed Scotsmen; Stables (right) and unknown man stand in front of the Wanderer. You get a real sense of the scale of this caravan in this image.

A couple of well-dressed Scotsmen; Stables (right) and unknown man (possibly his valet) stand in front of the Wanderer. That’s Bob the dog lying next to his master.  You get a real sense of the scale of this caravan in this image.

Finally, what became of the Wanderer? Last year, she was safely ensconced in the Caravan Club’s site in the Costwolds, England.  It seems that she never left safe hands and therefore didn’t suffer the rot and destruction that was the fate of most of the early caravans.  She is still a sight to see and many are thrilled that the decision was made to display this piece of history instead of storing it in a less accessible facility.


Colin Elliott from the Caravan Club with The Wanderer. Click the image for a short article about the preservation.


The Wanderer still looks immaculate inside with beautiful woodwork and attention to detail.

About the book, The Cruise of the Land Yacht Wanderer, Thirteen Hundred Miles in my Caravan.  After the descriptions of the Wanderer itself, much of his book is simply a travelogue of late 19th Century Britain with encounters and minor adventures along the way. However, there are some great morsels of information hidden throughout and a delightful chapter about “Caravanning for Health” with his opinions as a career Medical Doctor.  Also, he wraps up with some good advice for the traveling gentle-person about living in a small space on the road.  It’s a great little read and I highly recommend it to the caravan set.  If it cannot be found any other way you can read his book by downloading it from Project Gutenberg; The Cruise of the Land-Yacht “Wanderer”.

William Sydney Mount, another pointless art excursion

My strange tendency, as an art-admirer, is to sometimes over-analyze a painting, not only as the Art itself, but also as a documentation of time and place.  In historical paintings, it’s fun to look for the details and pick up some lost history along the way.  There may be interesting clues in what the artist chose to depict … or not.


By William Sidney Mount.

Anybody else notice the left-handed set-up?  Makes me wonder if the artist or model didn’t know the violin well.  Although I expect it would be rare, I think it’s just possible a self-taught individual might learn this way.  It’s a great picture and study but looks like a mirror image if you are intimate with the violin.  Maybe the clue is in the title Left and Right.

This got me thinking about another of his excellent works, The Banjo Player. I had to look again but I seemed to recall it as a lefty too.  And sure enough, a lefty.

The Banjo Player

The Banjo Player

The Sweeney style banjo strikes me as legitimately left-handed as the drone string is reversed.  As a folk instrument it’s easier for me to imagine some variety in design and setup.  But really, there’s not much point in this discussion other than some odd notes about two paintings I’ve thought about for some time now.  If his art appeals to you,  a lot more can be found by clicking the self portrait of Mount below.

William Sidney Mount (1847-1850).

William Sidney Mount (1847-1850).

Making Your Attitude

“Men and boys are learning all kinds of trades but how to make men of themselves. They learn to make houses; but they are not so well housed, they are not so contented in their houses, as the woodchucks in their holes.  What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on? — If you cannot tolerate the planet that it is on?  Grade the ground first.  If a man believes and expects great things of himself, it makes no odds where you put him, or what you show him … he will be surrounded by grandeur.  He is in the condition of a healthy and hungry man, who says to himself, — How sweet this crust is!”

Henry David Thoreau, Letter to Harrison Blake 20 May 1860; emphasis added, published in Familiar Letters 1865.

“The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise”


However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The fault-finder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the almshouse as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

An Open Lot Accommodation

A little something for Wagon Wednesday.  A simple bow-top accommodation.  Very little of the wagon is seen in the image but we can rest assured that it was painted green at one time.  Hedley picked up some fine details here including bolts, boards, the tarp attachment, and a very nice little driving lamp.

LastLast in Market, Ralph Hedley 1885.  Hedley really captured life in rural northern Britain.

Bender Tent

A Traveller’s (sic) Tuesday.  Just a glimpse into life in a bender tent.  Despite the glamorous view of life on the road depicted by the romantic English Gypsy Caravans, this is how most Roma lived in 19th Century Britain.

Ralph_Headley_CharltonGypsies, Camped on the Beach, near South Shields, Ralph Hedley Charlton, painted 1876.

Sawing Planks


Sawing Planks by hand and eye in Japan ca. 1870.

Before powered saw mills, making lumber was much more labor intensive.  Now I can flip a switch to crank up the band saw or table saw; or pull the cord to fire up the chainsaw for big work.  It’s easy to forget how good we have it.  Notice the sturdy little sawhorse holding up the trunk.  I suspect this was hot and hard work.

There is much more about this stereo image here.

The Blind Fiddler

The Blind Fiddler 1806 Sir David Wilkie 1785-1841 Presented by Sir George Beaumont Bt 1826

The Blind Fiddler 1806 Sir David Wilkie 1785-1841, Tate Gallery Collection.

“An itinerant fiddler is playing for a humble country family. David Wilkie focuses on the listeners’ different expressions. Only two people seem to respond to the music: the baby and the boy on the right, who is imitating the fiddler by playing the bellows.When this picture was exhibited at the Royal Academy some critics thought the bust on the shelf represented a dissenting minister, and concluded that the family were nonconformists. The power of music to stir the passions of those supposedly suspicious of pleasure was thought to add to the painting’s subtlety.” From the Tate website 2007.

So many historic details in this painting: basket, copper work, cookware, walking stick, spinning wheel, stools, hats, dog, pipe, key, cup, and shovel.  A snapshot of late 18th – early 19th century rural life.


ComradeComrades, the 42nd Highlanders (copy of a lost earlier painting by the artist) 1894, by Robert Gibb.

This image is extremely moving and poignant.  The scene is of the 42nd Regiment of Foot (later called the Black Watch),  during the Crimean War winter campaign of 1854-1855.  The dying man on the ground is whispering his dying words to the man propping him up while the third stands over them.  The image is said to have been inspired by reading a book on Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow and adapted to a more familiar British theme.  This remarkable snapshot of 19th century history hangs in the Black Watch Museum, Balhousie Castle in Perth, Scotland .