TENT. A tent is a portable habitation or place of shelter consisting in its simplest form of a covering of some textile substance stretched over a framework of cords and poles, or of wooden rods, and fastened tightly to the ground by pegs.
Throughout the greater part of the interior of Asia the pastoral tribes have of necessity ever been dwellers in tents, -- the scantiness of water, the consequent frequent failure of herbage, and the violent extremes of seasons compelling a wandering life.
Tents have also been used in all ages by armies in campaign.
In ancient Assyrian sculptures discovered by Layard at Nineveh the forms of tent and tent-furnishings are similar to those which still prevail in the East, and it appears that then as now it was a custom to pitch tents within the walls of a city. The ordinary family tent of the Arab nomads of modern times is a comparatively spacious ridges structure, averaging from 20 to 25 feet in length, but sometimes reaching as much as 40 feet. Its covering consists of a thick felt of black goat hair (cp. Cant. i. 5), or sometimes of alternate stripes of black and white disposed horizontally. The ridge or roof is supported by nine poles (awamid) disposed in sets of three, the central set being loftier than those at each end, whereby a slope outward is formed which helps to carry off rain. The average height inside at the centre is 7 feet and at the sides 5 feet and the cloths at the side are so attached that they can easily be removed, the sheltered end being always kept open. Internally the tent is separately by a partition into two sections, that reserved for the women containing the cooking utensils and food.
The jourt (yurt) or tent of the Kirghiz of central Asia is a very capacious and substantial structure, consisting of a wooden frame for sides, radiating ribs for roof, and a wooden door. The sides are made up of sections of laths, which expand and contract in lozenges, on the principle of lazy tongs, and to their upper extremities ribs are lashed at regular intervals. Over this framework a heavy covering of felt is thrown, which is either weighed down with stones or, when necessary, stitches together.
In Western countries tents are sued chiefly in military encampments, by travellers and explorers ,and for temporary ceremonial occasions and public gatherings. The material of which they are composed is commonly a light linen canvas or navy duck; but for tents of small size stout cotton canvas is employed, being light, strong, elastic, and sufficiently waterproof. These tents vary in size from a low-pitched covering, under which a couple of men can with difficulty creep, up to spacious marquees, in which horticultural and agricultural shows are held, and which can accommodate thousands of persons.
The marquees is distinguish from the tent by being a ridged structure, devoted to show and social uses; but the humblest tent made -- the tente dabri or shelter tent of the French army -- is also ridged in form. The tente dabri affords sleeping accommodation for six men, and consists of a rope stretched over three low poles and fixed into the ground. Four separate squares of canvas buttoned together are thrown over the rope and pegged to the ground on each side so as to form a low ridge. Two other squares are used for covering the ends, being thrown over the slanting rope ends by which the poles are pegged to the ground. Each of the six men using the tent carries one of the squares of canvas besides his quota of the poles, rope, and pegs.
The Gipsies and traveling tinkers of England have an equally unpretentious tent, which consists of a framework of hazel rods bent so as to form a series of low ridges, the ends being struck into the ground, and over this frame blankets or other coverings are thrown and pegged down.
The simplest , but at the same time the least convenient, of ordinary tents is the conical, consisting of a central pole with ropes and canvas radiating from it in an unbroken slope to the ground. This form, however, covers much ground in proportion to the accommodation it affords, as the space round the circumstance is of little value. A tent, therefore , which has sides or a fall is a much more convenient structure. The counterpart of the conical is the pyramidal tent, the four equal sides sloping to the ground; and this form with a fall or sides makes the square tent, which is both convenient in shape and firm in structure. Small tents are also made, modified from the Arab form, with a central pile and two lower lateral poles. In the umbrella tent the roof is supported by a set of ribs which radiate from the pole, precisely as the ribs of an umbrella spread out form the stick.
In the balloon expansion tent, invented in 1877 by Captain Newburgh Stewart, R.N., the use of tent pole, pegs, ropes is entirely avoided the canvass being supported by light ribs of elastic wood resting on the ground, and the structure is kept taut by hauling ropes descending from the apex and secured by a holdfast driven into the ground. When from the nature of the surface such fastening cannot be obtained, a heavy weight of any kind hung to the hauling rope is sufficient to moor the tent, and except in stormy weather the weight may be hung high up, thus leaving the whole interior of the tent clear. As further provision against stress of weather there are four iron holdfasts at the sides, which may be skewered into the ground by long iron pins. Captain Stewart claims that his tent possesses much greater stability and capacity than the ordinary army tent, that it is much more easily and expeditiously pitched and taken down, and that it is very much lighter. In the latter important respect he calculates that by the adoption of his pattern a regiment at present carrying eighty tents of the Indian service pattern would save no less than twenty tons of transport.