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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Delaware exhibit offers close-up look at 'Costumes of Downton Abbey'Coastal Point, March 6th
That includes Henry Francis DuPont's steamer trunk, which they noted — despite its comparatively compact size — might contain the dozen changes of clothes needed for just a weekend away. Displayed along with the steamer trunk are Thomas' valet livery ...Read more
Chuck Koplinski: Wit, wisdom make for memorable 'Mr. Peabody'Champaign/Urbana News-Gazette, March 6th
The relationship that develops between them is honest and passionate and has the possibility of being a lasting one; however, Rodolfo has emotional baggage — of the steamer trunk variety — that threatens their happiness and tests Gloria's faith in him...Read more
'Hunger Games' Star Jena Malone Is in a Band — Listen to The Shoe's New ...Zimbio, March 5th
The Shoe takes its name from an instrument that Jena created out of a steamer trunk, a generator, and a colorful assortment of instruments (she explained it during an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon not too long ago). Malone and Ignacio came ...Read more
The Shoe (Jena Malone, Hunger Games) Announces New Album 'I'm Okay'Broadway World, March 5th
Jena had built an instrument she called "The Shoe" which was simply an old steamer trunk she dollied around with a plethora of electronic instruments inside. She brought it over to Lem Jay's garage to jam soon after they met. Lem Jay, who is a pianist...Read more
Park Hyatt Flagship Is Set for New YorkNEWS.GNOM.ES, March 4th
Instead of a furniture set, for example, the pieces like a steamer trunk, gray ottoman and wood desk are mismatched. Other touches include wood paneling, a screen that separates the sleeping and lounge area and a custom-designed beige rug with a square...Read more
The real Olympics may be over, but the DC winter games are just about to beginWashington Post, March 2nd
Not to be confused with “Sue Palka,” in which the Channel 5 forecaster is served with a court-issued gag order, or “Topper Shutt in a Box,” in which the pesky Channel 9 meteorologist is nailed inside a steamer trunk and dumped on Roosevelt Island...Read more
Rago's Great Estates AuctionPacket Online, February 28th
U.S. gold coins, and Walking Liberty coins; miscellaneous unique items including a Victorian game wheel, telescope, field surgeon's kit, a ship's wheel, weathervane, floor scale, a French birdcage, steamer trunk and desk accessories; phonographs...Read more
WWD Accessories of the Day: Paris Fashion WeekWomen's Wear Daily, February 26th
LOUIS VUITTON: Nothing says Louis Vuitton like a trunk and for his inaugural turn as head designer at the house, Nicolas Ghesquière reworked the iconic steamer trunk as bags, like this mini version replete with zip-away cover. TUESDAY: 3/4. VALENTINO: ...Read more