Camels & Outposts

Historical antecedents of our Pencil Post Bed

It’s hard to imagine our Pencil Post bed folding down into the size of a large suitcase. But the solid wood design was inspired by the early modular English Field Bed, built to support a canvas mattress and canopy of mesh netting to keep out mosquitos. However, if we dig even further into antiquity, we find the roots of our four-poster bed go even deeper.

Pencil Post bed in Cherry on left, Pencil post bed from catalog image circa 1978

In 1925, a photographer documenting an excavation in Giza noticed a patch of what appeared to be flaking limestone. The local crew determined it was plaster and began clearing the area before removing a mortared stone barricade. What they discovered was a shaft more than 85 feet deep. Having reached the base, they pulled back the masonry wall and found a jumbled grave of goods and the final resting place of Queen Hetepheres. Within the fourth dynasty Egyptian tomb, they found an alabaster sarcophagus, gold and copper bracelets, wooden furniture, and a bed with a canopy and curtain box to rest atop four posts, each encased in gold.
Tom and Mary Moser in Egypt in 1965 with pyramids behind them. Mary is sitting on a camel

This royal design would travel across desert sands via camelback to faraway outposts providing comfort and protection to the Queen and wary explorers. Its noble roots would soon set sail across the Meditteranean landing in Greece, where the name “canopy bed” is derived from the Greek word kounoupiera, meaning mosquito net. From the 13th -15th century Europe the bed became more grandiose with intricate carvings and elaborate canopies fringed with silver, gold, and silk. From the 16th century on, the canopy bed was the most coveted possession of household furniture and passed on through the generations. Eventually, this bed would find its way across the Atlantic Ocean transformed into a modular folding bedstead where George Washington would rest his head at camp. 

Pencil post bed on left from 1973, Pencil post bed circa 1977, Pencil Post bed circa 1979

In the late 1970s, Tom noticed this noble design and began to create his version of the four-poster bed. Drawn to the classic design, the history and wanderlust of the piece provided profound inspiration. Tom remarks, “How do you take a design that has withstood the test of time and make it your own? The bed has an extensive and varied history, but I knew I wanted to strip it down to its simplest and purest form. I drew most of my inspiration from the 18th-century English-style field bed and even included Queen Anne legs to the design at one point, but the Pencil Post bed we craft today is the culmination of several designs.”

Left: Tom and Mary Moser with children in Saudi Arabia 1965, Right:

The provenance of many of our designs tells a story of high adventure, exploration, nobility, and utility. The Pencil Post bed protected an ancient Egyptian queen from the elements, a Captain’s Chest safeguarded a sea-faring explorer’s belongings, and the Shaker Round Stand’s purpose was to hold a single bedside candle to read a poem or scripture before retiring for the evening. The heritage of these pieces continues to inform the designs of a new millennium where we have embraced modern machinery but hold fast to the beauty and importance of traditional skills. And perhaps, some years from now, a young aspiring designer will climb into their Pencil Post bed and read a story of a craftsman from a faraway land called Maine and a woodworker named Tom who designed the bed their grandparents gifted them.




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