Pocket / Wallet chess sets
Jan 12, 2011Public
Photo: English sets
Photo: CH24; English "Combined Pocket Chess & Draughts" set by De la Rue - late C19th.

Although I've seen nothing positive to support it, it has been said that the set was designed by Owen Jones the well-known and respected Welsh architecht/designer who was heavily involved with the Great Exhibition of 1851. He had been heavily influenced by Islamic decorative motifs, following his studies of those at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain (which are wonderful - I went there several years ago. The Alhambra and its gardens are a magical calm oasis in southern Spain, especially in Summer), and this can be perceived in the work on this set's covers.

The firm of de la Rue is today best-known for printing bank-notes for numerous countries, but has, in the past, also been involved in the making of very well-regarded pens and pencils under the brand name of Onoto (the most famous of which is the Magna range, introduced in 1937).
Photo: CH24 - the interior - several replacement pieces
Photo: CH504 - "Dexter" Pocket Chess Board 

green leather case with stud fastener.

According to an copy advert recently seen (The Chess Collector, Vol.1 no.3 1989), the Dexter set was produced by De La Rue, with xylonite chesspieces. Unfortunately, this did not give the exact date of the advert, but states that it was from the British Chess Magazine 1901-04 - the price stated is the same as that in the Chess Amateur ad. shown later here.
Photo: CH504 - interior of the set with very soft leather.

Sadly, most of the xylonite pieces are missing from this set.......
Photo: CH504 Advert from The Chess Amateur for the "Dexter" set - 1910.

....if anyone has one of the "extra sets of men" , I would be very happy to take them off their hands at a small premium to list-price!

A further ad. for this set can be seen in the Gamages catalogue page shown in my 'Oddities' album (this mentions the xylonite pieces).
Photo: Advert from DLR's Pocket Guide to Chess - 5th Edition, 1910

Advert showing the 'Dexter' pocket sets.

As noted elsewhere, the Guide also includes an advert with a pack of cards also named 'Dexter'.
Photo: CH183; English Moroccan leather pocket set c1940, with unusual sliding clip to hold the set in closed position
Photo: CH183 - interior

compare this set with CH281 (below, US sets).
Photo: CH324 English - probably - pocket set with slip-case.

Based on the final image in this sequence, it looks to be from the same 'stable' as the Leporello folding pocket sets advertised in Chess magazine in 1938.
Photo: CH324 leather faced interior with celluloid pieces
Photo: CH324 - gold embossed knight logo to slip-case
Photo: "Leporello" folding set

The top image is of an advert from Chess magazine, no 32, April 1938.

It reminded me of a 3-board folding set that can be seen here:  http://dorland-chess.com/191-english-pocket.html  It looks pretty much certain that this is a Leporello. Marco kindly sent me the image of the cover at the bottom left; from the enlargement of the logo, I would say that this is the same as is featured on my set CH324 - almost certainly by the same maker.
Photo: CH282 - a Twin Portland Set, one of a number that I used in the 1970's for correspondence chess (which, incidentally, I could not take to!).

These were made by Robinsons & Sons Ltd, Chesterfield, England. The cardboard and packaging business, from which these chess sets stem, started in 1839, although the family is known to have run a number of other business back to the 1600's. The firm is known for being the designer of the "Smartie" tube (an English children's multi-coloured, sugar-coated chocolate) and the manufacturer of the first disposable nappy! Not all at once, please......

For those interested in such minor details, the "9" in the top right corner of the cover was my ref. for the board so I could tell which one related to which correspondence game I had on the go when moves came back.
Photo: CH282 - Interior of the Twin Portland set. The pieces have draughtsmen on the reverse.
Photo: A rather poor image of an earlier version of the Portland board (not in my collection, the set appeared on eBay).

The original Portland set design dates back to 1932 - I think the above set is a fairly early example, in good condition, with the pieces still in their original cards ready to be pressed out for play.
Photo: CH370 The 'Twin' Portland Board

Probably dating to the 1930's. An unopened packet containing (to be hoped!) a complete set with two boards and pieces. The contents should be as shown in the previous image.
Photo: The above is an example of a cover from a Portland set from - probably- the 1930-50's (a similar cover has a chess game from 1939 written on it). It is in the collection of fellow collector Mick, who has a fine selection of sets from this maker (including a far better-photographed example of the version shown in the last image) ; see them commencing here :-

Photo: American sets
Photo: CH280 - pocket draughts & chess set by Catlin's. Late C19th.
Photo: CH280 - Catlin's pocket set - interior with leather playing surfaces
Photo: CH280 close-up of the patent stamp Oct. 15 1889  - granted to a Fred Catlin of Brooklyn New York, under patent no. 413026 (US). The actual patent - as seen in the next few photos - shows a simpler, vertically opening notebook-style pocket book with only a single board, and does not refer to any "improvements", so it is likely to refer to the original item, and this a later "Improved" version, of what date is unclear.

Other versions of the set (the first, at least, with the same patent date and also marked "Improved" ) can be seen here:


The pieces are made of ivorine, and show an attempt at a true ivory-like "grain", although it is too regular to be real.
Photo: Catlin's 1889 patent - accompanying drawing
Photo: Catlins 1889 patent

Interestingly, a Fred Catlin of New York obtained a patent in 1886 (no. 334564) for a new improved funnel! From the signatures on the two patents, this was the same person.