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
Kentucky Online Arts Resource
Other Great Reference Sites
Most watched eBay auctions
Recent News: Trunks
Source: Google News
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
Steampunk: Kinetic Carnivale steaming in to Mendocino County Museum Aug. 9 ...Ukiah Daily Journal, July 23rd
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
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
Destiny's Child Member Arrested for Being HilariousThe Wire, July 21st
Did he recently purchase an oversized steamer trunk? Somebody please look into this. [Page Six]. Headline presented without comment: Kevin Sorbo Thinks "It's Kinda Stupid" He's Not in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's Hercules Movie [Us Weekly]. Speaking ...Read more
Trash or treasure? U-Haul thieves likely haven't a clueTheNewsTribune.com, July 21st
Somewhere in Pierce County there are people deciding what to do with my aunt's cedar chest, the one that held the baby blankets and baptismal gowns, and the steamer trunk my great grandmother brought over from Sweden. No doubt these people are ...Read more
No, I am not going anywhere niceIrish Times, July 18th
No doubt I travelled with a steamer trunk plastered with stickers featuring graphic representations of the pyramids and the Eiffel Tower. For some reason, taxi drivers and barbers still feel the need to talk to their captive clients. Presented with a...Read more
Cleveland theater auditions for July 18 and beyond: Karamu Performing Arts ...The Plain Dealer, July 18th
Must be able to fit into a large steamer trunk. Rehearsals begin next week with performances: Sept. 12-28. Email show producer Mark Miloro at email@example.com. All roles available for men and women for Agatha Christie's "And Then There Were None...Read more
Couple's wartime romance captured in daughter's bookColumbia Missourian, July 17th
COLUMBIA — A steamer trunk lies open, revealing carefully and lovingly organized contents: a sea bag with the name "Norris, H.L."; a box filled to the brim with air letters addressed in fading ink and postcard-like V-mail; a sectioned box holding a...Read more