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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Medzerian: Dear MTA: I love your trains, but ...Los Angeles Register, September 18th
I'm not talking about a steamer trunk; I mean a nice, small carry-on that fits in the overhead bin. The turnstiles at the stations – especially Willowbrook, where the Green and Blue lines connect – seem expressly designed to do battle with luggage, the...Read more
Bentley Mulsanne Speed: The world's most powerful cigar lighterRoadandTrack.com (blog), September 17th
Bentley has managed to crank the 6.75-liter, twin-turbo V8 in the Mulsanne to 537 horsepower and 811 lb-ft of torque. Meet the 2015 Mulsanne Speed. That is not a typo, by the way: 811 lb-ft. That's the sort of number the coal-rolling diesel-truck crowd...Read more
Turf Wars Are Up In the AirThe Ledger, September 16th
Although the FAA allows knee defenders along with carry-ons that seem to swell to steamer trunk dimensions once on board, some airlines ban them. To alleviate the cattle car mentality of air travel, other de-stressors, yet to emerge, would defuse the...Read more
St. Mary's parishioner celebrates 100 years of 'keeping the faith'The Catholic Key, September 15th
Julia packed a steamer trunk with their possessions and traveled with her husband. Wherever Al was called to work, Julia went also. In 1950, the Kohlbergs settled in Independence, buying about an acre of land at Highways 291 and 24 on the eastern edge...Read more
The 312: Floyd Davis doesn't run your average woodshopChicago Sun-Times, September 12th
He's the brains and the braun behind Artpentry, a hip Pilsen-based art and carpentry shop that makes cool objects d'art for pop culture's biggest buyers. He once made a man-sized, wooden paper airplane for Red Bull. He built a parade float for Hebru ...Read more
Annapolis Resale store supports wounded troops with fundraiserCapitalGazette.com, September 12th
"They just want to donate," said shop employee Katie Epperly. "One family of military veterans has donated several pieces, including a huge antique steamer trunk. Another lady donated a beautiful, expensive bamboo chair." The shop buys gently used...Read more
'Downton Abbey' fashion at Winterthur (VIDEO)Delco News Network, September 11th
Visitors can also see Mrs. Du Pont's alligator leather-covered lady's maid travel case, with gold-plated jars, vials and tools. There's also Mr. Du Pont's steamer trunk. “We hope this exhibit will pick the public's interest in places like Winterthur...Read more
The TransformationThe New Yorker, September 7th
The most prominent object on the lab bench was a mass spectrometer—a machine about the size of a steamer trunk, with fine plastic tubing emanating from it. Marsh lined up the plastic tray so that an automated pipette drew up about a tenth of a drop...Read more