The House of Staunton is proud to introduce the masterful Philidor Series Chess Set. Part of our Timeless Collection, the Philidor Series Chess set is exact reproduction of one of the least known Chess sets every produced, the Philidor Chessmen Circa 1850 Pattern Chessmen. These Chessmen feature a 4.0" King with a 1.325" Diameter base and are weighted. These Chessmen are an exact match to the original detail, down to the smallest details!
The History of the Philidor Chessmen - By Frank A. Camaratta, Jr.
In 1850, an advertisement appeared in the June issue of The Chess Player’s Chronicle, Edited by Howard Staunton, Esq., announcing the availability of a new registered design for the practical play of the game of Chess. They were called The Philidor Chessmen in honor of the great 18th Century chess player Andre Duncan Philidor. The chessmen were manufactured and distributed by George Merrifield, a noted turner and carver of the time, operating at 13, Great Turnstile, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London. The Chessmen were fully illustrated, with pricing, in the December 1850 issue of The Chess Player’s Chronicle with the following promotional text.“The Philidor Chess-Men, designed by some of the LEADING METROPOLITAN PLAYERS with a view to FITNESS FOR ACTUAL PLAY AND NON-LIABILITY TO BREAKAGE. – The Handsome folding BOARDS, to accompany them, have squares of the colors most suitable to the eye, and are embellished in an entirely novel manner. Both Men and Boards are registered.”
The chessmen were available in two sizes, the “Club” Size and the “Second” size in ivory as well as Boxwood and Ebony, weighted. They were priced at £10-s10 and £5-s5 for the ivory, and £3-s3 and £2-s0 for the wood. Prices included a chessboard, which added around £1-s8 to the price of the large set and s14 for the small set.
The advertisement further noted.“N.B. – to the interior of the lid of every box containing these Chess-Men is affixed a label, bearing the signature of the sole authorized Manufacturer, G. Merrifield, 33, East Street, Queen’s Square, London; by whom they are sold Wholesale and Retail, and from whom Advertising Show-Cards may be had.”
This was an obvious attempt to imitate what was probably the first Celebrity advertisement used by Jaques of London to capitalize on the Howard Staunton name and reputation as the World’s leading chess player. Like the Jaques chessmen, each chessmen bore a small circular registration disc and each box bore a signed manufacturer’s label under the lid.
Unfortunately, Staunton was merciless in his criticism of the new chessmen, going so far as to proclaim that using these pieces would weaken your play and that no self-respecting chess player would ever be caught using them. This was particularly interesting since the manufacturer of the Philidor chessmen apparently paid to have his new design advertisements appear in a periodical edited by Staunton himself.
Whatever the case, the new chessmen were advertised for around a year and then disappeared. They never caught on and apparently, were not produced in any significant quantities. For that reason, examples today are nearly impossible to find and only a few Philidor sets are known to exist today.