Lot #578. Club Size British Chess Company Staunton Chessmen
British Chess Company Staunton Chessmen, Full Club Size.
A fabulous and extremely rare example of a set of British Chess Company Ivory Staunton Chessmen. The King stands 4-1/2″ tall with a full 2′” diameter base. The Kingside Knight and Rook from each army are stamped with the red King’s crown. The King’s finial is a modified Maltese cross, typical of all Staunton Chessmen produced by that company. One army was stained cochineal red, which is a dye processed from carminic acid obtained from the female cochineal Insect. Red was the customary color for Ivory and bone chessmen through the early 20th century. The British Chess Company Staunton Chessmen are housed in a Mahogany hinge-top box with the white British Chess Company label and the size, “No. 1”. An interesting feature of this set is the signature of the original owner, H. Winter, November 5, 1894, and what is probably the owner’s town of residence, Tottenham, written under the threads of the King’s pedestal.
This style was the British Chess Company’s Staunton Chessmen, obviously marketed to compete with the Staunton chessmen produced by Jaques of London. By the late Victorian Period, Jaques had gained market dominance with their Staunton Chessmen. The British Chess Company Staunton Chessmen were produced around 1892. The chessmen are in near mint condition for their age. These chess pieces play and display best on a chessboard with 2-1/2″ squares. The chessboard shown in the images is not included. However, a suitable antique or modern chessboard can be found here. Our current inventory of antique and contemporary chess timers can be found here.
About the British Chess Company.
The British Chess Company (BCC) was founded by William Moffatt (1843-1918) and William Hughes, and began manufacturing chess pieces in 1891 until their apparent demise in around 1907 or so. The BCC attempted to compete for the chess set market against the established firm of Jaques of London. Their unique contribution to the design of Staunton chessmen, aside from their innovative, patented Imperial and Royal chessmen, was their use of Xylonite. Invented in 1869, Xylonite is a Celluloid, a class of compounds created from nitrocellulose and camphor. (Xylonite is generally considered the first thermoplastic.) Moffatt devised a method of reducing the cost or producing chessmen by molding the Knight heads from Xylonite. Carving the Knight heads can represent almost 50% of the total cost of producing a set of quality chessmen. In this manner, BCC was able to manufacture a set of high quality chessmen at half the cost of its competitors. It is sometimes claimed that BCC stopped producing their own chessmen around 1903, with other chess activities continuing for a few more years. However, that claim has not been substantiated and there is ample evidence that shows their still offering chessmen as late as 1907. Additional information on the British Chess Company can be found in the following article.
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