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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Cool Home: Phoenix high-rise condo gets makeoverazcentral.com, October 30th
And four black Barcelona-style chairs, grouped around a 1920s Louis Vuitton steamer trunk turned coffee table, furnish the adjoining living room. The overall vibe of the condo is contemporary and masculine, featuring black cabinetry, gray walls and...Read more
Holidays in the Village Fair Nov. 7Wicked Local Melrose, October 30th
The fair will feature a large two-day silent auction featuring a handmade quilt and other quilted items, a Red Sox baseball, Bruins tickets, an antique steamer trunk, porcelain dolls, stays in vacation homes, tickets to local attractions and much more...Read more
Lot Watch: The Estate of David Collins at Christie's LondonTelegraph.co.uk, October 29th
Anyone who has enjoyed the glamour of a David Collins designed interior, whether a restaurant such as The Wolseley or the sublime mise-en-scène of the Apartment at the Connaught, will be intrigued by this sale offering furniture and artworks from the...Read more
Replay: The Style: Fall's Fresh New LooksHarper's BAZAAR (blog), October 27th
Nicolas Ghesquière's clever take on Louis Vuitton's famous steamer trunk—which, after all, is the accessoire that started it all—reinvents the legendary luggage as a statement cross-body. Ahoy! Louis Vuitton bag, $5,200, 866-VUITTON. Photo Credit...Read more
Reasons to Visit Midtown: The Houdini Museum and Keens SteakhouseNew York Times, October 25th
Mr. Dreyer estimated that he had parted with $1 million to amass a collection of rare Houdini posters and props, including a padlocked steamer trunk wrapped in chains that Houdini fashioned for his celebrated “metamorphosis” trick. A bust of Houdini is...Read more
'Downton Abbey' fashion at Winterthur (VIDEO)Delco News Network, October 24th
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
Duo continues fundraising efforts long after fair's endCecil Whig, October 19th
Hunter Madron, 14, from Colora, and Alison Ferver, 17, from Earleville, were selling raffle tickets for this Ralph Young-restored steamer trunk full of prizes during the open house for the new 3-D mammography at Union Hospital's Breast Health Center...Read more
Yes, I am going to show my ID and vote on Nov. 4, but under protetChippewa Herald, October 6th
For all anyone knows my grandparents smuggled me and my brothers and sisters into the USA in a steamer trunk (it had to be fairly large, given there were five of us) from Switzerland, or Ireland, or Poland, or Germany, or Lebanon, or Moscow, or Beijing...Read more