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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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 sessionWicked 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 DeloresPocono 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 delightsStowe 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 FridaySanta 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 facilityPratt 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 emotionsAlbany 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