Gregory Kane – Dublin

A reconstruction of the interior of a British Army Officer’s tent, as it may have appeared during the mid to late Victorian period, showing an array of typical campaign furniture such as that made by Gregory Kane of Dublin.

Facility Type & Function:

A privately owned Portmanteau and Campaign Furniture manufacturer and seller catering to the higher ranking officers of the British and Imperial Armies.

Brief History:

Gregory Kane is first recorded in 1829 as a “Trunk Maker” with premises at No.8 ½ Fishamble Street, Dublin. In the following year, his trade address changed to No.1 Fishamble Street. His business appears to have struggled at this time as in June 1832 he was declared insolvent. However, he must have recovered, as in 1833 he is again trading as a “Trunk Maker” at Essex Quay, Dublin.

By 1835 Kane was operating out of both Nos.3 and 29 Essex Quay from his “Portmanteau and General Trunk Warehouse”. Kane considered himself to be “the only person in the trade who manufactures Solid Leather Trunks”. He played an active role in the workmanship which allowed him to sell his items 20% less than any of his competitors in the city. At this time he was using Bramah’s Patent Locks and sold multiple types of items including horse skin portmanteaus, hat cases, carpet bags and even violin and guitar cases. However, at this time he makes no reference to dealing in Barrack/Military furniture.

In 1838, whilst still trading out of No. 29 Essex Quay, Kane opened new premises at No.81 Dame Street. He described his business as a “Solid Leather Basil and Horse Skin Portmanteau Warehouse.” He now included military chests in his product range as well as an improved style solid leather portmanteau, which he marketed to the military and travelling gentlemen. His improved portmanteau had an expanding top, whilst preserving a compact, portable appearance.

Gregory Kane was a dedicated philanthropist and in 1839 was appointed to a committee to elicit subscriptions for six young children whose father had died unexpectedly. This benevolent attitude continued through his life.

By 26th September 1839, Gregory Kane had left his premises at No.29 Essex Quay and was operating solely from No.81 Dame Street. In 1842 he described his business as a “Military Portmanteau and Harness Manufactory,” with extensive stock including cabinets, in mahogany and rosewood plus writing desks, dressing cases, workboxes and tea caddies. His products had also been awarded a silver medal after being exhibited at the Royal Dublin Society. This was to be the first of several such awards bestowed on his products. In 1845 the company moved premises from No.81 to 68 Dame Street and the following year appears to have opened further rooms or perhaps living quarters at No.69 Dame Street. Kane now advertised the sale of both new and second hand Camp Furniture. In 1847 He finally described himself “By Special Appointment” as a “Military Portmanteau, Dressing-Case and Camp Furniture Manufacturer to the Earl of Besborough.”

A sale of Kane’s wares was held in December 1848, in order to make room for a planned extension of another branch of his establishment. Presumably, this was an extension into No.70 Dame Street, although he only advertised the premises as “Nos. 68, 69 and 70 Dame Street” from 1850 onwards. He noted in advertisements from this time that he was able to deliver military outfits to any Barracks in England, Scotland and Ireland at no extra expense and that his products were superior to any that could be offered from London.

In the Irish Almanac of 1850 Kane is noted as “Portmanteau Maker to the Lord Lieutenant” and was also recorded as having premises at Mountainville Lodge, Dundrum. The Lord-Lieutenant had visited the Royal Dublin Society’s Exhibition where Gregory Kane had erected and furnished a marquee in which he had lunch. The marquee’s furnishings were representative of those which a colonel on active service might have outfitted his tent whilst on active overseas duty. Included was a pinewood box, three feet three inches by one foot six inches. When assembled, every part of this box could be converted into articles of furniture, including a round table, sofa with bedding, six chairs, a carpet, a hearth rug, a table cover, a dressing-case and other articles.

The Lord-Lieutenant paid a visit to Kane’s factory on the 31st March 1851 and is said to have expressed his high approval of the “neatness, elegance and convenient arrangement of the articles” shown to him. These included camp and portable furniture of all descriptions, in particular, his patented “Travelling Cabinet” which was exhibited at The Great Exhibition in Crystal Palace, London that same year.

Evidently proud of the number of prizes he had won at previous exhibitions Kane started advertising that fact in 1852 and listed them as follows:

1841 – The Royal Dublin Society’s Silver Medal – For Portmanteaus

1844 – The Royal Dublin Society’s Silver Medal – For Lady’s Portmanteaus

1847– The Royal Dublin Society’s Silver Medal – For Camp Furniture

1850 – The Royal Dublin Society’s Gold Medal – For Camp Furniture and Portmanteaus

1851 – The Great Exhibition Prize Medal – For Camp Furniture and Portmanteaus

Gregory Kane was granted a patent for the “construction of Portable Houses or portions thereof, out of parts, which may be used for other purposes,” on the 10th May 1852 and proceeded to exhibit at the National Exhibition in Cork that same year. The following year he was granted a patent for a “Portmanteau Field Bed” plus an “Envelope Bed”. In a newspaper advertisement, Kane threatened to take legal action against any persons infringing on these patents. He informed the Army that these campaign beds were only to be obtained at his establishment.

During 1855 and 1856 Kane appealed directly to the Militia as well as to officers leaving for the Crimea, to whom he touted an outfit for an Officer’s Room at one half the usual price.

Continuing in his philanthropic ways Kane attended and subscribed to the Crimean Banquet in 1856.

In 1857 Kane launched a new product, the air-tight bullock trunk which was designed specifically for gentlemen proceeding to the Indian War. The following year he took out a new patent for a “Portable Folding Bedstead” which was to prove very popular with Officers of the British Army.

The Great Exhibition of 1862 was a perfect advertisement for Kane’s wares, and these included his popular “Travelling Cabinet” and portmanteaus. He also included items that were airtight to exclude insects along with portmanteaus with a lap of cowhide, in order to prevent water from seeping in.

With the patronage of the Army Kane constructed one of the most extraordinary pieces of campaigning kit ever devised. This took the form of A “Portable House” or “Australian House” which was made for Captain Richardson’s estate in Madras, India. Prior to its transport, it was exhibited at his Dublin premises. A similar portable house was displayed at the Royal Dublin Society’s Exhibition in 1864. This appears to be the only such portable house ever recorded and is arguably the ultimate expression of portability. After all, why not have a portable house to fill with all that portable furniture. This structure makes Kane unique amongst Campaign Furniture manufacturers.

Throughout the 1870s Kane continued to market his wares to the British Army and was still advertising a “Complete Outfit of Barrack Furniture” in 1876 and 1877 to new Officers.

From 1877 to 1884 he also continued his charitable works, contributing significantly to Subscriptions and Bazaars. During the same period, he continued promoting his business and was still advertising portmanteaus and Gladstone Bags in 1885, two years before his death in 1887.

After his death, his significant assets were auctioned off. These included Shamrock Lodge in Dalkey as well as the leasehold interest and the entire stock of valuable camp furniture and portmanteaus of Nos.68, 69 and 70 Dame Street. The auctions ran from December 1887 until August 1888.

All that remains today from the output of this significant Victorian maker of Campaign furniture are a few chests and desks, which are invariably of the highest quality as can be seen in the videos histories below.

An excerpt from a lecture given by Sean Clarke to the British & Irish Furniture Makers Online (BIFMO) and the Furniture History Society (FHS).

Location Details:

Dublin, County Dublin, Ireland.

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type IA

(Image not available but similar to Type 1 B below)

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Bronze

Design: Bifacial with plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  22 mm

Obverse: Raised legend arranged in two concentric circles around edge with numbered cartouche in centre field. Outer legend  reads MILITARY PORTMANTAU & TRUNK WAREHOUSE and inner plus cartouche legends reads GREGORY KANE / 81  / DAME STREET / DUBLIN .

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in three concentric circles around edge with additional legend in two line in centre field. Outer legends  read MANUFACTURER OF ALL SORTS OF CAMP FURNITURE , inner legend reads LEATHER WRITING DESKS / LADIES PORTMANTAUS and central legends reads CASEWORK & / DESPATCH .

Date: 1839 to 1842 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6060a. 


Type IB

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Brass

Design: Bifacial with reeded edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  22 mm

Obverse: Raised legend arranged in two concentric circles around edge with numbered cartouche in centre field. Outer legend  reads MILITARY PORTMANTAU & TRUNK WAREHOUSE and inner plus cartouche legends reads GREGORY KANE / 81  / DAME STREET / DUBLIN .

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in three concentric circles around edge with additional legend in two line in centre field. Outer legends read MANUFACTURER OF ALL SORTS OF CAMP FURNITURE , inner legend reads LEATHER WRITING DESKS / LADIES PORTMANTAUS and central legends reads CASEWORK & / DESPATCH .

Date: 1839 to 1842 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6060b. 


Type IC

(Image not available but similar to Type 1 B above)

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Zinc

Design: Bifacial

Shape & Size: Circular,  22 mm (assumed)

Obverse: Raised legend arranged in two half circles and a third horizontal line around upper half of token reads around edge with numbered cartouche in centre field. Outer legend reads MILITARY PORTMANTAU & TRUNK WAREHOUSE and inner plus cartouche legends reads GREGORY KANE / 81  / DAME STREET / DUBLIN .

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in three concentric circles around edge with additional legend in two-line in centre field. Outer legends read MANUFACTURER OF ALL SORTS OF CAMP FURNITURE , inner legend reads LEATHER WRITING DESKS / LADIES PORTMANTAUS and central legends reads CASEWORK & / DESPATCH .

Date: 1839 to 1842 (Note 1)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6060c. 


Type IIA

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Brass

Design: Bifacial with plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  22.6 mm

Obverse:  Young head of Queen Victoria facing left with makers mark I.C.P. below neckline. Legend around edge reads VICTORIA REGINA

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in six lines (first two and last two curved) above and below a portmanteau bearing an incuse number 69 reads . GREGORY KANE . / MILITARY PORTMANTAU / WAREHOUSE  DAME St.  / . DUBLIN . / DRESSING CASES TRUNKS & C .

Date: 1845 to 1887 (Note 2)

Maker: John C. Parkes of Dublin

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6070. 


Type IIB

(Image not available but similar to Type 1B above)

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Bronze

Design: Bifacial with plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  22.7 mm

Obverse:  Young head of Queen Victoria facing left with makers mark ICP below neck line. Legend around edge reads VICTORIA REGINA

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in six lines (first two and last two curved) above and below a portmanteau bearing an incuse number 69 reads . GREGORY KANE . / MILITARY PORTMANTAU / WARE HOUSE  DAME St.  / . DUBLIN . / DRESSING CASES TRUNKS & C .

Date: 1845 to 1887 (Note 2)

Maker: John C. Parkes of Dublin

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6075. 


Type IIC

(Image not available but similar to Type 1B above)

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Bronze

Design: Bifacial with plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  22.7 mm

Obverse:  Young head of Queen Victoria facing left. Legend around edge reads VICTORIA REGINA

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in six lines (first two and last two curved) above and below a portmanteau bearing an incuse number 69 reads . GREGORY KANE . / MILITARY PORTMANTAU / WARE HOUSE  DAME St.  / . DUBLIN . / DRESSING CASES TRUNKS & C .

Date: 1845 to c.1887 (Note 1)

Maker: Possibly John C. Parkes of Dublin

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6080. 


Type IV

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Gilt Brass

Design: Bifacial with plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  23.0 mm

Obverse:  Young head of Queen Victoria facing left. Legend around edge reads VICTORIA REGINA

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in seven lines (first two and last two curved) reads . KANE’S / MILITARY FURNITURE / AND / PORTMANTEAU / FACTORY / 69 & 70  DAME St.  / DUBLIN .

Date: 1850 to 1887 (Note  3)

Maker: Unknown

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6090a&b (Note 4).


Type V

(Image not available)

Function:  Un-official Farthing  / Advertising Token

Material: Brass

Design: Bifacial with plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,  23 mm (assumed)

Obverse:  Head of Queen Victoria facing left. Legend around edge reads J. MAPPIN  TRUSS MAKER 88 NEWHALL ST. BIRMINGHAM (Note 5).

Reverse: Raised legend arranged in seven lines (first two and last two curved) reads . KANE’S / MILITARY FURNITURE / AND / PORTMANTEAU / FACTORY / 69 & 70  DAME St.  / DUBLIN .

Date: 1855 to 1881 (Note 6)

Maker: Unknown (Note 5)

Published References: Withers, P. & B.R, – The Token Book 2: Unofficial Farthings and Their Values 1820-1901.  Token reference No. 6095. 


Notes:

  1. This date is based on the known period when Gregory Kane operated from the stated address on the token (i.e. 81 Dame Street, Dublin).
  2. This date is based on the known period when Gregory Kane operated from the stated address on the token (i.e. 69 Dame Street, Dublin).
  3. This date is based on the known period when Gregory Kane operated from the stated address on the token (i.e. 69 & 70 Dame Street, Dublin).
  4. Withers record two varieties of this token of similar size (22.9 & 23.1 mm respectively) but with different die axis (i.e. 360 and 190 degrees respectively).
  5. This is one of several unofficial farthings that were supplied by John Mappin (b. 1796 and d. 1881) in the names of both himself and several secondary named traders. Mappin operated from 1847 to 1881 as a truss and surgical instrument and appliance plus cutlery supplier. From 1855 his trading address was 88 Newhall Street, Birmingham.
  6. This token can be dated from the period that Gregory Kane operated from the stated address on the token (i.e. 69 & 70 Dame Street, Dublin) coupled with the address and date of death of the primary issuer named on the token’s obverse (i.e. John Mappin).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.