Conical, or “cone-shaped” tents are not unique to the Native Americans. Conical tents have been in use by Native peoples around the Northern Hemisphere in varying designs for thousands of years. Whether you call it a Tipi, Chum, Goahti, Lavvu, Kohte, Nentsi, or any other number of names, a conical shape is the most aerodynamic in terms of shedding rain, snow, and wind. These shapes are also the most heat, space, and weight efficient designs, offering the highest margin of tensile strength with the smallest amount of structural support.
The “Sibley tent” was patented in 1856 by a Federal Army Colonel, Henry Hopkins Sibley. While stationed at the Texas frontier from 1850-1854, Sibley developed an apprecation for the Native American tipi after visiting a Comanche village. Understanding the importance of tents in military campaigns, his original interpretation of the tipi had no side walls, a single center pole, and a vented “cap” from which smoke could escape, similar to the Scandinavian Lavvu. Possibly unknown to Sibley, a similar single-pole conical tent called a “Bell tent” (after it's bell-shape) was also in use by British Calvary in 1855 during the Crimean wars, and can be dated as far back as the 9th century in Europe.
In accordance with an agreement made with the Department of War, Sibley would have received $5 for every tent they made. However, Sibley joined the Confederate States Army after the outbreak of the American Civil War and did not receive the royalty. The Federal Army had used almost 44,000 Sibley tents by the end of the war. After Sibley's death, his relatives attempted unsuccessfully to collect the royalties.
The Sibley and Bell tents continued to evolve over time. Proportion, pole arrangements, arched entrances, side walls, and vents were experimented with to give the design increased functionality. With the advent of synthetic materials, floors and windows were added to meet the needs of a modern canvas camping tent. Since 2005, CanvasCamp has pioneered the evolution of this unique design with elegant design features, advanced canvas treatments, and innovative accessories to make the finest modern canvas tent currently conceived of, the “Sibley/ Bell tent”.