British Chess Company Imperial Chessmen, 1891 Reproduction.
Offered here is a set of reproduction British Chess Company Imperial Chessmen, heavily weighted, and rest atop green baize base pads. The chess pieces are Boxwood and Ebony. The King stands 4-3/8″ tall with a 1-7/8″ diameter base. Each King is fitted with Gold embossed Black English leather. These British Chess Company Imperial Chessmen are an exact reproduction of the Imperial Chessmen introduced by The British Chess Company in 1891. In an attempt to introduce a different take on the Staunton chessmen, William Moffatt, founder of the British Chess Company, decided to design a set of chessmen where the size of the pieces reflected their power on the chessboard. The Rooks are larger and more massive than either the Knight or Bishop, which have a similar visual weight on the chessboard. This set of chessmen includes an extra pair of Queens to assist during Pawn Promotion. Also added are both Knight designs. One set of Knights is true to the original design drawings. The second set of Knights is the design used by the British Chess Company in production.
This reproduction was executed by Frank Camaratta. An added feature is the weighting of the chessmen. The Rooks are heavier than the Bishops and Knight. Both minor pieces have the same weight. The chessmen housed in a Premium Mahogany divided box, lined in green baize. The reproduction British Chess Company label is mounted under the lid. The antique chessboard and Tanner Reliable Timer shown in the image are not included, but are available elsewhere on this site.
The British Chess Company (BCC) was founded by William Moffatt (1843-1918) and William Hughes. They began manufacturing chess pieces in 1891 and remained a minor competitor to Jaques of London in the high-end chess set market until their apparent demise around 1907 or so. This particular design, originally referred to as the “Royal Chessmen“, was renamed the British Chess Company Improved Staunton Chess pieces. By reinforcing the collars of the Pawns and changing the look of the Knights, Moffatt hoped to differentiate his chessmen from the more popular upscale Jaques Staunton chessmen. Moffatt’s unique contribution to the design of Staunton chessmen, aside from their patented Imperial and Royal chessmen, was his 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.
The House of Staunton name is now recognized World-Wide as synonymous for quality and exquisite design – the chessmen for those with exquisite taste. The perfect gift for the man or woman who has everything. They are so well respected that they even made the comics!