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

Buffalo Architecture and History

Chuck LaChiusa's wonderful guide to the architecture and history of Buffalo, NY, also happens to host an impressive… [read review or visit site]



This beautiful site showcases the collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Fox Point, Wisconsin, consisting of earl… [read review or visit site]

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

This huge online database from the Speed Art Museum is a rich trove of beautiful photos and reference information o… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Lovely Antique Solid Pine Blanket Box Chest Trunk- Coffee Table Toy Box StorageLovely Antique Solid Pine Blanket Box Trunk Chest Coffee Table Toy Box Large Antique Pine Blue Dome Top Chest / Trunk / Steamer / Storage BoxAntique 19thc French Bisque Dolls Miniature Leather Travel Trunk Chest, NrAntique Louis Vuitton Monogrammed Hat/shoe Trunk BoxAntique Louis Vuitton Brevete Vintage Steamer Trunk19th C American Red Domed Miniature Early Trunk Folk Art 17th-18th Century American-english Oak Immigrant Chest Trunk Folk Art Bible BoxVintage/antique Wooden Treasure Chest/trunk Jewelry Box18th Century Colonial Blanket Chest / Trunk Dome TopAntque Wooden Dome Top**masonic**trunk/box/chest Painted/dovetailedAntique Brass Trunk Latch & Lock: Au Depart Brand, Paris With Tag, No Key. Antique Steamer Trunk Vintage Victorian Ornate Tin & Wood Travel Chest Lot Of 5 Antique Louis Vuitton Trunk Key / Suitcase Key Paris ~ London Antique Trunk Lock Liebrich Solid Brass Fancy Keyhole Cover With Lock & KeyAntique Painted Wood Trunk W/inside Draw & Old Advertising Label Lot Of 7 Vintage Catches Latches Brass Plated Brainerd Mfg. N.y. Lock Trunk Box6 - Antique Steamer Trunk Keys - Large Green Trunk Great Shape!Antique Mid-1800's Wood & Metal Child's Chest / Trunk Spanish PictureVintage Small Wood Trunk On Cast Iron StandVery Old Civil War Era Leather Small Trunk For Restoration Or DisplayVintage Pharmacy Symbol Auto Emblem For Trunk Or License Plate Item Is NewTwo (2) Trunk Keys #t-46 Long Mfg Co Sewards Luggage Petersburg Va1920s 45 Antique Trunk Corners Wood Box Corners Old Stock

Recent News: Trunks

Source: Google News

Hillary backers sweat the campaign baggage that is Bill Clinton
Personal Liberty Digest, March 27th

If it's true that she's about as tethered by baggage as a potential presidential candidate can possibly be, then Hillary Clinton's biggest clunker — her hoary, barnacled steamer trunk, so to speak — is her political life partner and husband, Bill. It...Read more

Upper Darby police seek help locating missing mom, suspect foul play in ...
The Times Herald, March 27th

An investigation led by Chitwood, then a Philadelphia homicide detective, found Maddux's remains in a steamer trunk inside Einhorn's home in 1979. Einhorn fled the country shortly before his trial for Maddux's murder had been scheduled to begin in 1981...Read more

Loonies author coming to Water Street, March 26th

Smokey Hollow is a quiet town, but all that changes when Brian Keays moves in and discovers a locked steamer trunk in the attic of his home. A suspicious fire destroys a mental asylum, but there is no sign of any of its inhabitants. Victims are found...Read more

For Sale: Humphrey Bogart's Monogrammed Steamer Trunk
Jaunted, March 26th

The Hartmann "Turn Table" steamer trunk is monogrammed with HDB, Bogart's initials. It was probably made and acquired sometime in the early 20th century as train travel was picking up around the country. Indeed, that's around the time when Hartmann, ...Read more

Dover's Bastianelli to appear at Exeter bookstore
Foster's Daily Democrat, March 26th

Smokey Hollow is a quiet town, but all that changes when Brian Keays moves in and discovers a locked steamer trunk in the attic of his home. A suspicious fire destroys a mental asylum, but there is no sign of any of its inhabitants. Victims are found...Read more

Going to spring training
Kansas City Star (blog), March 25th

When the plane landed, an elderly lady was trying to pull her steamer trunk out of the overhead bin, so being a gentleman I offered to help. The thing was so damn heavy when I finally got it out of the bin I wasn't ready for the weight (need to do more...Read more

'Escape room' games make an entrance in Milwaukee
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, March 24th

In the professor's office, the first of what Escape Chambers envisions as five different rooms here, the suggestive features include a locked steamer trunk, copies of historical documents and a strangely marked gizmo that looks like an ancient...Read more

Clothing and Costumes from Alla Nazimova Turn Up in a Trunk in Georgia
WEHOville, March 16th

Nazimova wearing a blouse by Stephane of Paris. College student Jack Raines found the garments fastidiously packed in a steamer trunk stored on the grounds of his grandmother's house. Four other trunks also once belonging to Nazimova were empty...Read more