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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Shelter: A solid sense of home in WestmountMontreal Gazette, December 5th
It's big, and has a free standing armoire, a large dressing table with mirrored flaps and a steamer trunk at the bottom of the bed. Pretty nightdresses hang on one wall.) I use all these for storage. The nightdresses aren't a decoration, although they...Read more
Have Some Sympathy for Mr. VengeanceMemphis Flyer, December 5th
After he's knocked unconscious one evening, he finds himself crawling out of a red steamer trunk that's been dropped off in the middle of a field. With the help of a social worker (Elizabeth Olsen) — and some direct prodding from the man who...Read more
Tim Sullivan | Chane Behanan carries load for Louisville in win over UMKCThe Courier-Journal, December 4th
On a bad day, he is a handful, a suitcase, a shoulder bag and a steamer trunk. The University of Louisville's power forward is capable of being a one-man baggage compartment. He's been indefinitely suspended and intermittently suspected. He's been...Read more
Lofts, flats hit home run at old baseball stadiumGreenwich Time, December 2nd
Her collection of memorabilia includes a stadium ticket from the 1930s, a 1931 chair from the stadium and a steamer trunk that once belonged to major leaguer Dave Philley. She also has a cap that was signed by Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, one of three ...Read more
Lofts give new life to historic Bush StadiumIndianapolis Star, December 1st
Her collection of memorabilia includes a stadium ticket from the 1930s, a 1931 chair from the stadium and a steamer trunk that once belonged to major leaguer Dave Philley. She also has a cap that was signed by Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, one of three ...Read more
Vuitton trunk booted from Red SquareNew York Post, November 28th
The two-story, temporary structure — built to resemble a steamer trunk covered with the brand's trademark pattern — was supposed to house a display of historical suitcases from the famed French fashion designer. But the “Soul of Travel” charity...Read more
Louis Vuitton Turns The Red Square, Moscow Into A Gigantic Trunk ShowstupidDOPE.com, November 26th
There are 100 legendary trunks on display, all by Louis Vuitton. The designs include a trunk-bed, a steamer trunk, a tea case, toiletry kit, circus trunk, library trunk, and even a caviar box. All of the designs were created as a result of artistic...Read more
Pack your trunk: Louis Vuitton in MoscowThe Voice of Russia, November 16th
The trunk-bed, steamer trunk, tea case, toiletry kit, circus trunk, library trunk, and caviar box are just a few of the many incredible pieces featured at the show, along with their incredible stories. The visitors will discover the history of the...Read more