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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Obtainium Cup returns to Mare IslandVallejo Times-Herald, July 27th
Cleaver, of Napa, who owns Tractorhaus Productions, drove an aircraft drop tank outfitted with four wheels and a steamer trunk in the back. Those handprints on the body of Cleaver's contraption? Nothing major — they came from zombies. One of the major ...Read more
Metro Vancouver couple take their magic to the worldVancouver Sun, July 27th
The steamer trunk, now that's another story. I had the plans for an illusion and thought I could build it myself. I went on Craigslist and found a steamer trunk in Surrey. I went to this guy's house and once I see the trunk, I say, 'Yeah, this looks...Read more
Woody Allen Aims for Moonlit Magic, Gets One of TwoVegas Seven, July 25th
There are moments in Magic in the Moonlight when Allen takes a back seat to his designers and actors, parking his camera like a steamer trunk and simply taking in the scenery. One shot, for example, opens with an actor standing alone in the frame and...Read more
The Hats Off To Dr. Seuss! Exhibition Tour To Make Stop In BreaCBS Local, July 25th
Traveling in a retrofitted old fashioned steamer trunk, The Hats Off to Dr. Seuss! campaign is intended to bring hope, comfort and support to thousands of children in the U.S. that are currently battling cancer. The exhibition will feature Dr. Seuss's...Read more
Willits Kinetic Carnivale benefitting Mendocino County Museum August 9 and 10Willits News, July 25th
There will be music for dancing on one stage, and nonstop entertainment on the outside Steamer Trunk Stage, which will feature jugglers, aerialists, fire-based performances, theatrical sketches, belly dancers and of course, Spencer's Tesla Coils," says ...Read more
You Can Take It With You: The Case for OverpackingYahoo Travel, July 25th
There are people who can travel with little more than a toothbrush and a change of underwear. If that's your thing, I salute you. But I will never aspire to be like you. For me, a trip is not when I limit my wardrobe — on the contrary, it's my fashion...Read more
Review: 'Magic in the Moonlight' 1/2Chicago Tribune, July 24th
There are moments in "Magic in the Moonlight" when Allen takes a back seat to his designers and actors, parking his camera like a steamer trunk and simply taking in the scenery. One shot, for example, opens with an actor standing alone in the frame and ...Read more
A Family's Lost Love Letters, a Stranger, and a History RevealedNewsweek, July 23rd
Ike had a steamer trunk he kept packed so that he was ready to take the next pretty girl he met to Cuba. (Benny, the youngest, was the only brother who married; he and his wife lived nearby.) Helen presided over them all—a fashionable, well-coiffed...Read more