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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More than a cat in a hatHollandSentinel.com, April 23rd
Traveling in a retrofitted steamer trunk, this hat exhibition premiered at the New York Public Library, the first of just a handfull of stops across the country. The exhibit is sponsored by the Pinnacle Art Group and the Holland Friends of Art. In...Read more
Earth Day 2014- A GreenWatch ReportArtvoice (blog), April 22nd
In 1977 he is said to have murdered his girlfriend Holly Maddox, put her body in a steamer trunk inside his apartment, and fled to Europe. He became known as “The Unicorn Killer”. The media carried the message that he had “composted” the body. In 1997...Read more
A Train Trip in Cuba from Santiago to HavanaHavana Times, April 21st
There was enough room in the overhead rack for even a steamer trunk (if one could have been hoisted it up). Unlike overhead compartments on airliners, the overhead rack of the Tre Frances easily held my rucksack, daypack and rolling suitcase. Between ...Read more
Woog's World / Westporter's tribute to letter writing, a fading rite of human ...Westport News, April 20th
The idea began in the late 1990s. Sankovitch was the new owner of an old house. Clearing the yard, she found a steamer trunk filled with hundreds of handwritten letters. Most were from someone named James to his mother. They spanned several decades, ...Read more
Auction Systems Auctioneers & Appraisers, Inc. to Host Marathon Auction in ...PR Newswire (press release), April 18th
Thomas Kinkade "The Valley of Peace" offset lithograph numbered 2964 / 3850, Vintage wingback style armchair, The Wahl Trunk Company vintage steamer trunk, Panasonic six-speaker surround sound system, Staffordshire Liberty Blue Ironstone china, ...Read more
Sam the Record Man is still spinning – far from TorontoThe Globe and Mail, April 18th
5, 1961, its sprawling interior “organized with all the finesse of a steamer trunk packed by somebody given five minutes' notice to leave the country,” as Toronto Star writer Gerald Levitch put it in 1979. But that wasn't big enough for Sam's. Jason...Read more
First round is the best roundABC News, April 17th
We were dressing for one of those Wednesday afternoon shinny matches when I happened to notice a large blue steamer trunk in the corner. I thought I'd seen it before. It looked like the trunk that held the Stanley Cup. The team was putting on some...Read more
Discovering Inspiration in a Trunk Full of LettersHuffington Post, April 8th
Years ago, I discovered a trove of letters in my backyard. I had just become the owner of a broken-down old house and when I went to clear out the weed-choked yard, I found a steamer trunk, hidden away in a rotting garden shed. When I opened the trunk, ...Read more