De la Rue 'stud' type travel sets
Sep 27, 2011Public
Photo: De la Rue ("DLR") 'stud' travel sets

In a fine article published in the 2009, No3 issue of The Chess Collector, Jim Joannou reviewed the various chess products of DLR.  This album seeks to look specifically at the 'stud' travel sets. Jim's findings/time-line in that respect were given as:

 1900 - design patented in the UK. The earliest produced were leather-board versions with bone pieces, stamped 'DLRL' for De La Rue London, on the clasp, with a further stamp - 'MADE IN ENGLAND' on the top rim.

1902 - the firm incorporated as Thomas de la Rue Ltd. The clasp stamp was changed to 'TDLR', and the 'MADE IN ENGLAND' stamp changed to 'PATENT' 

1910-20 - due to financial problems, the firm tried to cut back and/or source cheaper products. The clasp stamp was removed; the 'PATENT' stamp retained

1920 - the original patent expired and the stamp was changed to read 'TRADE R MARK' - the 'R' inside a device (see image 8).

In this album, I will refer to the above-classified '1920' sets as 'TRM' sets.
Photo: Set owned by Jon Crumiller who provided the above image.

From the detail in the next image, it will be seen that this is an early model made by DLR and retailed by a firm called JC Vickery of Regent Street, London. From Jon's research, based on the London Directories, Vickery occupied the given addresses - only - between 1902-1914. Given it is marked 'PATENT APPLIED FOR', it should be very early in the production period. 

The set is in the standard DLR configuration with leather 'board' and 32 capture/reserve holes that are marked out. The stud-pieces appear to be made of bone. There are no draughts/checker pieces.
Photo: Details from Jon's set

Top: the metal clasp - stamped 'T d L R' for Thomas de La Rue.  

Bottom left: the leather rim impressed with the name and address of the retailer - JC Vickery. The ref. to 'Their Majesties...' should be to King Edward VII (who reigned 1901-10) and his wife Queen Alexandra; the exact meaning of this is unclear - a warrant, or, possibly, something more personal?

Bottom right: the other leather rim stamp indicating this is an early 'PATENT APPLIED FOR' set.

(Images, from which the above has been extracted, kindly provided by Jon Crumiller)

The dating of this set is slightly odd. According to Jim's research,  the patent dates to 1900, whereas Jon's research into the Vickery address points to a date no earlier than 1902 (and certainly not earlier than the 1901 accession of Edward VII!) - yet the stamp does not recognise the grant of the patent: possibly, Vickery used an old-stock DLR set - or perhaps Jim's date is for the application - not the grant - of the patent?
Photo: The above images are taken from an item that appeared on eBay UK, September 2011 - 'The Pocket Chess Problem Recorder'.   The DLR family firm had already incorporated by 1899 as Thos.De La Rue & Co, Ltd. 

According to the DLR website - - their history/time-line shows the incorporation as having taken place in 1896. The DLR group accounts indicate that the present group holding company is fairly newly incorporated, resulting from a group reorganisation in 2000; however, it mentions a subsidiary holding company, De la Rue Holdings plc I originally thought it likely to be the original DLR company, as an earlier name for it was The De La Rue Company Plc): a check with the Registrar of Companies shows that this company was incorporated on 1 July 1898.

From this, I wonder whether 1902 has any special relevance, and whether 'TDLR' - and not 'DLRL' - may well have been the original clasp stamp - which could make a little more sense of Jon's set.
Photo: Including the Pocket Guide with 1897-incorporated date as mentioned in the preceding image.
Photo: The above image/narrative has been 'copied' from another collector's album here:

As can be seen, Guy has two of the TRM sets: a linen-board version (left) identical to mine with 34 capture/reserve holes and a leather board version which has none 

There seems to be no direct link between these sets and those of the BCM advert, although it is quite possible. If they are the same, then the advert has no mention of any link to DLR - which would be most unusual with their products (my Dexter pocket set - eg see: - has no direct DLR-identifying mark on it, but adverts for these sets clearly show them to be by DLR).

It would seem from comments left on Guy's site, that both sets were acquired from the US, as was a set owned by Joost (identical to the linen board version).
Photo: Image of a TRM set - see:

This is a leather-board version - with 36 capture/reserve holes - and, interestingly, a clearly-original set of matching draughts/checkers stud-pieces. This set was sourced from the US. Peter also has a chess/draughts version: - a linen surface one.

 Marco also has another TRM set (without the additional pieces) that was acquired from the UK, however.

Jon also has a TRM leather-board set identical to these (without draughts pieces) - again sourced from the US.
Photo: Image of the 'TRADE R MARK' stamp on a TRM set similar to mine (but with a leather playing field) - original photo, from which the above was cropped, kindly provided by Jon Crumiller.

This clearly shows the shape of the 'border' to the 'R': but does it stand for 'Rue' in de la Rue? It could stand for 'Registered', but I can't recall seeing it used in that context before. [From an advert provided by Mick Deasey to Guy Lyons, we now have evidence that these sets were made in the USA - the advert includes this logo at the top]  

This stamp features - more or less clearly - on all the TRM sets (by, of course, definition!) that I have seen or heard of.
Photo: Barrel imprints on DLR pens : 1930's-40's*

'Onoto' was their brand name for a range of pens; 'Magna' was the name for a particular model (of which there were many versions).  All of these have the full company name: 'DE LA RUE & Co. LTD LONDON'. According to research carried out by other members of the Writing Equipment Society, the barrel stamp of Onoto's had changed to an abbreviated 'DLR LTD' by 1949/50.       

The lower right image is of a ball-point pen from a range called the DLR49, introduced 1949: imprint is 'THOMAS DE LA RUE & CO LTD LONDON': a throwback? 

In each case, as with other examples seen (whether chess, pens , books etc), either a full-company name is given, or a clearly identifiable abbreviation. In no case have I seen a vague stamp/imprint - such as the 'R' in the TRM.

It seems unlikely - to me - that DLR would have used such a mark as a simple 'R'.

* As I do not collect DLR pens, the images are extracted from photos in articles in the WES journal by various other members.
Photo: Stud sets - knights comparison 

'A' - a DLR-stamped set of Micks (see:  

'B' - an unstamped (marked 'PATENT') set of Micks (see sequence starting: ) - this seems likely to be a true DLR set.  These are typical of true DLR sets.

'C' - my TRM set CH331, which has a different linen-type playing surface and a stamp that I have not seen in connection with DLR, either on chess (other than on sets like mine) or other items (writing equipment, cards etc)​. 

Knights 'A' & 'B' are similar, if not identical, in style - 'C' is quite different. Further, mine seems to have a plastic coating, whereas Mick's is uncertain.  Is this simply evidence of the deteriorat​ion over time in the quality of sets that DLR produced - or could it be that sets like mine were produced by a firm other than DLR?
Photo: The above adds (bottom row) two more images of Knights from known DLR sets:

Left: from a Combined Chess & Draughts pocket set cardboard piece:

Right: from a Dexter pocket set celluloid piece:

The icons used on these pieces are clearly of the same design as those used on the DLR-period stud sets (top: left/middle), This appears to indicate a DLR house-style across its range.  The TRM set (top: right) icon is clearly the 'odd man out' from this selection.
Photo: I suspect that TRM sets were not made by DLR but, rather, another firm that was possibly located in the USA (whether under license or, as I suspect, independently is unclear) :

i) I view TRM sets like mine as very much a lower-quality product - explained hitherto by the fall in the company's fortunes 1910's-1920's.    

ii) The TRM design is needlessly different to the earlier DLR sets: ie the extra capture/reserve holes plus the piece design - why should DLR alter these?    

iii) The TRM imprint does not seem to relate to any known DLR branding, either on chess sets, or their other products.

iv) TRM sets have mainly come to light in the USA - of the 6 sets known to me, 5 have been bought within the USA, with the remaining one in the UK: whilst this cannot be conclusive, with more sets flying around the world these days, it is quite a coincidence if they all started out as UK-made.  The first overseas factory mentioned in the De La Rue website, was opened in Shanghai, China in 1939.

Updates as they arise!
Photo: Advert from DLR's Pocket Guide to Chess - 5th Edition, 1910

This shows the studded sets, named here as the 'Empire'. 

The 'stud' sets are considerably cheaper than the sets with bone pieces, and draughts sets more expensive than chess! I wonder if the former can be solely accounted for by the cost of the actual chess pieces, or whether the boards are of a much cheaper material? The depth quoted is much shallower at 1", compared with the bone set's 2 3/8".

There is no specific mention of a set combining both chess and draughts, although that could be covered by the phrase '... in various forms and leathers'
Photo: CH375 De La Rue 'Improved Pocket Chess Board' Reg October 17th 1846

DLR started producing chess products with the Roget Pocket Chessboard, registered in April 1846 - a folding card board with printed pieces slotting into it. This was  shortly after Roget had been with Longmans to produce it's almost identical Economic Chessboard, registered in Nov.1845 (see later image) . 

The DLR Improved Pocket Chessboard (example above)  was markedly different from both Roget versions, in that, although made of card, the pieces were of a stud-type. 

It is not known how long this board was in production, but, according to research by Jim Joannou, at the Great Exhibition in 1851, DLR were exhibiting the Longman's Roget board!  

However, DLR did not give up on the stud-design, reintroducing it in more substantial form in the 1880's. 

The design of the 1846 case above is very similar to (albeit thicker - at 0.822in / 20.9mm - than) that employed in the later pocket sets introduced by DLR, and designed by Owen Jones.
Photo: Roget's Economic Chess-Board, by Longmans, Registered under Act Of Parliament 10 Nov.1845 (not owned - set seen on eBay May 2013)

The Roget who invented this set is the same Peter Mark Roget ( 1779 - 1869) who published the 'Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases' (better known to us simply as Roget's Thesaurus) in 1852. He originally trained as a doctor of medicine, retiring in 1840. He seems to have been a keen inventor - one of his inventions was a slide rule that remained the basis for subsequent such rules used up until the calculator became commonplace (I hated them at school!) Although biographies of him are common on the web, none that I have looked at mentioned his involvement with chess.
Photo: CH375 Images of the 1846 DLR stud pieces.

Each piece has a diameter of c.0.68in / 17.27mm and a depth, including brass stud, of 0.425in / 10.83mm. The face of each piece is quite solid, and may well be made from papier mache - the back contains a slightly-tapered brass stud which holds it in the board (surprisingly well in the case of my set).
It is interesting to compare the symbols with those used on other, later, DLR pocket sets. The knight's head, here (and on the other knight pieces in the set), faces towards the right.

Obvious though it may be, it should be remembered that this set pre-dates the 1849 introduction of the Staunton design.