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.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Buffalo Architecture and History

Buffalo Architecture and History

Chuck LaChiusa's wonderful guide to the architecture and history of Buffalo, NY, also happens to host an impressive… [read review or visit site]

Chipstone

Chipstone

This beautiful site showcases the collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Fox Point, Wisconsin, consisting of earl… [read review or visit site]

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

This huge online database from the Speed Art Museum is a rich trove of beautiful photos and reference information o… [read review or visit site]



Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Finnigans Ltd Steamer Trunk Shabby Chic Coffee Table Rustic Blanket BoxAntique Circa 1810-hide Covered Trunk With Blacksmith Made Handles And TacksAntique Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk Louis Vuitton Vintage Monogram Steamer Trunk Hard Case Luggage SuitcaseVintage Brass Trunk Lock Corbin Lock W/ Keys Hardware Chest LockAuthentic Louis Vuitton Monogram Leather Wood Brass Steamer Trunk Rare VintageRare Antique Louis Vuitton Vintage Leather Steamer Trunk Great Size!Antique Travel Steamer Box Trunk The Great Houdini Cunard Mauretania StickerVintage 1930 Aluminium Trunk,silver, America, Long Manufacturing, Aircraft RivetAntique Leather Bound Documents Trunk 10 Inches By 5 Inches Vintage Coat Hat Hook Oak Wood & Brass Wall Mounted Swivel Elephant Trunk HookVintage Trunk Latches, Hinges, Locks & Decorative AccessoriesAntique Small Trunk Dowry Box Chest Dome Top Tin Burlap Velvet Leather Old 1800Vintage Lot Of 7 Luggage Or Steamer Trunk Latches/hasps HardwareOld Trunk / Dresser Drawer Pull Handles Oriental Blanket Hope Chest, Trunk, Hand Carved, Cedar Lined, Antique, Rare!Antique Steamer Trunk French Dome Top Chest Restored Tray And Cedar Bottom 18 Vintage Steamer Trunk Chest Box Hardware Slats Edges Corners Stamped SteelAntique French Dome Top Trunk, Vintage Chest Blanket Box Toy Log Box Rustic ChicAncient Byzantine Bone Buckle For Trunk-saint 1200 AdAntique Oak Industrial Door Handles Heavy Furniture Trunk Lift Grips Organ PullsIncredible Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunk With Vintage Hotel Labels! Antique Small Metal Covered Steamer Trunk Chest W/vintage Travel StickersOld Steamer TrunkHawley's Hat And Bonnet Carrier Belber Trunk & Bag Co. Pat 1897Antique Dome Top Steamer Trunk Embossed Tin Covered Floral Pattern VictorianAntique Embossed Tin Ladies Dome Top Steamer Trunk French Country RomanticVintage Seattle Luggage Company 1946 Antique Storage TrunkLenox Cream /gold Gilt Porcelain Baby Elephant Foot Up Trunk Up For Luck EcAntique Star Trunk Lock Small Key - Hard To Find - 19th Century

Recent News: Trunks

Source: Google News

Jane Alexiadis: A ladies travel accessory hearkens back to 'Gone With the Wind ...
San Jose Mercury News, August 28th

It can, however, be filled with a dozen or more pairs of clean gloves and packed in a steamer trunk. The gloves, having been packed clean, might have shrunk or wrinkled a bit. Rather than forcing the hand into the glove, a lady traveled with a glove...Read more

Spiritually Speaking: The school of the world is in session
Wicked Local Medfield, August 28th

Was it really 35 years ago that I was in her place, when my Dad dropped me off at UMass, with an overstuffed steamer trunk and a head full of dreams? Even the familiar smell of a brand-new notebook or a freshly sharpened pencil or a bright pink eraser...Read more

'Downton Abbey' fashion at Winterthur (VIDEO)
Delco News Network, August 26th

Nowadays “dressing up” is usually meant for weddings, funerals and holidays. It's difficult to imagine a time during the first half of the 20th century that “dressing up” is what you did every day, several times a day. “A weekend in the country could...Read more

Wrestling with Delores
Pocono Record, August 25th

While waiting for final figure measurements from my niece, Delores has been living in a corner of my guest room between the bed and an old steamer trunk. Once I got 'em, it was time for Delores and me to get to work. I'm a rather clumsy sort, so when I...Read more

'Secret Garden' is full of delights
Stowe Today, August 21st

A corner of the stage holds a child's bedroom, with a vintage brass bed and steamer trunk. Props — which include a chirping bird, an antique wheelchair and a flower that blooms from within a seemingly empty pot — make this one of the best-designed...Read more

Hunger Games Star To Take Santa Monica Stage At Urban Outfitters On Friday
Santa Monica Mirror, August 21st

Malone coined the band 's name based on the mobile, self-sufficient production that she built out of an old steamer trunk, which enables them to set up and perform their music virtually anywhere. “We made our album for young women to listen to when...Read more

Sacred Heart will open day care facility
Pratt Tribune, August 21st

Every year, Wessling makes a steamer trunk for the school auction. This year he is going to get the students involved. They will come up with the concept and make up the measurements then he will do the building. He plans on including a field trip to a ...Read more

Jo Page: A time of mixed emotions
Albany Times Union, August 20th

I learned many things in seminary, a good many of them long forgotten, such as the two ancient biblical languages, Hebrew and koine Greek, each entirely consigned to live in a mental steamer trunk in the dusty attic portion of my brain. One of the...Read more