Although a relatively standard mahogany campaign chest, the maker's name of Alex. Boswell elevates this to a piece of greater interest.
The chest has brass strap work and flush handles as you would expect but is a little smaller in size than most. The label is to the inside back of the first long drawer and gives Boswell's addresses as 8 South Hanover Street and 40 Nicolson Street, Edinburgh. Late 19th Century.
It is likely that the Scottish company of Alex Boswell was founded by James Boswell at the end of the 18th Century. An established date of 1790 was noted by the company nearly 100 years later in their adverts and James is listed in the Edinburgh trade directories of 1820 as a trunk maker at 25 College wynd, an address that Alex is also listed at 5 years later. A Boswell label from the 1840s notes the father and son connection and so we can assume that Alex took over his father's business. The name must have changed to Alex Boswell around 1825 when it is first seen in the directories. The business prospered and expanded throughout the 19th Century with a partner for a short while and the third generation also becoming involved. Brush making was an important part of their work and shared an equal billing in their Post Office Directory listings with Trunk makers for most of the century. Their labels and adverts, which changed little in their history, state that Boswell sold various India Trunks and Portmanteaus as well as domestic items such as House Brushes. They boasted that they held The Greatest Variety of Travelling Equipments in Scotland. They were also a Marriage Outfitter and accepted exchanges and repairs.
The address of 38 Nicolson Street was added by Alex Boswell in his listing of 1825. At different times, he had various premises on the same street, including 44, 35, 50, 46, 48 and 40, up to 1870 when Alex Junior became involved in the business. By 1830 the College wynd address is no longer listed. The firm's main address through most of their history was 8 Hanover Street. Peter Dewar, also a Brush maker, was first listed at 8 Hanover Street but in 1841, Dewar and Boswell, Brush, Trunk, Bellows and Portmanteau makers are listed at the address. Alex Boswell is still shown as a separate business at 50 Nicolson Street at this date. By 1843 the name Dewar has disappeared and we can guess that Boswell had bought his business and premises. Dewar was better located than Boswell and he may have wanted to maximise the goodwill of his name whilst he established himself in Hanover Street. Boswell stayed at 8 Hanover Street until 1903 when he moved to number 14.
Alex Boswell had two shops for most of this period with the other at one of his various Nicolson Street addresses. He also had a private residence at 4 Salisbury Road. In 1870 Alex Boswell Jnr starts to get listed in the directories as a Brush, Trunk, Portmanteau and Travelling Bag Manufacturer. He is first at 8A Hanover Street, next to his father. From this date on he also placed an advert in the directories. It is likely that this was a succession plan put in place by father and son as by 1873 Alex Junior's address has changed to 8 Hanover Street. He continued to still use the distinction of Junior in his adverts until 1879 though. His advert, remains virtually unchanged for the next 30 years accept for an addition in 1887. In 1886, Boswells won the Highest Award for Portmanteaus at the International Exhibition in Edinburgh and so added a byline to the effect at the foot of their advert. In 1903, Alex Boswell moved to 14 Hanover Street and in the coming years started to list other goods on his adverts such as dress and skirt baskets. The business carried on well into the 20th Century and the name is still listed in 1940 as a travel goods manufacturer.
Alex Boswell made their own trunks and brushes in their factory and the labels to their furniture also state that they are the manufacturer. Typically Boswell's labels are pasted to the inside back of one or more drawers. The larger of the two they used lists to either side the variety of luggage and different types of brushes they sold. Aside from leather goods they sold Portable Desks and Dressing Cases. Another label from a piece of luggage notes that they also sold Portable Drawers, Folding Chairs, Iron Camp Beds and Tin Boxes. The two mahogany campaign chests of drawers that we have seen have both been fairly standard in design but made to a good quality and with the drawers lined in ash. Of note is that the blocks to receive the removable screw in feet might be considered a little oversized. There are few Scottish makers of campaign furniture known and Boswell enjoyed a good reputation and a very long history.