When Army Surplus was King of the Campground

From Goldwyn’s Army Store – Detroit Michigan 1927

Jumbo tent $4.75!

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Tents and the Vardo Life; What is a Bender?

vardoandbender

The bender tent provides shelter from the damp while keeping the living space outdoors.

Travellers in Europe and Britain have always been associated with a style tent called a bender.  This comes from the construction technique of cutting saplings and bending them into a dome, elongated dome, or half cylinder shape,  These frameworks were then covered with tarps and made watertight in the temperate damp.  The origins of this design are lost in the mists of time and are believed by archaeologists to be one of the earliest style of recognizable tent structure used by humans.

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This size bender can more than double the living space of a vardo in a matter of minutes.

Even after a certain level of affluence allowed some Romany and other Travelling folk to own living wagons, the bender continued (and continues) to be a way to extend the living space without the need for a lot more gear.

In England, Gypsy women often used their homes for fortune-telling, especially around the Gadjo (non-Gypsy) vacation centers. Image, early 20th century. Source: Romany & Traveller Family History Society.

The fact that a tent becomes the subject for a Blackpool post card shows the ongoing fascination with “Gypsy Culture,” especially in the British Isles where Travellers are simultaneously suspect and romanticized.

Fortune Teller

The front or vestibule provides a place to do business in relative privacy. Source: Romany & Traveller Family History Society.

If you have family that me be Romany, Traveller, or Fairground folk in Britain or just want to learn more, check out the Romany & Traveller Family History Society at http://rtfhs.org.uk/.

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.

Sibley Tent, an Early Review

DCF 1.0

The Sibley tent.

A tent has been invented by Major H. H. Sibley, of the army, which is known as the “Sibley tent.” It is somewhat similar to the Comanche lodge, but in place of the conical frame-work of poles it has but one upright standard, resting upon an iron tripod in the centre. The tripod can be used to suspend cooking utensils over the fire, and, when folded up, admits the wooden standard between the legs, thereby reducing the length one half, and making it more convenient for packing and traveling.

This tent constituted the entire shelter of the army in Utah during the winter of 1857-8, and, notwithstanding the severity of the climate in the elevated locality of Camp Scott, the troops were quite comfortable, and pleased with the tent.

In permanent camps the Sibley tent may be so pitched as to give more room by erecting a tripod upon the outside with three poles high and stout enough to admit of the tent’s being suspended by ropes attached to the apex. This method dispenses with the necessity of the central upright standard.

When the weather is very cold, the tent may be made warmer by excavating a basement about three feet deep, which also gives a wall to the tent, making it more roomy.

The tent used in the army will shelter comfortably twelve men.

Captain G. Rhodes, of the English army, in his recent work upon tents and tent-life, has given a description of most of the tents used in the different armies in Europe, but, in my judgment, none of them, in point of convenience, comfort, and economy, will compare with the Sibley tent for campaigning in cold weather. One of its most important features, that of admitting of a fire within it and of causing a draught by the disposition of the wings, is not, that I am aware, possessed by any other tent. Moreover, it is exempt from the objections that are urged against some other tents on account of insalubrity from want of top ventilation to carry off the impure air during the night.

Randolph Barnes Marcy, The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions, with Maps, Illustrations, and Itineraries of the Principal Routes between the Mississippi and the Pacific, 1859.

Edwardian Camp Equipment

This is a re-post from an earlier entry.  Say what you will about British imperial policy of the 19th and 20th centuries.  They certainly worked out minimalist travel with a fair amount of style and comfort on a very personal level.  These old catalogs give some great ideas for camp living.

From The Army and Navy Co-operative Society Store, London 1907

1907-11907-21907-31907-41907-61907-71907-51907-91907-101907-11There are some excellent items here that should give some inspiration for fabricating some classic and classy gear.  From an era before the activity of “camping” was fully segregated from “regular living”.

Much more of this to come…

The Open Fire Yurt – update

From the Spiritsintent website…shape_image1Open Fire Yurt

2Open Fire Yurt with smoke cowl

This is our latest afghan yurt, or the open fire yurt as we call it, seen here with a smoke flap type wheel cover, to allow for the open fire whilst ensuring the rain does not enter.

3Check out the rest of their remarkable work HERE.