Shelf Reading: Awnings and Tents
One of my favorite odd volumes is a 1914 self published book by Ernest Chandler titled “Awnings and Tents - Construction and Design.”
With the advent of modern energy conservation, there has been a minor revival of canvas awnings. At the same time, the elegant tent has been sadly replaced by plastic and aluminum shelters of little form or style. This book reminds us that the sight of a house with elegant awnings or a tent with a beautiful silhouette is a buoyant and uplifting one.
Chandler was the son of what he called the “canvas trade.” His father established a sail making concern in the 1850’s and by the first quarter of the 20th century "the passing of the sailing ship and its attendant effect upon the volume of this class of business brought the writer to the city of New York, where he has since labored in every branch and capacity of the awning and sail making lines." Within this experience he realized there was an "utter lack" of any printed work that described awning and tent making—especially with the advance of the wide use of canvas in architectural applications. Hence he created this work which involved "five hundred illustrations and one hundred thousand words of descriptive matter in its consummation."
The awning section has many inspired designs, particularly for the decoration of borders and the mechanisms for controlling them.
The variety and invention in the tent section is also very fine. He includes chapters on basic shapes such as the pitch, wedge, pyramidal, conical and oblong, with their different permutations shown. For example, the wedge tent includes styles for miners and sheepherders and offers others with intriguing names such as the Abyssinian hunting tent and Amazon and Palmetto tents. There are also designs for shooting galleries, bowling alleys, motion picture viewing and photographers. He concludes the volume with his largest creations: circus tops and “aeroplane” hangars.
Summer with trips to the lake and seashore is a time for awnings and tents; Mr. Chandler’s book reminds us of all the possibilities the canvas trade presents.