Antique trunks, also called traveling chests, were originally used as luggage for extended trips by stagecoach, train, or steamship. Today, given the weight limitations on airplanes and the new, lightweight wheeled luggage available, most people use these old trunks as furniture—chests for storing things like blankets, linens, papers, and other memorabilia.
Antique chests, unlike trunks, were always designed for storage and were never intended for travel. The earliest examples commonly found today are from the Victorian Era. Generally the interior box is made of a wood like pine and then lined with materials intended to protect and decorate. Early Victorian trunks are upholstered, much like the furniture of the time, with studded hide or leather. Later, trunks were covered with paper, canvas, or plain or embossed tin. They were typically reinforced with hardwood slats and metal hardware, and locked with a key.
Most trunks fall into two categories: domed and flat-top. Domed trunks have high arched lids that range from camel-back to hump-back to barrel-top varieties. Flat-top trunks, or steamer trunks, were designed to makes these pieces of luggage easier to store on steamboats or trains. What people think of as steamer trunks today were once called “packers”—the even smaller “cabin trunks” or “true steamer trunks” were the most practical pieces for ship or train travel.
Other types of trunks include monitor-tops, barrel-staves, and bevel-tops. Jenny Lind trunks get their name from a Swedish singer who toured America with P.T. Barnum, carrying just such a trunk. Only made between 1855 and 1865, these trunks have a keyhole shape when looked at from the side.
Saratoga was the name used by many manufacturers for their top-of-the-line trunks. These trunks are known for their serious hardware and complex compartments and trays inside. Large wardrobe trunks are meant to be stood on one end when opened. Inside, one side has drawers while the other is a void so the traveler has a place to hang clothes. Some of these are equipped with interior straps to hold shoes, briefcases, curtains, vanity mirrors, and makeup cases.
Wall trunks have special hinges so that, when open, it can stand flat against the wall. Dresser trunks, also called pyramid trunks, are a particularly coveted form of wall trunk. Perhaps the most desired kind of trunks of all, though, are the ones covered in thin oak slats, placed side-by-side. These were extremely prestigious trunks, made in dome-top, flat-top, and bevel-top styles.
Well-known malletiers (trunk makers) include Louis Vuitton, Goyard, Moynat, Haskell Brothers, M. M. Secor, Leatheroid, Clinton, Hartmann, Oshkosh, Molloy, Truesdale, and Taylor. La Malle Bernard and Seward Trunk Company are still making trunks while Shwayder Trunk Company of Denver, Colorado, became the luggage firm Samsonite.
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A salute to patriotism before the 'pomp and parade'Sacramento Bee, July 3rd
For such a seemingly straightforward concept, patriotism in America sure carries a lot of emotional baggage, a whole steamer trunk, actually, freighted with charges and recriminations and finely delineated gradations of the term. Distilled to a core...Read more
Watch: Rihanna's NSFW 'B*tch Better Have My Money' is racey, pungentSFGate (blog), July 2nd
The video is filled with all kinds of NSFW naughtiness, which mainly consists of nudity, smoking pot and criminal acts. In fact, the video's final shot says it all — as a fully naked, blood-soaked Rihanna smokes a blunt while laying on a steamer trunk...Read more
The Hidden Story of Henrietta BinghamLouisville.com (press release) (registration), July 2nd
“When I discovered two packets of correspondence in the bottom of the steamer trunk, it was a tremendous boon — but they were from the two men she almost married in her 20s. So far, I've found only one surviving letter from a female lover.” Bingham...Read more
Array of auction items offered at Concert Under the StarsNevada Appeal, July 2nd
If you didn't get your ticket yet to Burning Man, now's your chance with this Burning Man Survival Kit, which includes one call ticket, a Health and Safety Kit, multiple costume items and more all in a baby blue steamer trunk for travel to “The Burn...Read more
Decorating: American CountryNorthJersey.com, July 2nd
Add some fashion and function to your country décor with this Safavieh Stagecoach Steamer Trunk. A blanket motif, leather accents and brass rivets add Southwestern flair to this large storage cube (17 1/2 inches in each dimension) which can double as...Read more
106 years of loving Keuka LakePenn Yan Chronicle-Express (blog), July 1st
Much of it would be packed in a steamer trunk that her daughter Marilyn still has. From Corning, the train would stop at Hammondsport, and the family and all the luggage would load onto one of the lake steamers for the ride to Crystal Beach. “It was...Read more
Tintype Photographers Shoot BurlingtonSeven Days, July 1st
Like magicians in a traveling street carnival, Howlett and Morgan came to Burlington last Thursday, June 25, carting their own cabinet of wonders: a portable darkroom the size of a steamer trunk, a silver backdrop, a large-format camera and an array of...Read more
This Trunk Fits An Entire Apartment Inside (Plus A Bike!)Co.Design, June 9th
Think of it as the steamer trunk of the 21st century. Just as the high-society flappers and dandies of the 1920s would pack up all of their belongings into massive trunks as they skipped between American and European cities, the Travelbox is a way to...Read more